relocating to St John
Good Evening Everyone!
I am planning to relocate to St John in September and am looking for some advice. I visited last year, and fell in love with the island. I am not opposed to living on St Thomas if that is where I can find work but there's something about the vibe on St John that just draws me to that island. While visiting last year, I talked to as many people as I could about relocating, why they did it, and any advice they could give me to help me make my decision. Also, I have read over many threads on this forum as well as doing a lot of research online.
I have to say, I am very impressed at how much information is available on this website and how easy it was for me to find the answer to most of my questions. For things that I could not find answers to on this forum or online, I have made several phone calls to seek answers. I don't have an exact move date just yet because I am watching airfare prices hoping to catch a sale. But it will definitely be booked by the beginning of July. I have already found 3 hotels/inns that allow pets (I am bringing my 2 cats with me) and have spoken directly to them about how fast their places typically book up in September & whether cats are permitted. So once I book my airfare, I can call to reserve a room to stay in until I find an apartment. I may be over-preparing but it’s better to be safe than sorry! lol. I have also already contacted their vet to make sure I have copies of all of their records and that they will be up to date on their shots as well as talk to the airline about the logistics of bringing them and to make sure their flights are pet friendly. I have a friend who is a former vet tech that will fly with me and the cats, stay for a week to help me find an apt and get settled, then she will fly home.
To avoid asking the obvious repetitive questions, I am aware of the following: (but please correct me if I am wrong on any of this)
-Each island has their own vibe and personality.
-St John is the most expensive island in the USVI so I should save up as much money as possible. Cost of living is high, pay is low.
-A vehicle with 4x4 would be better for St John. I am not bringing my car with me because it is a small 2 dr car. I will be buying a vehicle once I am on the island but not sure how soon after arriving.
-Many everyday items are not always readily available and there may be limited variety.
-There is crime, and it may not always be publicized or handled in the same manner as in the states.
-Wear reef friendly sunblock, always. Bring extra bug spray.
-Island life is not for everyone and it is a very different lifestyle than what I am use to.
-Have enough money set aside in case it doesn't work out and need to go home quickly.
-Saying good morning/afternoon/evening/night is always good. (I do this already at home because it always brings out a smile)
-Tourism is the primary job industry and it may take several weeks to find a job.
-It may be easier to find a house/work if you have a local phone number because they will take you more seriously.
My Questions about relocating: (and I apologize if some of these questions seem silly)
-For those who have moved with small pets before, I'm looking for recommendations on airplane friendly pet carriers. I know there are a lot of choices out there and the pet carrier that I have will not work. So I figured if someone could recommend brand(s) that their pets were comfortable in during travel. It is like a 6 1/2 flight for me with a short layover, plus the time at the airport getting through security and picking up luggage. One cat is 7lbs, the other is about 12lbs.
-How did your cats adjust to the warmer climates? Currently I have central air for my house in the warmer months. I’m not sure how they will do if I don’t have the a/c on all the time.
-IF I decide I want to move any furniture from my house here, what moving company(s) do you recommend? I've called a few to inquire about moving furniture and read reviews online but I have never made a major move like this before. I'm not even 100% sure I will bring any furniture with me but just in case I decide to do so. Most likely, I will leave my furniture in storage until a later date.
-I’m hoping to live within a short walking distance of Cruz Bay because I don’t know how soon I will buy a vehicle once I’m there. I am not opposed to other parts of the island as well. On other threads, I saw people talking about parts of St Thomas having a better breeze and it being slightly cooler because of that. Is there a part of St John that gets more of a breeze going through as well?
-Is there a website I can get a prepaid phone with a local VI number on it so when I call and leave messages for things I am inquiring about, they have a local number to call back? I’ve been having problems getting phone calls returned for some stuff because it is long distance. Or should I just wait until I get to the island to buy a phone with a local number?
-Any other advice you can give me would be great. As I mentioned before, my preference is to live & work on St John, but I am not opposed to St Thomas either if that is where I wind up.
A little bit about me:
I am a hairstylist in my early 30’s, single with no kids. I also have a degree in business. I love the beach and warm weather. I’m very open minded to trying new things and I’m going into this with only one expectation: to have an unforgettable experience with no regrets. Good, bad, ugly, whatever it may be, it will be something I can look back on & say “I’m glad I took the opportunity to experience something totally different than what I am use to.”
Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me! 🙂
If you would like to talk on the phone, I can certainly give some advice. I moved to STJ 11 years ago with 3 cats and all has worked out well, but there are tricks. You seem to have a good idea of what is going on. Be happy to share my experience, but hate typing so much. I do it all day!
I think it should be possible to get a Go phome with a 340 area code or even change your resular phone before you move.
We brought 3 cats(inside dwellers) along with our 5 dogs across the US from California to Florida in cars and flew them down here in October of last year. Dogs and cats have adjusted well to the climate and environment. Haven't used AC and don't anticipate it's use.
Ca. I am going to move about 900 miles across the east coast with two cats, can you tell me how you fared with you cats from Cali to Florida?
You have one of the best attitudes that I have seen from someone wanting to relocate. But here is my idea of what you REALLY need to consider.
Jobs are few and far in between on St. Thomas and even worse on St. John. So I hope you come down with at least 6 months worth of cash to cover rent and living expenses until you find a job. Also, if you are bringing animals, make sure and check with the airlines quite a ways BEFORE you schedule your move to insure that you meet all of their pet policy requirements such as, they will not allow animals to be shipped as checked baggage during the summer months, which means you cats will have to fit in containers small enough to fit under the passenger seats. They will only allow one pet to be carried on per passenger if it goes under your seat.
I'm really pointing out the pet issue because on St. Thomas there is a BIG feral cat problem because people have brought their cats to St. Thomas and then fall on hard times and have to leave and not being able to afford the passage back for the cats, they turn them loose. Then the cats started over breeding. I would strongly suggest for you to leave your cats with someone like a family member or friend, make the trip down, get established and then bring your cats down later.
you CAN buy everyday items on island. sometimes the price is higher. if for some reason you can not find it, you can buy on line though not always as AandA will atest
lol, for sure 😉 if you need any kind of Rx food for your animals make damn sure you can even get it here. IMHO I would find our what foods you can get here for them and start slowly switching it out now. Bring a bag, maybe 2 with you. Were struggling right now because a bag that we ordered seems to have gone bad and kitties wont eat much of it.
BRING YOUR CAR. Im STILL looking after almost 2 months. Cars that are mechanically sound are very hard to find, most don't want to sell their car if its running well. Sure, you can get a car for 3-6k but guess what? It needs 2k in work, at least thats our experience. Had a CRV in the states that I didn't bring against recommendations from board members and I regret it, although it did have 175k miles. Still not sure if I made the right choice. I HOPEFULLY should have a car Wed., fingers crossed lol.
Mike: The cats have to fly with two people, one per passenger. I don't think you need to wait to bring your cats. Thats a lot of hassle, and sounds like you've done your homework. I didn't see if they were indoor cats.... if they are, great keep it that way for sure. Mike is right that theres a lot of feral cats which is SO sad. I just dont believe in outdoor cats - just a personal preference validated when we see cats that have been killed on the roads 🙁 🙁 Horrible.
We brought our two cats on AA in January with 2 carriers from petsmart. I was actually really worried as the carriers we bought were 2 inches too tall but they were soft sided. They didn't ask to measure them or put them in that bag check size thing. I was also SHOCKED that the cats did so well. We flew from AZ to FL 3 hr. then a 4 hr layover. We found a family bathroom and let them out to walk around. Then FL to STT. They were really good, freaked out a few times but overall very quiet. They've adjusted just fine. Both pound kitties, one is a bit skiddish but after a couple days she was bouncing off the walls as usual.
Dont forget to get the cats a health certificate. They didn't ask us to see them but better safe than sorry.
We also stayed in a hotel for the first week, IMO best way to do it. I couldn't believe people wanted us to sign a years leases sight unseen. That seems totally nuts to me.
Thank you everyone for the great advice so far! Every little bit helps.
Beachguyvi- I would love to here your story & advice. I will pm you. Thank you!
Ronnie- Thank you! I will look into getting a Go Phone.
CA Dreamers- Good to know they adjusted well. My cats are spoiled. I was concerned of how they would do if I don't use a lot of a/c.
Mtdoramike- Thank you for your advice. I have already called the airline about their pet policy and how to book an extra seat to be able to take both cats. They told me when I do book the tickets I have to call them directly because I will be buying 2 tickets for myself as well as a third for my friend who is assisting me in the move so I will definitely make sure their pet policy hasn't changed since I last talked to them. As for leaving my cats with family until I get settled, I have considered that and may still do so but I will decide that as it gets closer. I can't imagine leaving my girls behind if I were to leave the island. They are my babies! That really saddens me that people do that. I will definitely make sure I have enough money reserved for 2 plane tickets home to ensure they go with me if I decide island life is not for me.
Speee1dy- That is good to know. Thank you! I was told by a few people that I talked to when I visited last year that the stores are sometimes slow to restock the shelves if things sell out so if its something I use regularly buy it when I see it because it may not be there when I actually need it. I will keep it in mind that I can buy stuff online as well and have it shipped. Do you find that a lot of websites ship to the VI without charging an astronomical amount for shipping?
AandA- Thank you! Great advice! Especially about the brands of food. Neither of them are on prescription food but they both have allergies to different foods so its tough finding one that they both like and don't get sick from. Both of my cats are indoors only and they like it that way as well. One was indoor/outdoor before I got her and the other was a stray my mom took in and then I got her a few years later. Neither of them ever try to go outside.
I'm still on the fence about bringing my car because its 12 yrs old and have had to make a lot of repairs to it lately. If I were staying in the states I would be replacing it this year anyways. Maybe I will look for another vehicle here and bring that one with me.
Glad your cats did well on the trip down. I was thinking of getting the soft sided carriers but wasn't sure. I'll check petsmart to see what they have. Great idea on using a family bathroom to let them stretch their legs on the layover. I will have to remember that! Thanks again!
crazy, go to the section where you can do a search of past posts. there are a few that list who ships here . there really are a lot of companies that do ship here. but yes, if you see a product you love, buy a few. you just never know
You'll love STJ - Its B-E-A--UTIFUL. 😀
In regards to the food, I would really try to find a Science Diet food. It seems to be the healthiest and actually easiest option as the Vets carry it. You could bring a bag and then order one when you get here and be good to go, ordering monthly after that. Maybe try it before you get here and make sure it works for your babies.
This might be helpful: The Vet in STJ. (they were SOOOOO nice today on the phone!!) Call them and see what they can get, I believe thats the only Vet on STJ.
Im sure you can find a car here but the problem is how long it may take. If you have a couple months and money saved up to not work (or find work close to home...though) it wont be too bad. My boyfriend had a job right away from a transfer but I haven't worked yet because of no car and his schedule is all over the place. We did find a 2 door vitara (popular here) that we begged our mechanic to hunt down for us. It was a great deal, although we did just put a few hundy into it. We also need a high clearance vehicle because of our crazy driveway so that has been part of the problem. Weve looked at a dozen cars, all have had major issues, leaks and shock/strut stuff because the roads are rough.
Ca. I am going to move about 900 miles across the east coast with two cats, can you tell me how you fared with you cats from Cali to Florida?
Cats were hauled in their "airline approve" carriers in the back seat of my wife's explorer during the travel day. I had the five dogs loose with me in my excursion that I pulled a small trailer with. At night the cats were allow to be loose in the trailer with they're litter boxes, food and water. Only had 1 accident during the 5 day trip. Cats are resilient animals and do well under stress.
AandA- Thank you for the links to the pet carrier and the vet! I will check both out. Btw, did you get the car yesterday that you mentioned earlier?
I bought it! It needs a bit of work to front end but reasonable and the seller was really great, honest and really nice - also a board member here.
For your cat food and cat supplies, there is a great pet store on St John called "St Johnimals". You can order special food through them. They are located at Wharfside in Cruz Bay. If you need something special call them before going to the islands, I am sure they can help.
Here is there link:
I wrote a blog about moving to STT called "Life in the Virgin Islands" , google it.