Steve is here and done
Day three 6:00 pm and I am done. I would like to call it the 48 hour crash guide to moving to the VI.
The prep stuff is already posted in different places, so if you aren’t reading the other posts, your not going to make it.
Background for the move.
Airline: American Airlines. Make sure you change your itinerary to one-way. I was surprised in that it actually cut the price by a third. From Miami I paid $310.70. I would fly to Puerto Rico then to VI. They overbooked the flight so they asked for volunteers to take the next flight. I had free time so I volunteered. They were looking to fill only the Puerto Rico flight but they were stuck. I ended up getting a $300 voucher and they put me on a direct flight that would arrive 30 minutes later than my original itinerary.
Belongings: Four boxes via post office. Cost around $1.00 per pound from Key West. 1 box I put in the trunk of my car. The car got sent to the wrong island (St. Croix.) Tropical admitted that it was 100% their fault and they would not cover my added week of a rent a car, however, they would not charge me to ship the car from St. Croix to St. Thomas. (So generous. I feel so satisfied now.) Lee at Managed Freight is dealing with the problem for me so mentally it has not been a huge issue. Car should be available Monday. Mailed items should arrive about the same time.
Okay, for the mad scramble. Arrived at the airport around 5:00pm. It took a while to figure out that my luggage had beat me there and was being held at the AA office. Picked that up and had to call Thrifty car rental to pick me up and take me to their office. It is located just outside the Airport entrance. There are all the other major airlines based in the airport. The kid who picked me up also ran the counter. Very good job handling everything. His girlfriend was with him and we talked a bit. I asked about what she thought my survival rate would be. She just laughed. Anyways, instead of the two day rental at $35.99 I took a week rate all inclusive for $196.00. It worked out perfectly so I should have my car then.
Driving. Left, left, left. At first it was a little nerve wracking until I actually got behind the wheel and started driving. By that night it was second nature. A hint is that the best time to drive is during rush hour. There are plenty of cars to follow so you won’t be put into a position of having to make the wrong choice in direction. I live by the motto, “If you don’t know where you are going, don’t lead.” I have spent approximately 70 percent of my outside the hotel time driving. This has gotten me acclimated to driving, in general, I have learned where everything is at, and I have taken the road hits on a rental car instead of my baby. I’ve lived in Australia for a year (lefties as well,) and spend enough time driving in South America to be very road savvy. So far so good. Some helpful hints, the major “highways” are marked with these colored starfish. They designate the road that you are on and are wishing to take. The other roads, you are on your own. On the main roads there are only a few extreme climbs, however, there was a few times that I had wished I had taken some Dramamine after a few extended drives. Your ears actually do pop as you are going over the top. One last thing, be aware of the many speed bumps.
The first day I just got acclimated driving around. Found out where the Tutu Mall area was and searched for one of the Island Trader Magazines. Stopped at McDonalds for dinner. Went back to the hotel and asked about a place to find one of them and the clerk was nice enough to go into the office and brought me last weeks paper. She said that they receive them first thing Thursday mornings and have them available there. I took the paper and did some basic researching. There were about ten different listings that looked reasonable. In total about 40 listings. I ended up falling asleep at around 9:00 pm. I was more tired than I thought and slept in until 9 the next morning. I stayed at the Hotel Best Western Carib. It is located at the airport. I paid $99.00 a night, an internet special which saved me $30 a night. The hotel is not in the best spot for researching. The hotel is off the beaten path, however, it did force me to drive a lot. The hotel is basically a Super8 quality motel with a view. Kind of run down, but functional.
Day two: After a great nights sleep, I started making some phone calls. Out of the six I called, three were already rented and three did not answer. I left messages with two, however, I have never received a call back. That got me worried, however, I would have a fresh paper the next day and would be aggressive at finding something early. I decided on not worrying about looking for a place and to see if I could accomplish something else. I decided to open a bank account. The two major banks that you see around are Banco Popular and First Bank. I thought I had seen Banco Popular in South America so I leaned towards them. What I learned later was that the First Bank had branches all over the island. I think I would have chosen them because they are so accessible. The lady said that they had about 5 banking locations on St. Thomas. I think they were all located on the major routes that I had taken since I thought I saw many more. Anyways, my first patience test. Waited for 30 minutes for a representative to even acknowledge that there was a group of us waiting. In the mean time people were coming in and bypassing the sign in sheet. I did outlast about six other people that came and left. I did finally get my turn and worked with a nice lady. She was training another person so she was pulled away a lot. They were at first not going to let me set up an account, however, she let me use the Hotel as an address and the work info for everything else. I had succeeded in accomplishing something. I brought a cashiers check from my existing bank and a paycheck to use to start the account. I spent the rest of the day driving every major road on the island. Visited all the major beaches but never got out of the car. I spent a lot of the time driving the areas in which I wanted to find a place. The north and northeast were the areas that would fit best. (Thanks EastEnder/Islander.) After an exhausting day of driving I went back to the hotel and jumped on the internet with my laptop. The laptop has been invaluable while here in doing research. It allowed me to keep in contact with everybody as well as to back research information that I needed. I did learn however that the hotel charged 50 cents per call. It was still better than their $5.00 per half an hour on their computer. The other thing I learned was that AOL had a local dial up but they had a surcharge that cost me $4.00 for my first session. I found a listing for an Internet provider in the Island Trader so I signed up. $14.00 for unlimited usage, but the connection rate is reallllly slow. Still a large cost saving versus AOL. I will change it later if I find a better service. For food I decided to stop by one of the grocery stores and pick up some sandwich stuff and drinks. When I am focused like this I just need food for energy. I wasn’t looking to try out the tourist restaurants. It saved me a lot of time and money. Ate sandwiches the last two days. I was a bit wired that night so I did some late night driving to test the dark hours. Went back to the hotel and prepped myself for the following day. Grab the paper (hopefully it would be there early enough,) try the free continental breakfast while circling my potential places and Xing out the non-matches. Finally got to sleep around 3 am.
Today: Day three. Got up around 8 am. Implemented my plan and started making calls around 9:30 am. Had my calls prioritized with only 6 leads. Called the first one and no answer so I left a message. Called the second one and a lady answered. I was so happy. She described the location and what the amenities were, I explained who I was and what I wanted and she became happy. I got directions and met her twenty minutes later. She showed me the place and I accepted. Total time 3 minutes. Gave her a deposit and went back to the hotel for the rest of the money. Came back, gave her the balance, signed a lease and we were done. I will move in tomorrow.
My new home: I got a two bedroom one bath bottom part of a house. It is located in the Wintberg area. Just past the 39 exit off of 40 on the north side. It is perfectly situated in the middle of 35 which will take you down to Charlotte Amalie and 42 which will take you back into Tutu. 39 is also useful as an alternative route as well as a few paths down through the neighborhoods. The house is located at the end of the side street making it somewhat secluded. It has covered parking and is surrounded with avocado, mangoes, and other beautiful vegetation. The roads leading to the house are well paved and it is not an extreme climb/descend. Utilities are paid as well as water (cistern.) The lady who owns the house stays in the efficiency and she has two other guys sharing the other half of the house. My area has a large walkway that overlooks the bay and the valley and then leads into a large patio area. The insides are furnished, not fu fuuey but basic island wares (wicker furniture etc.) Mainly concrete walls and tile. Very liveable. Screen windows with louvers everywhere. The only negative side is no air conditioning. Depending on how cool it gets at night I might pick up a portable for the bedroom. The only other worry is mosquitoes. This is the perfect retreat for someone looking to get away from everything. I am very pleased with the layout. I do need to pick up a tv. It has cable and phone access.
Although a huge part of the move was done, I still wanted to get everything else finished. I stopped by Guardian Insurance to get car insurance. There are probably 30 different companies, but I had found them on the net earlier. The other closer was that they have their own building right in Havensight. I figure they would not be some fly by night company so I went with my gut feelings. They were fast and easy. The cost for insuring my car was either $270 bare minimum coverage, $330 for minimum with bodily injury coverage, or $1350 for full coverage. I chose the bare minimum to just get something so I can get my car from the shipping company and might change to full coverage depending on how my car is received. Next I decided to try for my last issue on my list, phone service. This was not a very good experience. It took two hours to get the paper work processed with an hour and forty five minutes waiting. It wasn’t as bad since I was still on my high of finding a place so quickly.
Now, all I had to do was do a quick write up for you guys and I am done with the move. Boom I’m done. Tomorrow, I take my two bags of luggage and move into my place. The rest of the day, I am going to hit the beach. I am still probably going to take the additional week off since I still won’t have my car until Monday. So instead of wasting the week just lounging around, I am going to see if I can get off the island for a few days and hit some other exotic location. Remember, got that $300 AA voucher to use.
Well that’s my move. Pretty happy in the way it worked out. It really still came down to preparation and a lot to do with experience. Again, just so that people don’t think that this move is a piece of cake, let me set a little history. I have bounced around to over a dozen different cities and three other islands. I know how to move and keep my belongings down to about four small boxes. (My last move I had everything I owned in a two seater convertible- Kansas to Key West.) I would rather give things away than move them. I am not married nor have kids/pets. Financially, the move was paid for by the company so no huge out of pocket expenses. I do have a decent bank roll to have back up in case anything went wrong (including getting fired/ not wanting to work for a while.) Doing these last minute travel trips are how I take my vacations. I like to go to out of the way places in S. America (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, etc.) all with less than two weeks to same day notice. Traveling is a piece of cake for me. I also have a decent paying job waiting for me. Also, I research like crazy. Read pretty much every report back to the beginning of the year and spent a lot of time e-mailing members of this site. Everything I did was with help from someone. There was no way that I could have made this move so easily without some one on ones with different people. For that I am most appreciative. I guess in general, take everything with a grain of salt, because it all can be very variable.
Sooooo, if anybody needs some info on stuff going on down here, let me know. I should be free this next week to do some research for you. I take that back, the phone won’t be available for up to ten days so no internet. I will try to jump on wherever I can.
Congrats!! Wonderful report and you got all your "to do" things done quickly!! Thanks for sharing, with your permission I will add it to the What to Expect Stories and hopefully you will give us a follow up once you have been an island for a few weeks/months. If you want to meet some people there is a get together on Saturday night at Mafolie Hotel Restaurant at 7pm of board users - look for the thread with Get Together in the subject if you want more details.
and.... Welcome to St. Thomas!!!
Thanks for writing in detail about your experience. I will be moving down the first week of October. I have some questions that can't really be answered unless you are on island and meeting people.
I will be working in the retail jewelry industry. I am in the jewelry industry here in New York. If you happen to meet someone from that industry I would love to know which of the major companies are the best to work for. Best oppurtuties for money, average salary and commission during high and low season, benefits, management and relocation reimbrusement. I know the top 5 companies, but if someone has more in depth information it would be helpful to hear some more feedback. It would help me to make my choice (if I am afforded one).
Also, which of the two cell phone companies the majority of the people recommend.
It was really exciting reading your post. I've done a lot of moving around myself (LA, NYC, Hawaii, Paris) and my fair share of travelling as well. So, I am preparing myself for challenges as well as miracles (like your apartment hunting experience).
Good luck and best wishes. I hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks Islander. I will try and make it saturday. Yes, you can post my info anywhere. Just as others info helped me, hopefully, mine can be of some assistance.
Shawn, so far Sprint has seemed to be the most popular carrier, with the amount of Sprint stands at the stores. All the major carriers I have seen here with the exception of Nextel. They might be here but I have not seen any promotions for them. It seems there are walkie talkie phones by Sprint now. Saw them at the Sprint stand in the main mall. I have Sprint and have no problems making calls and this is with a four year old model that won't seem to die.
I'll see what I can find out about the jewelry store. Driving through Charlotte Amalie, there is definately a huge market here. A coworker back in the states wants me to catch up with her friend who works at Little Switzerland. I'll see if he has any info.
Hawaii is similar to STT much more so than Key West was. Hawaii is much larger and more variety. Housing, employment, people, etc. Same obstacles with finding out who does what and where to go for things. STT still has that small town feeling to it. Everyone (outside of the tourist spots) seems to know someone. It was like family reunions at the bank and at the phone company.
E-mail me if you need anything
My hubby works for Cardow, but he is a goldsmith. I will ask him what he thinks as far as retail opportunities and information. For the record, their benefits are excellent!
Thanks a bunch to both of you. I am anxiously awaiting your response!
Enjoyed reading your post, Steve. You accomplished a lot this week!
Your choice of Banco Popular is a good one, particularly if you do online banking. Unlike FirstBank, you can pay bills online.
Thanks for your feedback on what seems like I may be faced with in the next few weeks. I was down in STT this week for 3 days but only got to leave the hotel for about 1 hour so I didn't get to see much. I will be looking for a 2 bedroom unfurnished place, long term, something comfy, hopefully spacey, but not exceeding $1600/mo? Is that do-able or am I dreaming?
Let me know what your experience is in getting your car cleared and licenced when it arrives.
Good one Steve. It's great to read about it all working out. All the best to you.
Hello all. Sorry about neglecting my move in. Just got back from the Dominican Republic. Things have gone surprisingly well so Ifigured I would treat myself to a last minute vacation. (You will learn that even though you live on a vacation island, you truly don't get to have a vacation until you get to leave it.)
Well, let’s get into a little refining. After wrapping up my hotel stay, I went ahead and moved in. That morning it had rained and created a blemish in my move. Nothing catastrophic, but enough to make me second guess my decision to move into this location so quickly. My reception to my new home was a greeting by about 6 mosquitoes waiting to drain me as soon as I walked into the place. I guess since the prior owner had left, these guys hadn’t eaten in a while. After their feeding, I was feeling a little unsure. The second thing that hit me was the hot, humid, life sucking heat. Inside, I was glowing with a light hint of perspiration. I was totally put back that I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to sleep. I could just feel how my nights were going to be, Mosquitoes buzzing, sweat building everywhere my body touched the sheets. After a bit of soul searching I figured I might as well get together a list of necessities and do a little bit of shopping. I was in need of lots of small goodies and a few large ticket items like a tv and stereo. I remember seeing in the paper a portable air conditioning unit. I decided to see what some of the stores had to offer. After checking Sears and a couple of electronics places, I determined that the only way to get air conditioning would be to install a standard wall unit. With the layout of the rooms and strictly louvered windows all around, I didn’t see it happening. I figured that I would give the person a call in the newspaper to see what the unit was like and how it was set up. It was later in the afternoon so I figured it would have been gone. At least I would get some info on how it worked and if it would apply to my place. A nice English/Australian lady answered and went into detail the history of the unit and the basic hookups. It sounded perfect for me. She just wanted to sell it and not have any hassles. We clicked over the phone and she invited me over to see it right away, even though she had other people interested and who were coming over later in the day. We met at a mutual spot in Redhook and I followed her home. The set up would be perfect for my place. It is a self contained, portable unit on wheels. The only requirement is an exhaust hose that had to be run outside. It had special outlets to fit in a smaller area. The thing was perfect for what I wanted. The lady had all original receipts, a converted owner’s manual from Spanish to English (the unit was purchase and shipped from Puerto Rico,) as well as notes on the care of the machine and all accessories. This thing looked brand new and it was four years old. She had it in a rental property but was never really used because it was not large enough for the unit. I took the unit home and it fit and worked properly. I ended up utilizing the smaller second bedroom because it was a three sided concrete room with the fourth wall a standard type. There was an open section above the door for wind flow and a single louvered window leading to a under house storage area. I went to Home Depot and bought an all weather floor mat. I cut it into pieces so that I could seal the open area above the door and the window. I custom fit the exhaust tube through the window. Both sealed off pretty much all air flow/mosquito entryways into the room. The air conditioner cools the room in about a minute. Even with the sun out, it is pitch black in my little cave. I have it as close to a vacuum as humanly possible with Home Depot materials. My stress level dropped 90% after building my little haven. Trust me, unless you have grown up without the use of air conditioning, make sure you get a place that has it or you have the ability to add it. I personally rank its importance up there with running water.
The next hurdle was the mosquitoes. While at the ladies house with the air conditioning, she schooled me about life on the islands. In regards to the Mosquitoes, she showed me all her tricks. Use bug spray to clear out the rooms while saturating the screens inside and out. Keep doors closed at all times. Make sure all standing water is cleared out. Use bug zappers, and cintronella candles. Raid makes a plug in that you run for an hour in a room which will clear it of any problems. Mosquito nets around the bed will also reduce the sleeping trauma. The last tool they showed me, which also was the coolest is “the swatter.” It is like a miniature tennis racket that runs on batteries and creates a little electric charge through the “strings.” It zaps the hell out of all the little flyers. You just wave it around and watch for the little spark as it zaps them to heaven. I picked mine up at the little grocery store in Redhook. It cost $10.00. After spending $40 on my anti-mosquito war, I am happy to say that I am currently mosquito free in my habitation. I also went and bombed the attached storage room/laundry room, and the storage area that was attached to my bedroom. We’ll see how much follow up is needed.
That same day I did two other shopping trips. One was to Kmart to get sheets, pillows, kitchen accessories, toiletries, etc. After unloading the car I went to Plaza Extra in the Tutu Mall area and stocked up on food. Both shopping trips were very successful. The following day I made up a “forgot” list and it only had a couple of items. So realistically Friday was still not a beach day, but it was very productive since I got a lot of the menial things done. Saturday I made a trip to Redhook and checked out the shops (picked up the swatter.) Found a little internet café that I will try since my phone is still not connected. Came home and took a nap (first one since I got here,) in my dark, cool, heavenly room. Figured I deserved a relaxful moment so I went down to Magens Bay and took a swim. Later I took a drive down to the airport to pick up my tickets for Santo Domingo. Stopped over at the Tutu to get a video rental membership (needed two picture ID’s or a local drivers license.) and rented a flick for the night. I got some hunger pangs for something other than sandwiches so stopped at the grocery/warehouse place next to the movie theatre and picked up some steaks, mushrooms, and rice. The place is like a small Costco without needing a membership. Came home, cooked, watched a movie and wrote this report. I actually think I am done with everything. I take that back, still need a tv and stereo. I did stop by a moving house sale from the paper. They had already sold all the electronics by the time I got there but they did have a ton of other stuff. Gotta be quick.
Well that’s a little update on my move to VI. The gods are smiling on me because everything seems to be coming together really well. I’ll give an update later as things start to progress.
I do have some good news to add. My baby(car) was waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. Happy days!!!!!!
I'l add a little bit more to my gleanings as I have time. Oh yea, some more good news, my phone was activated on my return and I am internet able. My dial-up actually is running at 50.6 kbps. Surprisingly good hookup. At the hotel it was only 19.9 kbps.
Was wondering if you would mind telling us what your monthly rent is and what facilities it includes?
I am renting the lower level of a two story house. It is located on the north side in Wintberg. I lucked out and got the dead end house right off the main road (40). I lucked out because there is no steep grade to climb/descend to get to the house. My lower level is a two bedroom one bath area. It has a lot of storage, a decent size room area and also a nice sized deck with a walkway that extends across the whole front. My view is of mango, avocado, and basic jungle with a extended view of the bay just east of Magens and a view of Big Hans Lollik Island. I would consider it a basic island home, not a condo. The whole front is louvered windows including the master bedroom. Mainly concrete brick walls. I also have covered parking. The lady who owns the house lives upstairs in a efficiency and rents the other half to two guys. I have pretty much the whole lower level and the land below to myself. There is no one living below that I can see except for the far distance. I am paying $925 a month, with no utilities charged. It came with basic cable hookup. No airconditioning was a negative but I added a unit myself. If you would like some pictures e-mail me and I will send you some.
Another way that I thought I could help some of you was to photograph the page or two of the Island Trader so you can get an idea of what is available at the moment. I could e-mail it to whomever is interested.
Can you email a copy of the island trader to me?
Hey Steve, do you fish?
Hello Steve N.
Will you please email pictures of you're apartment. That's the one thing I did not do on my per-move visit. email@example.com
Everybody who wants the pics of the paper via e-mail, I will send a picture of this thursdays paper. Mlogan, I will send this evening when I get back from work. Patrick, I love to fish. It was one of the three main reasons for moving to Florida, which in turn led me to St. Thomas. Just waiting for my poles to arrive via post office. What about you?
Steve, pardon the pun but maybe we could hook up? Will be down there with the family towards the end of the week. We will be staying on the northside at a private residence. I do beach, dock and kayak fishing. I think I have a spare rod and reel . Let me know.
I would like to see the pictures as well. I have found shorterm housing, but I would like to know what I can expect for the space/rent.
Thanks in advnance,
If anyone sees something in the Trader that they are interested in, and would need a roomate for, please let me know. I would like to move to STT early July and am hoping that I can move in to an aprtment or house with people rather than trying to find short term housing then something more long term. If any one is looking please feel free to email me.
I'm adding my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org just in case you didn't notice the link from where it says "author". 🙂
Thanks for your help!
Your posting was heaven-sent! I am a mother with 2 children getting ready to make the move to the islands and need as much advice as I can get. Like you, I do alot of research and have read anything and everything I can on how to make this move! Have lived in Florida for too many years now and finally ready to go with my life-long dream to live on the islands. Found your story interesting and full of those little tid-bits one needs. Hope you have a good trip and tell us more when you get back! I will be looking for a place to live and work when we get there. Am very interested in the Maho eco lodgings and working and living there. Sent an e-mail to someone there that was for a position, but have not heard from him yet, still hoping. Also hope to hear more of your adventures.
On one of your 05-29-04 posts about shipping your car you mentioned using a company called Managed Freight to get the vehicle to Tropical Shipping in West Palm Beach? I live in Miami and am trying to find a company that can act as the middle man so that I don't have to drive up north for 2 hours and then figure out how I'm gonna get back to Miami.
Do you have a phone number and contact details for Managed Freight that you can share?
I actually drove my car to the port in West Palm. I rented a car for $40. and drove to MIA for a flight to Venezuela. You could do the same thing rather easily. Enterprise will actually pick you up at the office (at Tropical Shipping at least.) The only negative is that the car cannot be dropped off at the Miami international. You have to drop it off at an outlying dealer. (Weird) That might work for you since you might be going home in Miami. They can probably arrange to drop you off at your door.
The whole process if you follow directions takes about 30 minutes. There is no more 50 dollar fee for the person to walk your paperwork to the customs office. They are located right across the street at the end of the warehouse. The people at the office will give you the paper work and the directions to walk to customs. 30 minutes total (if nobody else is there ahead of you.) Pretty nice people, with the exception that they were the cause of my car being shipped incorrectly.
Thanks. I just saw this thread.
Looks like West Palm Beach here I come. One last thing. Do you pay upfront to Tropical or on the St. Thomas receving end and would I have to ask them to clear it and register it for me? What about any customs duties on landing it in St. Thomas? Will they (Tropical) pay it and bill it back?
Thanks so much
Hold on......okay, my flight leaves out of Miami also and we were going to ship our car through Tropical with the understanding that they had a port in MIAMI......am I understanding you correctly that the port is actually 2 hours away? Every single time we've called Tropical we have been told that the port is in/ near Miami.
Glad you made it to the VI's happily and safely.