I hesitate to call this my PMV, since I am definitely moving, but here goes!
I stayed with a friend in Christiansted, so can't comment on short-term places to stay, etc. My primary purpose was to find an apartment and then to check out banking, grocery stores and look for a vehicle.
-the advice everyone has given on looking in person is absolutely sound! I thought it would be a waste of time and money, but somethings are consistent no matter where you live. First of all, about 50% of apartments are advertised in the newspaper. Everything else I learned about or viewed, came via word of mouth or just driving around. You will run an huge risk if you attempt to land an apartment from a distance. A few of the apartments I viewed sounded perfect on paper, but they were simply scary in person. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
-be open and be friendly. I told everyone to whom I was introduced that I was relocating and in search of a great apartment. Invariably, they put me in contact with a friend or someone who either had an apartment or knew of someone who did.
-know your upper and lower limits. Know what your dealbreakers are and what your must-haves are!
-keep an eye out when you drive around. I viewed a great studio in Candle Reef because we saw a for rent sign as we were driving to another apartment.
-On the advice of a friend, I set up an account at FirstBank. My experiences with FirstBank over the past five days make me homesick for stateside banking. Let's just say their customer service is lacking and I refuse to move any money (in current accounts) to that account, if I keep it.
-On a bright note, the account-opening process was not onerous. I had to show two pieces of id, make an initial deposit and my account was up and running.
-after hearing so much about the price of groceries, I was a little afraid to even go to Plaza Extra, but I did. I have mixed feelings about pricing. First, a disclaimer--I am single and don't buy alot of groceries. In fact, I haven't been "grocery shopping" for maybe 4 months. That said, I was a bit shocked by the price for fresh fruit and (gasp) yogurt. My favorite brand of yogurt is almost twice as expensive. There were one or two items that were priced lower than I am used to (by a few cents!!) Other than that, I have to admit the prices for many things were about 20-30% higher, but not surprising given the fact that things are shipped in.
-Overall, this grocery store was pleasantly surprising. I have been in a Plaza Extra in STT and found it dirty and lacking. However, this branch in STX was clean and large. They had an array of bulk items and a decent deli! However, I can see why residents end up shopping at several different stores to complete their shopping.
-Cost-U-Less. Sorry, but I am a loyal BJs member and found this store wanting. I understand and appreciate the concept, I expect a huge warehouse, but I am sure I will get over it 🙂 and shop there.
-On the plus side, I was blown away when I realized you can buy Veuve AND Tattingers in the grocery store!
-this is still a work in progress. We did visit a few dealerships and it was great to see that there were (relatively) big dealerships on island. One dealership near Kingshill showed the price per month if you finance, which gave the impression that they finance on the lot. Not quite sure about that.
Hope this helps someone!
I wouldn't suggest buying new here the dealers really take advantage and add in as many costs as they can on top of the real costs they have for shipping the cars over, customs, etc... Plus if it doesnt work out for you you will have a hard time getting the car back stateside if you finance with a bank here. My last renters who didnt like it here let their car get repossessed by the bank (left it in their parking lot). Couldnt sell it for anywhere near what they paid for it and couldnt get fiancing to get it off island. Truely the best deal is to buy an island car that you can afford to pay cash for and you dont have to worry about the island beating up. We were lucky and got a good one for $3k. I would say on general a realiable island car is going to be about $5k to 8k unless you are mechanically handy. Plus insurance is higher here then most places so its cheaper to just get liability with an old car.
If you have a good bank back home I would suggest keeping it. We keep ours in california and after living here for 5 years have had very little problems with people taking out of town checks. We had one landlord that didnt like it but we gave her the check 10 early so it would clear by the 1st of the month. Small price to pay for a bank that in our opinion is truely wonderful and customer service oriented and has online banking! Luckily at least wapa and innovative both let you pay bills online.
I found when I bought a new Ford on STX that the cost was within $500 of what I would have paid in Florida once I took into account the shipping and taxes. Given that a dealer in the USVI sells 100s of cars not 1000s like a Miami dealer the price differential is understandable.
That being said the service department of Metro Motors is a bad joke. Looks like something from circa 1950, open doors, dirty floors, dim lighting, chickens and dogs wandering around.
Shipping a car back to Fla is less than shipping from Fla to the VI. My neighbor just shipped a van back for $800.
Island cars are a romantic island myth. For the most part people that have the means drive a newer reliable car. Those that can't afford a newer car drive what they can afford. No different than any where else in the USA. Buy the best car you can afford that has a record of being highly reliable.
Having a reliable car here is important as getting a car repaired can take days if not weeks especially if the parts have to be ordered from off island. It can take days to get your car scheduled into a dealership for repairs and even longer if you didn't buy the car from them. Skilled and certified mechanics are in short supply. Many shade tree mechanics don't have even rudimentary test equipment so they can't read the diagnostic codes from your car.
"Island cars are a romantic island myth"
Pppppllllleease. Come'on everyone has them. If you buy a reliable old car that was taken care of and you take care of it, it will last longer then most people will live here. I paid 3k for mine and spend about $500 on it a year max. I've had it for 5 years. So I spend about $92 a month if it was a car payment. Try doing that with a new car. Sure maybe if you get a calvier but your going to spend alot more in maintenance on that and its just not going to last here. Get a old Toyota or Honda car/suv. Something that is rated highly reliable. There are PLENTY of new cars out there that are pieces of crap.
Alot of the young people moving here are not going to be making big money, so buying a new car and having to carry full insurance is going to be a big financial burden on top of everything else out there. Make sure you like it here, live here a few years before you think about going into debt here. Plus if you're driving a island car people are not going to think you're a tourist and treat you like one.
Hey you have a great post for those wanting to just do the basics on the island! Concerning vehicles, I saw a number of good running cars in the Avis newspaper, under $700. I am a painting contractor here (and if you're looking for work then call me at 704-807-3249) and I may be buying a car soon to avoid the costliness of a rental vehicle.