suggestions for a newbie???
I am a geologist working overseas. I work what is referred to as a 28/28 rotational schedule. This means that I am over here for 28 days, working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, but then off for 28 days. I have been doing this for nearly 2 years, travelling on my time off. I have decided to settle down somewhere for a while and St Thomas is the place (living out of a backpack gets really old after a while!)
Therefore, I will be residing in the USVI for roughly half the year. Initially, I think I would like to rent a condo in one of the resorts, for a 5-month period, while I determine exactly what I want to do for the longer term in terms of location, amenities, buy v. rent, house v. condo. Since I no longer own a place in the states, I am leaning towards purchasing something, which I could then rent out, while here in Algeria.
I plan to be down there about August 14, until the end of the month to search for accomodations (and play a bit too!).
Any suggestions on car purchase (just a cheapo island ride)?
getting plugged into the local social scene (not the touristy version)
telephone service, landline vs. cell?
US or Local cell?
can I write rent checks etc. from the TX bank my checks are deposited in, or should I open a local acct?
I love to dive, and saw some nice diving when I was there in June. Also have it in my head to learn to sail.
any other suggestions?
I've picked up quite a few good tips from this BB - hope to meet some of you soon
Cars--even the cheapos are overpriced and risky given the roads in some parts of St. Thomas. I would suggest buying a higher-end car (within past 10 years).
Telephone--I think a cell is a very good idea b/c you are a ) not dependent on Innovative Telephone to set up service (which can take months) and b) not shut off from humanity after a hurricane (god forbid).
Cell--Sprint PCS works great for me and I can use it in the States.
Checks--You will ABOLUTELY need to open a local account. Be prepared from a 4 week wait for out of territory checks to clear in your new local bank account. That includes certified bank checks (don't ask). Best to bring traveler's cheques or cash.
P.S. Off topic but...maybe you could drop me an email with info on Algeria? We are looking hitting North Africa in the next year or two, and would love to have a "local" (or relatively so) perspective. Thanks.
Re: bank accounts.
Actually, I've never opened a local account and never had any difficulty writing checks. Initially, I overnighted my paychecks home and then stopped when my firm got direct deposit. I had new checks printed up (from my stateside account) with my new C'sted address on them.
Again, going on two years, never a problem.
OTOH, if you're planning on taking out a mortage or something down here, you will likely need a local bank.
Thanks Onika and VB for the info - it'll be very helpful, I'm out of here tomorrow, and after a week or so at the folks for home maintainence projects will be heading down.....can't wait!!!!
Onika - by info on algeria - i assume you mean tourist type stuff. SKIP IT!!!! Algeria is still coming out of the throes of a 10+ year civil war, and is just not a safe place just yet for tourists. much better than in the 90's, a few "elections" under their belts, but still a dicey proposition. Just last year a busload of germans were taken hostage down south for 3-4 months until they were released. take a look at Tunisia - I lived there for a year 10 years back. It is a stable (by N Af standards) place with great scenery (deserts, mtns. beaches, forests) old roman ruins, seaside resorts, tunis is v. pretty, and tourism is a focus, so foriegners are welcome. Egypt is on my to do list, I hear both + and - on morocco
When my husband and I moved here and went to open our WAPA and Innovative accounts, we were told they would not accept checks drawn on a non-territory bank account. After being denied by the major utilities, we didn't even try anywhere else.
Maybe it's different on STX...or different for you...or us...or...?
I have been to Morocco and the hubby has been to Algeria, but we are looking to do an extended North African visit (which of course includes Egypt). Do you think it is possible to avoid some of the problems associated with being a tourist by not traveling in large tour groups? We would be flying solo (or duo) and, while we would stand out, would not be a travelling circus. Also, if it aids in your analysis at all, I am African-American and my husband is Dutch.
Wasn't different for us when we moved to STX a few months ago. Every place we went that said they accepted checks -- from turning on the utilities to buying furniture to getting a plumber -- only would accept them if they were drawn on a local bank. Interestingly enough, none of these STX businesses had any problem accepting a temporary/starter check, which are usually refused (at least in my experience).
There are issues with making money from a mainland account available here. It took two weeks for a check drawn on our DC bank account to clear and show up as available funds here. The real kicker is that it took four business days for a wire transfer (which should be same day availability) from a Virginia bank to clear through First Bank of the VI!
The only thing I don't have problems or delays with is the direct deposit of my paycheck, which is available on my pay day even though it also comes from a DC-area bank.
I wouldn't dream of going without one local bank account here.
thanks for the input folks - looks like to be safe I should set up a local acct.
I have another question - is it cheaper to get a VI cell phone that works in the US and intn'l, or a US cell that works in the VI? is the VI considered just another state for US rate plans?
re: algeria - the US state dept ( http://travel.state.gov/travel/algeria_warning.html)and CIA world fact book ( http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ag.html)both have web sites concerning safety for US citizens in various hot spots. my knowledge here ins anecdotal in that my work visa only alows me to travel to the oil exclusion zone. (ie - the safe part) I hear about the rest from the nationals I work with
I've heard of adventuresome travelers (usully europeans) making their own way around, but rarely. i hear algiers was once considered the paris of n africa, but 20+ yrs of socialism, and the attendant concrete block residences, have taken its toll on its colonial beauty, speaking french will no doubt go a long way, english is rare outside the oil industry
if you go - be careful!!
As for banking I started an account at the First Bank and sent a check from my bank here in Texas and my acc. was open in about 10 days and that included the mailing time both ways. when I added more to my account I had it wired over and it was in my account the same day so I guess I ether done something right or got very lucky
I have cell service through Cingular here and I never have trouble calling back to Ohio, if that helps.
I'm curious as to what kind of work you'll be doing-government or private sector. I can understand the backpack. Many geologists are very adventurous-you have to be in your line of work. If you're into hiking, we have a club on STX. What island will you be on?
Incidentally, I have a geophysicist uncle named Jack E. Oliver. He's retired now but taught at Cornell and Columbia and was involved in the development of plate tectonics theory. He's hiked and crawled around 81 countries!
As my DC-based staff member just discovered, not all US-based cell phone companies/plans include the USVI in their in-network calling area. You will want to check that our carefully before deciding. I would start with the companies that do provide service down here as that seems to be the most likely places to consider this as in-network.
rockportjohn -- you must have the banking touch just like we seem to have the ability to get utilities turned on faster than any one else. I honestly didn't mind dealing with anybody at WAPA, Innovative etc., or even waiting to talk to them, whic really wasn't bad: we managed to close on our house at 2pm in the afternoon, and still get the electricity order in at WAPA and the phone/cable/internet orders in at Innovative that same afternoon. Never thought of that as a bankable talent, but who knows -- there might just be a market for that like there is for registering cars. Maybe we should form a company who provides these services to folks who are settling here!
Thanks Hip Chip. As for cell phones I have sprint and I call over to STX whenever I have a question that my bank or mail box can answer and I get exellent service with it. I will probably keep the same number and phone when I get there in about 30 days. Hope this helps John S. Hill
Contact "Kris" (specifically) at the Havensight "Radio Shack". He is THE person on St. Thomas to talk to about cell phones. You won't be sorry! (: FYI, he will be off island for two weeks, starting on the 12th of August. Not only is he VERY knowledgable, but he is VERY service oriented, and trust worthy! Good luck!
Just follow up on the banking thing:
I live on STX and do not have a local bank. I have a stateside bank with local address printed on my checks. I have had accounts with WAPA and Innovative as well as the local Cingular out of PR, I write checks at local businesses, grocery stores, and government agencies (e.g., U.S. Customs when paying the excise tax on my imported vehicle) and I have NEVER been turned down for having the check drawn on a stateside bank.
I'm just sayin'.
Also, for cell phones on STX, you have three options: Cingular, Sprint, or Innovative (the local phone service provider). For Cingular and Sprint, it's the same as stateside service (although with Cingular, they will switch you to Cingular out of PR, which is a separate division from the stateside version--I had a nightmare of a time getting my Cingular PR service switched back up to stateside Cingular; it's like two separate companies).
Currently, I'm still using my stateside Cingular number. For anyone calling on a cellphone, regardless of where they are in the country, it's just minutes, no long distance or roaming, and for friends with landlines back home, it's still a local number.
Sprint does not work well on the East End of STX, but Cingular has some pickup. The rest of the island is pretty well-covered for reception.
AFAIK, Iris, there is no Verizon service in the USVIs, unless they just recently (within the last month) started offering it. You may get stuck paying roaming charges if you try to use it here. Verizon should let you out of your contract, though, if they don't offer service in your new location. U.S. Cellular did that for me when I moved here the first time.
(Or are you already here? I can't keep people here straight anymore.)