U.S. Virgin Islands what to know before you visit

The vacation destination, is St. Thomas, USVI. Your flight and vacation rental are booked… now what?! Coming to St. Thomas for the first time can mean you have many questions and concerns. While St. Thomas is a territory of the USA, there are small differences that separate us from the stateside normal.

St. Thomas is one of three islands in the USVI, home to the territory’s capital, Charlotte Amalie. Founded in the 1600s by the Danish, St. Thomas is typically known to be a busy cruise ship port. But, this beautiful Caribbean destination has so much more to offer. While you get ready to enjoy the tropical breezes, turquoise waters, and beautiful beaches, here is a round-up of the most common questions about St. Thomas answered.

1. Cash is king

While most of the activities you will do on St. Thomas accept credit and debit cards, there are still plenty of locations where cash is likely to come in handy. This is especially true if you plan to use taxis to get around the island. Many taxi drivers only accept cash. Not to mention, tips are always appreciated by taxi drivers.

This will also come in handy If the power goes out on St. Thomas. There are still a few shops and restaurants around the island that do not have generator backup, so cash would be needed to pay your bill. Also, If anyone helps with your luggage or groceries, it’s nice to offer a few dollars, as a tip, to say thank you.

2. Food Delivery doesn’t exist in St. Thomas

You read that correctly. There are no restaurants or cell applications (Uber Eats, Door Dash, etc.) that will offer delivery to your vacation rental. The great news is that most restaurants will take food orders over the phone that will be available for you to pick up.

Pizza delivery is also not available on St. Thomas. I know this can be misleading on the internet, but, after living in St. Thomas for over three years, I can promise that you will not find a restaurant that will deliver pizza or food to your vacation rental. Take time to grocery shop or plan your meals. **Pro tip; Always make restaurant reservations in advance for both dinner and brunch.

3. Drive on the left in St. Thomas

Driving on the left isn’t as bad as you think. The cars on St. Thomas are from the U.S. Mainland meaning the steering wheel is on the same left-hand side and has the same department of transportation safety standards. Therefore, the only factor you must get used to is driving on the opposite side of the street.

It may be daunting at first but in a very short time, you will get the hang of it and follow the rules of the road like you normally would in the states. The easiest way to approach driving on the left would be to drive slower, pull over if you feel lost, and avoid distractions like listening to loud music. Lastly, if you find people honking at you it’s not always a bad thing. The driving culture in St. Thomas uses honking as a form of communication like letting someone turn through an intersection or a simple thank you.

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The vacation destination, is St. Thomas, USVI where driving on the left is normal.

4. Rideshares are not available in St. Thomas

Lyft and Uber are not available in St. Thomas. While renting a vehicle is the best way to see St. Thomas, it’s understandable that driving isn’t for everyone. If you choose not to use a rental vehicle, taxi services will be your only transportation available.

Calling a taxi service in advance to set up your vacation is the best way to use a service. Sticking with one driver during your stay is also recommended. Most taxi drivers in St. Thomas will work with you on the cost if they drive for you during your entire stay. Reach out to your property manager for the best taxi suggestions.

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Rideshares are not available, St. Thomas USVI Caribbean.

5. Food is twice the cost

Groceries, restaurants, convenience stores, you name it, it’s more expensive in St. Thomas than in the states. This is something to keep in mind while planning your budget for vacationing in the USVI.

Reserving a vacation rental can be helpful in this area as you can choose to find a location with a full kitchen for all of your cooking needs. There are more than a few grocery stores around the island of St. Thomas, so it makes it very easy to budget and saves on finances. You may even want to inquire with your property manager about having your groceries waiting for you in your rental.

6. No street addresses

If you’re coming for an extended vacation, it may seem convenient to ship items you will need for a vacation to your vacation rental, however, that does not work in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Because of the unique nature of the streets and roads on St. Thomas, a logical address system has never been formalized for mail services. This makes it extremely difficult to find an individual house or business location effectively.

7. Renting a car is the best way to see St. Thomas

For adventurous travelers, renting a car to drive around St. Thomas and even St. John is a must. There are many rental car companies to choose from in St. Thomas. From every major brand to small mom-and-pop rentals, you will most likely find a vehicle to tour the island in style.

Keep in mind, however, timing is of the essence when booking a car, especially when traveling to the islands during the high season (Nov thru May). Also, while it may seem that a 4×4 is needed the fact is that most main roads do not necessarily need a 4×4 vehicle to drive on. Front-wheel drive vehicles make great island cars and can get up and down the hills without a problem.

8. A little patience and kindness go a long way

In the Virgin Islands, greeting people you come across throughout the day is part of the culture. Saying the phrase, good morning, good day, and good evening go a long way in our community. It is a polite way of acknowledging someone and a simple reminder of how small our islands are and how connected we are as a community.

9. Power outages are normal

Living on a remote island has its challenges. St. Thomas has a power plant operated locally and although they do their best to keep it running 24×7, challenges arise and the power goes out. When visiting the Virgin Islands it is important to keep this in mind and not stress too much about it. However, if readily available power is important to you, then we suggest you speak with your property manager about properties that offer automatic backup generators.