So you just moved to paradise, or you are thinking about it. I wish I had found a guide like this before moving here, so I compiled a list of things I think are important that you should know before making the big jump, I hope you find it helpful.
Here is your HOW TO guide to St Croix:
1. SLOW DOWN:
As I am sure you have realized by now, life slows down a lot here. Might seem great, which it totally is, but if you are coming from a city and living a hustle bustle lifestyle, believe it or not this may be a pretty hard transition for you. Everything takes longer to do, we drive slower, we eat slower, we get things done slower, we like to call it “Island time”. Just relax and enjoy life otherwise frustrations kick in, it happens to the best of us.
2. DRIVING ON THE LEFT:
The first time you see this is totally freaky, but rest assured it is not as hard as it seems. The trick is to follow the cars in front of you or keep the driver’s side of the car to the curb at all times. It gets a bit hairy at intersections sometimes but just take it slow as I stated above, and you will be just fine! We are used to having newbies and tourists mess up, believe it or not it happens pretty frequently and we have all been there a time or two! You can also turn left on red!
3. FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE/STAY (If you’re just visiting):
Initially I always try to find a place on AIR BNB, I find it to be cheaper to rent for a week or month, or however long you need it, then a hotel would be. Also put word of mouth out to everyone you meet, that you are looking for a place. That is typically how you find things here. There are A lot of really great locations you will never see on Craigslist or realtor.com.
- SETTING UP WAPA: Water and Power Authority, just think of this as the DMV of utilities. Everyone is grumpy and angry, there is eye rolling and there’s an all around bad energy when you go here to set up your utilities for your new place, just be prepared! Things you will need: The lease to your new place, Photo ID, Know who previous tenant was, and you are all set!
4. MIND YOUR MANNERS:
Always greet people with a good morning, good afternoon, and goodnight. Don’t say it just when you are introducing yourself to someone, say it when you walk into the post office, the grocery store, or when passing a stranger. I know it may sound strange coming from the states but it is a big respect thing here. Also always wear a shirt, I know it’s an island and you will probably be in the water a lot, but wearing a shirt in public is also a sign of respect, and people will get upset if you do not.
Embrace the minimalist lifestyle. Everything here will cost you at least 2X what you would normally pay stateside. So unless you are ok with breaking the bank every time you go shopping, you really don’t need much to enjoy life!
6. FINDING A CAR:
Be prepared to spend a little more on a not so nice car then you would stateside. The demand is higher here so you could easily spend $6,000 on a 1990 rust bucket with the bumper falling off and no that person selling has not lost their mind, that’s just how it is here. Like I previously stated when looking for a place, also spread the word that you are looking for a car. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire and more than likely that is how you will find something. Once you have found a car you love, get a mechanic to look at it before you purchase. Cars tend to have a lot more problems here due to the salt and humidity. Also call the courthouse with the VIN number and see if there are any outstanding tickets. Traffic and parking violations stay with the car not the driver, you don’t want to get stuck with the previous drivers fines.
- SETTING UP CAR INSURANCE: Get the old registration in the previous owners name notarized, then go to the DMV with the previous owner and do a registration transfer. Once you have done that and you have the title transferred over, you take your notarized registration and title to the insurance company, along with your safe driving record (if you want to save some money) and your license, and you are all good to go!
7. HEALTH CARD (If you work in the food industry):
If you plan on working in the food industry you have to get a “Health Card”. Things you will need: Photo ID, go to the LAB (there are three on island) and ask for a cup for your health card. They give you a stool sample cup, then you guessed it, place your “sample” in the cup with your name on it and bring it back to the lab. Pick up your results the next day and bring them to the hospital where you then turn it in, show them your ID and they print out your card then and there. Total for this is about $60. You may also need a background check, just go to the Fredricksted police station with $10 and your ID and pick it up the next day.
8. DRUGS & ALCOHOL:
Weed is decriminalized here, but is not legal to smoke, although practically everyone here does. Just be respectful of people around you and don’t be an idiot if you’re going to partake. Rum flows like water here. That is because it is actually cheaper for a handle of rum then it is the mixer, so your drinks will be poured with a heavy hand. It is also legal to walk around and drive with an open container, again just be smart about it, you can still get pulled over for it and get a DUI.
9. HEALTH INSURANCE:
You can not obtain an individual policy here, if you have a previous policy stateside try to keep it. My personal experience with that, I am under the age of 26 so I am still under my parents policy. A friend I know on the other hand is self-employed and something happened with their policy stateside and had to cancel and is now having the hardest time trying to get covered down here, it is near impossible. The only way to get health insurance is through an employer here on island.
Bugs, bugs, bugs, mosquitos, millipedes, roaches, neesiums, and the best, centipedes. (Theres also way more, just mentioning the big ones) Don’t let this freak you out, remember you are moving to a tropical island. I’ll give you a little positive before I go into the bug problem, at least you don’t have to worry about snakes, yay mongoose! Mosquitos and the lovely viruses they come with are a huge problem here, and there is little that you can do to protect yourself. Wearing bug spray is a must, I keep it in my car, I spray myself before I walk outside, if becomes a second to your perfume just get used to it. Almost everyone I know has had either Dengue or Zika, you just have to come to terms that it is a huge possibility you will get it. Millipedes are pretty harmless, they’re just gross little worm looking things that come into your house, curl up, and die, mostly just annoying. Centipedes are the nastiest, and they get pretty huge, just do your best to avoid!
Talk about EXPENSIVE, think whatever you pay stateside and double or triple it. You are adding the shipping cost to everything, but you don’t have to pay sales tax! You will also find that you have to go to several different stores to get the freshest things you want, and also price check. Some stores are much more expensive than others for certain goods and vise versa, at one store you will pay $3.99 for something where another store for the same exact item might be $7.99, but you will get the hang of it after a few trial and error runs.
12. LACK OF NIGHTLIFE:
If you are used to big city living this will be a hard one to grasp. Town shuts down around 9-10 PM. If you get hungry past then, you better hope you have some food at home because you are S-O-L. On certain nights there are things going on at certain bars, but again you aren’t staying out past midnight unless you take it back to your house. You trade in the club hopping and rowdy nights for bonfires on the beach and chill kick backs with some of your closest friends (it’s not a bad trade-off).
13. POWER OUTAGES:
Your power will go out at the most inconvenient of times. It may be weather related or it may not, sometimes WAPA just turns it off because hey why not?
I think I’ve covered just about everything you need to know to get settled into your new paradise, I hope this helps! A big thanks to my island tribe for helping me compile this list.
Congrats on the big move and welcome to the island.