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LOOK FOR CARS! THEY ARE NOT WHERE YOU THINK!
This is a very serious tip. Most people arriving in St. Thomas and all the U.S. Virgin Islands are going to be walking off of a cruise ship. And straight into, and around, one of the most confusing traffic systems in the world. Cars in St. Thomas drive on the LEFT side of the road despite the rest of America driving on the right. That means that if you are North American and looking for traffic – you are looking in the wrong direction for oncoming vehicles! I have lived in England for years, so didn’t quite notice this at first. It gets worse. Most of the cars are actually North America ‘left hand drive’ vehicles. So the drivers are always driving with the exact opposite arrangements their vehicle was intended to deal with. Now just couple this with a few other issues. The roads, especially in Charlotte Amalie, are compact and the vehicles can be massive. Throw in confused drivers in rental cars and you having Holiday Brain and the mix can be lethal. At night it’s not unknown to also throw a few drunk drivers into the equation and you have a lethal mix indeed.
I can assure you that drivers do not normally look in the right place for pedestrians when their driving side matches the steering side. I have had a British car in France and it really does add danger to anyone trying to cross roads. In America they teach school children to 1) look left, 2) look right, then 3) left again. This can get you killed here. The British have what they call the ‘Green Cross Code’ for walking across roads. Essentially keep looking until you are really sure there are no cars. Good advice. In Charlotte Amalie there are several pedestrian crossing controlled by traffic lights. A few extra seconds will ensure you keep enjoying your holiday!
For the record, no one has an absolute idea why they drive on the left. The British were in and around the island, but that was 300 years before cars were invented. The U.S.A. purchased the island in 1916 from the Dutch, who drive on the right side. The story (or so it is reported) is that when cars were finally introduced in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there were a lot of mules and horses on the island. Local farmers started staying to the left to allow cars to go around them. As animals decreased and cars increased, they just stayed on the left.
Be careful!Related to:
- Family Travel
Construction and Traffic
St. Thomas has many areas that are under construction especially roads in Charlotte Amalie. This construction can cause delays when driving or traveling in a taxi. It might be best to walk if you are in a hurry or have nice weather to enjoy the walk.
Paradise Can Be Dangerous
St. Thomas is a big tourist and shopping destination. We have heard some stories of tourist being robbed and the shops being in on it. Make sure to always use the front door to exit and enter shops. Don't flash around your purchases. Keep them in an unidentifiable bag without a store name on it, thieves will be less likely to rob you if they don't see the big jewelry store name on your shopping bag.
As always know where you are and stick to a safe area. Don't wander into sketchy or unknown areas. Ask people in high end shops where to eat and what areas are safe. They want your business so they will make sure to steer you in the right direction.
In July 2010, a tourist girl was caught in a gang related gun battle and killed. This is not to say do not come and have fun, but please do realize bad things do happen anywhere.
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It does rain in St. Thomas. If you are counting on going to the beach, it won't be so nice in the rain. So have some other plan in mind to do if it rains.
It rained last time we were there. The Sky Ride was really not a good option in the rain. Beach excursions were rained out. Bob took a taxi to Red Hook and took some photos of the boats there. That was OK but it was really wet even to look at boats.
I had the best idea - I was snorkeling, so I was wet anyway.Related to:
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Sailing and Boating
Overly Aggressive Vendors
Most vendors in St. Thomas are very nice and courteous. Some vendors though are a bit too aggressive standing on the sidewalk and trying to get you in their shop. We always try to be polite and say a simple "No Thank You" but we did get a few rude comments back from some people.
Don't feel pressured into a store or a purchase. If you feel uncomfortable don't go in the store and if you are in the store; just leave.Related to:
Wear that Sunblock!
When in Paradise, make sure to wear your sunblock. The cool breeze may be blowing but the sun is still strong. Enjoy your vacation and don't get sun burned. Liz is very good at making sure we both are covered in sunblock before heading out into the sun. We haven't gotten burned ever thankfully!!
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Drive at your own risk!
Everyone tried to scare us about renting our own car and driving on St. Thomas. While it wasn't as awful as everyone said, you still need to take precautions when driving. The locals pay no attention to the speed limit or to the side of the road they are supposed to be on. For instance, if there is a sharp curve, and they need more room, be prepared for them to come over in your lane. Just drive slowly and be alert, and you will be fine.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
A Small Dose of Reality
At this point it might be a good idea to point out that while visitors may arrive on St. Thomas or any of the Caribbean islands believing that every inch of the island will be simply picture perfect, the reality is that away from the tourist areas most islands aren't so perfect. Just be aware that if you take that island tour, or taxi to a beach you've heard about, don't be surprised that the island has a completely different and maybe not so appealing look on the other side.
Garbage is a definite problem. Deteriorating buildings due to lack of maintenance, weather damage or just the effects of a tropical climate are surprisingly widespread on some islands. Poverty can be widespread. Deterioration and lack of repair on island roads not to mention their initial lack of engineering may leave you wondering if you'll get back in one piece.
Just because of the geographical fact that it is an island impacts on its ability in some measure to rid itself of garbage, or items that may otherwise be easily be disposed of or recycled on the mainland. Infrastructure may be limited or slow down the process or otherwise not even exist. Viability, economics, laws, & culture all have a hand in making things the way they are.
The resulting combination of these aspects often results in eyesores that you may not have expected-- squalid buildings; unkempt dumpster sites too close to that beach you love so much; abandoned or rusted-out cars sitting by rundown or deteriorated housing; gulley-washed areas unrepaired; crates of soda bottles next to the roadside awaiting pick-up; uncared for domestic or farm animals or those kept in horrid conditions make for a heartbreaking sight. Some or all of these sites can be seen on nearly every Caribbean island. It is not as though these problems don't exist elsewhere all over the world, but if you want PERFECT, stay in the tourist areas.
All this being said, the Caribbean Islands maybe as close to paradise as most of us will ever get!! Go and enjoy to the fullest!!!
St. Thomas Driving and Cruising
You shouldnt drive in St. Thomas. Esp if u never been there of know anyone there. It would just make ur trip frustrating bec. locals drive fast on those small curvy roads and most of the driving is up or down hill. A lot of ppl. will yell out there windows or honk their horn at you NON STOP! And when your partying at night, ESP. IF YOUR A GIRL, DONT WALK AROUND ALONE! CRIME THERE IS VERY EXTREME. The government there is part of the U.S. BUT Im sure..(and the kids who grew up there told me) ..that the government there takes care of things the way they want. So in other words, if they wanna arrest you, they'll find some reason. And if your related to the cop or they know you, they might and can let you off easy. Now im not saying this happends all the time, but from what i've been told and what i've seen, something like this there is not rare. Watch the way you act. BE RESPECTFUL and WHEN YOU GO INTO SOME STORE OR WHATEVER, SAY, " GOOD MORNING" or " GOOD AFTERNOON" or "GOOD EVENING" Bec. they will not respond to, "Hi" OR "Hello". ...thats just how it is there. If you do say "Hi"..thats just a sign to them that your not a local or your some dumb tourist and they'll take advantage and make you wait longer than others or will mess with you play the clueless game. NOT ALL PPL THERE DO THIS. but the older folks i guess. They kinda have this attitude like not wanting to give service to you even though they are the ones working. I dont know, but thats the vibe I got. Or if your white and your not from there they give u that vibe. Im asian and there's hardly asian peeps there so they knew i wasnt from there. Good thing I knew ppl there. So i wasnt completely lost or clueless. My BF was born and raised in St. Thomas. I've been there twice and all though I dont like the way certain ppl treat you there, I think its a beautifull place and I would definitly go back. Im from Maui but I have to say that the beaches in The Virgin Islands ARE SOOOOOOOOOO BEAUTIFULL YOU'LL THINK ITS A DREAM!
Carjacked at Gunpoint
Well, I am a pretty savy traveler, but I violated the "don't be an idiot" rule and got a pretty good scare. DO NOT DRIVE OR DO ANYTHING AFTER MIDNIGHT on this island. There is a large drug problem, and the problem is, that people want your money for their drugs. I was cut off and stopped and blocked in by 2 vehicles and 3 people, and had a 9mm pointed at me at 1am on the north side of the island. It was close enough to smell the gun powder. I layed down in the seat, put it in reverse, and almost backed off a cliff going around the blocking vehicle in back of me. We got in a 5 minute car chase, and I eventually got away. I had no alcohol in me what-so-ever.
Even before this, I hated this island. Go to St. John! its MUCH better in all aspects!Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Budget Travel
Be aware and be smart
Some outlying areas that are thick jungle and secluded beaches can be dangerous. Use common sense to protect yourself and your belongings. We were told by a local resident certain secluded beach areas are prime for muggings.
Corrupt Police and High Crime
This is what the board of tourism does not want you to know. In Dec. of 2003 the island ended the year with 26- 27 murders, out of a population of only 46,000 people. This is a thoroughfare for durg runners enroute to the continental US and do not go on the beaches at night most notable Coki beach (no it doesnt get its name from there but it is accurate) Night time drug drops by boat are common and tourist or not you may find yourself on the business end of a 9mm or other weapon designed to eliminate your curiosity. If you rent a car - DRIVE ON THE LEFT and at all costs DO NOT GET IN A WRECK. The police will automatically give you the ticket if you are in an accident with a local native regardless of fault - they know you have the money. The violence on the island is unreal between the stabbings and the shootings. Also if you are single, don't bother coming here, there is nothing for you except the #2 ranked HIV+ populace in the USA. Works out to about 1 out of every 7 men and women have it.
Driving and crime
I would advise not driving on St. Thomas. Traffic is heavy, the roads are narrow and winding and they drive on the left-hand side of the road. We saw so many tourists in rental cars driving like crazy and adding to the congestion. Cabs are readily available and all have standardized rates so you can't get ripped off-- just make sure you look for AUTHORIZED cabs. Driving on St. John is a little better because there are less people. Crime is bad in certain parts of St. Thomas so check your travel guide for tips.Related to:
Be careful driving there...
They drive on the left side of the road and this is not the biggest problem... The problem is the roads are very narrow, with lots of curves and up and downs. The taxi and bus/safari people drive like crazy, speeding and taking the entire road....
St. Thomas Hotels
Magens Bay Road, , 00802, Caribbean
Good for: Couples
7338 Estate Bakkeroe, Charlotte Amalie, Caribbean
Good for: Business
The hotel rooms were old and the bathroom's were rusty, dirty, and downright disgusting. The food...more
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