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U.S. Virgin Islands

Smart Travel Tips

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Arriving & Departing |  Contacts & Resources |  Getting Around


Arriving & Departing
 
By Air

St. Thomas's Cyril E. King Airport (STT) (unknown, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/774-5100; www.viport.com/aviation.html) sits at the western end of the island.

St. Croix's Henry Rohlsen Airport (STX) (unknown, St. Croix, PHONE:340/778-0589; www.viport.com/aviation.html) sits outside Frederiksted, a 10-minute drive away. It takes about a half-hour to reach Christiansted from the airport.

There is no airport on St. John.

Flying time is approximately 2½ hours from Miami, 4½ hours from New York, and 8½ hours from Los Angeles.

Carriers

One advantage to visiting the USVI is the abundance of nonstop and connecting flights to St. Thomas and St. Croix that can have you at the beach in three to four hours from easternmost United States departures. Small island-hopper planes and a seaplane connect St. Thomas and St. Croix, and a ferry takes you from St. Thomas to St. John.

American Airlines (PHONE:800/433-7300; 340/774-6464; 340/778-1140 in the USVI; www.aa.com) is the territory's major carrier, with flights from Miami and New York.

American Eagle (PHONE:800/433-7300; 340/776-2560; 340/778-2000 in the USVI; www.aa.com) has frequent flights throughout the day from San Juan.

Cape Air (PHONE:800/352-0714 or 340/774-2204; flycapeair.com) flies from San Juan to both St. Thomas and St. Croix. It has code-sharing arrangements with all major airlines, so your luggage can transfer seamlessly.

Continental (PHONE:800/231-0856; www.continental.com) flies from Newark.

Delta (PHONE:800/241-4141; 340/777-4177; 800/221-1212 in the USVI; www.delta.com) flies from Atlanta.

United Airlines (PHONE:800/538-2929; 340/774-9190 in the USVI; www.united.com) flies from Chicago and Washington, D.C.

US Airways (PHONE:800/428-4322; 340/774-7885 in the USVI; www.usairways.com) flies from Philadelphia.

Transfers Between the Airport and Town

By Ferry

Visitors to St. John fly into St. Thomas and take a taxi to either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook, where they catch a ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John. The ferry from Charlotte Amalie makes the 45-minute trip several times a day and costs $7 a person. From Red Hook the ferry leaves on the hour; the 20-minute trip costs $3 a person.

By Taxi

Most hotels on St. Thomas don't have airport shuttles, but taxi vans at the airport are plentiful. From the airport, fees (set by the VI Taxi Commission) for two or more people sharing a cab are: $12 to the Ritz-Carlton, $9 to Renaissance Grand Beach Resort, $7.50 to Marriott Frenchman's Reef, and $5 to Bluebeard's Castle. Expect to be charged 50¢ per bag and to pay a higher fee if you're riding alone. During rush hour the trip to East End resorts can take up to 40 minutes, but a half hour is typical. Driving time from the airport to Charlotte Amalie is 15 minutes.

Getting from the airport to St. Croix hotels by taxi costs about $10-$20. You'll spend a half hour getting to the hotels in the Christiansted area, but those in the Frederiksted area are only about 10 minutes away. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the hotels on the East End.

 
 
By Boat

Virtually every type of ship and major cruise line calls at St. Thomas; only a few call at St. Croix. Many ships that call at St. Thomas also call in St. John or offer an excursion to that island.

 
 
Contacts & Resources
 
Business Hours

Banks

Bank hours are generally Monday-Thursday 9-3 and Friday 9-5; a handful open Saturday (9-noon). Walk-up windows open at 8:30 on weekdays.

Post Offices

Hours may vary slightly from branch to branch and island to island, but they are generally 7:30 or 8 to 4 or 5:30 weekdays and 7:30 or 8 to noon or 2:30 Saturday.

Shops

On St. Thomas, stores on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie are open weekdays and Saturday 9-5. The hours of the shops in the Havensight Mall (next to the cruise-ships dock) are the same, though occasionally some stay open until 9 on Friday, depending on how many cruise ships are at the dock. You may also find some shops open on Sunday if a lot of cruise ships are in port. Hotel shops are usually open evenings, as well.

St. Croix shop hours are usually Monday-Saturday 9-5, but there are some shops in Christiansted open in the evening.

On St. John, store hours run from 9 or 10 to 5 or 6. Wharfside Village and Mongoose Junction shops in Cruz Bay are often open into the evening.

 
 
Customs & Duties

Arriving in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Non-U.S. residents ages 21 and older may import into the United States 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 2 kilograms of tobacco, 1 liter of alcohol, and gifts worth $100. Meat products, seeds, plants, and fruits are prohibited.

U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (for inquiries and equipment registration, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20229, PHONE:202/354-1000; www.customs.gov).

 
 
Electricity

The USVI use the same current as the U.S. mainland -- 110 volts. European appliances will require adaptors. Since power fluctuations occasionally occur, bring a heavy-duty surge protector (available at hardware stores) if you plan to use your computer.

 
 
Emergencies

Ambulance, Fire, and Police (PHONE:911).

Air Ambulance

Air Ambulance Network (PHONE:800/327-1966).

Medical Air Services (PHONE:340/777-8580 or 800/643-9023).

Coast Guard

Marine Safety Detachment (PHONE:340/776-3497 in St. Thomas and St. John; 340/772-5557 in St. Croix).

Rescue Coordination Center (PHONE:787/289-2040 in San Juan; Puerto Rico)

Hospitals

St. Thomas

Roy L. Schneider Hospital & Community Health Center (Sugar Estate, PHONE:340/776-8311).

St. Croix

Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Health Center (6 Diamond Ruby, north of Sunny Isle Shopping Center on Rte. 79, Christiansted, PHONE:340/778-6311).

Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic (516 Strand St., Frederiksted, PHONE:340/772-0260).

St. John

Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center (Rte. 10, about 7 mins east of Cruz Bay, Susannaberg, PHONE:340/693-8900).

Pharmacies

St. Thomas

Havensight Pharmacy (Havensight Mall, Charlotte Amalie, PHONE:340/776-1235).

Kmart Pharmacy (Tutu Park Mall, Tutu, PHONE:340/777-3854).

Sunrise Pharmacy (Red Hook, PHONE:340/775-6600).

St. Croix

D&D Apothecary Hall (501 Queen St., Frederiksted, PHONE:340/772-1890).

Kmart Pharmacy (Sunshine Mall, Cane Estate, PHONE:340/692-2622).

People's Drug Store, Inc. (Sunny Isle Shopping Center, Rte. 70, Christiansted, PHONE:340/778-5537).

St. John

Chelsea Drug Store (The Marketplace Shopping Center, Rte. 104, Cruz Bay, PHONE:340/776-4888).

Scuba-Diving Emergencies

Roy L. Schneider Hospital & Community Health Center (Sugar Estate, PHONE:340/776-2686).

 
 
Etiquette & Behavior

A smile and a "good day" greeting will start any encounter off on the right foot. Dress is casual throughout the islands, but cover up when you're sightseeing or shopping in town; bare chests and bathing suit tops are frowned upon.

 
 
Guided Tours

Air Tours

Air Center Helicopters (Waterfront, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/775-7335), on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront (next to Tortola Wharf) on St. Thomas, has 30-minute island tours priced at $375 (for up to four passengers) per trip. You can also arrange longer flights that loop over to the neighboring BVI, as well as photography tours.

Boat Tours

Caribbean Pelican Rides (Coast Guard Dock, opposite Vendor's Plaza, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/774-7808) offers a unique land and sea tour of Charlotte Amalie aboard an amphibious British Alvis Stalward vessel. Tours depart from the Coast Guard dock opposite Vendors Plaza. The 55-minute excursions costs $55 for adults, $15 for children ages 12 and under.

St. Thomas's Kon Tiki (Gregorie Channel East Dock, Frenchtown, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/775-5055) party boat is a kick. Put your sophistication aside, climb on this big palm-thatch raft, and dip into bottomless barrels of rum punch along with a couple of hundred of your soon-to-be closest friends. Dance to the steel-drum band, sun on the roof (watch out: you'll fry), and join the limbo dancing on the way home from an afternoon of swimming and beachcombing at Honeymoon Beach on Water Island. This popular 3½-hour afternoon excursion costs $29 for adults, $15 for children under 13 (although few come to this party).

Bus & Taxi Tours

V. I. Taxi Association St. Thomas City-Island Tour (PHONE:340/774-4550) gives a two-hour $45 tour for two people in an open-air safari bus or enclosed van; aimed at cruise-ship passengers, this tour includes stops at Drake's Seat and Mountain Top. For just a bit more money (about $45-$50 for two) you can hire a taxi and ask the driver to take the opposite route so you'll avoid the crowds. But do see Mountain Top: the view is wonderful.

Tropic Tours (PHONE:340/774-1855 or 800/524-4334) offers half-day shopping and sightseeing tours of St. Thomas by bus six days a week ($25 per person). The company also has a full-day ferry tour to St. John that includes snorkeling and lunch. The cost is $70 per person.

St. Croix Safari Tours (PHONE:340/773-6700) offers van tours of St. Croix. They depart from Christiansted and last about five hours. Costs run from $25 per person plus admission fees to attractions.

St. Croix Transit (PHONE:340/772-3333) offers van tours of St. Croix. They depart from Carambola Beach Resort, last about three hours, and cost from $30 per person plus admission fees to attractions.

In St. John, taxi drivers provide tours of the island, making stops at various sites including Trunk Bay and Annaberg Plantation. Prices run around $15 a person. The taxi drivers congregate near the ferry in Cruz Bay. The dispatcher will find you a driver for your tour.

Walking Tours

The St. Thomas-St. John Vacation Handbook, available free at hotels and tourist centers, has an excellent self-guided walking tour of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.

The St. Thomas Historical Trust (PHONE:340/776-2726) has published a self-guided tour of the historic district; it's available in book and souvenir shops for $1.95. A two-hour guided historic walking tour is available by reservation. It begins (at 9 AM) at the Emancipation Garden, covers all the in-town sights, and can be narrated in Spanish, Danish, German, and Japanese as well as in English. The cost is $35 per person; wear a hat and comfortable walking shoes.

Possible nature tours on St. Thomas include bird-watching, whale-watching, and waiting hidden on a beach while the magnificent hawksbill turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Contact EAST (Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John).

St. Croix Heritage Tours. leads walks through the historic towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted, detailing the history of the people and the buildings. Custom tours that cover the island are also available.

Along with providing trail maps and brochures about Virgin Islands National Park, the park service also gives several guided tours on- and off-shore. Some are only offered during particular times of the year, and some require reservations. For more information, contact the V. I. National Park Visitors Center (at area known as the Creek; across from Cruz Bay bulkhead and adjacent to ball field, Cruz Bay, PHONE:340/776-6201; www.nps.gov/viis) on St. John.

 
 
Health

The staff at your hotel can recommend a doctor, dentist, clinic, or hospital should a need arise. Sometimes, particularly at family resorts, a nurse is on-site during the day and a doctor is on call. Doctor visits, incidentally, can be costly.

Divers' Alert

Do not fly within 24 hours of scuba diving.

Food and Drink

Traveler's diarrhea, caused by eating contaminated fruit or vegetables or drinking contaminated water, isn't a big problem in the Caribbean, but it does occur. So watch what you eat. Avoid ice, uncooked food, and unpasteurized milk and milk products, and drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled for several minutes, even when brushing your teeth. Mild cases may respond to Imodium (known generically as loperamide) or Pepto-Bismol, both of which can be purchased over the counter. Drink plenty of purified water or tea -- chamomile is a good folk remedy. In severe cases, rehydrate yourself with a salt-sugar solution (½ teaspoon salt and 4 tablespoons sugar per quart of water).

Over-the-Counter Remedies

Island drug stores and supermarkets are well stocked with familiar over-the-counter medicines and other health products that you might need. If you don't see precisely what you want, ask the pharmacist to recommend an appropriate substitute. If you can only use a specific or an uncommon medicine, be sure to bring a sufficient supply with you.

Pests and Other Hazards

The major health risk in the Caribbean is sunburn or sunstroke. Having a long-sleeve shirt, a hat, and long pants or a beach wrap available is essential on a boat, for midday at the beach, and whenever you go out sightseeing. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 -- especially if your complexion is fair -- and apply it liberally on your nose, ears, and other sensitive and exposed areas. Make sure the sunscreen is waterproof if you're engaging in water sports, limit your sun time for the first few days, and drink plenty of liquids, monitoring intake of caffeine and alcohol, which hasten the dehydration process.

Even experienced swimmers should exercise caution in waters on the windward (Atlantic Ocean) side of the islands. The unseen currents, powerful waves, strong undertows, and rocky bottoms can be extremely dangerous -- and lifeguards are rare. Even in the calmest water, watch out for black, spiny sea urchins; stepping on one is guaranteed to be painful for quite some time.

The small lizards native to the islands are harmless (and actually keep down the bug population), and poisonous snakes are hard to find. Beware of the manchineel tree, which grows near the beach and has green applelike fruit that is poisonous and bark and leaves that can burn the skin. The worst insect problem may well be the tiny no-see-ums (sand flies) that appear after a rain, near swampy ground, and around sunset; mosquitoes can also be annoying. Bring along a good repellent.

Shots and Medications

No special shots or vaccinations are required for Caribbean destinations.

 
 
Language

English is the official language, though island residents often speak it with a lilting Creole accent, so you might not recognize certain words at first. If you have trouble understanding someone, ask them to speak slowly.

 
 
Mail

The main U.S. Post Office on St. Thomas is near the hospital, with branches in Charlotte Amalie, Frenchtown, Havensight, and Tutu Mall; there are post offices at Christiansted, Frederiksted, Gallows Bay, and Sunny Isle on St. Croix, and at Cruz Bay on St. John.

The postal service offers Express Mail next-day service to major cities if you mail before noon; outlying areas may take two days. Letters to the United States are 37¢ and postcards are 23¢. Sending mail home to Canada you'll pay 46¢ for a letter and 40¢ for a postcard. To the United Kingdom and Australia, letters are 60¢, postcards 50¢.

On St. Thomas, Federal Express (Cyril E. King Airport, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/777-4140; www.fedex.com) offers overnight service if you get your package to the office before 5 PM.

Parcel Plus (across from Havensight Mall on Rte. 30, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/776-9134), across from Havensight Mall, also has express mail service.

The Federal Express (Peter's Rest Commercial Center, Rte. 708, Peter's Rest, St. Croix, PHONE:340/778-8180; www.fedex.com) office on St. Croix is in Peter's Rest Commercial Center; try to drop off your packages before 5:30 PM.

On St. John, Connections (On the unnamed street leading up from the ferry dock and across from Nazareth Lutheran Church, Cruz Bay, St. John, PHONE:340/776-6922; 340/774-3393 for pick up) takes Federal Express packages or call for pick up.

 
 
Money

Banks & ATMs

Each of the islands has several banks. On St. Thomas, First Bank is near Market Square. There are waterfront locations for both Banco Popular and V. I. Community Bank.

St. Croix has branches of Banco Popular in Orange Grove and Sunny Isle Shopping Centers. V. I. Community Bank is in Orange Grove Shopping Center and in downtown Christiansted. Scotia Bank has branches in Sunny Isle Frederiksted, Christiansted, and Sunshine Mall.

St. John's two banks are located near the ferry docks. First Bank is one block up from the ferry dock, and Scotia Bank is in a trailer just east of Chase.

Information

Banco Popular (PHONE:340/693-2777; www.bancopopular.com).

First Bank (PHONE:340/776-9494 in St. Thomas; 340/775-7777 in St. John; www.firstbankpr.com).

Scotia Bank (PHONE:340/778-5350 in St. Croix; 340/776-6552 in St. John; www.scotiabank.com).

V. I. Community Bank (PHONE:340/773-4700).

Credit Cards

All major credit cards and traveler's checks are generally accepted. Some places will take Discover, though it's not as widely accepted as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Currency

The American dollar is used throughout the territory, as well as in the neighboring BVI.

Exchanging Money

If you need to exchange foreign currency, you'll need to go to the main branch of major banks.

Taxes

There's no sales tax, but there is an 8% hotel-room tax in the USVI. The St. John Accommodations Council members ask that hotel and villa guests voluntarily pay a $1 a day surcharge to help fund school and community projects and other good works.

Tipping

Many hotels add a 10% to 15% service charge to cover the room maid and other staff. However, some hotels may use part of that money to fund their operations, passing on only a portion of it to the staff. Check with your maid or bellhop to determine the hotel's policy. If you discover you need to tip, give bellhops and porters 50¢ to $1 per bag and maids $1 or $2 per day. Special errands or requests of hotel staff always require an additional tip. At restaurants bartenders and waiters expect a 10%-15% tip, but always check your tab to see whether service is included. Taxi drivers get a 15% tip.

 
 
Passports & Visas

When traveling internationally, carry your passport even if you don't need one (it's always the best form of I.D.) and make two photocopies of the data page (one for someone at home and another for you, carried separately from your passport). If you lose your passport, promptly call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police.

Entering the U.S. Virgin Islands

If you're a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you can prove citizenship with a current or expired (but not by more than five years) passport or with an original birth certificate (with a raised seal) along with a government-issued photo I.D. A valid passport, however, is best. Citizens of other countries need a passport.

Passport Offices

The best time to apply for a passport, or to renew your old one, is in fall or winter. Before any trip, check your passport's expiration date, and, if necessary, renew it as soon as possible.

Australian Citizens

Australian Passport Office (PHONE:131-232; www.passports.gov.au).

Canadian Citizens

Passport Office (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G3, PHONE:819/994-3500 or 800/567-6868; www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/passport).

New Zealand Citizens

New Zealand Passport Office (PHONE:04/474-8100 or 0800/22-5050; www.passports.govt.nz).

U.K. Citizens

London Passport Office (PHONE:0870/521-0410; www.passport.gov.uk).

U.S. Citizens

National Passport Information Center (PHONE:900/225-5674; travel.state.gov/passport_services.html) Calls are 35¢ per minute for automated service, $1.05 per minute for operator service.

 
 
Safety

Vacationers tend to assume that normal precautions aren't necessary in paradise. They are. Though there isn't quite as much crime here as in large U.S. mainland cities, it does exist. To be safe, stick to well-lit streets at night and use the same kind of street sense (don't wander the back alleys of Charlotte Amalie or Christiansted after five rum punches, for example) that you would in any unfamiliar territory.

If you plan to carry things around, rent a car -- not a jeep -- and lock possessions in the trunk. Keep your rental car locked wherever you park. Don't leave cameras, purses, and other valuables lying on the beach while you snorkel for an hour (or even for a minute), whether you're on the deserted beaches of St. John or the more crowded Magens and Coki beaches on St. Thomas. St. Croix has several remote beaches outside Frederiksted and on the East End; it's best to visit them with a group rather than on your own.

 
 
Telephones

The area code for all of the USVI is 340. If you are calling from within the U.S., you need only dial 1 plus the area code and number. If you're calling from outside the United States, dial the U.S. country code 01.

If you have a cell phone, you can dial 6611 for information about how to use it locally.

On St. Thomas, AT&T (Across from Havensight Mall, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/777-9201) has a state-of-the-art telecommunications center (it's across from the Havensight Mall) with 15 desk booths, fax and copy services, a video phone, and TDD equipment (for people with hearing impairments).

On St. John the place to go for phone or message needs is Connections (Cruz Bay, St. John, PHONE:340/776-6922; www.connectionsstjohn.com).

East End Secretarial Services (Upstairs at Red Hook Plaza, Red Hook, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/775-5262) offers long-distance dialing, copying, and fax services.

Islander Services (5302 Store Tvaer Gade, behind the Greenhouse Restaurant, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/774-8128) offers long-distance dialing, copying, and fax services.

Parcel Plus (Across from Havensight Mall, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, PHONE:340/776-9134) in St. Thomas has three computers available for accessing e-mail; the cost is $5 per half hour. Express mail service, international calling, and phone cards are also available here.

International Calls

You can dial direct to and from the mainland United States, and to and from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom from most phones.

The country code for the United States and Canada is 1; for Australia, 61; for New Zealand, 64; and for the United Kingdom, 44.

Public Phones

Local calls from a public phone cost up to 35¢ for each five minutes.

 
 
Visitor Information

Tourist Offices

In the U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Association (PHONE:340/774-6835; www.sttstjhta.com).

USVI Division of Tourism (78-123 Estate Contant, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, 00804, PHONE:340/774-8784 or 800/372-8784).

Virgin Islands National Park (at the Creek, Cruz Bay, St. John, 00831, PHONE:340/776-6201; www.nps.gov/viis).

At Home

USVI Government Tourist Office (245 Peachtree St., Center Ave. Marquis One Tower MB-05, Atlanta, GA, 30303, PHONE:404/688-0906; www.usvitourism.vi).

Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) (80 Broad St., New York, NY, 10004, PHONE:212/635-9530, FAX: 212/635-9511).

 
 
When to Go

The Caribbean high season is traditionally winter -- from December 15 to April 14 -- when northern weather is at its worst. During this season you're guaranteed the most entertainment at resorts and the most people with whom to enjoy it. It's also the most fashionable, the most expensive, and the most popular time to visit -- and most hotels are heavily booked. You must make reservations at least two or three months in advance for the very best places (sometimes a year in advance for the most exclusive spots).

Hotel prices drop 20%-50% after April 15; airfares and cruise prices also fall. Saving money isn't the only reason to visit the Caribbean during the off-season. Temperatures are only a few degrees warmer than at other times of the year, and many islands now schedule their carnivals, music festivals, and other events during the off-season. Late August, September, October, and early November are least crowded.

In summer the flamboyant trees are at their peak, as are most of the flowers and shrubs. The water is clearer for snorkeling and smoother for sailing in the Virgin Islands in May, June, and July.

The Caribbean climate is fairly constant. The average year-round temperatures for the region are 78°F-88°F. The temperature extremes are 65°F low, 95°F high; but, as everyone knows, it's the humidity, not the heat, that makes you suffer, especially when the two go hand in hand.

As part of the late-fall rainy season, hurricanes occasionally sweep through the Caribbean. Check the news daily and keep abreast of brewing tropical storms. The rainy season consists mostly of brief showers interspersed with sunshine. You can watch the clouds thicken, feel the rain, then have brilliant sunshine dry you off, all while remaining on your lounge chair. A spell of overcast days or heavy rainfall is unusual, as everyone will tell you.

Holidays

Public holidays, in addition to the U.S. federal holidays are: Three Kings Day (Jan. 6); Transfer Day (commemorates Denmark's 1917 sale of the territory to the United States, Mar. 31); Holy Thursday and Good Friday; Emancipation Day (when slavery was abolished in the Danish West Indies in 1848, July 3); Columbus Day and USVI-Puerto Rico Friendship Day (always on Columbus Day weekend); and Liberty Day (honoring David Hamilton Jackson, who secured freedom of the press and assembly from King Christian X of Denmark, Nov. 1).

Although the government closes down for 26 days a year, most of these holidays have no effect on shopping hours. Unless there's a cruise-ship arrival, expect most stores to close for Christmas and a few other holidays in the slower summer months.

 
 
Getting Around
 
By Air

Seaborne Airlines (PHONE:340/773-6442; www.seaborneairlines.com) flies between St. Thomas and St. Croix.

 
 
By Bus

St. Thomas

On St. Thomas, the island's 20 deluxe mainland-size buses make public transportation a very comfortable -- though slow -- way to get from east and west to Charlotte Amalie and back (service to the north is limited). Buses run about every 30 minutes from stops that are clearly marked with "Vitran" signs. Fares are $1 between outlying areas and town and 75¢ in town.

St. Croix

Privately owned taxi vans crisscross St. Croix regularly, providing reliable service between Frederiksted and Christiansted along Route 70. This inexpensive ($1.50 one-way) mode of transportation is favored by locals, and though the many stops on the 20-mi (32-km) drive between the two main towns make the ride slow, it's never dull. The public Vitran buses aren't the quickest way to get around the island, but they're comfortable and affordable. The fare is $1 between Christiansted and Frederiksted or to places in between.

St. John

Modern Vitran buses on St. John run from the Cruz Bay ferry dock through Coral Bay to the far eastern end of the island at Salt Pond, making numerous stops in between. The fare is $1 to any point.

 
 
By Car

Even at a sedate speed of 20 mph, driving can be an adventure -- for example, you may find yourself in a Jeep slogging behind a slow tourist-packed safari bus at a steep hairpin turn. Give a little beep at blind turns. Note that the general speed limit on these islands is only 25-35 mph, which will seem fast enough for you on most roads. If you don't think you'll need to lock up your valuables, a Jeep or open-air Suzuki with four-wheel drive will make it easier to navigate potholed dirt side roads and to get up slick hills when it rains. All main roads are paved.

Car Rentals

Rates begin at $40 a day and $225 a week, not including vehicle license fees and other surcharges. At the height of the winter season it may be tough to find a car, and occasionally all rental companies run out of cars at once; reserve well in advance to ensure you get the vehicle of your choice.

On St. Thomas

Anchorage E-Z Car (PHONE:340/775-6255) is located on the east end of the island.

Avis (PHONE:340/774-1468 or 800/331-1084) has locations at the Cyril E. King Airport, Marriott Frenchman's Reef, and Renaissance Grand Beach Resort.

Budget (PHONE:340/776-5774 or 800/626-4516) has a counter at the airport and branches at the Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina and at the Havensight Mall, adjacent to the main cruise ship dock.

Cowpet Rent-a-Car (PHONE:340/775-7376) is located on the east end of the island.

Dependable Car Rental (PHONE:340/774-2253 or 800/522-3076) offers pickups and drop-offs at the airport and to and from major hotels.

Discount (PHONE:340/776-4858) has a location at Bluebeard's Castle hotel.

Hertz (PHONE:340/774-1879 or 800/654-3131) has a counter at the Cyril E. King Airport.

On St. Croix

Atlas (PHONE:340/773-2886 or 800/426-6009) is located outside Christiansted but provides pickups at hotels.

Avis (PHONE:340/778-9355 or 800/897-8448) is located at the airport.

Budget (PHONE:340/778-9636 or 888/227-3359; www.budgetstcroix.com) has branches at the airport and in the King Christian Hotel in Christiansted.

Midwest (PHONE:340/772-0438 or 877/772-0438; www.midwestautorental.com) is located outside Frederiksted, but picks up at hotels.

Olympic (PHONE:340/773-8000 or 888/878-4227) is located outside Christiansted, but will pick up at hotels.

Thrifty (PHONE:340/773-7200) is located outside Christiansted, but will pick up at hotels.

On St. John

Best (PHONE:340/693-8177) is just outside Cruz Bay near the public library, off Route 10.

Cool Breeze (PHONE:340/776-6588; www.coolbreezecarrental.com) is in Cruz Bay across from the Creek.

Delbert Hill Taxi and Jeep Rental Service (PHONE:340/776-6637) is in Cruz Bay around the corner from the ferry dock, across from Wharfside Village.

Denzil Clyne (PHONE:340/776-6715) is across from the Creek.

O'Connor Jeep (PHONE:340/776-6343) is in Cruz Bay at the Texaco Station.

St. John Car Rental (PHONE:340/776-6103; www.raintree.com) is across from Wharfside Village shopping center on Bay Street in Cruz Bay.

Spencer's Jeep (PHONE:340/693-8784 or 888/776-6628) is across from the Creek in Cruz Bay.

Sun and Sand Car Rental (PHONE:340/776-6374) is in Cruz Bay across from the Creek.

At Home

Avis (PHONE:800/331-1084; 800/879-2847 in Canada; 0870/606-0100 in the U.K.; 02/9353-9000 in Australia; 09/526-2847 in New Zealand; www.avis.com).

Budget (PHONE:800/527-0700; 0870/156-5656 in the U.K.; www.budget.com).

Hertz (PHONE:800/654-3001; 800/263-0600 in Canada; 020/8897-2072 in the U.K.; 02/9669-2444 in Australia; www.hertz.com).

Gasoline

Gas is pricey on St. John and St. Thomas, but on St. Croix, where the big Hess refinery is, the prices are much closer to what you might expect to pay stateside.

Requirements

Any U.S. driver's license is good for 90 days on the USVI, as are valid driver's licenses from other countries; the minimum age for drivers is 18, although many agencies won't rent to anyone under the age of 25.

Road Conditions

In St. Thomas, traffic can get pretty bad, especially in Charlotte Amalie at rush hour (7-9 and 4:30-6). Cars often line up bumper to bumper along the waterfront. If you need to get from an east end resort to the airport during these times, find the alternate route (starting from the east end, Route 38 to 42 to 40 to 33) that goes up the mountain and then drops you back onto Veterans Highway. If you plan to explore by car, be sure to pick up the latest edition of "Road Map St. Thomas-St. John" that includes the route numbers and the names of the roads that are used by locals. It's available anywhere you find maps and guidebooks.

St. Croix, unlike St. Thomas and St. John, where narrow roads wind through hillsides, is relatively flat, and it even has a four-lane highway. The speed limit on the Melvin H. Evans Highway is 55 mph and ranges 35-40 mph elsewhere. Roads are often unmarked, so be patient -- sometimes getting lost is half the fun.

In St. John, use caution. The terrain is very hilly, the roads are winding, and the blind curves numerous. You may suddenly come upon a huge safari bus careening around a corner or a couple of hikers strolling along the side of the road. Major roads are well paved, but once you get off a specific route, dirt roads filled with potholes are common. For such driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle is your best bet.

Rules of the Road

Driving is on the left side of the road (although your steering wheel will be on the left side of the car). The law requires everyone in a car to wear seat belts: many of the roads are narrow, and the islands are dotted with hills, so there's ample reason to put safety first.

 
 
By Ferry

Ferries are a great way to travel around the islands; there's service between St. Thomas and St. John and their neighbors, the BVI. There's something special about spending a day on St. John and then joining your fellow passengers -- a mix of tourists, local families, and construction workers on their way home -- for a peaceful, sundown ride back to St. Thomas. Sometimes one of the St. John ferry services offers a special weekend trip to Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Such junkets depart from the waterfront in St. Thomas on a Friday evening and return to the same locale on Sunday afternoon.

Fares & Schedules

Ferries to Cruz Bay, St. John, leave St. Thomas from either the Charlotte Amalie waterfront west of the U.S. Coast Guard dock or from Red Hook. From Charlotte Amalie ferries depart at 9, 11, 1, 3, 4, and 5:30. To Charlotte Amalie from Cruz Bay, they leave at 7:15, 9:15, 11:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:45. The one-way fare for the 45-minute ride is $7 for adults, $3 for children. From Red Hook, ferries to Cruz Bay leave at 6:30 AM and 7:30 AM. Starting at 8 AM, they leave hourly until midnight. Returning from Cruz Bay, they leave hourly starting at 6 AM until 11 PM. The 15- to 20-minute ferry ride is $3 one-way for adults, $1 for children under 12.

Car ferries, called barges, run about every half-hour between Red Hook, St. Thomas, and Cruz Bay, St. John. The ride takes a half hour (one way) and costs $27 (round-trip). Plan to arrive 15 minutes before departure.

Reefer (PHONE:340/776-8500 Ext. 6814) is the name of both of the brightly colored 26-passenger skiffs that run between the Charlotte Amalie waterfront and Marriott Frenchman's Reef hotel daily every hour from 9 to 4, returning from the Reef from 9:30 until 4:30. It's a good way to beat the traffic (and is about the same price as a taxi) to Morning Star Beach, which adjoins the Reef. And you get a great view of the harbor as you bob along in the shadow of the giant cruise ships anchored in the harbor. The captain of the Reefer may also be persuaded to drop you at Yacht Haven, but check first. The fare is $4 one-way, and the trip takes about 15 minutes.

There's daily service between either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook, on St. Thomas, and West End or Road Town, Tortola, BVI, by Native Son (PHONE:340/774-8685). The times and days the ferries run change, so it's best to call for schedules once you're in the islands. The fare is $22 one-way or $40 round-trip, and the trip from Charlotte Amalie takes 45 minutes to an hour to West End, up to 1½ hours to Road Town; from Red Hook the trip is only half an hour.

Smith's Ferry (PHONE:340/775-7292) has daily service between either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook, on St. Thomas, and West End or Road Town, Tortola, BVI, and to Virgin Gorda, BVI. The times and days the ferries run change, so it's best to call for schedules once you're in the islands. The fare is $22 one-way or $40 round-trip, and the trip from Charlotte Amalie takes 45 minutes to an hour to West End, up to 1½ hours to Road Town; from Red Hook the trip is only half an hour. The twice-weekly 2¼-hour trip from Charlotte Amalie to Virgin Gorda costs $28 one-way and $40 round-trip.

There's daily service between Cruz Bay, St. John, and West End, Tortola, aboard an Inter-Island Boat Service (PHONE:340/776-6597) ferry. The half-hour one-way trip is $21. You'll need to present proof of citizenship upon entering the BVI; a passport is best, but a birth certificate with a raised seal in addition to a government-issued photo I.D. will suffice.

 
 
By Taxi

USVI taxis don't have meters, but you needn't worry about fare gouging if you check a list of standard rates to popular destinations (required by law to be carried by each driver and often posted in hotel and airport lobbies and printed in free tourist periodicals, such as St. Thomas This Week and St. Croix This Week) and settle on the fare before you start out. Fares are per person, not per destination, but drivers taking multiple fares (which often happens, especially from the airport) will charge you a lower rate than if you're in the cab alone.

St. Thomas

On St. Thomas, taxi vans line up along Havensight and Crown Bay docks when a cruise ship pulls in. If you booked a shore tour, the operator will lead you to a designated vehicle. Otherwise, there are plenty of air-conditioned vans and open-air safari buses to take you to Charlotte Amalie or the beach. The cab fare from Havensight to Charlotte Amalie is $2.50 per person; you can, however, make the 1½-mi (2½-km) walk into town in about 30 minutes along the beautiful waterfront. From Crown Bay to town the taxi fare is $2.50 per person whether you travel solo or share; it's a 1-mi (1½-km) walk, but the route passes along a busy highway. Transportation from Havensight to Magens Bay for swimming is $6.50 per person ($4 if you share).

Additionally, taxis of all shapes and sizes are available at various ferry, shopping, resort, and airport areas, and they also respond to phone calls. There are taxi stands in Charlotte Amalie across from Emancipation Garden (in front of Little Switzerland, behind the post office) and along the waterfront. But you probably won't have to look for a stand, as taxis are plentiful and routinely cruise the streets. Walking down Main Street, you'll be asked "Back to ship?" often enough to make you never want to carry another shopping bag.

East End Taxi (PHONE:340/775-6974).

Islander Taxi (PHONE:340/774-4077).

VI Taxi Association (PHONE:340/774-4550).

St. Croix

Taxis, generally station wagons or minivans, are a phone call away from most hotels and are available in downtown Christiansted, at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, and at the Frederiksted pier during cruise-ship arrivals.

In Frederiksted all the shops are just a short walk away, and you can swim off the beach. Most ship passengers visit Christiansted on a tour; a taxi will cost $20 for one or two people.

Antilles Taxi Service (PHONE:340/773-5020).

Cruzan Taxi and Tours (PHONE:340/773-6388).

St. Croix Taxi Association (PHONE:340/778-1088).

St. John

Taxis meet ferries arriving in Cruz Bay. Most drivers use vans or open-air safari buses. You'll find them congregated at the dock and at hotel parking lots. You can also hail them anywhere on the road. You're likely to travel with other tourists en route to their destinations. It's very difficult to get taxis to respond to a phone call. If you need one to pick you up at your rental villa, ask the villa manager for suggestions on who to call or arrange a ride in advance.

Some cruise ships stop at St. John to let passengers disembark for a day. The main town of Cruz Bay is near the area where the ships drop off passengers. If you want to swim, the famous Trunk Bay is a $9 taxi ride (for two) from town.

 
 
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