Living on St John Island
Whether you “live” on St. John for a week, a month or just passing through, you will quickly learn why it has the reputation of being the most beautiful, friendly and tranquil island in all of the Islands, with a vibe all its own, where locals visitors alike enjoy laid back kind of beach life “Love City” is known for.
You will pleasantly find that the West Indian culture’s most honored tradition is good manners, and the locals hope visitors will make the effort to appreciate this custom.
Manners are especially important local custom on our charming little piece of paradise. You will hear it everywhere, every day, and it is custom that everyone (Including visitors) show respect through the very enlightening custom where everyone starts their conversations with “Good morning, “Good Day” (at noon time)” or “Good Evening.” You will find that your adopting this small but important custom will help you in both getting around and getting the best helpful information by following this custom (and it’s not so bad to take back to the states with you either!).
Driving and Transportation
Although we are a US Territory, the local traditions on St John are strong and thus we drive on the left side of the road, even though all private and rental cars are “right hand” cars. So as we say, look twice before you pull out onto the roads!
How to get to St John – Airlines to St. Thomas and Ferry Service to St. John
St. Thomas is only a few miles from St. John and is where the nearest airport (Cyrill E King Airport) to St. John is located. Once you land, you can take a private or shared taxi to St. John to catch the ferry, either from Red Hook on the east end of the island, or from Charlotte Amalie which is also known as the waterfront.
The Virgin Islands time zone is the Atlantic Time Zone, and stays the same year round. This means we are the same time as the East Coast of the US (Eastern Daylight Time) during the summer months (April – November), and an hour ahead of the East Coast when the U.S. clocks fall back an hour in the Fall.
St John is truly in the island spirit when it comes to our attire. But one steadfast local custom is that when off the beach more modest clothing – cover-ups and shorts/shirts must be worn – both men and women. St John local wear is mostly cotton or lightweight clothing, shorts or sun dresses, with sandals or sneakers. Although many restaurants are very casual, you will normally see, lightweight shirts and slacks are for the gentlemen and sundresses for the ladies – on St John, it’s called “Island Fancy.” You will be happy that you packed lightly!
The official language in the Virgin Islands is English you will hear many West Indian dialects spoken, such as Spanish, which is spoken by natives of Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo; Patois, spoken as a second language by residents of St. Lucia and Dominica; and Creole, spoken by residents of Haiti.
Internet & Mobile Phones on St. John
Internet is in most Villas, but before you buy or rent on St John, make sure you ask, as some homes may be more “off the grid” than other. Some restaurants and bars also offer hot spots.
The two best mobile phone providers are ATT and Sprint. They work quite well, especially when you can see one of their towers. If you have another service, you may want to call before coming to St. John to see what the additional charges may be. Also, the BVI tower signals are stronger that the USVI towers, so note the service icon on your phone so you don’t pay the exorbitant prices when not on your plan.
For US Citizens – Government- issued picture identification with a birth certificate with a raised seal. (photo copies are not allowed). Passport is desirable, but not necessary. If you are a U.S. Citizen and are traveling to Tortola or any other British Virgin Island (BVI) you will need a valid U.S. Passport.
Non US Citizens – Passports required
Currency / Mail
The US and British Virgin Islands both use the US Dollar as their currency. Most places accept (even on the beaches) credit cards, and there are a few ATM machines on island. There is a US Post Office in near the ferry dock in Cruz Bay, and private postal services in both Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
Taxes and Customs
There are no sales taxes in the US Virgin islands. Each Visitor to the Virgin Islands enjoys a $1600 Duty Free Allowance upon returning to the United States. In addition you may bring back five bottles of liquor duty free or six if one is locally produced like Cruzan Rum. The Duty Free cigarette allowance is 10 cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars. For more information contact the Bureau of Customs 340 774 2540
Our Smaller Island Neighbors
hear the tree frogs singing especially after an evening rain shower.
Mosquitos sometimes are present when the Tradewinds die down, and sometimes during the year you will feel “no see ums” at sunset and sunrise. Our lizard and iguana population are here to fine dine on the little ones. Screens do a great job of keeing the little bugs out. There are no poisonous snakes or cases of rabies on St. John, so if you see a bat, don’t be afraid, they are after to smaller bugs as well.
There are some very nice “grocery stores” in or near Cruz Bay and one small store in Coral Bay. Grocery prices are approximately 25% higher than in the states. Some locals make the trek to St. Thomas (either by ferry or car barge) to do large grocery orders and other shopping, as prices on St. Thomas are closer to the mainland. St. Thomas also has larger stores like Home Depot, Kmart and a few furniture stores to help decorate your new island retreat.
St John Island Facts and Figures
St. John has about 4,000 full time residents, of which about 1/3 are “expats.”
St. John is less than 20 square miles in area, approximately 8 miles by 3 miles and it has 32 sandy beaches with the Atlantic on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south.
St. John’s coordinates are 18.2N 64.5 W, 1075 miles east southeast of Miami, 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, 3 miles east of St. Thomas. (If you are prone to getting lost on an island, jewelry stores sell pieces with the lat/lon of St John!)
Many buy property on St John because of the Virgin Islands National Park – St John’s most beautiful and welcoming treasure, encompassing over half of the island. Its hiking trails used to the be “roads” the donkeys and locals took to their homesteads, now old Danish ruins. You can still get just about anywhere on St. John from a trail, and especially to some of St John’s most pristine beaches. Laurence Rockefeller purchased extensive holdings on St. John in the early 1950’s and others followed to save the island’s natural beauty. Rockefeller’s beginnings were in the Danish West Indies Company, developed Caneel Bay Resort and donated much of the remaining acreage to the U.S. Government as public parkland and Congress formed the VI National Park in 1956.
The Park has both above and below acres, and includes 7,890 acres of land, 5,650 submerged acres off shore, plus approximately 13,000 acres submerged off shore as “Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.”
The US and British Virgin Islands
The spectacular, sweeping views of other islands off St John are of other US Virgin (USVI) islands to our west and south, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to our north and east.
St. John is surrounded by these many islands and cays, so whether you are looking for absolute private solitude or a beach party atmosphere, St. John and its nearby neighboring islands have it all!
The Other US Virgin Islands
The three other major inhabited islands are St. Croix, St Thomas and Water Island (just off the southern shore of St Thomas).
Being a very popular cruise port, there is shopping for tourists and locals alike on St. Thomas.
St. Croix is a bit further way – 40 miles, which is much further when there is only water in between!
Nearby British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are only 2 miles to the north and west of St. John and offer an eclectic variety of idyllic paradise retreats. (see more under What to Do Around St John below). There are numerous day trips from St. John to the BVI.
The BVI, Sailing Capital of the World
Known as the “Sailing Capital of the World,” the BVI are a bit more rustic than St John and especially other US Virgin Islands. But the day trips from St. John to the BVI are unmatched, and you will never forget going to The Baths on Virgin Gorda, or Jost Van Dyke to Foxy’s on Great Harbour or Ivan’s on White Bay (or any of the other 5 bars along White Bay!). There are plenty of ways to see St John’s sister islands in a day, so bring your passport if you want to visit the BVI.