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Saint Thomas

From Wikitravel
U.S. Virgin Islands : Saint Thomas
Revision as of 04:18, 18 August 2006 by 205.215.249.152 (Talk)

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St. Thomas is in US Virgin Islands.

Regions

Magen's Bay The most famous feature, besides the shopping, on the island. Directly across on the northern side from Charlotte Amalie, a crescent shaped bay with a mile of white sand and several bars and small stores. Taxis from downtown cost about 15 dollars, and if there are any cruise ships on the day you go, you can bet it will have at least a few beached white tourist fish.

Hull's Bay the next bay to the west of Magen's, on the atlantic ocean, and in the winter there is the island's only surfing. There is a shop where you can rent boards, but in typical island style, you would be lucky to catch the owner there to rent you one. Better to call ahead a few days and leave a message.

Brewer's Bay Beatuful, small beach near the University, especially nice at sunset. The landing strip for the airport is right on the other side, and the sun sets somewhere out in the middle.

Sapphire Beach Beach resort, open to the public but you can stay there too if that is where you want to be. Nice beach, rent a snorkel and check out the nice clear water and coral. There are a couple of bars and a swimming pool, sometimes a live band at night, if you haven't had a BBC (bailey's, banana, cocunut) they are pretty tasty.

Cities

Downtown - Charlotte Amalie This is where all the tourists come from the cruise ships. Every day they disembark to shop at some of the 300 or so jewelry stores in the city. Most of the ships park in HarborSide, a mile east of downtown, and there are endless taxis (trucks that have been converted to have covering and benches where the beds were) going back and forth from downtown. If you are white or look like a tourist, you will be asked if you need a ride or if you want to buy something every 15 steps or so. Everyone in the city uses their horns liberally, they drive on the left side of the street and don't really follow the rules. They don't follow the rules about a lot of things, in fact they are very disorganized but it can be charming.

If you happen to be downtown at night, Frenchtown is where the classier places are, for food and drinks, there is an excellent but expensive seafood restaurant called Oceana at the edge of the water, particularly nice at sunset. Downtown there are a couple of bars that sport they younger crowd and have loud music etc. Don't go farther inland more than 2 streets at night, there is nothing back there but locals who need drugs. More people get killed on this little island than in a lot of major cities.


East End - Red Hook and Coral Bay

There is a little more nightlife and activities, restaurants in red hook, you can catch the dollar taxi (2$ to red hook from downtown), it takes about 45 minutes to get there. Don't get stuck there though, unless you have a lot of people in your group, a taxi will not likely take you downtown after about 9pm.

Coral Bay is a beautiful small beach with a marine museum attached to it. Turtles, sharks, underwater observatory, you name it. 15 Dollars or thereabouts to get into the museum. You can rent snorkel gear at the beach, but it's not recommended to swim over the island a quarter mile away due to sharks and currents.

Other destinations

Water Island

Across the bay from Charlotte Amalie, a small island where there are trails and an old sugar mill back from the slave days. Once a week (Mondays, I think) they put up a big sheet and show a movie on the beach at 9pm.

Understand

This is the islands, things run a lot slower here, if at all. You can count on speedy service only in the areas where they are used to dealing with a lot of tourists. Anywhere else, forget it, and if you are not polite they simply have no idea what you are talking about. Things do not run very efficiently at all, you may see 3 traffic cops working the same intersection and giving different directions, but somehow it all works out. Just be patient.

Say "good morning" "good afternoon" or "good night" when you enter a room, get on a taxi or before you start talking to someone and they will be more friendly, this is the polite thing to do and shows that you aren't a total tourist.

There are a lot of job opportunities here. You can make a lot of money fast, and under the table, if you know where to look. Drugs are rampant on the island, especially crack. This means that sober workers are highly valued, so if you are clean and smart it will be no problem at all to find work if you want it.

Talk

Get in

Get around

Ferries leave from Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook to other islands pretty much all day every couple of hours. There are information booths along the waterfront where you can get a schedule for the local ferries and a ferry terminal near French Town for the longer distances (BVI etc). If you are going to St. John it is much cheaper and faster to go from Red Hook.

Taxis There are two kinds. Tourist taxis, and dollar taxis. Tourist taxis will take you anywhere at a premium, from one end of the island to the other (Airport to Red Hook) is probably 30 dollars, from Charlotte Amalie to the Airport is about 15, and from Charlotte Amalie to Red Hook about 20. Agree to a price before you get in the car. The big truck taxis will charge by the person, the legitimate taxis will have a meter, and the gypsy taxis will bid for your service and all of them will be waiting in crowds outside restaurants and bars after dark. There are approximately 3000 taxis on the island, half gypsy (unlicensed).

Dollar taxis run from sunrise to sunset, whenever they feel like it. They have one route and set stops. If you want to ride one, ask someone where to wait for one. They look just like the tourist taxis, but they will be filled with locals instead of tourists (Locals are all West Indian, black, tourists are mostly white). They go from the end of airport road to Sapphire Bay and back, one way. Yes, one way, it goes in a figure 8 from the Airport, through Charlotte Amalie to the mall in the middle, out to the east end, back to the mall and downtown again. If you go farther than the mall then it will cost you $2, for shorter trips only $1. The taxis run at random but frequently enough. The dollar taxis do not run all the way to the airport, so don't try it. Their last stop is near Brewers Bay, a good mile from the terminal.

See

Itineraries

Do

Eat

Eat a fresh coconut, there is a knarly old man who comes to the tent market in Charlotte Amalie every day with a pickup truck full of coconuts and a machette and sells them for 2 or 3 dollars, you drink the milk and give it back and he gives it another crack so you can eat the jelly.

Drink

There's lots of blended tropical alcoholic drinks here.

Stay safe

Make no mistake, there are crackheads and others who aren't the nicest crowd, but if you don't go wandering around in Charlotte Amalie at night, or stay to the ritzier areas, you should be just fine.

If you feel like hitchhiking, it shouldn't be a problem, hold your index finger out as you walk down the road, someone will pick you up. Don't do it at night though, the roads are narrow and windy, they won't be able to see you very well.

Get out

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