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Saint Thomas

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At night, the common recommendation is to take a taxi to/from any location, and to avoid walking alone.  Virtually all stores downtown (and most locations mentioned above) will be closed and shuttered, with no display windows to enjoy.
 
At night, the common recommendation is to take a taxi to/from any location, and to avoid walking alone.  Virtually all stores downtown (and most locations mentioned above) will be closed and shuttered, with no display windows to enjoy.
  
Generally, tap water is potable everywhere.
+
Generally, tap water is potable everywhere, although most is reclaimed by desalination plants, so the water temperature may be warmer than expected.
  
 
==Get out==
 
==Get out==

Revision as of 04:06, 12 June 2010

Charlotte Amalie harbor

St. Thomas is in the United States 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. The trip to Magen's Bay (and back) passes Mountain Top a small conglomeration of shops with a great view of Magen's Bay and beyond; beware of the potent Rum Punch at the bar - don't let it ruin your day! Excellent views of Charlotte Amalie's harbor when descending on the return. (Note: Mountain Top shops/facilities received major fire damage Spring 09,and Feb 2010 local headlines said it's to be restored by Fall 2010.)
  • Hull 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 - Beautiful 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, coconut) they are pretty tasty.
  • Coki Beach - The best snorkeling beach on St. Thomas. Normal underwater visibility of 100+ feet! Great beach for kids to learn to snorkel. It's very calm and you can feed the fish in about 3-4 feet of water if you want to. They sell dog treats to feed to the fish and it's really cool to see them swarm you for one. Beware of the locals though, you will be asked if you want to buy something 20 times before you make it to the beach, once there you are pretty much left alone though. If you take a tourist taxi to Coki Beach (they have awnings) you must be sure to take the same driver on return trip. If you try to take a different driver, nasty arguments can happen. Get the name of the driver who took you and make a time for pickup and return. There are no food facilities at Coki Beach, so be sure to plan for this. There is food available on the beach. People walk around with small menues asking if you want anything to eat. There is also a smoothie stand that only makes all natural smoothies for $7.
  • Secret Harbour - This is a private resort, but they allow visitors to use the beach. Not so for the chairs, which must be rented from a very diligent attendant. There are a number of rather large iguanas that wander around the property. They are not pet material, and run off if approached. there is a very nice restaurant on the beach called the Blue Moon; Not only was the food reasonably-priced and delicious, it's one of the few places that will give you free soda refills, and you can't beat the view. Their Bloody Mary is a must try as it's rimmed with a spicy Caribbean seasoning. The snorkeling was decent close to the beach and is great for beginner snorkelers (you'll even catch a glimpse of a pair of small squid!). There's a dive shop on site where you can rent chairs and snorkel gear, buy underwater cameras and chum. Taxis know this resort well, and unlike many islands where you have to prearrange a pickup when dropped off, when you are ready to leave Secret Harbour several taxis are lined up and waiting in front of the resort.

Cities

  • Charlotte Amalie - Referred to as "downtown", this is where most tourists go to shop from the cruise ships. Nearly every day, they visit some of the 300 or so jewelry and other stores in the city (see "Buy" below). But it's a great place to "people watch" as well. If you happen to be downtown at night, Frenchtown is where the classier places are, for food and drinks. Downtown there are a couple of bars that sport they younger crowd and have loud music etc.
  • Red Hook - Also referred to as the East End. There is a little more nightlife and activities, restaurants in Red Hook, you can catch the dollar taxi ($6/person each way to Red Hook from downtown), it takes about 30 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. Red Hook has ferry service to the island of Saint John.

Other destinations

  • Water Island Across the bay from Charlotte Amalie, this small island has trails and an old sugar mill back from the slave days. Once a week (Mondays?) they put up a big sheet and show a movie on the beach at 9PM. The island has some cottages, but no real commercial establishments.

Understand

This is the islands, so naturally the locals are very laid back. You can count on speedy service especially in the areas where they are used to dealing with a lot of tourists though. Some decorum is still important; keep swimwear on the beach, and dress comfortably for other activities.

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 complete tourist.

Talk

English is spoken throughout the island.

Get in

By plane

Cyril E. King Airport (IATA: STT) (ICAO: TIST), 340-774-5100, [8]. This international airport is on Red Point on the island's southwest coast. Local carriers like Cape Air and Seaborne Airlines also offer frequent flights linking the St. Thomas Airport with St. Croix's Henry Rohlsen Airport.

Several airlines serve the island from nearby islands and numerous U.S. mainland cities, e.g., US Airways, Delta, Continental, United, American, Spirit.

By Cruise Ship

Saint Thomas is a very popular stop for cruise ships on both Eastern Caribbean and Southern Caribbean itineraries. When they're in port (often, usually during daylight hours), you may see many large ships...1-2 off-season, frequently four or more (occasionally eight or so) in high-season. Each can put 2-3,000 passengers on the island...one super-ship 5-6,000 alone. You can find fairly dependable data on scheduled ship arrivals and passenger loads for Saint Thomas and many other ports and dates at [9].

  • Most dock at the West Indian Company Dock, next to Havensight shopping mall, and a near two mile walk to downtown Charlotte Amalie. Comfort & safety for the walk is improving as construction of the shoreline road finishes. Passengers can also easily get a $4 per person open air "Safari" cab ride each way to/from downtown.
  • Some ships dock at Crown Bay, a slightly longer walk to downtown than Havensight. It too is served by taxis and $4 Safari Cabs when ships are docked there.
  • When many ships stop here on any day, some ships may have to anchor off-shore and tender passengers ashore...sometimes to the waterfront at downtown Charlotte Amalie.

During "high season", Monday through Wednesday (especially Tuesday) tend to have the most cruise ships in port.

By Ferry

Ferries run regularly between St. Thomas and the other major US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.

Get around

Once you've reached any area (e.g., "downtown", Havensight, Red Hook), walking becomes the preferred way to get around.

If you want to see the island thoroughly, without the restrictions of a large bus tour by your hotel or cruise ship, consider hiring a cab/driver for a few hours. Many are amiable and well-qualified to show you places the buses can't or don't go, and where buses go, your driver can time your arrival to avoid the bus crowds. For 3-5 hours, a common rate is around $50 per hour, so four or more people can have a "private" tour for much less than all on a "bus" tour. Cab drivers are happy to oblige, so you should have no trouble hiring one at any resort, the cruise ship docks, downtown or in shopping areas.

By ferries

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). For on-line schedules to plan your outing, try [10] for getting around the USVI, and [11] for reaching the British Virgin Islands. If you are going to St. John it is much cheaper and faster to go from Red Hook.

By taxi

  • 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, 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. Taxi prices are PER PERSON so a trip for 4 to Meagans bay for your group could easily run you $50 each way! 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 3,000 taxis on the island, half gypsy (unlicensed).
  • Dollar taxis run from sunrise to sunset, whenever they feel like it. They have one route with 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. 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.
  • Safari Cabs - Endless "safari cabs" (pickup trucks that have been converted to offer 3-5 covered bench seats) go back and forth from downtown and ships' docks...per "Get In" above. If you look like a tourist dockside or on the street downtown, you will be asked quite often but amiably if you need a ride.

General note: Everyone in the city uses their horns liberally...short toots for "hello". 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.

See

  • Coral World [12], Coki Point northeast shore Spend the day at Coral World Ocean Park, one of St. Thomas’s Greatest Attractions. Get up close and personal with the beauty and magic of Caribbean marine life in a stunning setting. View life on a coral reef from the unique Undersea Observatory. Pet a shark, hand feed a stingray or a rainbow lorikeet! There are several gift shops, cafes and shower facilities. Additional activities include brand new dive operations Snuba and Power Snorkel as well as the Sea Lion Splash, Sea Trek Helmet Dive, Shark and Turtle Encounters, Nautilus Semi-Sub, and Parasailing. Located next to Coki Beach. Open 9-5 daily, November - May. Summer schedule may vary.
  • Fort Christian A bright red Danish-build fort from the mid 1600s. Its museum has exhibits of historical photos and artifacts, furniture, a cane press, local flora and fauna and more. The fort's roof affords nice panoramic views of the harbor. Adults: $3, under 16 free.
  • 99 steps Built by the Danes in the mid 18th century, to climb up and down the steep hills of Charlotte Amalie. The bricks used to build the steps were brought from Denmark as ballast in the hulls of sailing ships.


Do

  • St. Thomas Skyride to Paradise Point, 9617 Estate Thomas HarborSide, tel: 340-774-9809,[13]. Open 9AM-5PM when cruise ships are in port. A short walk from the West Indian Company cruise ship dock to the tram which takes you up to the top for fabulous views, a drink and maybe lunch. Skyride day pass: Adults $18, ages 6-12 $9, under 6 free.
  • Coral World (see Do above) for watersports or parasailing.
  • Mahogany Run Golf Course, Mahogany Run Road, tel: 340-777-6250, [14]. Beautiful 18 hole, 6,022-yard, par-70 course. Home of the "Devil's Triangle".
  • Captain Nautica Powerboat Charters, Red Hook Plaza, tel: 340-715-3379, [15]. Daily News "Best of the VI's" award for Best Charter Boat.

Buy

The island is arguably the biggest shopping mecca in the Caribbean. Goods are imported to the island duty and excise free, and visitors do not directly pay any duty or tax on purchases (merchants do pay a Gross Receipts Tax of 4%.) Buyers may face Customs duty as they return home if they exceed their Customs exemption (see discussion below).

U.S. currency is used/accepted universally. ATMs can be found in numerous locations. As anywhere, major purchases should be made by credit card. Most store-front establishments, resorts and restaurants accept credit cards and traveler checks. Few places accept personal checks. Sellers in open-air bazaars may not accept credit or debit cards.

You can shop many dozens of stores downtown (in Charlotte Amalie), and others in a few malls dotting the island, and near cruise ship docks, e.g.,:

  • Havensight has many of the same shops as downtown [16], but in smaller versions.
  • Yacht Haven Grande next to Havensight offers restaurants and premium branded stores.
  • Crown Bay has a growing number of stores similar to Havensight (most closed when no ship is docked there) [17].
  • You'll see Pueblo Supermarkets near Havensight and Crown Bay.

Other stores in resorts, strip malls, etc., tend to serve locals and land vacationers; many of them open on Sundays whether cruise ships are visiting or not, e.g., K-Mart (one walkable from Havensight, & a larger store in Tutu Park...an air-conditioned mall), with a Cost-U-Less grocer nearby.

Gems, jewelry, watches, liquor, cosmetics, perfumes, linens and (sometimes) cameras, optics, electronics and fine crystal and china can be good buys, but know the costs for the same/similar items back home. (Some cameras, optics and electronics may be obtained at home from aggressive discounters (e.g., on Internet) for equivalent or lower prices. But those savings can disappear if those sellers charge sales tax, shipping costs, or extra for US-importer warranties.) Price advantages for U.S. citizens may be helped by generous duty exemptions. These advantages can make the economics of buying in the USVI slightly better for U.S. citizens than elsewhere (e.g., St Martin) where prices may be similar, sometimes better. However, unique, appealing or well-priced items seen elsewhere should not be avoided because of feared duty costs...often modest even if you exceed your exemption. (see "Customs and Duty", this section below)

Bargaining is appropriate in open-air bazaars, and should be tried in stores but may be rebuffed in a few for some kinds of items. Here, ensure that items of interest that need any kind of (service) warranty have one in writing that is usable at home, e.g., for electronics, watches, cameras. You need to ask if any warranty is "grey-market" (e.g., see [18]), international or backed by the US-importer, and understand the consequences of the different kinds. For valuable gems or jewelry, ensure the seller provides a written description and certified appraisal of each item's worth.

In exchange for very large fees, "port shopping advisers" on cruise ships tout certain merchants as more reliable than others, with passenger satisfaction "guaranteed, except for negligence or buyer's regret". But most stores are quite reputable, ready to rectify any problem that's truly their responsibility. Touted or not, smaller retailers such as Artistic Jewelry and Mr. Tablecloth offer quality fully-equivalent to such large and famous stores as Cardow or A.H. Riise. And they may offer items seen nowhere else. The best approach...always thoroughly inspect any high-cost item and obtain a written description or appraisal before accepting it.

Per "Get In" discussion above, when many cruise ships are in port, the open-air bazaar and stores can be crowded...sometimes very crowded. That can compromise bargaining success and how well you are helped even in the best stores with fine staffs. Shopping early or late can help avoid some of the crowds. Stores downtown (Charlotte Amalie) usually open at 0930-1000 and close around 5:00 PM. Half-day, morning ship's tours (the most popular) end about noon back at the ship, and ship itineraries often call for departures at 4-6 PM (with all-aboard as much as an hour earlier). You might time your shopping accordingly.

On Sunday, early can be essential. A few stores (mostly in downtown Charlotte Amalie) don't open, more open only if at least one cruise ship is in port, and many of those stores close by early-mid afternoon. Occasionally, local holidays/festivals make shopping downtown problematic due to street and store closures, e.g., for parades. Most carnivals/celebrations are in late April & early May.

Especially if you must fly to get home, you may wish to have stores ship out-sized or heavy items home for you (liquor, perfumes and tobacco excluded). Costs for surface shipping can be modest, air a bit more but faster. (Your local Post Office, UPS or FEDEX store should be able to give you example costs. "Know Before You Go" noted below indicates the US Postal Service is more convenient for sending dutiable items.) Any method helps avoid the dangers of damage (or theft) by baggage handlers, greatly simplifies your return home, and allows you to refuse to accept (at/hear home) any shipment that appears damaged. There are requirements for documentation and customs labeling when shipping dutiable items. Retailers should help, and may even arrange everything. If significant customs duty will be involved, you may have to pay it at/near home as you receive the item(s). But ask the merchant if you can simply declare the item on your Customs form as you return home.

Several stores offer large and varied selections of quality and premium liquors at low prices rarely if ever seen in the U.S. They include: A.H. Riise, Dynasty and others downtown; many of the same in Havensight, plus K-Mart, Pueblo Supermarket and Al Cohen's Warehouse near Havensight; A.H. Riise and Supreme Liquors at Crown Bay, with another Pueblo Supermarket nearby. As of late Fall 2009, prices in most stores were quite close except for scattered "specials". The airport now has stores outside and inside the secure area (airside) (see discussion under "Returning home" below, this section). Most liquor comes in one liter bottles (some larger), some US-produced liquors may be .75 liter ("fifths"), and liqueurs may be in still other sizes. So take care when calculating or comparing cost per ounce or liter.

Some liquor stores will box your purchases and deliver them to your ship, hotel or airport the same day at no charge if you ask and purchase early enough. That way, you don't have to carry them with you the rest of the day. Others (e.g., K-Mart, Cohen's) usually have boxes available, and may box bottles for you to carry. (Boxes/boxing and delivery may be the major difference among sellers.) If you have a choice, smaller boxes (e.g., 2-4 bottles each) are easier to pack and pad in luggage. As discussed in "Returning Home" below, large purchases of liquor induce considerable logistics challenges, so plan ahead on what to buy and how to carry it back, especially if you must fly home.

Customs and Duty

(emphasis U.S.; please expand)

Always consult authoritative sources to obtain and understand consequences of customs limits and duty costs before making major purchases, e.g., for U.S. Customs, download/print and take with you "Know Before You Go" [19]. Another useful, U.S. Customs FAQ page is at [20]. The "keyword" feature helps to quickly get to your interest. Otherwise, unscrupulous sellers may try to convince you that you enjoy far higher exemptions and freedom from inspection and seizure of illegal items.

Don't pay duty on what you already own and take on your trip. For fine jewelry, new model cameras, electronics, computers, etc...

- Fill out on-line as many Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Forms 4457 as needed to precisely describe the items you're likely to take on international trips, and then print them (see link to form in lower right corner of [21]). You may have to fill-in your address by hand.

- Take the items, the forms and proof of ownership to a CBP office, and as the agent sees them, have him/her certify on the forms that you already own the items. (At the bottom center of the same page as for CBP Forms 4457, you'll see a link for "Ports" that will help you locate a CBP office.)

- Take whatever valuables you choose and related forms on your trip, and have them handy for CBP inspection as you return to the U.S.

Original (in the U.S.) store receipts can be a fair substitute for proof of prior ownership if you lack time or access to a CBP office. Receipts from overseas sellers have little usefulness, even if dated well-before your trip. Don't count on getting 4457s certified as you depart the country; CBP officers are often then consumed processing thousands of arrivals and departures.

Best-effort recap of U.S. duty exemptions:

The following summarizes your duty exemptions/allowances as you return home having visited Saint Thomas (actually any part of any U.S. protectorate) on any part of your trip:

- Total purchases: Each U.S. citizen is allowed to return to the U.S. with $1600 in total purchases (up from $800 for the Caribbean generally). At least half the amount must have been purchased in the USVI. (Otherwise each person's exemption is $800 for visiting the Caribbean) Members of immediate families can "pool" exemptions. Even if you exceed your total/aggregate exemption, you may have to pay only 1.5% of the next $1000 per person. Example: two parents and two children have a total/aggregate $6400 exemption.

- Liquor: Under a separate duty exemption, but within the above $1600, each adult U.S. citizen is allowed to return to the U.S. with four liters or five fifths of liquor duty-free (up from one liter), provided at least half of the value was purchased in the USVI. If you purchase at least one liter of product made or bottled in the USVI (e.g., Cruzan rum), you can return with five liters/six fifths duty-free. (Otherwise, if you buy only outside the USVI, your exemption is one liter.) With different bottle sizes noted above, take care about numbers of bottles versus total liters purchased for your Customs declaration. Exemptions for wine and beer are different; again, consult "Know Before You Go". Adult members of immediate families can "pool" liquor exemptions as well. Beyond your exemption, costs are moderate, reportedly 3% duty plus $2.14 tax per liter for 80 proof. Take care with large quantities, e.g., Florida treats more than 24 fifths or liters as a commercial importation, requiring an importer's license (not easily or quickly obtained, and involving an annual fee) and payment of state sales tax in addition to duty; U.S. Customs is required to report such amounts, and will collect related taxes from licensed "importers" or confiscate the items.

- Gems/Jewelry: U.S. Customs treats loose gemstones (even fully faceted) as "rocks" having no dutiable value. However, if mounted in jewelry, the full cost as finished jewelry must be declared. No reputable jeweler will separately sell you an unmounted stone and its mount to avoid duty; it would place them and you in violation of the law; if discovered by Customs, items may well be confiscated.

- Tobacco: A separate quantity restriction applies to tobacco products. Overages may be confiscated.

- Blacklisted sources/items: Any goods made in Cuba (or other "blacklisted" countries), and items deemed contraband (e.g., certain animal or plant products) will be confiscated by Customs if found. Major amounts may generate a fine or result in arrest.

- Unique items: Original art works created here/abroad and certain other custom-made items may also be treated as non-dutiable; you'll need a certificate of origin from the seller.

- USGR/AGR You may find goods that were made in the U.S., e.g., some T-shirts, a few brands of jewelry...ask sellers. They're called "U.S./American Goods Returning" (USGR or AGR) and do not count against your duty exemptions. If so, ensure the seller provides proper/formal indication on or with a receipt so that the cost(s) will not count against your duty allowance. Similar policy may apply for products made in and returning to other countries.

All purchases (including USGR/AGR) and gifts you've received (except what you've consumed or given away) must be itemized on your customs declaration; USGR/AGR and other exempted item costs should not be included in the dutiable sum of your purchases. Have receipts, certificates and merchandise for all listed purchases readily at hand as you pass through Customs. Be sure to list any food products by type.

As you return home (the U.S.)...

  • While on your ship or as you reach the airline counter at the Saint Thomas airport, you'll be instructed to fill out a Customs form. Use the above notes (or better, what's in "Know Before You Go") to accurately indicate how much you've purchased, in what categories, so Customs can quickly look at it as you are processed.
  • And go through Customs (e.g., at Saint Thomas airport), have purchases, receipts, Forms 4457 and the Customs declaration form handy to show officials. They may opt not to charge duty for purchases in slight excess of any limit. They will often charge for each limit exceeded if you are paying duty for other purchases anyway.

- Other customs enforcement (e.g., for Canada or EC countries) depends on country limits and customs diligence. (please expand)

Returning home

(Emphasis U.S.; please expand):

If you return home by driving directly from the end of a cruise, you are weight/size limited only by the capacity of your vehicle, your bank account, and your ability to put it in luggage or carry it all off the ship. You'll probably go through customs processing at the U.S. port where your cruise ends.

With airlines now charging for checked bags (plus large fees for overweight and too many bags), the economics and practicalities of bringing back heavy or large purchases on flights gets complicated. Liquids in luggage can greatly affect size and/or weight, possibly resulting in punitive baggage fees. Weight example: A liquor box with six well-padded one liter glass bottles can weigh 30 pounds or so.) Purchases may also be too big, numerous or heavy to be hand-carried on flights. If you know you'll be buying liquor, consider bringing an empty bag, or buying one. If you have weight or size challenges, consider shipping what you are allowed to. If you need to pack fragile items in luggage, avoid placing them in the same "bag" with heavy items.

Whether checked or carried on flights, high-alcohol-content liquids (liquor over 140 proof, large bottles of perfume/cologne or skin toner) may be deemed a fire hazard and confiscated. For such, wrap, bag against leaks and pack single bottles separately in different suitcases.

If you fly home from Saint Thomas:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now provides special services for U.S. citizens flying home. They perform Customs and Immigration (C&I) processing after you check-in at your airline ticket counter, but before you surrender luggage to be checked and then go to your gate. You can then fly to your U.S. destination without further C&I processing.
  • The terminal has two stores, one before C&I processing (OK selection/prices that are duty/tax free; this allows a fleeting chance to pack bottles in to-be-checked luggage; but you may have no way to control weight or volume), and the other after C&I and TSA security inspection (near Gate 3, duty/tax-imposed prices) with items you'll have to carry on.

Carry on: Take care with carry-on, i.e., TSA and airline limit how much you can carry on-board...numbers, size, weight, alcohol concentration. And you may not be allowed to carry it on-board your next plane if you have a plane-change enroute. For current U.S. carry-on restrictions when flying, go to [22], e.g., to understand the "3-1-1 rule". Some travelers try to avoid TSA restrictions by purchasing liquor or perfumes/colognes at shops inside airport secure areas immediately before boarding return flights. As above, that option is now available at the Saint Thomas airport.

Liquor Packing Hints:

Boxes: Those offered by stores are usually strong enough to be used as checked "bags" if well-strapped with strong tape, e.g., wide, nylon reinforced. (Note: Some airlines may not accept them as checkable, so know in-advance from the carrier before you count on it.) Two boxes of up to three bottles each can be strapped together, but be careful...dual box handles are clumsy and can only support so much weight and casual handling, your airline may have limits on numbers and weights of such boxes, internal padding alone may not be enough to avoid damage from mishandling (accidental or otherwise), and the costs of more than two checked items per person can escalate rapidly

Securing box contents: Regardless of how it will be transported, before you tape any box of bottles shut, check the arrangement of bottles inside (all-upright preferable). Then add internal padding all around each bottle to avoid breakage, e.g., crumpled newspaper on bottom and around necks, sides wrapped in newspaper or bubble wrap...to eliminate any movement in box and complement internal box dividers. Then strap the box/boxes outside with strong tape, place a name tag on a handle and write similar information on the box.

Boxes/bottles in luggage:

- If the boxes must or should go in your checked luggage, do it thoroughly in your room/cabin. Put each internally-padded and strapped box in a strong, leak-resistant plastic bag (e.g., quality kitchen trash bag), and tape or tie it closed so that any leak is less likely to harm other contents. Then pad each box well all-around (e.g., with clothing) so it can't move.

- If you lack a box for any bottles, tape two or three bottles together with liberal padding in-between and around them, put them in a plastic bag, tape/tie it shut, and use other baggage contents to thoroughly pad them to eliminate any movement of the bottles in the suitcase.

- Take care with resulting luggage weight (usually limited to 50 pounds). Your hotel or cruise ship may have scales to check bags.

All the above challenges are helped if you pack lightly at home for your trip, and bring or buy an extra, soft carry-on bag/duffle for loose clothing, etc. displaced by the bottles/boxes in your to-be-checked luggage.

Eat

Eat a fresh coconut, there is an old man who comes to the tent market in Charlotte Amalie every day with a pickup truck full of coconuts and a machete 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 "meat".

In addition to offerings in resort complexes, a few independent restaurants include:

  • Herve restaurant a little expensive, great French and American food. [23]
  • Room With A View just outside of town, great steaks and seafood.
  • Oceana in Frenchtown at the edge of the water, particularly nice at sunset. Excellent seafood, can be expensive.
  • Cuzzin’s on Back Street in downtown Charlotte Amalie. a Caribbean dining experience.
  • Hook Line & Sinker, in the community of Frenchtown, [24]. Excellent food and friendly service right on the waterfront. The swordfish is quite good.
  • Indigo Bar & Restaurant is on the north side of St. Thomas, overlooking Megan's Bay. Excellent outdoor dining. The pan fried Sea Bass is a must.
  • North Drop, Hull Bay Road on St. Thomas' Northside. A great out-of-the-way spot to enjoy some of the finest seafood the island has to offer.
  • Victor's New Hideout, on a hillside overlooking Crown Bay from the west. Offers tasty Caribbean cooking with a beautiful view and fresh breezes. Tricky to get to, not really walkable, but locals know how to reach it, and worth the effort.
  • Gladys' Cafe, on Garden Street (a narrow/quaint alleyway) between Main Street and Veterans Drive...(ask any local). Offers tasty Caribbean and American dishes and a small bar, in a friendly atmosphere. She may sing along with the classical jazz recordings playing for background.

You'll also find others at [25]

Drink

With bottled liquor so inexpensive, most "watering holes" are for visitors.

Most resorts and many restaurants have bars if not nightclubs. You'll also find a few nightclubs in or near most towns, especially Frenchtown and Redhook.

Sleep

Budget

  • Crystal Palace Bed and Breakfast, Downtown, (340) 777-2277, 866-502-2277, [1]. $90-$140..
  • Galleon House Bed and Breakfast, Downtown, (340) 774-6952, Toll Free 800-524-2052, [2]. $75-$150..

Mid-range

  • 1829, (Downtown, Government Hill), 340-776-1829, [3].
  • Beachcomber, (Lindberg Beach, near airport).
  • Best Western, (Lindberg Beach, near airport).
  • Holiday Inn, Downtown.
  • Pineapple Rooms and Villas, (East End of St. Thomas), 800-479-1539 (), [4]. Ten one-story buildings in a gated residential village, with a pool at the center. Near Coki Beach.

Splurge

  • Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, 5 Estate Bakkeroe, 1-340-776-8500 (fax: 1-340-715-6193), [5]. Largest resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands with 11 restaurants and bars and three pools. AAA 3 diamond. $350 and up..
  • Ritz Carlton.
  • Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina, 6720 Estate Smith Bay, toll free: (800) 524-2090, tel: (340)775-6100 (fax: (340)775-2403), [6]. Nice self-contained beach resort away from downtown. $225-$700..
  • Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, 6500 Estate Smith Bay, 340-777-7100, [7]. The resort features extensive amenities including a spa and fitness center, secluded beach, three freshwater pools, 3 restaurants and 3 lounges, and good Caribbean views. $200 and up..

Stay Safe

As a pedestrian, take care with the often heavy traffic by looking both ways before crossing. Remember that they drive on the left side.

At night, the common recommendation is to take a taxi to/from any location, and to avoid walking alone. Virtually all stores downtown (and most locations mentioned above) will be closed and shuttered, with no display windows to enjoy.

Generally, tap water is potable everywhere, although most is reclaimed by desalination plants, so the water temperature may be warmer than expected.

Get out

If you are staying for a few days, consider ferry rides or inter-island flights to St Croix, the British Virgin Islands (passport required) or the islands just east of Puerto Rico (passport may be required). Even just as a day-trip, try St. John, to enjoy the quieter life, less-crowded beaches and limited but wide-range shopping selection at prices similar to Charlotte Amalie. Ferries regularly depart from Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook at the east end of St. Thomas.

The airport has private aviation operators (on north side of the runway) with amiable, highly-qualified pilots and well-maintained equipment, e.g. Ace Flight Center [26]. With prior arrangements, they can provide, at modest cost, flights in small aircraft, to provide perspectives of the area's islands that can be seen no other way. If landing elsewhere is planned, passports may be required, especially for other than U.S. citizens.

Contact

There are several small internet cafes located around the island as well as connections offered by the larger resort hotels. Havensight has two and Crown Bay one that cater to ships' crews; they are open to the public.

Cell phones can be used in most places, with some spotty coverage in the shadows of some mountains and hills. Calls to the U.S. are treated as long-distance, not international, for most carriers. Generally, calls are standard rate for those on nationwide plans with AT&T and Sprint. Verizon may charge extra, depending on your plan. Check with your wireless provider before making calls.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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