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Fun Fact: St. John is the only place in the United States where you drive on the left side of the road.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone, and they do not observe daylight savings time. If you’re in the Virgin Islands and it’s 3:00 pm, it would be 2:00 pm in New York, 9:00 pm in Paris, and 5:00 pm the next day in Tokyo. During the summer months though, Atlantic Standard Time and Eastern Standard Time would be the same.
- Passports are NOT required if you’re a U.S. citizen going to St. John, but they’re still recommended (and of course you’ll need a government-issued form of identification such as a driver’s license or a raised-seal birth certificate if you choose to not use a passport).
- If you land in another country such as Puerto Rico for example before arriving or departing St. John, you’ll need a passport.
- If you’re a non-U.S. citizen visiting St. John you’ll need a passport and a visa most likely. If you’re from a Western country, most do not need a visa to enter the USVI if staying less than 90 days.
*Check your passport/visa requirements concerning your specific country of origin for more detailed information.
There are 2 main airports in the Virgin Islands: The Cyril E. King Airport (CEKA) in St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlson International Airport in St. Croix (STX). There are food and items like books/magazines to purchase in both of these airports before and after your flight.
Most people traveling to St. John will land in either of these airports, take a taxi to a ferry, and take a ferry to the island of St. John. The ferry rides are much faster now (around 15 minutes).
The most important thing to note about St. John is that the steering wheel is on the left AND you drive on the left side of the road. Be extra careful of those hairpin and blind turns (most driving feels like a rollercoaster ride because all roads are winding with constant ascents/descents). The speed limit across the island is 35 mph or under, so slow down and be cautious.
Taxis are also available. Choosing to rent a car versus riding taxis depends on your budget, how often you’d like to go into town/go to beaches, and if you’d rather hunt for parking (only a problem some of the time). I recommend if you’re staying a week or more to rent a car because taxi fees and tipping add up fast!
There is also the public bus system, which is called the VItran and runs along the Centerline Road. The fare is $1 per person.
There are currently no Ubers or Lyft services on the island of St. John, but you can take taxis anytime which charge depending on your destination.
St. John has always been known as a very safe place to travel to. Although crime does exist, the most prevalent is theft/burglary. If you leave your iPhone 7 at the bar, chances are when you return it won’t be there.
For any emergencies you should call 911 from a land line. The police department number for St. Croix is (340) 772-9111 and the police department number for St. John is (340) 776-9110.
- Don’t leave valuables in back pockets and always watch your wallet/purse (cameras often get stolen if they’re facing the direction behind you).
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
- Always lock up your valuables in a safe if you’re staying in a hotel.
- Always lock your car.
- Don’t leave extremely valuable things unattended at the beach or pool.
- Be watchful in busy, crowded centers of town like the local markets.
- Avoid snorkeling, swimming, or surfing in dangerous weather conditions.
Safety Tips for Night-Owls:
- Be careful of any intoxicated people as fights sometimes start up near liquor stores late at night.
- Never go out at night alone–always stay in a group!
Overall, St. John is quite safe but always be alert for any suspicious activity and take proper precautions. Stay safe and have fun!
St. John is warm year-round. 84-89 degrees F are the maximum temperatures you will encounter with August being the hottest month and December/January being the coldest. The minimum temperature is around 73 degrees F. The prime time to visit is actually in December-February, but these are the most expensive months, so May-June is fairly common for visitors.
February to May are the driest months, and humidity increases greatly from October to January. Rain will often come out of nowhere for a 15 minute shower and then leave quickly, opening up sunny skies again.
Although hurricanes are rare, they do happen. September is the most common month for hurricane season, so plan your trip accordingly. Many businesses are closed in September as well, so it’s not the best month to visit.
If you’re a surfer, travel to St. John from November to April to find the perfect waves!
The official and most common language in St. John is English. It is also common to hear French Creole and Spanish spoken, as influences from other countries have made a unique sound in languages spoken. Some words in English may at first sound unrecognizable to a speaker of standard English. Creole English also exists and doesn’t follow typical grammatical rules.
Examples of Virgin Islands English Creole:
|Dem||A way of pluralizing a noun. 2+ cats would be “the cat dem”.|
|Bambola||a lively dance to a distinctive drum beat.|
|Ponko-lonko||a term of endearment used to a small child, and of contempt used to adults.|
- Pay attention to events labeled “island-fancy” for dress etiquette. You may need to exchange your usual tank top and flip flops for more formal attire depending on the event.
- Don’t walk into high-end stores or jewelry stores wearing nothing but a bikini. If you’re still in swim clothes and going into town to shop, put on a tshirt and shorts over your swimsuit.
- Always greet new people you’re meeting with a “How are you?” Local residents appreciate getting asked questions like this before you browse their stores. This applies to virtually any interaction and is not just business related.
Wine and Dine:
- Tip taxi drivers, baggage staff, and waiters. They will always appreciate the gesture.
Other things to avoid:
- Don’t block the road if you’re getting out of your car to take a picture. Kindly pull over to the side of the road so traffic can keep moving.
- Don’t bring coral home from the beaches. Not only will your bag smell all through airport security, but you’re destroying a habitat.
The U.S. dollar (USD$) is the official currency of the U.S.VI. Although most credit cards are accepted, local markets would prefer cash.
Banks offer the best rates when exchanging money, with hotels having a slightly higher exchange rate. It’s a good idea to exchange most of your money if you need to before you arrive in case of any emergency while you’re traveling.
Look for automatic teller machines with pin systems set up on ATMs.
Tipping! You should expect to tip around 10-20% at restaurants to show your appreciation as well as local taxi drivers and boat/ferry staff. When checking baggage, you should tip at least $1 per bag to the porter.
The electrical service on the Virgin Islands is the same the U.S. mainland, 110 volts, 60 cycles AC. Appliances from North America will work just fine, but European appliances will require adapters and converters. Unlike other places in the Caribbean, the electricity on St. John is very reliable and stable. Your adapter should look like this:
Some villas have extra filtration systems, and most hotels have water that is safe to drink straight from the tap. Restaurants will often ask if you would like tap or bottled water, and tap with ice is definitely cheaper.
If you’re ever concerned about drinkable water, local grocery stores sell big jugs of water you can purchase. St. John has also put many recent initiatives in place for refillable water bottle stations, so be sure to bring your reusable water bottle on your trip to save some plastic!
St. John has limited WiFi and internet access (there aren’t many internet cafés in the islands), but most hotels offer free WiFi and internet.
You can purchase local SIM cards in town with unlimited talk/text/4G data. For 30 days a SIM card is around 30 dollars.
Local calls from pay phones are around 25 cents if you need a different option than your cell phone. The two largest cellphone operators in the U.S.V.I. are Sprint and AT&T Wireless. It’s smart to call your phone carrier before you depart in order to minimize any roaming charges if you need an international plan.
St. John is very welcoming of any LGBTQ+ people visiting or staying on the island. Locals are very respectful of the LGBTQ+ community, and many store owners consider themselves a part of this spectrum. You should not be concerned when openly practicing your love or sharing a little PDA in public. Although there is not a huge gay bar scene because the island is so small, the LBGTQ+ community is always welcomed at clubs and bars.
Recently after the two hurricanes Irma and Maria in St. John, eco-initiatives have become more present than ever:
- Recycling is more widespread, with more than just cans and aluminum being recycled.
- Locals often hang their clothes outside rather than waste energy from a washing/drying machine.
- Cups are becoming biodegradable with restaurants using less plastic and no straws or paper straws.
- Reusable shopping bags have become all the rage, so make sure to remember to bring these to the local grocery stores instead of choosing to use plastic bags.
- Buying local not only supports those on the island, but it reduces the energy of shipping to other places around the world.
- Jewelry and art are often made from recycled or reused items. You will always find very unique pieces because of this that help the environment.
A Must See Highlight for Eco-Travelers:
- Trunk Bay — Part of the National Park on the island and a must for incredible snorkeling
Indians may have lived in St. John as early as this.
Danish government takes possession of the island, but Tortola residents claim the island as theirs, with the two countries disputing ownership for decades.
First permanent settlement at Estate Carolina in Coral Bay by a group of 20 Danish planters from St. Thomas.
First lasting St. John settlement.
14 slaves kill 6 out of 7 plantation owners, signaling with cannons that the seven month revolt has begun. During this time a quarter of the island’s population is killed.
Slavery is abolished in the Danish West Indies, dropping St. John’s population dramatically.
The United States buys St. John from Denmark as part of its military defense for $25 million.
Tourism boom in St. John.
Laurance Rockefeller donates land to the Federal Government to establish the United States’ 29th National Park in St. John.
Two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, destroy the majority of St. John’s land and wildlife, with renovation still in process today.