Things to Know Before You Get to St John

Valuable FAQ gathered here in this St John USVI travel guide are to help make vacation planning & time on the island go smoothly, like a Pro.

Things to know before you get to St Johns island include, for example: how to get to St John; Jeep/SUV rental; ferries, taxis St John; as well as weather & emergency #’s. 

If you are looking for fun & activities in St John, you are probably looking for the page, Things to Do in St John.

PASSPORT NEEDED?

  • No. But you will need at least a driver’s license.
  • Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States.
  • Alternatively, you can use a passport card.

WHAT TO PACK – Clothing/Cash

Clothing

  • PRO Tip – PACK LIGHT! – BACKPACK IT if you can – Many people find that they could have packed half of what they did. So you don’t need any fancy shoes, and not many dresses at all. Speaking of backpacks, , so you can hike hands free …you’ll find an insulated backpack cooler and ice-sticks at your St John villa rental!
  • IT’s CASUAL! – “Casual” means t-shirts/shorts/flip-flops go in almost any setting here.
  • SHOES – Similarly you won’t need much here – only two pairs: 1) a pair of flip flops for the sand and, 2) a good pair of sneaker sandals/water shoes like ‘Keens’ are especially useful for hiking and for walking some beaches here which are rocky. There are some good snorkle spots with rocky beaches – We wear Keens to walk right over the rocks, to protect our feet from a sea urchin here or there, and keep wearing them during our swim along with our snorkle masks so its easy to get in and out of the water. I.e., High heals are neither practical or seen much here.
  • *Bathing suits without at least a cover-up are typically not ok to wear in stores or restaurants (not unless you are literally at a beach bar).

Cash and Credit Cards

  • Get cash in small bills BEFORE your flight

        • $100 and $50 bills aren’t great here. Seems like everyone brings them, but they aren’t always easy to make change. For that reason, prior to your flight break down $100 and $50 bills to smaller denominations. It will be faster and easier.
        • ATMs – on island are very limited.
        • CASH-ONLY is common.
            • Shuttle Buses from the airport, the Car Ferry, Safari taxis = Small bills mean you don’t have to wait in line as the taxi driver tries to make change for every customer. Again, NO UBER or LYFT in USVI so if you need any rides, it’s cash.
            • Some restaurants and some businesses are CASH-ONLY. 
        • Handy for tips. Most businesses either don’t want to make change, or they are also limited on small change on hand.
  • Credit Cards – leave American Express at home – since most businesses do not accept it here. 

ATM Machines

  • ATMs are known to be few and far between on St Johns island. Also they tend to be an unreliable source of cash as the machine may be out of cash.
  • For this reasons, bring a stash of your own cash with you before you get on island is a good idea.
  • Fees can be high – typically $6 per withdrawal, plus your bank fee on top of that. The large stateside brands of banks don’t exist here so you will be paying about $6 in terminal fees to the bank here, plus whatever your bank stateside charges for the withdrawal.
  • Do not expect ATMs at the beaches. That may sound funny to some, but really, people get to the beach then wonder where to find the ATM.
  • ATM Locations on St John: There is one inside the gated Cruz Bay foot ferry terminal; One straight ahead on the street after getting off the foot ferry; One on the first street to your right after getting off the foot ferry; One at the Marketplace shopping center; One in Coral Bay (at the Dolphin Market).

Why you WILL NEED Your Own Transportation

CAR RENTAL

  • Having your own transportation is necessary. St. John is very car dependent. Please rent a vehicle. Keep Left! There is not a more important tip in this travel guide than this! NO bus route nor regular “taxi” service between the beaches and the villa neighborhoods. Also, NO Uber, NO Lyft, NO on-demand ride services anywhere on the island.
      • If you choose not to book a rental car for St John, transportation on St John by “taxi” or private driver will not be cheaper; and, moreso will be more inconvenient and limiting. Many people love the adventure of exploring the island in their Jeep. Further, traditional taxi “cars” don’t exist (no yellow cabs, etc.) on St John island. What would be considered a taxi on St John would be a “safari truck” (a multi-person, open-air truck that people climb into the back bed to ride). Guests may have difficulty getting a safari truck to come for just 2 people or could be waiting a long time for that safari truck to arrive.
  • WHY A JEEP/SUV INSTEAD OF A CAR? Read on in the next section below to know a bit more about road conditions on this island. 

ROAD CONDITIONS – St John

St. John’s island roads are mountainous, steep & curvy

  • WHY A JEEP/SUV INSTEAD OF A CAR? St John is not a flat island by any means. St John is a volcanic island with steep terrain throughout the territory. For the most part selecting a car rental for exploring St John that has 4-WHEEL DRIVE, 4×4, Jeep, OR A HIGH WHEEL BASE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for travel on St John as roads are mountainous throughout the island. Roads on St John may be steep, wet/slick, curvy, narrow or single-lane. Switchbacks and hairpin turns are common. Some roads may be rough and bumpy with unpaved, rocky dirt conditions (The road all the way to our villa is  paved). Additionally, such vehicle such as described herein will be the most reliable to assist for greater traction in slippery or rough or uneven road conditions as well as for climbing steep terrain.
      • Why not a car? A 4-cylinder sedan would generally not be the first choice of vehicle for St John, especially in slick or steep conditions. A vehicle that is not similar to that recommended herein may experience difficulties sliding down or spinning wheels up switchbacks. Even on the main beach road where you will do most of your driving has these conditions. FOR CLARIFICATION:. The trip from a VAST majority of vacation rentals to most of St John Virgin Islands’ beaches, hikes, restaurants, stores, and attractions in St John are NOT accessible by an easy or quick walking distance – Caution on those accommodations who state that their location is walkable to town: It may be easy to walk DOWN hill from some accommodations, but walking back uphill could be grueling depending on an individual’s physical ability.

JEEP/SUV RENTAL COMPANIES – St John

  • Probably the number one question is where to book a rental vehicle. 
  • Booking a car rental in St John EARLY is important since demand is high. You will likely wind up with a Jeep or similar. Guests book either on St John or St Thomas. 
  • How much does car rental in St John or St Thomas cost? Rates of $75-$100+ are not uncommon on either island, as there are no major-brand car rental companies operating on the island. Firstly, the earlier you book the better your rate may be. The later you book, the greater the price will go up due to demand.
  • We do not recommend any specific rental car company on St John or St Thomas. You can see a google map of St John Jeep rental company locations here. The map also shows a list. As you will see in the map, they are mostly clustered around the Cruz Bay Foot Ferry Terminal. You can also click this link to find a list of St John Jeep rental companies here.

CAR RENTAL – St John VS. St Thomas

ST JOHN CAR RENTAL – BENEFITS

  • … You have car troubles, the Jeep company is here on St John to help you, or if need-be switch vehicles for you; 
  • … One or more car ferries are down for maintenance you don’t have to wait in a huge line of cars backed up at the St Thomas parking lot sitting and waiting to get to St John. Also, possible long lines at car barge from St John back to St Thomas on the day you need to catch a flight;
  • … You have a later flight, you can still get on the foot ferry (which runs later then the car ferry) to get to your car rental and to your villa rental for the night. This may save you the hassle of possibly the next day having to backtrack to cross over islands to get the Jeep in St Thomas (this would also involve taxi charges or ride service to get to and from the villa for the night and again the next day); 
  • … Unexpected delays (flights, traffic) on your date of arrival, you can still get to St John by foot ferry but otherwise the car ferry may be shut down for the evening. For example: your flight gets in too late, not only may not be able to get your Jeep, but also may be too late to get the last car ferry to cross over to St. John.
  • … On occasion a Jeep company’s availability does not match your Check-In and Check-Out dates, therefore you won’t have to go back and forth to St Thomas to pick up/return a jeep a day early; and, we can likely provide ride service on St. John to fill in the gap;
  • All things considered, renting in St. John has a lot of benefits

ST THOMAS CAR RENTAL – BENEFITS

  • Jeep company may be willing to arrange to meet you at the airport; 
  • Some guests prefer grocery shopping on St Thomas is they have lengthy stays

SAFARI TAXI RATE TABLES – St John (Updated Rates as of 10/2022)

Local taxi rates and information can be found here

SAFARI TAXI RATE TABLES – St Thomas (Updated Rates as of 10/2022)

Local taxi rates and information can be found here. 

Airport shuttle van to Red Hook ferries, cost is $23/person (or if 2+ people, rate is $17 each person).

FERRY SCHEDULE/RATE (STJ<->STT)

FOOT FERRY (for Car ferry, scroll down)

  • To take a taxi/shuttle once you land in St Thomas USVI and go through baggage claim, step outside and head left toward the end of the building. You will run into taxi cab drivers wearing red or blue shirts. Tell the drivers you which ferry you would like to take.
  • OPTION 1) Between Red Hook, St Thomas and Cruz Bay St. John.
FERRY = One-way $8.15; Round-Trip $16.30
TAXI = $15/person (2 people = $11/person); Bags = $2/bag
(as of December 2019)
Buy Online Here – Select “Red Hook to Cruz Bay”
Once you get off the plane, and through baggage etc., step outside and head directly left down the sidewalk toward all the mini vans lined up. A driver will probably approach you, but if not, just ask one of them to go to the “Red Hook Foot Ferry to St John”. They will subsequently direct you to the next available taxi van going that way (Red Hook is the town on the Far East side of St Thomas). The St Thomas taxi rate, for instance, is CASH from the Cyril E King Airport to Red Hook = $15 + bags (not including tip).
  • OPTION 2) Between CROWN BAY, St Thomas and Cruz Bay, St John.
FERRY = One-way $20
TAXI = $9* (as of December 2019)
Buy Online Here and See Schedule – Select “Crown Bay to Cruz Bay”
This service provides foot ferry transportation out of Crown Bay Marina to St John Creek everyday that leaves 3:30 and 5:30 pm. Crown Bay is only 5 minutes from the Airport. *If you notify them on your travel date, they may be able to arrange taxi from the Airport. Capt Barton $9/person including all bags.
  • OPTION 3) Between CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St Thomas and Cruz Bay, St John.
FERRY = One-way $13 (as of August 2022)
Buy Online Here and See Schedule – Select “Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie”
If you are interested in shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas for jewelry and other items, this service provides foot ferry transportation out of Cuz Bay Marina to St John Creek.
The ferry times from Cruz Bay are 8:45am, 11:15am, and 3:45pm.
The ferry times from Charlotte Amalie are 10:00am, 3:00pm, and 5:30pm.

CAR FERRIES

If you are not getting a car rental in St John, here is car ferry information to get from St Thomas to St John. The car ferry in St Thomas is in Red Hook. The car ferry lands in St John in Cruz Bay.
      • Schedule for “Love City Car Ferries” between St Thomas and St John.
One-Way $40+; Round-Trip $65 CASH (as of January 2022)
  • Schedule for “Big Red Car Ferry” between St Thomas and St John.
One-Way $40+; Round-Trip $65 CASH(as of January 2022)

FERRY SCHEDULE/RATE (STT<->BVI)

FOOT FERRY between British Virgin Islands or St Croix (USVI)

  • For Traveling FROM/TO SAINT THOMAS between St. Croix (USVI) or destinations such as Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, or Anegada (BVI): See schedules, rates and book online at these carriers:

WEATHER

On Facebook, search for “St John VI Weatherfor regular updates on weather conditions.
Also see a local forecast from the National Weather Service.
  • St John is pretty DRY. USVI has no defined wet season: being generally driest from January to June; overall wettest time of the year typically is from September to November. A key point that villas may likely ask is to conserve water when showering, dish washing, etc. We frequently experience drought. Rainfall is often times as a shower of less than a few tenths of an inch, usually brief, maybe intense.
  • Winds (excluding gusts or storms): Winter 15-25 mph; Summer 5-25 mph.
  • UV Index (1-11+ scale): Winter 8-13 ; Summer 11-13+.
  • Outdoor temperature: Winter Low to High is 72-85 degrees Fahrenheit; Summer Low to High is 80-93.
  • Water temperature: Winter is 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit; Summer 80-84 degrees.
If you are interested in reading more about the stages of tropical storm formation, click here. In the event of an impending storm in the Atlantic the National Hurricane Center will provide updated info on the track and timing. Another resource may be cell phone apps apps using the search term “Hurricane Tracker”. Also for updates from the Port Authority (in case ferries get shut down due to weather).

ELECTRICAL POWER OUTAGES

  • It is not uncommon to experience occasional local, regional, island, or territory-wide electrical or WiFi outages/interruption of service in the U.S. Virgin Islands from time to time. However, the electric company (WAPA) is fairly responsive to these outages. This could last anywhere from less to an hour to typically up to 4 hours.
  • While the power is out, here are some tips:
      • Flush sparingly.
      • Do not do dishes or shower since there is almost no water in the pipes during an outage.
      • Take it as an opportunity to head to the beach; reading a book; or, having a cocktail or two, then taking a nap.
      • Your cell phone may still be able to pick up phone signal and/or surf the web during the outage
  • For further information during the outage, go to Facebook, and look for “Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority”, or WAPA’s website.

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER?

  • That is definitely a question to ask the property management of the place you are staying.
  • At Vista Bahia, the water is safe for drinking and ice-making. We filter the water going into the cistern before it gets in there so that no debris or bugs get into the water supply. Additionally our villa is equipped with a whole-house triple-filtration with UV light that treats the water before it goes into any faucets. Our water is sparkling clear!

CELL PHONE TIPS

  • If you experience problems picking up WiFi while on your cell phone, try toggling Airplane Mode on, then back off, to get the phone to search for the nearest tower.
  • Since we are so close to the British Virgin Islands, it is not uncommon to pick up their WiFi/Cell Tower service which may incur high charges. In fact, it is advisable to call your cell carrier in advance if you be staying within USVI Territory to let them know whether you will or will not be doing any travel in the BVIs, which may help if you need to request credit for charges incurred.
  • AT&T works far better here than any other cell phone carrier.

EVENTS, NEWS & INFORMATION

What’s going on St John?! This section of the travel guide provides a  travel guide to get you in the know about what’s happening around the island during your stay. In addition to links and info listed on the Activities area of our website, below are a few suggested links for local discussion and events. The last bullet is a local newspaper that will post articles to help you keep in touch with St John after your stay. While there are many other resources out there, these listings are our go-to’s.

  • Events:
        • Go to Facebook, and look for:
            • Love City Coconut Telegraph
            • Maho Crossroads, USVI
            • Miss Lucy’s in Coral Bay
            • Mongoose Junction
            • Beach Bar St John
            • Windmill Bar
            • Salty Mongoose Pizza Bar
  • Local Chatter:
        • Go to Facebook, and look for “Love City Coconut Telegraph”
  • Recent News: newsofstjohn.com
  • Power Outage Updates:
        • Go to Facebook, and look for “Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority”
  • Emergency Management/Natural Disasters:
        • Go to Facebook, and look for “VITEMA”

SNORKEL TIPS & SWIM SAFETY

Be Safe, Have Fun

  • There are no lifeguards on any beach.
  • Be aware of weather conditions and high surf alerts.
  • Be aware of your own swimming ability and keep an eye out for others in your group. No need to over-exert yourself. Listen to your instincts and do not go farther out to waters then you think you may be comfortable with. Relax and gently swim along where you have a comfort level. If you feel like you may be getting tired, get out of the water. Instead, enjoy the view relaxing on the beach for a bit until you are refreshed.
  • Stand on sand. Be especially aware of sea urchins, which are black spiky creatures (which usually adhere to rocks) and fire worms. It is best not only for you but also for marine life not to touch anything in the water. This is because you may step or touch things that may cause cuts or irritation to your skin.
  • Bring water and snacks to keep your energy up.
  • Pack reef-safe sunscreen, bug spray, and of course, your hat, sunglasses, and a towel too.
  • Snorkle Gear Tips for the best seal against water leakage and safety:
        • First, do not apply sunscreen to your face before using snorkel gear – Sunscreen makes the mask slip and slide, rather than adhere to your face. 
        • Next, get your face wet and the rim of the snorkel mask wet, although no mask is 100% leakproof.
        • Finally, IF YOU HAVE FINS, do not walk in them in the sand to get down to the water. The proper way is to carry them down to the water. After that, wade into the water and put them on in thigh or waist deep water, then immediately start swimming. Above all, it is dangerous to walk in fins from the beach in the sand or in the breaking sure (This goes for walking forwards or backwards. For some reason, people think the pros walk backwards? Please don’t walk backwards in fins you are not used to, wearing a mask your not used to on your face, as you walk blindly backwards into crashing surf … It certainly is not safe).

HIKING & TRAIL SAFETY

The Virgin Islands National Park Service has some good information about hiking and trail safety on their Hiking in Virgin Islands National Park page.

NATIONAL PARK PROHIBITED ITEMS, ETC.

  • No Smoking, Glass bottles, or Drones. You can get a visit from a park ranger and/or ticketed for any of these.

GAS & AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE – St John

GAS

There are three gas stations on the island: two in Cruz Bay; and one mid-island (on Route 10). Get gas at one of these locations. There is no gas station in Coral Bay.

AUTO MECHANIC

Caravan Auto Parts is located between the two gas stations in case of any problems with your car rental in St John. Should you have low tires or need to plug a tire, which does occasionally happen on St John, and provided we are available, we may be able to help you.

NEED A RIDE?

  • HERE ARE SOME PRIVATE DRIVERS/TAXIS:
      • Kedija Prentice. 340-513-8562
      • Owen. 340-626-6274
      • Merv Powell. 340-690-1244
      • Send us a message We may be able to help if we are available.

MEDICAL & EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • All Emergencies: 911 or (340) 776-9110
  • Ambulance – (340) 776-9110
  • Myra Keating Community Health Center – (340) 693-8900
        • St Thomas Hospital (Roy Schneider Hsp)– (340) 776-8311
  • Cruz Bay Family Practice – (340) 776-6789
  • Fire Department – (340) 776-6365
  • St John Rescue – (340) 693-7377
  • Police Department – (340) 776-9110
  • Department of Health (STT) – (340) 774-9000
  • Power Outage Updates:
      • Go to Facebook, and look for “Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority”


LOW SEASON

Summer season is considered low season. Mid-August to mid-October is the slowest time of year in terms of traveler traffic. This is a great time to come to get the most peaceful visit on island and privacy at beaches. However, this also means that some restaurants or other establishments will take somewhat of a break during the slowest part of the low season. Whether it be a week, two weeks, or a month, an establishment may be be completely closed or very limited hours for a period during this time.  It may be a good idea to check if your desired restaurant is open before you head out.

Some establishments that we understand to have a good shot of being open are as follows: 

     • Beach Bar, • Woody’s • 420 • Wok • Salty Mongoose • High Tide • Cruz Bay Landing • Longboard • Tap & Still,
• Tap Room, • 
Greengos, • Shambles, • Windmill Bar • Little Olive Food Truck Maho Crossroads

News of St John has published a list of anticipated dates of closure or limited dates/hours for many restaurants for 2022 low season.


WATER & AIR CONDITIONING CONSERVATION

  • The vast majority or vacation rentals in St. John collect rain water. That means there is an underground public water system that homes draw from. That being said, villas may be completely dependent on rain, and therefore can be limited on water supply available should there be a drought on St. John (which happens more than you would think!). Water truly is precious on this island and should be understood not to waste it. Like it or not, it’s more than simply a host’s preferences on how you use utilities – It’s a critical part of the island-living lifestyle here to help keep any water supply going and to maintain A/C in normal wear and tear without damages.
  • Electricity cost is more than 3x higher here compared to the United States. Solar power is limited.
  • Basic common sense practices you can do to minimize hard use on water supply, septics, A/C condensers and other household mechanicals:   
      • Keep the tap off while brushing teeth (Rinse, Turn off water, Brush, Rinse)
      • Don’t shower 2x a day (Rinse, Turn off water, Soap up, Rinse)
      • Keep the tap off while soaping up dishes (Rinse, Turn off water, Soap up, Rinse)
      • Turn off A/C when not at the rental
      • Keep windows and doors closed while running AC