ST. THOMAS - GETTING AROUND
St. Thomas has many leading North American car-rental companies at the airport. These are Avis, Budget and Hertz along with a few locally owned companies as well. It is worth arranging a rental ahead of time, which can also save you time and get you the car selection you are looking for.
Renting a car offers complete freedom and independence during your vacation. It is a great option as you won’t have to depend on taxis and buses to get around so you can explore at your own pace. Keep in mind that driving is on the left side of the road.
St. Thomas is full of taxis, both official and non. Non-official taxis (gypsy taxis) can be found outside most grocery stores, the mall and many high traffic areas. Gypsy taxis are unlicensed and thus you risk being taken advantage of without any recourse.
Keep in mind that when you’re getting a taxi from one high traffic area to another, the taxi drivers will fill their vans to the brink of capacity, which means you’ll be sharing with strangers. This is just the way it works here, so prepare yourself for the possibility of getting very cozy with someone you’ve never met before in the backseat of a passenger van.
In lower traffic areas, as long as you have cell phone service, you can call any number of taxi companies and they will arrange to have one pick you up where you are. If you want to stay in a remote neighborhood or in a villa on a very difficult road, be prepared to wait, you could have a hard time getting a taxi to go there, in which case you will definitely need to rent a vehicle during your stay.
St. Thomas is a pretty big island, and other than in the main town areas of Charlotte Amalie, Havensight, Red Hook, there is a significant lack of sidewalk space. The following areas of Charlotte Amalie are the best for exploring on foot: Walking the waterfront from Crown Bay (near the airport) to Frenchtown, downtown Charlotte Amalie, Yacht Haven Grand, and Havensight. This area of waterfront is roughly 3 miles and is an excellent way to experience the bustle of St. Thomas. Bring water and a hat. There is no shade and lots of concrete and asphalt.
We do not recommend exploring the back streets of downtown Charlotte Amalie (or any other neighborhood) at night. Use common sense. If the area doesn’t look tourist-friendly, it probably isn’t and you’d be better off getting back to the main thoroughfares.
There are scooter rentals available on St. Thomas. Depending on how light you like to travel, this may be convenient and fun. Remember that traffic on St. Thomas is heavy, despite being an island in the Caribbean, the roads are narrow, steep, and winding, and they drive on the left here. If you choose to rent a scooter, please be careful.
Bicycles are available more for sport than transportation. Due to the mountainous nature of the island, using a bicycle to get around would really only be feasible for a serious athlete.
St. Thomas has a dollar safari bus system heavily utilized by locals. Safari buses are those open-air taxis built onto the back of a pick-up truck. They are all independently-operated and there is no giant official schedule or rate system. But they pretty much operate with consistent routes and rates. The routes run most of the main thoroughfares. You can tell a local safari bus by the lack of tourists on board. Wave your arm to flag them down and they will usually stop.
The way the rates work is divided by Tutu Valley - where Big Kmart, Tutu Park Mall, CostULess, and car dealerships are located. It’s roughly in the middle of the island. If you’re going from anywhere West of Tutu (Charlotte Amalie, Havensight) to Tutu, it costs about a dollar. If you’re going from West of Tutu to East of Tutu, it costs around $2. Same goes the other way around.
Passenger ferries run between Cruz Bay St. John and Red Hook St. Thomas hourly from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Between Red Hook St. Thomas and Cruz Bay St. John the ferry runs 5:30 (Monday-Friday) 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and then hourly from 8:00 a.m. until Midnight.
Vehicle ferry service is also available, departing from Red Hook, arriving at the vehicle ferry dock located just minutes away from downtown Cruz Bay. There are 4 barges when they are all running. One usually leaves every half hour.