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St. John for the neophyte no. 1: Getting There

jillandboy

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Getting to St. John
Tip #1- Get a Rental Car in St. Thomas and take the car barge over.
Tip# 1-a: Dependable Car Rental was all right.
Our group went back and forth about a rental car. We, at first, decided to just rent for 3 days, presumably to save some money. At the very last moment (under 5 days to go) we changed our minds and decided to rent for the whole week. And what a great decision /that/ was.

Renting at the last moment did prove to have its obstacles. We had read that 4wd was a /must /to get to the St John beaches. We had also read that Amalie was just THE place to rent, so I filled out their on line form to get a Jeep for our party of 5.

However, we were informed the next day that they were out of Jeeps. Hotwire and Priceline were busts (meaning way too much money), so I went to my office Hertz representative (I work in an insurance office). He told me that most of the 4wd vehicles were gone and the ones that were left had gone up $300.00 in price in the last 30 days. So then I went to Google, which took me to vinow.com, which gave the name of several local rental places. I wrote to at least 4 places (at this point I'm 3 days out). Only one place got back to me: Dependable Car Rental. Now I'm two days out. Great! They don't have 4wd, they're out, but they do have a Suzuki 5-seater, all wheel drive. I write back saying as long as the vehicle can navigate to all the St. John beaches I'm IN. They wrote back that, yes, it will work, I must call to finalize the deal. Now I'm one day out. So I called- I was working so I couldn't call until after 4pm. They needed the driver's name and address. (They asked for a DL but it was not required). A second driver can be added at no additional charge. The price was over $200 less than a Jeep. That was it. I got the reservation done. They said they would email me a confirmation. A driver would pick us up at the airport: We were to call after we got our bags. They didn't send the confirmation email. I called back. They close at 5pm. I figured that was why we didn't get the email. So I got on the plane with no confirmation email from the car rental carrier.

We live in New Jersey and have access to several metropolitan airports. This time, JFK had the best price so that's where we flew from to St. Thomas. We arrived in St. Thomas 12:05 pm.

When we got off of the plane and got our bags we called-- and the driver came! What a relief. His name is "Flex." He took just slightly longer than I would have liked. We weren't nervous, yet but we were almost at the forlorn stage. But he got there quickly enough that the wait was instantly forgotten when we got into the shuttle. He drove us to Dependable, which is just a mile or so from the airport. He is pleasant. We like him. The Dependable offices are NOT posh, but checkout efficient and exceptionally friendly.

Tip #1-b: getting directions to the ferry
The clerk took out a map to direct us to Red Hook- the ferry terminal. She gave us detailed instructions with landmarks. I asked if the roads were clearly marked? They said: "yes." But they really aren't. So I would say that if you don't have good service or a Garmin with you, then write down all those landmarks. The roads are not always clearly marked, there are not always signs indicating the way, and you'll feel much more secure if you write them down.

Tip #1-c: Shoulder-to-shoulder
St. Thomas and St. John are US territories, but one has to drive on the LEFT side of the road. Flex told us the trick to remember is: "Shoulder-to-Shoulder." So we were off. Riding the roads. Keep your left shoulder to the left shoulder of the road. We were seeing the sights. We got to the ferry by 1:30.

Tip #1-d: Navigating the ferry
Red Hook is where all the ferries are. It's all the way across St. Thomas on the east end. The airport is on the west end. We went to the car ferry. The people ferry charges a per person charge and then an additional charge for each bag. The car ferry is $50 round trip for each car + whatever you can fit in that car- people, bags,accouterments. The car ferry goes to St John on the hour. It comes back on the half-hour. When we got there, 1 other car was parked there. It was backed in, so we eventually figured out we needed to back in too. We made a big production of it. Our reliable driver, Bruce, pulled in straight, realized we should probably back in, so we swung around pulled back, straightened, edged back, and back some more, ever so slightly more, and that was just perfect. We all got out and started to walk around and then the female security guard yelled that we should have backed behind the single car that was there already. Okay. That was easily remedied. So the car was moved to the correct spot. Right there at the ferry they have a snack bar (meaning a closet) with soda, Gatoraid, beer, and all kinds of top-shelf liquor. We had our first Presidente beer. It's pilsner-malty and clean, the opposite of an IPA. We liked it quite a bit. All of a sudden the parking lot was nearly full. It was time for the 2pm ferry. Our reliable driver, Bruce, backed up the ramp like a champ.

The car-ferry is pretty rustic but it does have a couple benches here and there. One is permitted out of the car, though we were the only people that bothered. We wandered to the back of the ferry and there was a bench there. We hung out there for a while but then braved it up the steps. That is permitted as well. There was a larger bench up at the top of the stairs so we sat there for a while. But once the ferry started moving we realized we weren't looking onward where we were. So we boldly moved to the front of the ferry where there were the nicest benches yet, all lined along the upper cabin. What a view that is. We had no idea how beautiful this corner of the world is. Pictures just don't tell the whole story. The view from this ferry is outstanding. At this point we had not bought a ticket. We paid a $3.00 port fee to get into the parking lot but that was it. We saw a guy going from car to car and he eventually came up and found us, so we paid him. He helpfully informed us that coming back, we don't want the large ferry, but we want to get on the Captain Vick or the General. When we hit dock it was just an easy drive off and a quick right turn to the Westin St. John Resort.

Tip #1-e: Car rental vs Taxis
WHY get a rental in St Thomas? Well,l we were a party of 5. If you are a party of 2 you'll have to figure it out. But for larger parties the taxi rides get expensive. Without a rental you have to take a taxi to the ferry ($11.00pp +bags + tip). Then you have to take the people ferry which is $7.00 each person +$4.00 for each bag. Then you have to take a taxi AGAIN when you get to St John which is another $7-8.00pp + tip. For our party of 5 that would have been $165.00 (+tips) as opposed to $25.00 + the cost of a rental. Additionally, once we checked in we went out for groceries. We are within walking distance of the market but we bought beer, and milk and produce-the bags could have gotten cumbersome- so it was easier with the car. Then the next morning we got up, got our business done, and hopped in the car and went to Trunk Bay without stopping at a rental counter. That was nice.

Tip #1-f: Awd is good enough.
The Suzuki awd was good enough. 4wd not completely necessary. After driving around all day (we went out to the East End and then back to the Westin through the center of the island) we can attest that an all-wheel-drive vehicle is good enough. I know why people say that you need 4wd: There are constant hills and the hills are STEEP. But a sturdy car in low gear will get you there. You don' t have to spend the extra for a 4wd Jeep if you don't want to.

Day #1 is in the books. We're as happy as can be in this gorgeous paradise. The tree frogs are serenading us to sleep.
 

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pedro47

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Thanks for sharing your review of a great start to your awesome vacation.
 

DavidnRobin

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Great report - I have previously posted directions to RedHook (there are 3 ways actually, but mine goes by Cost-U-Less)
I have rented via Dependable before - I now use Amalie and have for the last 4 years. I am okay with the premium.
You are correct - generally a 4WD is not needed - until it is...
Did you go to Lameshur? That is a4WD road especially in a downpour.
For those that are not aware - lots of St John info in Westin St John thread in Starwood Forum.
I agree with renting on STT - others... do not - they are wrong...

btw - only buy 1 way ticket on car barge.
there are 3 different car barges
Enjoy
 
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bobpark56

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Insults, insults

<snip>
I agree with renting on STT - others... do not - they are wrong...
<snip

Insults, insults. Why should we be feeling it's not wise for us to rent our vehicle on St Thomas?

Among the advantages (for us) for renting from Courtesy Car Rental on St John:
We get a 10% discount for renting off-season (October)
We get free parking in their lot when we drive into town.
We get an extra discount for paying in cash on departure.
We don't run out of room (or need a larger vehicle) when a smaller one would be excessively crowded when when carrying both baggage and passengers.
Courtesy will deliver a vehicle to us at our unit.
Courtesy will pick up our vehicle at the end of our rental. Or, if turning it in at their office, will transport us and our bags to the ferry.
We pay less, as we don't have to rent for the full period of our stay on St John. So we get by easily with little more than a week's rental when staying for 12 days.

Now, please tell us again why we are wrong.
 

DavidnRobin

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Insults, insults. Why should we be feeling it's not wise for us to rent our vehicle on St Thomas?

Among the advantages (for us) for renting from Courtesy Car Rental on St John:
We get a 10% discount for renting off-season (October)
We get free parking in their lot when we drive into town.
We get an extra discount for paying in cash on departure.
We don't run out of room (or need a larger vehicle) when a smaller one would be excessively crowded when when carrying both baggage and passengers.
Courtesy will deliver a vehicle to us at our unit.
Courtesy will pick up our vehicle at the end of our rental. Or, if turning it in at their office, will transport us and our bags to the ferry.
We pay less, as we don't have to rent for the full period of our stay on St John. So we get by easily with little more than a week's rental when staying for 12 days.j

Now, please tell us again why we are wrong.

Bob - I was kidding - hope you realize that...
I wrote it because of how often this topic is discussed on TUG
Besides, I was inferring to those that do not rent cars.

We have used almost every form of transportation from Westin ferry, to public taxis, renting on StJ (both from Conrad Sutton in CB, and OConnor at WSJ) and finally to renting on STT (Dependable and Amalie) and settling to what we do now (Amalie).
Hard to defend one type without trying out the others.

StJ has increased their car allotment - so now at least there are more supply to rent from when choosing to rent on StJ.
 
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bobpark56

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YMMV

For what it's worth, I do suggest that our 4 guests rent from Amalie and take the car ferry to St J. They have a different timetable that we do, and this best fits their needs. It worked well for them on their last visit.
 

jillandboy

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Great report - I have previously posted directions to RedHook (there are 3 ways actually, but mine goes by Cost-U-Less).......

btw - only buy 1 way ticket on car barge.
there are 3 different car barges
Enjoy

Right you are! It cost us an extra 45 minutes coming back b/c we had to wait for a particular ferry line.
 

jillandboy

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Lameshur Rd

I just checked out Lameshur Rd on the Map. Nope, didn't get there. We stuck to the "main" roads, of which 108/ Bordeaux Mtn Rd is one, and we ran out of pavement on that road for a while. It would have been problematic in heavy rain. So if (nay, WHEN) we go back, perhaps we'll get that 4wd if we plan to hit the secondary roads. Only if we have our reliable driver, Bruce, though. I prefer to be in the passenger seat. No shame here Bruce is the diver, marathon runner, etc, etc. Driving was /his/ job.

We have another friend who just loves St. John and LOVES driving around St. John. She happens to be a pilot, so that makes sense.
 

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Born to Drive Left


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DavidnRobin

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No - in USVI probably 35 mph at max. I have driven in UK and Ireland at high speeds. The difference is the driver side - USVI is tougher.


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SMHarman

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I agree with renting on STT - others... do not - they are wrong...

btw - only buy 1 way ticket on car barge.
there are 3 different car barges
Enjoy

I'll let you know if you are wrong next month.

We are there for 10 days with one of the party under 2. We have rented for 5/10 days.

Also with food and toddler paraphernalia and flying down with an airline I get a decent free baggage allowance on we will have a collection of up to 8 checked bags / car seat / booster seat / stroller. I'm taking the ferry. The price delta when baggage handling and door to door check in is considered is actually priceless.
 
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SMHarman

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No - in USVI probably 35 mph at max. I have driven in UK and Ireland at high speeds. The difference is the driver side - USVI is tougher.


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Us Brits are used to it when we take our cars over to the mainland.
 

DavidnRobin

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I'll let you know if you are wrong next month.

We are there for 10 days with one of the party under 2. We have rented for 5/10 days.

Also with food and toddler paraphernalia and flying down with an airline I get a decent free baggage allowance on we will have a collection of up to 8 checked bags / car seat / booster seat / stroller. I'm taking the ferry. The price delta when baggage handling and door to door check in is considered is actually priceless.

The "they are wrong" comment was intended as tongue-and-cheek. Everyone has to make their own decision. I was just lending experience from my annual vacation lessons-learned over 10 years. I just reserved from Amalie Car Rental this morning (for June) for pick-up at STT.

btw - the US Marshall have halted car barge service on Mr B's - no one is sure of what is going on. I will post this in the WSJ thread so people vacationing soon are aware.
 

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Just curious, do the rental cars in USVI, in particular St John, have steering wheel on the right side? We've rented in both Bahamas and Cayman Islands, and Bahamian rental (many years ago) had steering on the left! That one really made DH nervous, as it was harder to judge the car distance from center of the roadway.

I'm inclined, when we visit for first time this year, to rent on St John, as I think we'd use car for long distances only half the time we're there. Normally in the states, a weekly rental is not much more than cost to rent 3-4 days, but in USVI a weekly rental appears to have hardly any savings over daily. So at $75-85 per day, it does make me stop to re-consider.

I've read good things about Courtesy rentals on St John.
Nice to hear they will deliver and pick-up vehicle from where you're staying.
Wonder if they'll do it for shorter rentals less than a week ?
 

LisaH

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All the cars we rented on STT have the steering wheel on the left, just like in US.
 

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All the cars we rented on STT have the steering wheel on the left, just like in US.

Yep - but on the bright-side - the speed limit is just 25mph.
I have only one rule - okay to chant "Stay Left", but no screaming 'WATCH OUT!"

Stay left my friend - watch out for donkeys, goats, chickens, and cows.
 

dsmrp

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Yep - but on the bright-side - the speed limit is just 25mph.
I have only one rule - okay to chant "Stay Left", but no screaming 'WATCH OUT!"

Stay left my friend - watch out for donkeys, goats, chickens, and cows.

Ha ha, "Stay Left" was our mantra every time we got in the car in Bahamas.
I think we'll be fine, not sure about the chickens tho... :ignore:
Thanks everyone for advice about cars and driving in this thread.
 

sachia007

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The "they are wrong" comment was intended as tongue-and-cheek. Everyone has to make their own decision. I was just lending experience from my annual vacation lessons-learned over 10 years. I just reserved from Amalie Car Rental this morning (for June) for pick-up at STT.

btw - the US Marshall have halted car barge service on Mr B's - no one is sure of what is going on. I will post this in the WSJ thread so people vacationing soon are aware.

David,

Does Amalie pick you up at the airport and shuttle you to their location (and then bring you to airport when you return the car?) Can you take tops off, if soft sided?

What price do they charge for a 1 week Jeep rental, and what size Jeep is it?
 

Helios

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David,

Does Amalie pick you up at the airport and shuttle you to their location (and then bring you to airport when you return the car?) Can you take tops off, if soft sided?

What price do they charge for a 1 week Jeep rental, and what size Jeep is it?

This is their website: http://www.amaliecar.com
 
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