Some useful information about St. John. While it is a US territory and you do not need a passport travelling there from the mainland, a few things are different.
St. John – Island Information
Driving on St. John
- we drive on the left side of the road (but cars have the steering wheels on the left, just like in the US. Also roundabouts are driven clock-wise, not counter-clockwise.
- Don’t worry, while driving on St. Thomas multi-lane roads, it is not hard on St.John. The streets on St. John have only 2 lanes and there is not a single traffic light on the island. Just follow the other cars and remember to drive on the side where the steering wheel is!
- Also take care as a pedestrian when crossing streets, cars will be approaching from the other side!
Can you drink tap water on St. John?
- It is not recommended to drink the tap water on St. John, you can get really sick from it. Buy Gallons of drinking water at Starfish or Dolphin Market, and then you can refill them for 60cents at the water machine just before the Tamarind Hotel.
- Water is collected rain water from cistern. It is a precious good, especially during dry season. Be mindful of it, don’t take long showers.
- Many toilets bear a sign that reads: “In this land of sun and fun, we don’t flush for number one!”
- Don’t throw the toilet paper into the toilet, put it in the bin next to the toilet! Like this you don’t have to flush after every use
Bugs: Mosquitos and Sandflies
- Mosquitos and Sandflies are the most single annoying thing on the island. They are not only a nuisance, they can actually infect you with bad diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya Fever. Both viruses are transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, which have black and white stripes markings. The National Park Service has actually just issued a warning about Chikungunya outbreak in the Caribbean. In Makonde (African language), chikungunya means “that which bends”, referring to stooped appearance of patients in severe pain.Bring bug spray, or long pants to cover up or try to build a mosquito trap. Bug spray on St. John costs 7.99$ per can, so if your budget is tight, you might want to bring some from home or St. Thomas.
- The following remedy helps me from going crazy when I got stung my a mosquito and have no anti-itch cream. Let a lighter burn for about 10-15 seconds until the metal part is warm but not too hot (BIC lighters work best) and then hold it onto the sting. Apparently the injected poison is a protein, which breaks down above 100°F/38°C. Try at your own risk and make sure you don’t burn. Another natural remedy (also against sunburn) is fresh Aloe Gel, which can be squeezed out of the tips of the plan, which can be found everywhere on the island.
- Sandflies are a pain on beaches after sunset. I am not even sure bugspray really helps against them, I try to cover of with long sleeves when watching the sunset.
Power Outages on St. John
- There is no Power Plant on St. John. The power comes through a giant cable in the ocean through Pillsbury Sound from St. Thomas. Power outages are frequent, they usually only last a few minutes but it can be hours or days as well, typically during Superbowl (past 2 years!). Having torches and candles ready and a solar charger for your phone is always a good idea! It is said that sometimes Iguanas, a frequent sight on St. John, are responsible for Power Outages. They apparently either touch two lines, or drop down onto transformers / generators from great height, causing a failure.
Groceries are ridiculously expensive on St. John. You would assume everything grows on such a sunny island but farming is not really popular and not that easy due to all the hills, so most things are imported. There used to be farmers coming over from St. Croix, not anymore since the ferry ran on ground a couple of years ago. The ferry has never been replaced….island time.
Here are some prices:
- Gallon of Milk: 5$
- Box of Cereal: 7$
- Box of Strawberries: 7.95$
- Bag of Dorritos: 7$
Eggs, Carrots and Chicken are produced locally and reasonably cheep and there is great fresh fish you can buy. Don’t try to replicated your shopping basket from home, just stick with what is on sale or locally produced. Also, eating out is often cheaper than cooking!
When entering a store or business or meeting someone on the street, it is considered very rude if you just jump right into asking a question. Always start with “Good morning”, “Good Day”, “Good Afternoon” or “Good Evening” and a few nice words, e.g. enquiring about each others health.
If you did not hear what someone said, saying WHAT? is considered rude. The polite way would be to say “Say again?” or “Please repeat”
Slow down! Everything is on “island time”. Do not expect the same efficiency as on the mainland. “5 minutes” island time can be anything from 15 minutes to hours. When sending a business enquiry via email, do not expect an immediate response. Many business owners work multiple jobs, especially during low season or there simply just might not be internet or power on that day.
Will my cell phone work on St. John?
Check out this article.