I was able to study abroad through NSE at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Croix. Learning in the classroom was nice, but I learned much more outside of it. I complied a list of 10 things you should know if you are visiting the beautiful island of St. Croix.
1. Say “Good Morning/Afternoon/Day/Night” to everyone.
Locals on St. Croix really value saying ‘Good Morning’ to each other and to strangers. I once was going into a store to get something and said “hello I’d like…” and the person on the other side of the counter held up their hands and said “Good afternoon to you too!” She was very offended I didn’t say good afternoon. Not everyone gets this offended, but it is still important to remember because not saying it is a form a disrespect. Also, ‘Good Night’ is a greeting which was difficult for me to get use to and some say good evening if saying good night doesn’t flow off the tongue.
2. Public transportation doesn’t exist.
Okay that’s not exactly true, but it is much easier to get around the island in a rental car. If you aren’t able to rent a car, like me, you should know a few things. There are two forms of public transportation: vitran and taxis. The vitran is a bus that is $1 a person to ride and is supposed to run about every hour but it’s often closer to every hour and a half or two hours (island time is VERY real). Their route loops around different neighborhoods which is different than taxis. Taxis are 14 passenger vans that may look as sketchy as vans your mom warned you about as a child. They travel on the main road from Christiansted to Fredricksted (the two towns on either end of the island) and does NOT take you anywhere you want if it’s off the main road. They are $2.50 per person no matter how far you are going and when you want to stop, you simply yell up to the driver that you want off. Watch the time because the bus stops running before 6pm and if you are able to find a taxi that is willing to drive you after 6pm, they will charge you $20 a person.
3. Mass at St. Ann’s is…
Even if you aren’t Catholic, I highly recommend attending church at St. Ann’s. It’s a cultural experience that is unexplainable. People dress as if it were Easter Sunday every week. They sing and dance and truly celebrate God. Their happiness is contagious and you’ll find yourself clapping along to the tambourines. The service may take longer than it would in the states, but it’s hardly noticeable…time flies when you’re having fun.
4. The weather will be 82 and sunny.
Seriously. The weather is pretty much the same everyday, all year round. A rain cloud may pass overhead, and you will probably see the local run for cover but it won’t last long. (It is very convenient to make plans and not have to have a back-up in case of the weather.)
5. Sweatpants are needed.
Even though the day is warm, it cools off at night. If you’re in St. Croix long enough, 75 degrees will be chilly enough to wear light sweatpants. I didn’t bring any with me but was able to buy some at K-Mart.
6. Don’t expect stores like in the mainland.
K-Mart is pretty much the only “clothing store” you will find on St. Croix that is from the mainland. Many of the locals go to Puerto Rico for a shopping weekend when they need new clothes. For groceries, Plaza is fairly cheap (for island living) and there is one on both side of the island. Fast foods on the island that you would be familiar with are Subway and McDonald’s. There are plenty of other, local places to eat out though.
7. Freedom City Surf’s Bean Burritos are the best food on the island.
Okay maybe not the best, but it was definitely my favorite. Like most places on the island, Freedom offers a vegetarian option to their burritos. The bean burritos are large portions of tortilla filled with black beans, cheese and other veggies. Dipping it in guac, sour cream and their local salsa is a must. Dashi is the island’s only sushi place, and I’d eat their crab rangoon rolls for every meal if I could. I also recommend Rainbow Beach’s nachos that are salty chips cover with nacho cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños. Finger lickin’ good!
8. Rum is cheaper than Coke.
Since Captain Morgan and Cruzan Rum have factories on the island, their products are cheaper than in the US. With that being said, Coke products and other drinks have to be imported which makes them more expensive than the alcoholic drinks that are produced on island. So when you are ordering a rum & coke, just know it will be rum with a splash of coke.
9. Full moon parties are a thing.
Crusians love to celebrate. Everything. If you stay long enough, you will get to experience a festival or an island party of some sort. Not only do they go all-out for St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Criox (Mardi Gras) but I experienced, Carnival (their winter holiday celebration), JumpUP (the first Friday of the month or every other Friday, no one really knows), Full Moon parties (every full moon at Cane Bay), and random other celebrations that were held for no particular reason.
10. Everyone knows you are a tourist.
You don’t have to wear a button-up Hawaiian shirt and a fanny pack to show people you aren’t from there. It’s nothing to be worried about, but just know people will be able to tell. That being said, for the most part, the locals will be willing to kindly help you with any questions or directions. But remember always tell them “Good Morning!”