So you’ve chosen St. Thomas for your Virgin Islands getaway. You’re gonna have a blast! Now to figure out the best way for you to get around the island…
If having complete freedom and independence during your vacation is important to you, renting a vehicle when you visit St. Thomas is definitely your best option. You won’t have to depend on taxis, buses, or your legs to get around so you can explore and play at your leisure.
But if the idea of driving on the left induces a panic attack, or if your budget can’t quite stretch to cover a vehicle rental, you can absolutely still have a full and exciting vacation on St. Thomas without actually getting behind the wheel yourself.
How do I get a taxi on St. Thomas?
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 both of the Kmarts. Gypsy taxis are unlicensed and thus you risk being taken advantage of without any recourse. Unless you are unable to catch an official taxi where you are (unlikely), leave the gypsy taxis for locals to use.
It’s super easy to get a taxi on St. Thomas in any high traffic area ( e.g. the airport, downtown Charlotte Amalie, Havensight, Red Hook, Tutu Valley Shopping Area, Magens Bay, Sapphire Beach, Coki Point Beach/Coral World). Indeed, on busy cruise ship days, it’s nearly impossible to avoid repeated solicitation for a taxi to go, “back to ship”.
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. (And fork over a wad of cash to do it, no less! Don’t worry, what they say about what happens in Vegas is also true of St. Thomas.)
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. Keep in mind, however, that 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.
How do I catch a dollar safari bus on St. Thomas?
St. Thomas has a dollar safari bus system heavily utilized by locals. Safari buses are those fun/scary 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. (How to tell when to get off?)
The way the rates work is divided by Tutu Valley – where Big Kmart, Tutu Park Mall, CostULess, 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 a dollar. If you’re going from West of Tutu to East of Tutu, it costs $2. Same goes the other way around. If you’re coming from East of Tutu (Red Hook, Secret Harbor, Coki Point/Smith Bay) to Tutu, $1. If you’re coming from East of Tutu to somewhere West of Tutu, add another $1.
Can I explore St. Thomas on foot?
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 (we still urge you to use caution and be a defensive pedestrian): 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.
To get from any of these areas to the beach or to a North side restaurant, you will need to use a combination of taxis and the dollar safari bus.
Do not hitchhike on St. Thomas.
What kind of vehicle should I rent on St. Thomas?
You can easily get around St. Thomas in a sedan. Since they are less expensive to rent, many people choose this option. Jeep rentals are also popular and if you have to contend with any gravel to get to your rental home or if you fancy going to one of the few secret beaches with unpaved roads, then you’ll want to rent a jeep for sure. If your rental home is located on an unfinished road, you’re best off renting a jeep. (Note: The term “jeep” is frequently used in the islands to describe any type of SUV. You might run into this. Don’t let it confuse you.)
Several national chain rental companies have offices at the airport making it super easy to pick up and drop off your vehicle. These are Avis, Budget, and Hertz. There are a few locally-owned companies too that some regular VI visitors prefer to do business with. One of them will pick you up at the airport and then take you to their office nearby to complete the paperwork and give you your rental wheels. Some people prefer this so they don’t have to stand in line at the airport. It is very important here to note that since the storms, some rental agencies have not reopened. Please be sure to call ahead of time to confirm that the company is open, and also on the availability of your selection.
If you’re tempted to rent a sports car, you can do so in St. Thomas as long as you are not staying anywhere with access only by steep hill or unfinished road. You have to stay the main roads with a sports car and be very careful with speed bumps, unless bottoming out once or twice a day is your idea of a good time. We didn’t think so.
Should I rent a scooter on St. Thomas?
There are scooter rentals available on St. Thomas. Depending on how light you like to travel, this maybe be convenient and fun for you. Remember that traffic on St. Thomas is heavy, despite being an island in the Caribbean, the roads are narrow, steep, and winding, and we drive on the left here. If you choose to rent a scooter, please be careful.
Links to Help in Getting Around St. Thomas
Ultimate St. Thomas Vacation Rental Guide
St. Thomas Taxi Rates & Tips
St. Thomas to St. John Ferries
St. Thomas to St. John Car Barge
How To Get From St. Thomas to St. John (and back again)
St. Thomas to BVI Ferries
Island Hopping in the Virgin Islands: USVI TO BVI
Do you have more questions (or answers) about transportation on St. Thomas?
Let us know in the comments below what we missed.