The US Virgin Islands are a great place to move if you are looking for a Caribbean lifestyle while still living under the protection of the American flag. Here are some things you will want to do to ensure a smooth transition if you are considering a move to the US Virgin Islands.
EVALUATE YOUR PREPAREDNESS: The culture shock that can occur when moving to the US Virgin Islands is often the biggest reason new residents choose to move back home. Paperwork, and most things in general, move much more slowly on the islands than in the states. People who are accustomed to speed and efficiency may be quickly frustrated by the laid-back, "I'll get to it later" attitude of many islanders. Customer service outside of the tourism industry is notoriously under par, which is often another cause of frustration. It is a culture based strongly in "it's not what you know, but who you know" practices, which causes trouble for new residents who don't know anyone who can help them assimilate.
DECIDE WHICH ISLAND IS RIGHT FOR YOU: There are 3 major islands in the US Virgin Islands - St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. There is also a fourth, smaller island called Water Island which is purely residential and has no hospital, police/fire department, or Motor Vehicle Department and whose residents rely on private boats or ferries to St. Thomas for work, groceries, health care, etc. St. Thomas is considered the most "city like," of the islands, boasting shopping centers and one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. St. Croix is the biggest of the islands, with a reputation for being more "country like" than St. Thomas. St. John is two-thirds National Park, and has a higher percentage of non native residents than the other two islands. St. John does not have any public junior high or high schools, so residents must either ferry their children to St. Thomas for school, pay for private schooling, or homeschool their children.
FIND A PLACE TO STAY/LIVE: There is no YMCA or public housing available to temporarily homeless people on the islands; you must book a hotel or find an apartment or home ahead of time. Much of this can be done online, hotels on the island are easily found on any booking site, real estate simply requires a little looking around for a broker (Century 21 and ReMax, among others, have offices in the islands), and apartments for rent can be found in the classifieds at www.virginislandsdailynews.com . Rent is generally very affordable, higher of course in places near the beaches or with great views. Try to find someone who can e-mail you pictures before committing to a place.
FIND A JOB: The tourism industry is huge on St. Thomas and St. John. Finding a job as a server, bartender, clerk, salesperson, or in hotel-related services is very easy for a person with decent work ethic and customer service skills. The construction industry is booming as well, mostly for large residential homes. If you hold a degree or certification, you can again check the classifieds and call around for jobs related to your specialization. The islands have legal, educational, governmental, business, postal, and health services just as most places in the US. You can secure a job before you move or save up enough to find one when you get there, just know that the job market is always open for people with the skills and determination to work hard.
FIND TRANSPORTATION: There are "safaris," large, open taxis, which can transport you up and down the main roads of the island for two dollars. Private taxis can cost much more to take you off of the main roads and straight to your residential area. You can buy a car by, again, looking in the classifieds, and visiting the Burea of Motor Vehicles to inspect, register and check your car for tickets. There are a few insurance companies, including Guardian, available on the islands. Expect to spend whole days at the BMV to get your VI driver's license and get your car registered; the same slow pace applies here as the rest of the island.
DECIDE ON A SCHOOL FOR YOUR KIDS: If you have kids, you should know that the public school system, though it does not have a great reputation, is a US public school system operating under a Department of Education just as a state would, and is also under the same No Child Left Behind regulations. Teachers are required to be certified and the schools have content standards to meet just as public schools in the states. There are many private schools available at all grade levels. All public and private schools require students to wear uniforms, except for one private school on St. Thomas (called Antilles), which is also the most expensive and exclusive of the private schools. It is recommended that you move before a new school year starts so you can visit schools and interview principals and administrators before deciding on a school for your child.