Good Morning! I hope that you all had a beautiful summertime weekend, wherever you are in the world 🙂 It has over and over again been brought to my attention that the demand for rental cars in the USVI continually exceeds the supply! A few months back, we compiled a list of St. John based rental car companies and I felt it might be time for a re-share on that. Especially with the reports I’m seeing out there about missed car barges, lost reservations and lengthy wait times for rentals on St. Thomas….
For the first time traveler to St. John, I can understand where renting a car on St. Thomas might be more appealing at first glance. With national car companies such as Thrifty, Budget and Avis listed in Expedia, a traditionally lower rate on daily rental fees and the seemingly easier option of picking up your car at or nearer to the airport, it does make more sense. However, the lower cost and higher convenience go out the window when you are stuck with your rental on St. Thomas after the last barge has left the dock by the time that you get there. Or, you are taking the ferry to St. John without a rental car because your reservation has been lost.
Recently, I was flying back to St. Thomas and found out a friend of mine was landing at about the same time. I messaged him and he was all like “I’ve got a rental car.” I woo-hooed at the option of riding in the rental and catching up with a friend over taking a taxi. When I landed, he was still in line at the Budget counter…They had his reservation but did not have a vehicle for him. IF they had come up with a vehicle for him, we would have missed the last barge and been tasked with finding a parking spot in Red Hook and he would have had to travel back to St. Thomas the next morning to retrieve the vehicle.
Also, recently a young woman posted in a Facebook travel group about her rental car experience. Traveling with an infant, she and her husband showed up to the rental car agency to find a line of adults and children standing in the hot sun with their luggage. Due to COVID, they were only allowing a few reservations at a time into the office. The young woman was able to get their St. Thomas Air BnB host to come pick her and the baby up while her husband waited an additional three hours for their car.
Now, I’m not saying mistakes don’t happen with rental car companies here in Love City. They do. There is just less margin for error with your car and your accommodations residing on the same rock. I’m also not saying that renting a car on St. Thomas is a horrible idea and that you should not do it. I’m simply saying, run through this list of options first to make your life a little easier during your much anticipated trip to St. John 🙂 Many of the rental car companies here will meet you at the ferry with your vehicle or pick you up in theirs and bring you to the office in order to get your rental. Additionally, a lot of the companies on St. John provide free parking in town with the rental. Bonus!
IF they misplaced your vehicle or there’s a mix-up with your reservation, at least you can get a ride to your accommodations after a long day of travel and deal with it the next day without having to take the ferry. Or just get your money back and plan to taxi. With parking in town and at the beaches all kinds of backed up, that would definitively be my choice for the most leisurely kind of vacation!
OK…so here is the list with some additional travel tips to follow:
Aqua Blue Car Rental – 340-776-2782
Aquarius Car Rental – 340-514-5262
Bougainvillea Leasing Ltd. – 800-253-7107
C & C Car Rental – 340-693-8164
Conrad Sutton Jeep and Car Rental – 340-776-6479
Cool Breeze Jeep and Car Rental – 340-776-658
Courtesy Car & Jeep Rental – 340-776-6650
Delbert Hill Car and Jeep Rental – 340-693-8819
Denzil Clyne Car Rental – 340-776-6715
Destiny Car Rental – 340-777-5337
Hospitality Rent A Car – 340-693-9160
Island Hopping Rentals – 340-228-2229
Just Sun Jeeps – 340-227-2235
L&L Jeep Rental – 340-776-1120
Lionel Jeep Rental – 340-693-8764
Mr. Piper’s Jeeps – 340-693-7580
O’Connor Car Rental – 340-776-6343
Penn’s Jeep Rentals – 340-776-6530
St. John Car Rental – 340-776-6103
Slim Man’s Jeep Rental – 508-932-2737
Spencer’s Jeep Rentals – 340-693-8784
Sunshine’s Jeep Rental – 340-690-1786
Varlack Ventures – 340-693-9933
OK, so now you’ve called everyone here, hopefully at least two months prior to travel. Do not expect it to be easy to find a rental car on either island if you wait until the last minute! Let’s say you found a rental on St. John. Perfecto! Make sure that you receive an email confirmation, call a week in advance to check in on it and call the day before to confirm pick up arrangements. Regardless of where you rent, stay on top of it. We are on island time here and things happen…Don’t just click the button and forget about it. Stay on top of it!
Or, you did not get a rental on St. John. You have two options: Don’t rent a car at all and support the local taxi drivers. Or, rent a car on St. Thomas.
Tips for taxis:
- Ask your accommodations provider in advance for a few phone numbers for preferred taxi drivers. Call in advance to arrange pickup at the ferry dock to your lodgings once you have an idea of what time you will be there. Confirm with the driver once you are on the ferry with the pick up time.
- Make friends with your driver! If you are genuinely kind and interested, two things will happen. The driver’s reliability will level up and you might get a lot of GREAT local information about what to do, where to go and what to eat during your trip. My parents NEVER drive when they make their annual trek to visit and they are on a first name basis and hugging status with their go to guy. If you take the time to get to know the person that will be driving you around all week, you’re not just a pickup, you’re a friendly face for him or her to look forward to seeing.
- If you taxi to the beach, arrange for a pickup time and place with the driver who drops you off. That way you won’t have to worry about hailing a cab on North Shore road if it’s an odd time of day.
- If you are in town past 9PM or so and you haven’t previously arranged for a ride, ask the establishment you are at for a phone number or to call a taxi for you. The taxis can be scarce in town late at night and it’s best to make sure you have a ride ahead of time. Most fine dining establishments will be happy to call transportation for you while many bar tenders at more casual bars and restaurants will likely have a few numbers saved in their phone for you to utilize.
But, taxis are not ALWAYS the best option. If you are staying in the country or in Coral Bay, for example, it might prove difficult to find a driver to be at your beck and call. Especially if you are traveling with a small group. Six or more people will likely have less problem with getting a driver to head 20 minutes out of their way for a pickup while a party of two is simply pulling them away from more revenue for a long period of time. You should check with your accommodations about their guidance on rentals versus taxis based on the location of your sleeping quarters.
So, you didn’t get a rental car on St. John but you need one. And you have to rent on St. Thomas. That’s OK. People do it every single day. But here are some tips and tricks for seamlessly navigating a St. Thomas rental car situation:
- As I stated above…Stay on top of it! Don’t just click GO in Expedia and expect everything to work out like it does in the states. Island time combined with the amount of business we have experienced this year rightfully have resulted in some problems with rental vehicles. It’s difficult to keep up a maintenance schedule when you have same day turnovers on all of your vehicles for months at a time! So, call a week in advance and then again the day before. Just to check.
- OK, car barge things. The last barge leaves Red Hook at 7PM. That last barge is often PACKED. I know it’s tempting to stop for supplies or lunch and a cocktail on the way to the barge, but don’t. Beeline it to Red Hook and get in line. You might drive right on and be on the beach in Cruz Bay with a Painkiller in your hand in no time. But don’t risk cutting it close and getting your car stuck on St. Thomas.
- When you are leaving St. John to catch your flight, don’t cut that close either. I RARELY take the barge when I fly out because it’s just another what if factor to take into account on the lengthy trek to the airport. Also, they are not messing around with the “arrive three hours before your departure” things. So, say you have a 4pm flight. I would recommend planning for the 10AM barge or earlier just to be safe. Remember when you skipped over your favorite St. Thomas spots to get TO the Red Hook? Well, now is the perfect time for a lunch stop if you make that earlier than necessary barge. Plan to arrive at the airport at 1pm after dropping off your rental.
Oh, and as always, keep to the LEFT and drive slowly if you are renting a vehicle on St. John. You never know when you might round a corner to find a friendly face greeting you in the middle of the road 🙂
I hope these tips and tricks have been helpful for all of you with an upcoming journey to Love City on the books! Have a great Monday!