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Taxis on St. Thomas: What You Need to Know

Travel Tips — By kelowitt on April 26, 2011 at 8:54 am
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If you’re not renting a car and not taking a pre-paid tour around the island, you’ll need a way to get from point A to point B on St. Thomas. And that’s where taxis come in. There are several different options, all of which have pros and cons.

1) Private taxis: These are passenger vans which pick up at private hotels and residences and take visitors to restaurants, shopping areas, and the airport. If you need one at your hotel, ask the doorman to get one for you. If you need one in town to get back to your hotel, either ask the host/hostess to call one, or bring a few phone numbers with you and call one yourself. VI Taxi and Wheatley Taxi are two well-known companies. Often you’ll share them with other people if several parties are all going from the same hotel to the airport at the same time, for example. These taxis are all part of the VI Taxi Association and charge fixed rates based on a schedule that is set by the agency. Ask in advance what the rate is, just so you know what you’re getting in to. Rates are generally reasonable and run about $10pp from the Marriott to the airport, for example, or $15pp from the airport to the Red Hook ferry terminal. Bags are usually $2 each.

2) Dollar taxis: Dollar taxis are modified pickup trucks (five rows of front-facing bench seats in back, a canopy cover, and open sides) that operate on fixed routes around the island. Locals use them to get to and from work, the ferry terminal, and to get from one side of the island to the other. The fare is $1 for short hops, and $2 for longer trips to and from “the country.” Sometimes more adventurous tourists will take them from the cruise ship docks to places like Red Hook in order to save a few bucks. It can be a bit difficult at first to figure out where they stop, but the general rule is to just look for spots at intersections where lots of locals congregate. But they don’t necessarily limit themselves to only designated bus stops—you can pretty much flag one down anywhere, as long as you don’t cause them to block traffic. Here’s how it works: when one stops, jump in any free seat. If the back of the bus is full, you can sit in the cab with the driver. To signal the driver to stop, press the button on the ceiling of the bus. When you get out, go to the driver’s window and pass him your money. Smoking is a no-no, even though the buses are open-air. And large bills ($20 or more) are frowned upon. Small bills are best. It is not advisable to take luggage or large bulky purchases on the dollar taxis. Just yourself and a small bag. And don’t be afraid to ask the person sitting next to you if you’re not sure where to get off. Locals are very friendly if you just talk to them!!!

3) Gypsy cabs: At the entrance to most large supermarkets and retail stores such as K-Mart, you’ll likely see lots of men hanging about idly. They are not beggars or vagrants, they are gypsy (unlicensed) cab drivers. The VI Taxi Association frowns on these impromptu entrepreneurs, but they are perfectly safe and just trying to make a living like anyone else. So if you find yourself at K-Mart, for example, having just bought 5 cases of rum, you probably won’t want to carry it all the way back to the cruise ship. A gypsy cab is an OK alternative for short hops like this. Just be sure to negotiate in advance on the price. It’s usually between $5-$10 for short hops around Charlotte Amalie. Since these types of cabs are unlicensed, the driver may ask you to sit in the front seat with him, so that the police don’t suspect he’s carry an illegal fare. Not all tourists are comfortable with this type of unregistered cab, so if you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. If you’re a woman traveling alone at night, you may want to think twice. But in all other circumstances they are perfectly safe, and there have never been any incidents that I know of where someone has been ripped off, or worse.

Tags: taxis, transportation

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