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Is it safe to rent villas? How to rent them? Please advise.

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Is it safe to rent villas? How to rent them? Please advise.

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(@konung)
Posts: 23
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Hello All!

I'm looking for a villa on St. Thomas for the end of may - beginning of July. I already checked dozen of sites regarding rentals and St. Thomas, but I still have some reservations. I hope maybe you can clear them up for me.

1) How safe it is to rent over internet like that? (fraudwise) Any advice on that? How to check that the rental is legit? (Obviously I'm only looking at places that will accept a credit card, been burnt on wire transfers before).

2) Good / trustworthy websites to visit? I already checked luxaryretreats.com & vrbo.com

3) What is considered the "cheaper" / " more expansive" side of the island (rent wise)?

4) I was originally considering St. Maarten - but read a lot of bad reviews about safety situation there (mostly car break-ins, some car-jacking and muggings) . How is St. Thomas in this respect? Good / bad areas to visit? ( I'm from Chicago, so bad areas don't scare me, but I'd rather not deal with that while on vacation: police reports, missing things, etc)

5) I see a lot of villas are away from the beach, but they say 5-10 minutes walk/drive? Are they actually public beaches? Can I access them freely? Certain hours? Pay / fee access?

If this was discussed already at other forums - please just point me there. I wasn't able to find this specific info.

Thank you in advance, ladies and gentlemen !

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 10:41 am
 TomB
(@tomb)
Posts: 763
Prominent Member
 

I am sure you will get lots of replies - I am little short on time at the moment

It is safe to rent a villa over the internet and a lot of folks on pages like this can help you through it.
I would not rule out St John if you are looking for a quieter vacation
Both STT and STJ have great beaches - you will not go wrong

VRBO is a site that owners use. Very good site and usually cheaper - however if it is your first endeavor in this world it is nice to have a person on island you call if something goes wrong. The last couple trips we have used www.cateredto.com for villas in STJ and have been VERY happy with their services.

Crime - you will get a 1000 and 1 different answers. Common Sense removes almost all threats. The French Island of Guadeloupe has had some major issues of late and some of that might be spilling over to ST Martin.

Villas right on the beach a fairly rare. The beaches are for everyone and usuallly we like be on a hill to get the tropic breezes; especially in the summer. Watching the moon rise over the ocean and a gentle breeze beats the heck out of the roar of an AC at beach level. (IMHO)

More later but I am sure folks will chime in

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 10:57 am
(@iamolly)
Posts: 564
Honorable Member
 

Welcome konung,

My husband is also from Chicago and I went to Columbia College.

We rent our place on VRBO and I know that alot of other posters on this forum do likewise. I've also rented private homes from them from diffirent locations and never had a problem, you'll probably get lots of feedback on them. Be aware that all of the homes on VRBO are private rentals directly from the homeowner or their property managers.

Check out tripadvisor.com to read related reviews of the places that you were considering renting from.

The north and east side of the island tends to be a little more expensive side of the island.

There is crime on the islands. Just have a little common sense and you will be fine. I wouldn't reccommend walking around alone at night off of the beaten path, just hang around Redhook or in well lit areas downtown. If you are staying at a resort you will be fine on property.

When renting a villa you usually need to pick between having a view or being close to the beach unless money is no object. To have a beautiful view, you are up in the hills and will have to walk or drive to the beach. Most beaches are free with the exception of the ones that are run by the national park system. I think that the fee is $4 per person for Trunk and Magen's and well worth the money, the provide you with clean showers, dressing areas and picnic tables. All of the beaches are spectacular and are kept clean.

Molly

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 11:01 am
(@konung)
Posts: 23
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Thank you for replies.

TomB,

Crime can happen everywhere - my car recently was broken into in Licolnshire, IL ( one of the most expensive and safest neighborhoods in US and Chicago). I wouldn't be walking alone at night with a big sign on my head - please rob me, I'm a tourist 🙂 But there are certain areas that people should stay away from. Like if you were in Chicago I would generally recommend to avoid Humble Park and Cabrini Green area - no matter what time of the day it is. I was just wondering if there are areas like that in St Thomas.

Thanks for clearing up about the beaches and villas - I was a bit confused by that. So when somebody says there is a private beach - they are shall we say " exaggerating a bit"?

Molly

You sound like you live there? Which nightspots ( clubs) would you recommend? Is there theater / show / music scene?

Also I have a new question:

I see a lot of comments about people bringing food to the island, but how much more expensive it really is? I mean if 1 lbs of beef is $15 - it may make sense - or I can live without a steak for a week, but if it is $4-6 I wouldn't bother, I'd just buy local.

So in general how expensive is seafood, vegetables, meat, fruits compared to your home town? Please mention either your state, hometown or just give your average prices if you can, so I can get an idea.

I live in Chicago - so our food prices are pretty low compared to other metropolitan areas, but I lived in NY and San Francisco. Is it more expansive than that?

Thanks
Nick

Will wait for more comments / recommendations.

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 12:07 pm
(@iamolly)
Posts: 564
Honorable Member
 

Nick,

Although I've spent over 3 months on STT last year my main house is in Iowa. I also have a weekend house in the Galena Territory in case you are also familiar with that area.

I know that they have a theater with live performances in downtown Charlotte Amalie but unfortunately I have yet to go to any of the events. We are usually very low key when in the islands and stick to flip-flops and shorts. Our villa is on the north east end of STT so we usually like to go into Redhook for some nightlife. If you haven't heard of Duffy's yet you soon will. It's kind of a dumpy place in the middle of a parking lot that serves up some great drinks. When things start kicking up for the night the tables and dancing will spill out into the parking lot. If you are into sports the Caribbean Saloon has some great hot wings and big screen TV's. Lot's of other places to eat and bar hop in Red Hook. We usually take our car over to STJ if we are going on a day trip, but take the passenger ferry over if we are only going over for dinner and drinks. Lot's of places also in STJ.

I never pack any meat to bring with me on my trip. I do understand why some people do, personally I think that it has more to do with the quality than the price. Generally grocery prices on island run about 30% more than stateside. If you like to smoke and drink it is much cheaper on island. We usually hit the store when we arrive so that we have something simple to eat for breakfast and snacks and drinks to pack in a cooler to bring to the beach and dine out in the evenings. I did buy a little mini-weber grill that I love to bring to the beach and do a cookout. I'll pick up a tri-tip roast, put it in a ziplock bag overninght with a marinade and cook it up for lunch on the beach. Delicious and simple. If we are traveling with a larger group I will grill out on our larger grill for a dinner or two.

I was in San Francisco last month and found the prices there comparable with island prices. I don't think that you'll be shocked when you walk into the grocery store.

Happy to answer as many questions that you may have.

Molly

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 12:35 pm
 TomB
(@tomb)
Posts: 763
Prominent Member
 

TomB's rule nothing good happens aftermidnigth

I have lived in Caribbean and been visiting since 1978 - Never had a problem
and believe me I do feel safer in STT or STJ than anywhere in Chicago, NY or SF.
I am country boy!

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 12:41 pm
(@konung)
Posts: 23
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Tom,
completely agree with you that an island can't be more dangerous than a metropolis - but I want to avoid this kind of stuff on vacation. Especially since I didn't have a relaxing vacation in 4 years. I was so tired after my last year's vacation, that I had to sleep it off for 20 hours straight 🙂 This time I just want to relax and not worry about anything - so trying to make sure about everything (or as much as possible ) in advance. Plus we are going to be in a group of 6 to 8 people, so shouldn't be to worried.

Molly,

I do like a good steak, but I don't pretend to be sophisticated enough to turn my nose away from any meat 🙂 Thanks for clearing that point up for me. As long as it's 30 % and not 300% - I can leave with that. You mentioned cheaper booze - does that include imported booze as well (vodka, whiskey, tequila, beer, wine)? Or did you just mean Rum?

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 1:15 pm
(@sherri)
Posts: 1218
Noble Member
 

Another villa websight you can ck out is: www.mclaughlinanderson.com
They have a wonderful selection of villas on different islands including St. Thomas! They are also the mother company.... direct bookings here!
Good luck in your search!

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 1:22 pm
(@fl-barrier-islander)
Posts: 568
Honorable Member
 

TomB wrote:

VRBO is a site that owners use. Very good site and usually cheaper - however if it is your first endeavor in this world it is nice to have a person on island you call if something goes wrong.

I own a vacation rental home on Water Island (Flamingo Point Estate) and advertise on this site (VINOW.com under Water Island Accomodations) as well as GreatRentals.com. I have a property manager who lives on Water Island. She meets, greets our guests and is available 24x7 should our guests have questions or require any assistance. She's just a couple of minutes away from our home. So, just because someone advertises their vacation rental home on VRBO or any other web site, doesn't mean that service/support is remote. A critical question you should inquire is: Is there someone on or near the property - locally - who will be resonsible and be there to support you if you require assistance or have questions.

As our home is on Water Island, a very unique area that is very safe and crime very low, we do go to St. Thomas and St. John for a day trip as we need/like. In the case of St. Thomas, we are glad to do a day trip and very happy to get back to Water Island to spend the evening and night.

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 1:22 pm
(@walt50)
Posts: 17
Active Member
 

sherri wrote:
Another villa websight you can ck out is: www.mclaughlinanderson.com
They have a wonderful selection of villas on different islands including St. Thomas! They are also the mother company.... direct bookings here!
Good luck in your search!

Hah, beat me to it...

Most of the beaches are public that I am aware of (though if there are any that are not... someone correct me) There are minimul parking fee's here and there for traveling around the island. Don't expect the 25 bucks an hour for NY parking down there... They won't rip you off like that 😀 I think most of the places we went to where in the 2-5 dollar range. To get a villa on a private beach anywhere is not going to be "cheap" but you will find it might be less down here than say Jersey shore (which I don't know why anyone would want to go there ... lol)

Any place you want to book things on the internet you should always contact them first. If you want to be really safe take the contact number and search for it in google - it will probably come up with the name of the agency or someone's name that works there. Though I didn't check with too many agency's I don't think anyone can beat the service that Mclaughlin Anderson and Sherri presented to us 😉

I like a secluded place so I went with Rockworks. It was just off the main road on the north west side of the island and set higher up in the hills for that nice view. You can always drive to a beach! Remember the island is 14 miles long, though it will feel like 50 miles to drive across it with all the hills.

Rum was about 9 bucks a Liter I think and had multiple flavors. It's the Caribbean, that is all you should be drinking! We made a mix of rum and oj/cranberry juice and put it in a container when we went to the beach. Some beaches actually have waiters walking around if you want to just order there.

From what I read up most of the crime on STT/STJ was local vs local crime. This is one of the main reasons I won't go to Jamacia/DR/Perto Rico because you are not a target by being a tourist. I mean wondering around in dark alley's at night probably isn't a good idea, but can you tell me where this would be good? 🙂 The biggest bully you need to watch out for is in the pic below. Getting wacked with a tail can break bones. This one was in a tree right next to the bathroom in a place we eat in town. Again, they don't randomly attack people and you will see them running across the road and on beaches all over. In Coral World there was probably 40 of them running around. Even some really dumb kids chasing them and they still didn't get wacked (though I was really hoping they would) I forgot about them the first day we where down there and it scared the hell outta me when one ran across the road. (P.S. If the 4 tire marks are still there on the way down the hill to the entrance of Rockworks... sorry Sherri!)

Note: This picture is taken probably about 4 feet away tops...

I had some of the same thoughts when I went down there that you are having. Rather than duplicate the entire post I just wrote, here are some tips I wrote for someone who is going for their honeymoon STT... first time Check out www.mclaughlinanderson.com The pictures are not "buttered up"... that is what it looks like down there! There are also guides on their site for villa renting and a guide to ST.

All I can say really is "go". STT is truly a trip I will never forget. I have been trying to get back since the day I left!

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 2:35 pm
(@konung)
Posts: 23
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Thanks Walt.

I checked your other post as well - very nice.

Answered a lot of questions I had, and didn't even know I had 🙂

A couple more thing I'm interested -

1) I was looking at St John's and Water Island as alternative - my concern is getting in and out. And what if there is a storm on the day we need to fly back? How dependable is ferry service?

2) Also how much is it to take a ferry with you car from st. john to st. thomas and back?

3) How much is it rent a boat for a day? Jet skis?

4) Is St. John more expensive than St. Thomas? Water island?

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 3:19 pm
(@sherri)
Posts: 1218
Noble Member
 

Walt,
Great post! The tire marks are gone! We have a great pressure washer! 😀
We enjoyed having you at Rockworks, tire marks and all! lol! Sure hope you make it back this way some time!

Konung,
I believe, tho I may be wrong, that STJ would be a little more expensive.
There is a ferry for Water Island, I am sure there is a schedule posted somewhere on line!
Jet ski's and parasailing at Sapphire Beach.

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 3:51 pm
(@fl-barrier-islander)
Posts: 568
Honorable Member
 

konung wrote:

1) I was looking at St John's and Water Island as alternative - my concern is getting in and out. And what if there is a storm on the day we need to fly back? How dependable is ferry service?

4) Is St. John more expensive than St. Thomas? Water island?

(1) Water Island has a ferry that leaves Water Island at 6:45 a.m. and last ferry from St. Thomas to Water Island is 6:00 p.m. on all days except Sunday and holidays. On Wednesday, Friday, Saturday Night there the ferry does a late run at 9:00 p.m. The ferry schedule is posted on VINOW (this web site). The ferry is very reliable and the local Water Island residents depend on it to get to and from work and school.

(2) I would say....that depends....but overall / in general, I would say that each island has their own unique benefits.

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 4:05 pm
(@billd)
Posts: 660
Honorable Member
 

We, like every one else we advertise on VRBO also. It is a safe place to get a feel for a lot of different places. From condos to villas they are all there. The best thing to do is call the VRBO person. Set up some dialog and learn what the place is all about. Sometimes we have thirty calls before we book with a client. Ask where it is. What is included. How does it fit into your needs. How may bedrooms will you need? How many are you sleeping? Are you a beach person or do you prefer views? Then ask for some references.

Do all this and you will be fine and will have a great vacation.

billd

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 6:17 pm
 TomB
(@tomb)
Posts: 763
Prominent Member
 

I was not dogging VRBO and on island agent is the key and the question you want to ask the owner. If there is one and you can contact them before you leave life is good.

STT we have probably stayed 4 times in the last 3 years and 5 in STJ. Love them both. There are two things you can depend on in the USVI - the weather and the ferry - with the later being more dependable. STT more up tempo - Water Is and STJ a little slower - keyword "little" - Cost on STJ definetly a little higher - I think it is worth it - IMHO

Have a great time and keep asking questions

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 8:24 pm
(@walt50)
Posts: 17
Active Member
 

Heh I went in august and got there a day after a tropical storm was formed just west of the island and left the day a new one was forming so I'm no help here 😀 Later in the season is totally hit and miss. May/June is probably a good time but an islander could tell you best...

 
Posted : March 11, 2009 9:07 pm
 lip
(@lip)
Posts: 147
Estimable Member
 

Konung, My rental Villa "Sail Away" on the east end of St. Thomas is very secure, secluded and safe as are most in the VI. Yes, there is crime in all of the islands in the Virgins and the entire Caribbean for that matter. The majority of all crime in the islands are local on local and usually drug related. Crime against tourists is rare w/ the exception of those who put themselves in harms way... Eg; looking for something they shouldn't in the wrong places... drugs, prostitution... Every city USA has that part of town where you wouldn't or shouldn't be walking around the street late at night. Stick to normal routes of travel and use common sense and you will not have any problems.
LIP

 
Posted : March 12, 2009 10:23 am
(@konung)
Posts: 23
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Thanks Lip.

I will consider your villa as well. But it looks like it will be taken during the time we are planning to travel right now. But I will check with you once I have the dates set - they are still a bit fluid. Do you have a pool in your villa?

On a side topic: is gambling legal in USVI? Are there any casinos?

 
Posted : March 12, 2009 12:01 pm
(@tunisbridal)
Posts: 35
Trusted Member
 

I have rented with VRBO mnay times and never had a problem. We rented from www.villaenchantment,com last year and it was terrific, Had contact with owner before and during our wonderful stay. This year we are going to villaamour and cant wait, Have also used homeaway,com. Used also vrbo for stays in ocean city md twice. Never a problem. usually you can email the owner, If you don;t get good response then I would be cautious, Hope you find the peerfect villa for you. Any questions email directyl at [email protected],

 
Posted : March 16, 2009 2:10 pm
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