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PRE-TRIP TO ST. JOHN

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PRE-TRIP TO ST. JOHN

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(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Hi! This is my first time to post but I have been a lurker here for about 2 weeks. My husband (age 55) and I ( age 50) will be coming to STT/STJ for the first time for 7 days on Aug. 5th and have found this message board to be a great resource of information for us!! I just love the funny and informative trip reports that have been posted! Keep them up!

I do have a few questions that I need help with. We are flying out of Dallas,Tx., with a 3-hour layover in San Juan, and wonder if there are any decent restaurants inside the airport? Also, I smoke, so I will be running for the nearest exit /bar / restaurant as soon as I hop off the plane, lol! Do they allow smoking outside of the airport or anywhere inside the airport? If not, then they will have to arrest me, because no-one will get between me and my Marlboro! I have yet to book our car rental because I am in shock over the weekly SUV rates on STT/STJ, and so far, have found it difficult to get an agency to guarantee me a 4WD in writing. I called the 1-800 number for Budget and got a very disinterested young man on the phone who did not understand why I needed one in the first place. I later learned from this message board that it can be difficult just to get a car at Budget when you have reserved it, so will go to Avis and see what they say. We need to rent at the airport because we will be staying overnight in STT and want to do some shopping before getting on the car ferry to STJ. The kind lady who we booked our condo with in STJ says a 4WD is not essential for STJ, but is nice to have. I know I would much prefer more comfort, good a/c, and a trunk to store valuables in than a 4WD. Would love to hear your opinions on this.

Again, thanks for all the great tips and funny stories I have read here!!

Sharon

 
Posted : July 24, 2006 6:54 pm
(@mike-from-newport)
Posts: 44
Trusted Member
 

I've tried 4WD and non-4WD vehicles on St. John. I think 4WD is a must - especially in rainy conditions. It's alot more fun too!

 
Posted : July 24, 2006 9:38 pm
(@bluwater)
Posts: 2026
Noble Member
 

I've never taken a 4WD to St John and did have trouble entering and exiting one villa's driveway and the car scraping the bottom becase the grade was so steep, so we had to make sure everyone but the driver walked up and down the steep driveway to lessen the load. That being said, I have not encountered rain while driving on STJ. I hear the rain is the key to very scary driving. I also purposely avoided notoriously steep roads like "Jacobs Ladder". You'll be able to do much more with 4WD. Of course, plenty of folks on here (like me) go and have great times without 4WD. I don't think Papabou gets 4WDs either on any of his regular trips. Papabou?

 
Posted : July 24, 2006 10:33 pm
(@Kathleen)
Posts: 1
 

Bluwater,
Is Jacob's Ladder the part on the way out to Cinnamon that the taxi drivers honk before they go into the turn so any oncoming traffic will know they are coming 'round? Just wondering if that was what it was called or is it another wild part of the STJ roads? Just curious

Kathleen

 
Posted : July 24, 2006 11:46 pm
(@mischievous)
Posts: 70
Trusted Member
 

Sharon, depending on where you're staying on St. Thomas and where you want to go shopping, you may not need to rent your car there. You can get from the airport to town, to the main shopping area, and to the STJ ferries all by taxi. If you continue to have bad luck trying to find a rental on St. Thomas, you should contact companies on St. John. Also, beware, not all rental agencies on St. Thomas let you take the car to St. John. Plus the car ferry seems to up the hassle factor.

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 12:44 am
(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Thanks for the advice, and I would love to hear more pros and cons of renting a 4WD for use on STJ. This has been so frustrating for me! I considered using a taxi on STT and then renting on STJ, but we would have to carry our luggage around with us if we used a taxi if we went shopping after we checked out Sunday morning before going to STJ, and we would have to do the same thing when we depart to the airport, instead of being able to make some last minute stops along the way. We will be arriving after 7:43PM August the 5th, then rush to do a late check- in at the Green Iguana, then try and find a restaurant that is not too packed on a Saturday night, then check out by 11AM the next morning, but not due at our condo until at least 1PM, so we have time to explore STT and hopefully do some shopping before getting on the car ferry. I really wanted to rent on STJ because of being able to park in their lot, but I couldn't make it work for us. Also, STJ car rentals do not allow you to go to STT, but most STT car rental companies except Hertz allow you to take their car to STJ. ARRGHHH ! I am hoping that we will get lucky and either get a decent price on a 4WD with Avis, or rent a mid-sized to large car from them that will do alright on STJ roads. Can you access most of the beaches on STJ with a car? Where and what is this Jacob's Ladder? I am not worried about driving on mountain roads with a car, because my hubby did quite well in one on some hairy and steep switchbacks in the Colorado mountains. Are the mountain roads there paved? Did anyone have any comments on my questions about the San Juan airport? Gee, I really need to quit worrying so much and hurry up and get on 'island time'! Thanks for all of ya's help!

Sharon, aka Psycho Nurse!

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 1:19 am
(@john-in-orlando)
Posts: 36
Eminent Member
 

Sharon,

Unless you are staying in a villa in a very "hard to get to" location, you won't need a 4 wheel drive. Sure, there may be a beach or two that you can't get to, but they have almost 30, and you can drive to all the nice beaches in a car. We rented a jeep type vehicle, a Suzuki, and it cost me $400 a week. The year before, when I went to St. Thomas, I rented a Chevy from Budget for $180. That Chevy would have been fine in St. John.

If it rains, just be careful. The hills are very steep, but as long as you're somewhat sober and careful, you won't have a problem.

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 6:26 am
 Jill
(@jill)
Posts: 385
Honorable Member
 

Sharon,
Double check with your villa rental person and find out if the road to your villa is easily driven without a 4wd. We were there in Feb. and there is NO WAY we would of made it to our villa without the 4wd. As for the rain and 4wd, the roads in St. John get very slippery and we had an instance where without the 4wd we wouldn't of made it up around the switchbacks because the traffic was backed up and we were sitting on a steep incline in the rain waiting for our turn, cars in front and behind we spinning there wheels (not sure if they were inexperienced hill drivers or it was the car itself).

There a pros and cons to having a 4wd like the beaches. I'd say 90% of the beaches are easy to get to without 4wd but there are some of the more secluded out of the way beaches (that are absolutely gorgeous) that you wouldn't be able to get to.

I think it's a matter of preference but my vote would be spend the extra and get a 4wd that way no matter what you'll be fine.

Just my opinion. Jill

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 7:31 am
 Eve
(@eve)
Posts: 75
Trusted Member
 

SJA: Your lay over could end up being fun at the duty free shops. Remember to check out the Marlboro and liquer prices! Grab your limit of both on the way through. You can smoke outside (nothing inside. At the American Airlines terminal there is a door leading out. Just tell one of security very politely that you are going to smoke. Leave your carryons with hubby (if he does not smoke) Enjoy a few and than go back through security. Just like at O'hare. Not really a problem when your needing your nicotine.

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 9:21 am
(@chrisn)
Posts: 238
Reputable Member
 

We returned last month from a weeks stay in St. John. We also spent the first and last night in St. Thomas. We rented a vehicle from the airport Budget and drove all around the next day. We dropped the car off at the Sapphire Resort and took a taxi to the RH ferry. We rented our Jeep Liberty from L&L which I can highly recommend although they don't have on-site parking. There is no way I would not rent a 4x4 for St. John. Some of the roads are not just steep, they are obscene! We are talking white knuckle with your body just about parallel to the ground or standing up on the break obscene. On the way to our villa, the roads were wet and on the first steep and scary switchback the Jeep started to slide so hubby had to lock it in mid climb. Being not use to that or the roads, I almost had a stroke that very first drive but I quickly learned to love the roads. If your going to explore and don't want to have to avoid certain roads, get the 4x4!!!

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 12:41 pm
(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Wow! What would I do without ya?? Sounds like we would be fine with a car because we will be staying near Cruz Bay, but if I find a good deal on a 4WD, I will take it. The thing is, when you go to Expedia, Orbitz,etc. to get the best prices, you cannot select a 4WD, just an SUV. When I called Budget, found out it was a 2WD SUV! I will call Avis today(in STT) and check their prices and availability.

Great news about San Juan Airport! Will definitely buy several cartons of Marlboro, and get a few bottles of tequila and vodka! Thanks for the tip on SJ and where to smoke, Eve!
Sadly, I am not much of a rum drinker, but may change my mind after drinking some Painkillers! We are packing most of our stuff in two carry-ons, then bringing two suitcases with food items and snorkel equipment, so I can have at least one empty suitcase to fill with what I have bought.

I have another question. Barracudas. Will they try and attack? How should one act if one confronts a barracuda? If I do run into a big one I hope urine doesn't set him off because I think I would pee myself, lol! Well, thanks again everyone for giving me much-needed information!

Sharon

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 12:47 pm
(@chrisn)
Posts: 238
Reputable Member
 

Me again,

This one made me smile (see trip report Snorkel Bob and the Barracuda). One glorious day in St. John I was snorkel floating serenely along parallel to the beach at Maho. I blinked and the next thing you know I am face to face with the most gynormous Barracuda I have ever seen! The thing was HUGE! 4-5 feet long and he looked like he hasn't missed a meal either. He was bigger than my 8 year old! I don't think you'll need to worry about what to do as you would have been turned to floating stone like I did LOL. Seriously, they are more bark then bite so to speak. Scary looking, yes but if you encounter one up close just float calmly away. No flailing about or walking on water to get away from him and don't wear any shiny jewelry or swimsuit fabric as it could be mistaken for fish scales.

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 1:25 pm
(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Hmmm, just called Avis on STT and the quoted price for a large car(Malibu) was $287.79. 4WD was $442.79. Not much difference, but I found better prices on Orbitz,etc. for the car. Decisions, decisions. My husband is tighter than a bull's a*s during fly season (so we say in Texas!), so he tells me to go with the car. Will keep looking for a better price on a 4WD and a car and then decide. I love off-roading it, but my docile hubby doesn't.

Chrisn: I read your story about the barracuda, which is why I asked the barracuda question. You have a way with words and made me feel I was floating there with you! I have read horror stories about barracuda attacks, so after reading your barracuda 'adventure', I wanted to make sure what NOT to do! I hope I can just float calmly away but think it will be more like shuddering away with a urine trail! At least there aren't any sharks??? I plan on spending most of my time snorkeling while there. Considering doing some SNUBA too and would love to hear comments from those who have tried it.

Okay, I can make it. Less than two weeks to go....yeah, I can make it! Dreaming about paradise keeps me going...!

Thanks everyone!
Sharon

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 2:10 pm
(@papabou)
Posts: 159
Estimable Member
 

5 trips last 20 months, reserved 5 cars either budget or avis depending on who's cheaper (central reservations). last trip got free upgrade from buget for jeep hardtop which only works for 2people and lugggage in my opinion. no question, jeep for two (4 w/o bags) affords more options for remote st john but our cars (cavalier, corolla, camry and taraus) worked fine but did bottom out few times at speed breaks on south shore rd and had to back up a time or 2 after rains heading east bound on north shore rd. we've stayed on giffft hill, upper rockridge, and upper tamarind and cars provided ride to and frow (sp). also did jeep day rental a couple of times to go to remote area. still cheaper.

as i've said before i like ap cars cause they are cheaper (several hundred less) they let us avoid cabs, and they amke the last day a lot easier. on our last day we tour stt (overlook and mt top and market if no crusie ships in ca). finally we have our last meal before afternoon flt home at BW emerald beach, dine outside with one last beach waterview of lindbergh bay then 2 minutes to ap. that said i know some day (a) we'll miss a critical car barge (onreturn we allow several options by early start (10am) and could cut stt drive time down if missed desired barge) or (b) we'll have car trouble in stj and i frankly don't know waht will happen. (report it stolen?) also if atl flts home were before lunch, i might take a different view since lost a lot of benefit of ap rental.

but someone has to rent jeeps on stj; otherwise they would be mighty expensive for my occassional day rentals! know the options and the downside and choose which best suits your tolerance for risk!

good luck

papabou

ps we are nonrevers so free cancellation of reservations is a must that central reser allows but never used, but have changed. do you have full flex if you book directly or though orbitz, expedia etc?

 
Posted : July 25, 2006 2:15 pm
(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Gee...Jacob's ladder sounds scary! Well, just got off work a while ago and did not have time to check any other prices of cars. I will have to make a decision soon though! Maybe will rent the large car and if we decide we need something more, than we can always rent a jeep for a day like papabou! Papabou, I am jealous as can be hearing how many times you have been to STJ in the last 20 months! Sounds like you are enjoying life to the fullest! I am not sure about the full flex through Orbitz, but thanks for the tip about checking for free cancelation!

Thanks again everyone for the great advice!!

Sharon

 
Posted : July 26, 2006 1:35 am
(@bluwater)
Posts: 2026
Noble Member
 

Sorry, I had not been checking this thread and didn't see the ? about Jacob's ladder until now. I rent cars, so I avoid Jacob's Ladder.

Kathleen, I know what hill/switchback you were speaking of near Cinnamon......and that's another one to be taken seriously......hit the gas at the bottom and don't dare slow down or stop........lay on the horn just before the blind switchback (praying that a water truck or taxi isn't coming around at 50 mph on the other side) and stay hard on the gas or you'll have to back down and start again.....that's the one you were thinking of, right? 🙂

I should call that one "cursin' curve" because someone in my car always yells "oh sh#t" when we start up that one.

 
Posted : July 26, 2006 9:19 am
(@Kathleen)
Posts: 1
 

I heard those exact words so it must be the same curve!!! (And those water trucks are wild aren't they?)

 
Posted : July 26, 2006 3:14 pm
(@sharon)
Posts: 74
Trusted Member
Topic starter
 

Hi! Just to let everyone know we finally booked a full-sized car through Avis on STT. We figure that if we decide we need to venture off the beaten path a little on STJ that we can rent a jeep for a day and still save a ton of money. Thanks to all the tips I have read on this message board, I have stocked up on groceries, two bottles of sunscreen, and two bottles of insect-repellent to bring. While my husband is taking it easy, I have been packing, re-packing, checking things to do, printing out menus, maps, tips, etc. Am I the only one so driven? We leave Saturday morning and I am counting the days until then!

Oh! With a three hour layover in San Juan, is there time to go sight-seeing or to a restaurant or shop? Are there souvenir shops and restaurants in the airport? I found out that I can at least buy booze there! If anyone has any info on this, I would love to hear it!

Would jeans and a collared shirt be appropriate enough for some of the nicer restaurants on STJ, or do I need to pack some dress slacks(for hubby)? What is appropriate for women to wear? Also, are there smoking sections in the restaurants?

What does 'limmin' mean or stand for?

Glad to hear the car ferry situation has ended. Now, if we don't get too much rain out of TS Chris, we will be just fine!
Thanks again for all of your help!

Sharon, aka Psycho Nurse in Texas

 
Posted : August 2, 2006 12:55 am
(@uf-prof)
Posts: 108
Estimable Member
 

San Juan airport has a number of restaurents ranging from quick food to more substantial stuff. It is a fairly decent size airport and there are a number of shops to browse. There will not be enough time to go sight seeing but you will have time to browse the airport and to get outside for a nicotine hit. Once you finish packing, remove about half of it. Have a good trip, we are going in Oct.

 
Posted : August 2, 2006 9:13 am
(@byrequest1)
Posts: 117
Estimable Member
 

Sharon, trust me, you are not going to want to be wearing jeans in St. John. Too hot, too sticky. Dressy shorts are fine for most restaurant. Same goes with your husband. My husband always packs dressy slacks and they sit in the drawer the whole time.

You can smoke wherever you want in St. John from what I saw.

Have a GREAT time!

Lisa in CT

 
Posted : August 2, 2006 10:20 am
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