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Advice for your Visit to St. John

Passport and Visa Information

It is highly recommended for US Citizens to bring along their passport when traveling to the US Virgin Islands. Although not officially required to show one on the flight down you will be required on your return trip to provide evidence of citizenship by showing a passport, driver's license, birth certificate or voters registration card along with a picture ID.
Non US citizens but permanent residents need certificate of alien registration or green card on leaving territory.
If you are planning to make a day trip to the British Virgin Islands definitely bring your passports. You will not be admitted without a passport.
Citizens of other countries should carry whatever the US Travel regulations request. Where no visa is necessary, have your passport and the green I-94. If a visa is required then bring the white I-94 and your passport.
US Immigration and Naturalization Service office: (340) 774-4279

Sun Protection

Spending an extensive amount of time in the Caribbean sun can result in a painful memento. Anyone spending time in the sun needs to take precautions to protect themselves and their skin. Follow these tips to make the most of your fun in the sun:

  • Start slowly by limiting your fun in the sun. Some experts recommend no more than an hour a day in the sun at first to avoid a bad burn. If you plan on spending more time in the sun, bring along a cover-up and reapply sunscreen frequently. After a few days, increase your exposure a bit more every day.
  • Bring along your favorite sunblock. While sunscreen is available in the islands, the selection is not as extensive as elsewhere. If you are allergic to certain ingredients in sunscreens, make sure to stock up on your favorite brand at home. Make sure that your sunscreen has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 35 or more to protect you from the intensity of the sun's rays.
  • Reapply your sunblock frequently--about every two hours. If you are using a waterproof sunblock, apply it 30 minutes before you enter the water so that it has time to dry.
  • Don't forget to protect your head. Wear a hat or visor to shield your eyes and protect your scalp. Slather sunscreen on any exposed skin such as a hair part or bald spot--a burn here can be very painful.
  • Even water babies need protection. Snorkelers, swimmers, and scuba divers need sunscreen. Buy a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen and apply it frequently--about every two hours. Swimmers and snorkelers should also wear a T-shirt in the water to protect their skin. The sun's rays can travel through the clear waters of the Caribbean.
  • Check your medication. Make sure that any medication you are taking does not increase your sensitivity to the sun. Some ingredients create photosensitivity to the sun. Take the necessary precautions to avoid a burn.
  • Drink plenty of water to make sure that you and your skin are hydrated.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's bright glare. People with light-colored eyes are more susceptible to eye damage from the sun than those with dark-colored eyes.
  • If you do burn despite your precautions, use an aloe vera-based product to relieve the sting. If you have a fever, see a doctor or other medical professional.

Crime

Crime is not a major problem in St. John. The usual common-sense precautions are advised, such as locking your doors, not displaying large amounts of cash, jewelry, or cameras (especially at Waterlemon Cay on the North Side of the island) Never use your car as a safe place for your wallet while at the beach. Otherwise, your stay on St. John should be worry-free.

Driving on St. John

Rental vehicles: a jeep, sidekick or other SUV will allow you to explore the limits of the distinction between "unpaved road" and "trail".  Driving: "shoulder to the shoulder" is the tip for U.S. Drivers. The steering wheel is on the left side, as you are accustomed, but you drive on the other side, on the left. So just repeat to yourself - shoulder to the shoulder, and after a few 'Whoops!" you'll be fine. Locals and acclimated tourists will yell or honk to prevent accidents.

  • Speed limit is 35mph or less across the entire island, often enforced by crowds of milling goats or a group of donkeys. Reaching maximum speed limit is possible, but difficult to sustain. The exception to this applies to the local bus and taxi drivers and most of the year-rounders. Pull over and allow them to pass, it's easier on the psyche.

  • Hills - climbing and descending:  stay in 2nd gear and downshift to 1st when the hill gets steeper. The engine can better maintain speed, and going down it adds a synergistic assist to the brakes, removing the anxiety of imagining a runaway car.

  • Turns - hairpin and blind in almost every case as you go up and down hills. Honk in advance of the hill to alert drivers approaching from the other side. LISTEN for the sound of truck engines and err on the side of caution if you can hear but not see one headed your way. The engine will be heard long before the truck driver honks an alert. The roads really aren't suited for construction vehicles and it is not safe to share a turn with one.

Flying After SCUBA Diving

When diving on vacation a scuba diver needs to be aware that residual nitrogen poses a health risk upon decompression. This applies just as much to ascending in a jet as ascending to the surface of the water. The difference in air pressure, as a plane ascends to cruising altitude, is roughly equivalent to the last 14-16 feet of ascension in water and the same risks are evident including the bends (decompression sickness) and/or an embolism. If you fly after diving you risk extremely painful gas bubbles forming in your joints and flesh, or tragically in your blood, leading to an embolism and possibly even death. A good conservative rule is to ensure that you have no residual nitrogen in your body before flying. Following the NAUI dive tables, you should be in letter group A or less (which can take over 9 hours). A safe suggestion is to pass a full 24 hours after your last scuba dive before flying. Dive computers, which track nitrogen levels, have a "time-to-fly" indicator, which tells a scuba diver how long they need to wait before boarding a plane. Plan your last dive sensibly.

Snorkeling

For a good discussion on snorkeling with useful advice on what to look for and what to avoid while snorkeling in St. John, see the St. John Beach Guide.


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