The Virgin Islands are one of the most unique groupings of territories in the world today. They are located along the easternmost edge of the Greater Antilles, sitting to the east of Puerto Rico. The United States and Britain each control a portion of these islands. Some maps also list Culebra and Vieques as being the “Spanish Virgin Islands,” but they are part of the territory of Puerto Rico.
When European colonists made their way here, the goal was to establish sugar and tobacco plantations. Many of them brought slaves over from Africa to establish their agricultural economy. Today’s populations are a reflection of the Caribbean and African heritage which are found through the region.
Denmark entered into an agreement in the early 20th century which provided for the sale of the Danish Virgin Islands to the U.S. for $25 million in gold.
List of the Pros of Living in the Virgin Islands
1. The move to the Virgin Islands is relatively easy for most Americans.
When you are a resident of the Virgin Islands, then you are under the status of a U.S. protected territory – unless you are moving to the British or Spanish Virgin Islands, that is. This advantage means that Virgin Islanders receive protection under the criminal laws of the United States. The USPS delivers the mail to the islands and you receive military protection should some type of international clash occur.
Moving to the USVI as an American citizen means there is no need for any new documents like a work visa or identification papers. You can work and travel freely, but it is a good idea to keep your passport handy and a Social Security card available. You might want a birth certificate or a valid driver’s license too.
2. Life is similar to what you would expect in the States.
If you are used to living along the southern shores of the Continental 48, then a move to the Virgin Islands is going to feel very similar to that experience. Most of the territories in the Caribbean require their residents to navigate along unpaved roads to reach their destination. The USVI primary uses paved streets that meet the current standards that you would find in all of the states.
3. The temperature profile of the Virgin Islands is consistent.
If you love the idea of having access to warm, tropical temperatures throughout the year, then the Virgin Islands is the perfect place to call home. Every day feels like summer when you start living in the USVI. You’ll rarely experience a day that dips below 75F, even during the rainy season or the winter months. Summers are overwhelmingly hot here either, usually staying below 90F.
There can be some humidity since this is an island destination that you’d be calling home, but it usually isn’t too bad. It can also be a lot of fun to decorate your palm trees for Christmas!
4. You will get to experience a new culture in the Virgin Islands.
If you decide to start living in the USVI, then it will not take long for you to realize that you’re joining a very different culture than what you might have experienced before when living stateside. There is steel drum music that plays everywhere when you travel throughout the Virgin Islands. You’ll see stunning artwork displays, beautiful European and colonial architecture, and get to experience the folklore and traditions of the island where you choose to live.
Most Virgin Islanders are warm and accepting if you stay committed to the community and plan to live on the islands full time. The island life is not for everyone, so they want to make sure you’re willing to stay before forming a relationship.
5. The Virgin Islands are a beautiful place to live.
St. John is one of the most beautiful islands in the USVI and the Caribbean in general. Over 70% of the land is set aside as a national preserve, which includes the beaches and underwater areas offshore in some regions. It can be expensive to live there because of the natural benefits, but life can also be very rewarding. If you stay outside of the resort areas in the islands, then there is an excellent chance that you’ll have plenty of space to yourself.
6. Ocean waters are pristine and clear in the Virgin Islands.
If you are moving from a coastal community in the United States to the Virgin Islands, then you will notice immediately that there is a difference in water clarity at the beach. There are spectacular diving and snorkeling opportunities on all of the islands. You can also head out there on a sunny afternoon to enjoy the warmth of the sand and the peacefulness of the situation.
Many of the islands are free from light sources at night too, which means you can do some fantastic stargazing. The storms coming in from the ocean are an incredible sight to see as well, and then you get to experience some of the best sunrises and sunsets that our planet can offer.
7. Even on your worst day, you’re still living in the Caribbean.
The Virgin Islands give you an opportunity to start making new memories in one of the best places on Earth. You might be having a terrible day, but the place you call home is still incredibly beautiful. The Caribbean is one of those sights that is similar to the first time you see a professional baseball or football game or climb a mountain to view a sunset. Looking out your window can give you a sense of inner peace that is not possible in other locations.
Then there is the “island time” to consider. Life moves at a much slower pace in the Virgin Islands, for better and for worse. There is less stress here unless you actively seek out problematic situations. It can be exasperating at times, but living here is one of the most magical experiences you can find in life.
List of the Cons of Living in the Virgin Islands
1. There is less availability for goods and services.
You will discover that living on the Virgin Islands means being self-sufficient. You’ll still find malls on St. Thomas or St. Croix, but there are relatively few places to go shopping compared to what you will find on the Continental 48. Then there is the issue of shipping large furniture items to your home. Since it requires an actual ship, freight, or airplane movement to bring the items, you may find that it is easier to sell your items before moving. Then you can purchase new or used goods once you make it to the island.
2. You will need to contend with hurricane season every year.
Hurricane season in the Virgin Islands begins in June and ends in November every year. August and September tend to be the two worst months for these storms to blow through. You’ll need to know how to prepare your property to manage the heavy winds and rain that will come if one passes over. Most neighbors come out to help one another get ready, which helps to bring the community together.
Even if the USVI doesn’t take the full impact of a hurricane, it is not unusual to deal with downed power lines, flooded roads, toppled trees, and infrastructure damage that can limit your movement for several days – if not weeks. You’ll want to have a generator, extra supplies, and fresh water available to manage this disadvantage.
3. Your voting status will change once you become a resident.
You cannot use the national form to register to vote if you decide to move to the Virgin Islands. If you decide to become a resident and live there full-time, then you can register to vote in the local elections. That means you can have a say in who becomes governor over the territory. That change in status also means that you can no longer vote in stateside elections. Virgin Islanders cannot vote for the presidential ticket when the elections come around every four years.
You are also bound by U.S. law without receiving direct representation in its creation. The territory can elect a delegate who participates in the debates that happen in Congress, but that elected representative does not have any voting rights.
4. There are hiring restrictions in place in the Virgin Islands.
The government of the Virgin Islands provides a tax break to companies that locate to the territory to do business. One of the largest organizations to take advantage of this opportunity is Diagio, who is the maker of the Captain Morgan line of rum. If the business wants to get their expected tax break, then they must hire a specific percentage of workers that have been residents for a minimum of 12 months.
There is also a 36-month resident distinction that is part of this process. You’ll find that some businesses prefer to hire only transplants, while others want to employ only natives. If you don’t know anyone in the USVI, choose to rent a home, and haven’t been there for at least six months, then self-employment might be your only option.
5. You need some cash to make the move to the Virgin Islands.
Many of the homes that you will find in the Virgin Islands sell for more than $1 million. If you live in one of the major cities, then you might find one for about half of that cost. Cheaper accommodations provide unique challenges that are not always present stateside.
The apartment market is quite active in the USVI, but expect to pay at least $1,000 per month for rent to grab a studio without a view. You’ll pay double that cost for something closer to what you might be used to having where you currently live. Condos are a possibility for some people, but they might be connected with a busy resort too.
6. You’ll need to relearn how to drive in the USVI.
When you start living in the Virgin Islands, you will quickly discover that the lanes are designed for left-handed driving instead of being on the right as they are stateside and in Puerto Rico. The British islands and the USVI follow this law, even though most of the vehicles driven on the islands have the steering wheel placed on the left side of the car as well. That means you’ll need to get used to driving under different conditions when you first move here, which can be a challenge for some people.
7. The traffic can be terrible when living in the Virgin Islands.
Depending on where you choose to live in the Virgin Islands, the traffic can be terrible. It is not unusual for a two-mile drive to take you over an hour at times. You might need to take a ferry ride to a different island so that you can get the groceries that you need for the week. It takes a lot of proactive planning to navigate this issue, and even then, you can find that essentials like toilet paper might be out of stock or in short supply.
8. You are going to be sharing your home with some unwanted friends.
If you start living in the Virgin Islands, then you will need to search for scorpions in your house. You’ll need to form new habits, like checking your sheets and shoes before using them, to avoid an uncomfortable encounter. If you’re not the biggest fan of spiders, then you need to know that tarantulas will want to share your living space as well. There are centipedes that come crawling through as well.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Living in the Virgin Islands
There are some challenges to consider when living in the Virgin Islands, but those issues are more related to its location in the Caribbean and the logistical issues that come with that problem. Once you establish a residency on one of the islands, you will find that life feels pretty normal here if you can get used to the weather.
You may find some communities or neighborhoods are more willing to embrace you than others when you move here. Politics can be particularly challenging at the local level. You’ll also experience the support and friendliness of your neighbors once you let it be known that your intention is to stay.
The pros and cons of living in the Virgin Islands are vital to consider if this is where you want to call home one day. If you like a slower pace of life and don’t mind the added expenses, then it can be a paradise.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.