Visitors to the Virgin Islands who hunger for the thrills of roller coaster rides will not be disappointed. All they have to do is rent a car, head up into the mountains, and keep a few rules in mind.
Rules of the Road
- Drive on the left. It’s easy to forget when on a road that is so narrow that it doesn’t look like it could possibly hold two lanes, but keep left even then.
- Beware of narrow roads. Avoiding a head on collision on narrow roads takes special vigilance. Locals, accustomed to the roads, will hurdle along a breakneck speeds, and the neophyte’s best bet is to drive slow and hug the sides. Then, when you see a car approaching, pull over to whatever scrap of space you can find, and let them pass.
- Be careful on the dips. On St. John, there are a series of “Dip” signs that have been embellished with commentary regarding the nature of the dip. That’s where you’ll find “Crab Dip” and “Skinny Dip.” On St. Thomas, the dips are usually unmarked, but there is one near my family home that should be labelled, “Dipzilla.” When you encounter one of these dips, go slow and take it at whatever angle minimizes exposure to the deepest part of the dip. Hopefully, this will help you avoid doing serious damage to the vital parts of your vehicle.
- Honk. – See the driveway in the photo above? There are many blind corners on these island roads. Your best defence is to honk your horn and hope for the best.
- Pump your brakes. – Heading downhill, you’ll encounter terrifyingly steep curves over frightening cliff drop offs, and the natural reaction will be to keep your foot on the brake. Don’t do it! This can quickly destroy the brakes. Take it easy. Put the car in low gear, and simply pump the brakes.
- Be patient, you’re on island time. – It is not unusual to encounter a conversation taking place on the road between two drivers, or a driver and pedestrian. This is not the time to honk your horn, unless you enjoy being soundly cursed. Be patient, be polite, you’ll get to your destination all in good time.
- Watch out for critters. – The pedestrian traffic on the islands includes iguanas, goats, and chickens. Mostly, these creatures manage to avoid becoming traffic victims, but not always. And, let me tell you, iguana road kill is not a pretty sight.
For adventurous spirits, renting a car is the best way to find all the off the beaten track destinations in the Virgin Islands. Once you get used to driving on the left hand of the road, it might even be the most exciting part of your vacation!
Sandra Foyt | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @SandraFoyt.