Another Day on St. Kitts

August 25, 2010

Things I liked about St. Kitts

Soaker tub

Water that doesn’t taste weird

Soft beds

Huge TV with US channels

Balcony

Fridge

Coffee Maker

Air Conditioning

Wings @ pool bar

Fruit water in lobby

Pools

Beach

Clean

Steady 110-volt current with Americanized outlets

Within walking distance of coffee shop with free wifi

Today was an interesting day. I finally went to bed at 5:00ish and slept until 9:30 or so.  I could have slept for days but I wanted to get things going right today.  Dad had gone on a tour of the hotel while I was sleeping, so he wanted to show Mom and me around.   We went down to one of the many gift shops so that Dad could get some matches and a lighter and realized that until we get in touch with either Lime or Digicel, we’d need a way to contact people other than the hotel’s $1/min fee for local charges (!), so we got a phone card.

Next we still had the issue with the missing rental car.  We decided that Dad should be the one to call the Thrifty people at the airport.  He got a voicemail that said they were closed on Sunday.  Great.  We collectively decided that we didn’t want to spend another day at the hotel.  Mom suggested a cab, we instantly vetoed that based on the $12 USD fare each way to town.  Dad mentioned he had noticed that there was a Hertz desk in the hotel’s business center, so we tried them.  After a 20-minute wait, we were informed that the man in front of us had taken the last car.  Crap.  What next?

The Hertz lady suggested that we go to the concierge, that they rented cars too.  We got to the Concierge desk at 11:50, only to find out that Avis, the other major rental company was open from 8:00-11:00, so we were temporarily crestfallen and feeling helplessly stranded until the lady asked us why we didn’t rent with Thrifty.  We explained our situation, that we had planned to but no one was at the airport and then they were closed today, but she told us they were open from 12:00-7:00.  We celebrated and decided to go back to the room for a few minutes until Thrifty was open, when the concierge agreed that she would call them for us and have them pick us up at the hotel.

Thrifty arrived soon after noon in a white, 4-door Yaris in front of the hotel.  The man drove us to the airport, where we met Mr. Herbert, the primary clerk at Thrifty.  He was really nice and gave us maps of the island and said that if we’d just call him before we went to catch a ferry to Nevis, that he’d arrange for Thrifty people from the other island to have a car waiting for us at the port.  We were rented a white Suzuki Swift which was waiting for us in front of the airport when we exited.  The steering wheel was on the normal side, but the speedometer was in kph only.  It was actually bigger than we expected and I think Dad actually liked it.

I thought driving on the left side of the road was going to be an issue.  It was decided that I would sit in the passenger’s seat up front with Dad to remind him of the driving rules while Mom “navigated” from the back seat.  Dad wanted to make sure that we’d be able to get back to the hotel, so that was our first destination.  Initially there were some “stay on the left side of the road” scares, particularly with the roundabouts and when to yield, but Dad got the hang of driving quickly. We made it back to the road that went back to the hotel, but decided that instead of getting back home so quickly, we wanted to go exploring.

We made it to the main road and went into Basseterre.  It was really creepy coming into town because everyone lives in these tiny, generally poorly maintained shacks.  My parents likened it to Mexico.  Also, it is Sunday, so most of the little neighborhood stores were closed up.  For some strange reason, the Kittians elect to park in the opposite direction of traffic, so we had trouble maneuvering around cars that were parked facing us in our lane when the roads only had two lanes to begin with.  We passed the Lime offices and the Subway, which made me feel a little bit better.  On the other side of town by the port, we were passing a large building and I noticed that it said Best Buy on the side.  I remembered this from the forums as a good grocery store, so since we wanted some sundries for the room, we stopped.

Finally my parents got a taste of shopping for groceries on St. Kitts and Nevis.  The grocery store smelled like wet dog and contained an interesting mixture of expired and non-expired goods.  The frozen food section was pretty impressive, but we noticed that all the prices were in ECs.  It was jarring to see things like milk with $20-something EC prices on them, but after my parents got out the calculator and started figuring the prices in USD, they finally figured out why I was so focused on sending plenty of food from the US.  We bought Bugles, water, Crackers, Wine, Sprite, Diet Coke, Bagels and Cream Cheese and it was $96 EC.  We paid $40 USD and were given change in ECs.

When getting back in the car, we noticed that there was an even larger building behind us—it was Caribbean Cinemas—are you kidding?!  They have movie theaters here?!  And…wait…it gets better…right next to the movie theater was a Dominos!  Oh my goodness, civilization is available!  After a second pass by the movie theater, I noticed that the movies were only a couple weeks behind those in the US—they had Salt, Inception, Dinner for Schmucks, and the admission was only $15 EC!

We decided to keep driving, to see more of the island.  We passed Ross and another school and got all the way to a part of the island called Challengers before we decided it looked like it was going to storm and perhaps we should go back.  We started back and realized that we still didn’t know where the ferries departed from, so we went back through Basseterre on the streets closer to the water.  We found a KFC, a Super Foods, and a Ram’s store close to the pier, as well as where to park and catch a ferry.  It was very hopeful for me, knowing that I would be just a ferry away from civilization.

We kept driving through Basseterre and decided we’d try to locate the bank on our way back to the hotel.  We passed the RBC and the Bank of the Caribbean but weren’t able to find a Scotia Bank branch.  We decided we’d ask at the concierge tomorrow.  (The consensus was that tomorrow we would go to Scotia Bank and Lime and try to get the bank account and cell phone set up since both services [we think] are available on St. Kitts in addition to Nevis)

On the road back to the hotel, Dad noticed there was a cute café and wanted to go inside.  More importantly, I noticed there was a small Ram’s Express a couple of storefronts over from the café, so we went there first, looking for sunscreen for Mom (the sunscreen at the hotel was $15 USD—price gouge much?).  It was much nicer than the Best Buy and the prices seemed more reasonable.  Actually they had US Beef in the fridge!

Next we walked into the café and saw at least 2 laptops and decided that they probably had free wifi (in contrast to our hotel who charges $14.95 USD/day).  Before snacking, we went back to the hotel and got our computers and dropped off the groceries.  Upon our return, we found out that they did have free wifi and this place was frequented by med students of some school.  I’m thinking it’s UMHS, because they don’t have dorms and stay at the hotel across the street, the Royal St. Kitts, but oddly enough, I didn’t see UMHS anywhere during our tour.  Odd.  I finally got to try Ting at the café (delish, kinda like Fresca).  Mom and I split a bacon cheeseburger which had an odd taste—all I could think was of UK and goat.  Dad had a Boca Burger and left dissatisfied with the service and the burger.

We took a trip down the road by our hotel to try and see where the Sea Bridge left St. Kitts for Nevis.  We drove for what seemed like miles on a really horrible road that had loads of potholes.  We never did find where the Sea Bridge was (my parents decided it wasn’t worth the trip, that I should definitely take the ferry into Basseterre) but we got as far as the Red Lion Bar at Reggae Beach.  I have a feeling it wasn’t much further but I was outvoted.

We came back to the hotel and Dad was still hungry after his burger, so he convinced me to go down to the Pizza Shack with him to get some pizza.  We got there and the line was horrible, so we continued on to the pool bar.  We had tropical/BBQ wings and Carib draft.  There was a nice breeze off of the ocean and it was really pretty watching the sun set.  Afterwards, we stopped back by the Pizza Shack to bring back some pizza to the room for Mom and discovered a Whirlpool while we were waiting.  We brought back 2 individual Maui pizzas.  We were able to catch most of Big Brother, then Mom took a bath in the soaker tub while waiting for the Design Star finale to come on.  We watched Design Star and then all conked out.

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4 Responses to “Another Day on St. Kitts”

  1. Hallie Chandler said

    It sounds like there are plenty of wonderful things about attending UMHS St. Kitts, and like you are having a great transition to island life. I’m going to be starting there next year, and I am so excited to start my education. I will definitely be looking to read more about your experiences to help me better plan for own transition to medical school and life in the Caribbean.

    • jenningers said

      Hello Hallie,

      Actually I was over on Nevis at MUA. We did take breaks from time to time over on St. Kitts, but just quick visits. Sorry to disappoint. Good luck!

      Jenn

  2. Kate said

    Hey Jenn, I plan to rent a car in St. Kitts and stay there for few days before moving to Nevis with my parent. Would you still go for Thrifty? or do you have any other recommendation for car rental company? How was your overall experience moving from St. Kitts to Nevis? Did you actually take the car over the island?
    Thanks!

    Kate

    • jenningers said

      Kate,

      Thrifty is the bomb–definitely go with them. Thrifty on St. Kitts is inside the airport–you’ll have to go over to the departures side (exit right) after you get through customs, and there should be someone in the office there who can get you squared away and get your St. Kitts/Nevis temporary license–I’d recommend the 1-yr if you’ll be getting a car over on Nevis. (Make sure you bring a driver’s license which will NOT expire within the following year!) Another good reason to go with Thrifty is that you can take the car on the Sea Bridge ferry if you will be bringing it back and forth between St. Kitts and Nevis–you just can’t leave it on Nevis for good. Or, if you’d rather, you can let the Thrifty folks on Nevis know you’re coming over and they will meet you with a car where the passenger ferry docks, if you choose to take the passenger ferry back and forth from Basseterre to Charlestown.

      My experience moving between the two islands was fine. I did a lot of complicated things because I didn’t know any better at the time, but I still managed fine…it just could have been easier. I would recommend flying into St. Kitts and taking the ferry over and staying on Nevis. It is difficult going back and forth between the two islands on a daily basis and since the IGA has opened on Nevis, there isn’t much that Kitts has that Nevis doesn’t. There are nice rooms available at Oualie Beach Resort (relatively close to the school) on Nevis with reasonable “student rates” which will allow you to spend more time on Nevis getting set up and finding your way around the island. (Nisbet Plantation is closest hotel to the school but pricey. If budget isn’t an issue, Four Seasons is most luxurious, though furthest away from school.) I still don’t recommend flying directly to Nevis because the small airlines which take you from St. Maarten to Nevis SUCK (especially if you’re bringing luggage) so you’re better off going with American Airlines/US Air/Delta/British Airways and flying on one of the big birds into Kitts.

      If you insist on traveling between the two islands, it’s cheaper to take the pedestrian ferry back and forth from Basseterre to Charlestown, though you CAN take your car back and forth on the Sea Bridge, though this will be expensive. Take my advice and stay on Nevis–there will be plenty of opportunities to go over to Kitts and explore.

      J

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