Friday, May 4, 2012

Frugal Fridays - Tour Like A Local

As I mentioned in our last post, we just got back from vacation a few days ago.   We had a great time and by next week I should have had a chance to sort through all of the pictures and write about our experiences.   While spending seven days in the Virgin Islands, we continued our frugal ways by experiencing the islands like locals instead of tourists.  Touring the islands more like the locals doesn't only save money, but in our opinion it also provides a more authentic experience.

So what did we do to explore the islands like a local?   One of the first things that Ken and I avoid is group tours.  These tours are usually expensive, and we don't like having to do things on somebody else's schedule.  We prefer the freedom to keep our options open and stay at a place as long (or as little) as we'd like.

We noticed several group tours that would sail you to Jost Van Dyke, drop you off for a little while at the famous "Foxy's Tamarind Bar", then bring you to the "Soggy Dollar Bar" for lunch and drinks (at your own expense).  The tour would end with a sail back to St. Thomas.  While we would have loved to sail to Jost, we opted to take a ferry to Jost for $75 per person (round trip) instead of $150 per person.  That savings of $150 was well worth it to us, as the ferry ride to Jost Van Dyke was on a large power boat instead of the typical ferry that you would imagine.  The ferry gave us a fun and great tour of the islands, and we even stopped at St. John and Tortola to drop off passengers.

Once we arrived at Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, we had a short walk to "Foxy's", and then we grabbed an open air taxi (no public transportation) to White Bay where the "Soggy Dollar Bar" and other cool spots were located.  The taxi was filled with a group of people and their tour guide.  They all paid the higher group tour price, and they weren't doing anything different!  In fact, we wound up leaving at the same time and rode together on the taxi ride back to where their boat and our ferry were located.

Taxi that we took with the tour group to White Bay ... we highly recommend Bunn's Taxi!

Two other days we rode the ferry to St. John for only $12 per person round trip ... what a deal!  Like Jost, the only way around the island was with an open air taxi, so we did have to pay for that.  However, I'll say that both Jost and St. John were very reasonable.  A ride to White Bay on Jost only cost $10 pp round trip, and a ride to Trunk Bay ($14 pp round trip) and Cinnamon Bay ($12 pp round trip) on St. John. This was still much cheaper than a tour!

When we were on St. Thomas, where our resort was located, we were able to take advantage of the public transportation.  It was only $1 per person to Red Hook and other areas that were considered "country", and only $2 per person to Charlotte Amalie, which is considered the "city".  The ride in itself was an experience ... hauling butt around curves and hills!  If you look at the chart below that our resort posted, you can see how much cheaper the public bus was.  There were a few places that the bus didn't go, like "Coki Beach", so this chart was nice to refer to in order to make sure we didn't get ripped off.  I'm happy to say the taxi drivers stuck to this chart.

When we first arrived at the resort on St. Thomas, we started talking to other guests that had been there a few days, and we asked them how they were getting around the island.  They said that they'd been taking a taxi.  We mentioned to them that we heard there was a public bus that stopped right at the foot of our resort that was really cheap.  "Oh, you'd better be careful!", they said.  We didn't let the comments deter us, as we know that anything can happen anywhere, and you just have to use some common sense.  One of our bus rides did have quite a "character" on it, but we just kept to ourselves and all was good.  All the other trips on the bus were just fine, and most of the people were very friendly!

The next time you're on vacation or just visiting a nearby city, don't be afraid to venture out a little bit!  If we had only stuck to the taxis and the group tours, I really don't think we would have gotten the feel of the culture like we did.  Plus, we saved some money!

I have much more to say about Jost Van Dyke, Foxy's, the Soggy Dollar Bar, and the other islands but that will have to wait until another post!  Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

*For those that missed the other posts of this series, check them out below:


Sandee said...

Way to go on saving some money and doing more too. I like that.

I'm sure you'll have lots and lots of posts about your adventures. I'll be waiting.

Have a terrific day and weekend. :)

Emily said...

Good for you guys! As you know from reading our blog, we have been traveling around Belize like locals too -- taking the "chicken" buses (nary a chicken on 'em), public ferries, taxis when necessary, and walking if the distance isn't too far. It's been great, and we've saved enough that we've been able to go a lot more places than if we traveled the way most tourists do. Plus, it's so much more interesting to see and interact with locals than only with others who look and sound like us!

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