Retirement Around the World – St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Published on June 26, 2014

Welcome to the exotic tropical island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands! Americans looking to retire somewhere romantic and far away, without having to learn a new language, or worry about obtaining foreign health insurance and the complications of filing foreign taxes, find this enchanting U.S. territory very appealing.

St. Thomas, with its modern comforts, is a balance of Caribbean culture and American practicality. The official and most widely spoken language is English, although it is common to hear French Creole and Spanish.

This island paradise is known for its white sandy beaches, tropical breezes, incredible mountainscapes, amazing coral reefs, and warm friendly people. St. Thomas offers expats a laid-back beach lifestyle, along with the culture and excitement of a vibrant city. It’s known for having the liveliest nightlife in the Virgin Islands, and offers movies, theater, music, ballet, symphony concerts, and excellent cuisine. The island is also home to the world famous Mahogany Run Golf Course which has challenged the likes of Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan and John Travolta (and a few iguanas that were in hitting range). Duty–free shopping is another island attraction.

Retirement for St. Thomians
Since St. Thomas is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the pension law is the same as it is for the United States. Social Security provides monthly benefits to an eligible worker when the worker elects to start receiving retirement benefits. Benefits calculations, payout levels and retirement age stipulations are just as they are stateside.

Healthcare costs and coverage in the U.S. Virgin Islands are similar to Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States. If you are over 65 you may qualify for Medicare, and insurance companies cannot put a dollar limit on lifetime health coverage. Under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, residents of all U.S. territories get the same health insurance protections as residents of the states and the District of Columbia.

Foreign retirees can enjoy good quality healthcare on St. Thomas. Roy Lester Schneider Hospital is centrally located and has well-trained doctors and medical professionals. There are also pharmacies to transfer prescriptions to. Most medical insurance companies continue to provide benefits for American expats living on the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, it’s important to contact your medical provider for all the details before leaving the U.S. mainland permanently. It’s also a good idea to bring a copy of your medical records with you to share with your new doctor.

Americans in St. Thomas
American citizens moving to St. Thomas do not need any new documents such as visas or papers. They can travel and work freely in the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, social security cards are needed and passports are a good idea. One should also carry a driver’s license and birth certificate.

Cost of Living
The cost of living is generally higher than the average costs in cities across the U.S. mainland. However, for those looking for a safe, stable island paradise to call home and escape the stress of mainland city life, St. Thomas definitely delivers. Retirees will also be happy to learn that unlike the mainland, there are no sales and state taxes. St. Thomas is world renowned for its duty-free shopping and good buys on jewelry, china, alcohol, crystal, perfumes, art, clothing, watches and cameras.

St. Thomas has a wide range of restaurants to choose from. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant ranges from $18.00-$25.00. A three-course dinner for two in a mid-range restaurant averages $78.00 and a Combo Meal at McDonalds or similar fast food restaurant averages $7.53.

If you are considering retiring to St.Thomas, it would be a good idea to visit for at least 10 days to get a feel for the island. You can meet the locals, travel to different areas, and see what it’s like to actually live on an island. While there, it’s best to rent a condo; staying at a resort will not give you the true feel of island living.

During your visit, try to meet with a real estate agent or an apartment rental agent/property manager and request that they show you homes, villas, condos or apartments. Efficiency studios go for approximately $700 -$1,100 per month. Monthly rentals for a one-bedroom apartment range from $950-$1,500 and $1,200-$2,200 for a two-bedroom apartment; a two/three bedroom condo costs $1,700-$3,500, and a three/four bedroom house rents for $2,500-$6,000. The average cost to purchase a three-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot home with a fenced yard is approximately $190,000. Beachfront properties are more expensive than properties located further inland.

Cities That Attract Expats
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and home to almost half of the island’s 51,000 plus residents. It is a bustling center for government, schools, offices, residences and shopping. Hundreds of duty-free shops line the city’s streets and alleys. Along the waterfront is a large selection of restaurants where one can enjoy scrumptious Caribbean and American cuisine.

Charlotte Amalie is also known for its historic buildings that date back to the Danish era when the town was a bustling port of trade. Here you can find St. Thomas Synagogue, the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, and the Frederick Lutheran Church, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest Lutheran church. The city is also home to performing arts centers and theatres where one can enjoy plays, concerts and ballets.

Towns such as Havensight, Red Hook and Frenchtown are quieter than Charlotte Amalie and expats will enjoy visiting them for fun vacation getaways. They offer scenic views, lovely beaches, sailing and snorkeling, and nightlife filled with good restaurants, and fun clubs with entertaining music and karaoke.

St. Thomas offers retirees the perfect blend of cosmopolitan living and a secluded Caribbean lifestyle—a true paradise!

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