St Thomas: Duty-Free Shopping Mecca

August 07, 2015 No Comments
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St. Thomas seems almost too good to be true. As one of the three main islands that make up the United States Virgin Islands, St. Thomas enjoys the tropical weather, exquisite scenery, and friendly vibe of an island paradise, but at the same time has all the conveniences of being a part of the United States: U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere; no passport is required for U.S. residents; U.S. visitors usually don’t pay roaming charges for cell-phone use; and English is spoken everywhere.

Cruise ships dock at the West Indian Company Dock in the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The busiest cruise ship destination in the West Indies is also one of the Caribbean’s most charming port cities. The pier faces Havensight Mall, where giant mahogany trees shade the storefronts of more than 100 businesses and boutiques that offer the same duty prices as the shops downtown.

For more upscale shopping, head around the corner from Havensight Mall to Yacht Haven Grand. You can admire the impressive megayachts docked here during your quest for duty-free luxury goods in this sophisticated 80,000-square-foot outdoor shopping center, home to designer Italian labels like Gucci, Ferragamo, and Louis Vuitton.

Be sure to leave plenty of time to spend browsing in downtown Charlotte Amalie. It’s a quick stroll or a short taxi ride to Charlotte Amalie’s historic waterfront district. The heart of the shopping paradise is Main Street, sometimes referred to by its former name, Dronnigens Gade. Buildings on the south side of Main Street are old Danish warehouses made out of ship ballast, stone, and molasses; those on the north side are a colorful representation of Danish Caribbean architecture. Don’t miss the small cobblestoned alleys that connect the waterfront with Main Street. They’re lined with former pirate warehouses now filled to the brim with imported modern luxuries. More shops abound on Back Street and along Waterfront Highway. Take a look inside to find deals on some of the world’s finest watches, designer jewelry, leather goods, top cosmetics, electronics, china, liquor, and more.

U.S. residents enjoy a $1,600 duty-free allowance in the U.S. Virgin Islands—twice the limit of most other Caribbean islands. You can also take up to six 1-liter bottles of liquor home without paying an additional fee, as long as one is a local variety such as Cruzan, a rum produced on St. Croix.

Two local markets serve as bookends for the Main Street shopping district. On the western end, at the corner of Main Street and Strand Gade, Market Square is filled with local merchants selling fruit, vegetables, spices, and fresh seafood. On the eastern end, toward the waterfront on Tolbod Gade, is Vendors’ Plaza, a colorful craft-and-souvenir market. The quiet park along the way is Emancipation Park, which affords a stark contrast to bustling Main Street. The park commemorates the emancipation of slavery, which took place in the Danish West Indies in 1848.


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