Moving to St. Kitts? Pack this!

So…it’s official! 

You’re moving to St. Kitts for work or school.

Now what?  You need to pack!  But….what?

When I was packing to move here 12 years ago, I had no clue what to pack.  I didn’t know what I would find in the stores here.  No one could give me any suggestions.  I ended up packing a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need, and DSC00600 300x225 Moving to St. Kitts?  Pack this!left out things I wish I had brought.  So I’ve put together this list of things I think could be helpful for you.  This list is based on my personal experience, and what I have found available here.  Your personal needs may vary, but I think it will  put you on the right track.

First, I have to say, there is a lot more available here now than when I first moved to island.  The number of stores and the variety of goods for sale has increased ten-fold.  When I first moved here, even buying new clothes required a trip to St. Martin.  Now, there are many stores offering the latest fashions.  But, there are still things that are hard to come by, and should be brought with you if possible.

Very few goods are actually produced in St. Kitts.  Manufacturing represents a very small percentage of our GNP.  Which means that most of what you find in stores is imported.  This increases the cost of goods by a large percentage.  Not only the cost of importing the goods, but the duty and VAT tax can add significantly to the price you pay in the stores.  On average, you can expect to pay three times more for something you buy here, as opposed to purchasing the same item in the US.

If you have need of specialized items for work or school you should bring them with you.  Things like scrubs, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, scientific calculators should all be purchased and brought with you.  If you have devices that have specialized battery requirements, bring back-up batteries.  Bringing regular batteries is a good plan as well.  They are very expensive here.  Stock up on AAA,AA and D, you’ll need them. St. Kitts electrical system is a 220volt system.  Most of the modern housing here has transformers that allow you to use your 110 appliances.  Strangely, however most of the 110 appliances seem to run a little bit faster or hotter with the transformed current than they do with a standard 110 outlet.  Our alarm clocks seem to gain time.  In the course of 6 months our clocks can end up running 20 minutes fast.  This means small appliances tend to burn up faster.  If you have room, packing an extra coffee maker, hair dryer, blender or other small appliances will save you headaches.  Those things are available here, but at three times the cost and with limited choices…well you get the picture.

Small fans are very expensive here.  A box fan in America can be purchased for $10.  Here, that same fan could cost you between EC$150-200.  With the heat here, a fan is a necessity.  Bring extra, they too are subject to burning out due to the current.

Speaking of current problems, another problem we have is frequent power outages.  These can destroy electronics with extended brown-outs.  Pack a UPS battery backup.  Your computer will thank you with tons more great service!

The majority of cosmetics on store shelves here are for persons of African decent.  I have curly hair so the hair care products are not much of a problem for me. My tan just doesn’t match up to an African complexion though, so finding make-up is near impossible.  Thanks to a good friend, I can have it brought in.  If you wear make-up, or have a favorite hair care product (especially a hair coloring), that you don’t feel you can live without,  pack extra. Prescription medications may or may not be available here.  If it is an older medication you’ll be able to get it, and probably cheaper than what you paid back home.  If it’s a newer medication, it may be difficult to fill the prescription here.  One of my children required a medication for ADD.  I don’t think it is available here even now (10 years later).  We had a very difficult time importing his medication, but thanks to a friend of ours who was a doctor it was do-able.  If you are on a prescription medication you may want to check on the availability and stock up accordingly.

If you are bringing a car in from the States or Canada you may want to stock up on small parts.  Rubber items have a tendency to decompose rapidly in the salt air.  Having a fan belt in stock can save you a lot of headaches.  If you take your car in to be serviced here, and they don’t have the part, it can be 6 weeks or longer until they can import the part to fix your vehicle.

I hope I haven’t made it sound all “doom and gloom”.  There are a lot of things available here.  I’m only relating my personal experience.  There are also several things you don’t need to pack.  Sweaters and jackets have been pretty much useless here.  I originally brought 5 pair of jeans with me.  I don’t think I’ve ever worn them.  Many people think they need to stock up on their favorite liquor or cigarettes when they come.  Don’t.  Those are the two cheapest things on St. Kitts.  Cheaper than you will pay in the States or Canada for sure.  If you are a smoker you may want to bring lighters though, they’re not so easy to find.  Oh!  And you can leave the snow shovel home… Definitely!  Although…they aren’t bad for building sand castles!

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