As rock residents, all too often we tend to dwell on so many of the irritating aspects of island life. It’s too hot, the electricity has been turned off (again!), cooking gas is not available and who knows when it will be, the neighbour decides to play “music” for the enjoyment of the entire valley at 6am, and the cockroaches have finally taken over the kitchen as their own (laughing, I’m sure, in the face of the exterminator). Certainly there are days when you question your very sanity for living the rock life. And yet, as we all know, the dark clouds always manage to pass once again and we are rewarded by that rainbow… and sometimes, it’s even a double.
So for today, I’ve decided to focus on one aspect of island life that never fails to put a smile on my face and restore my faith in this crazy life I’ve chosen to lead: good deals on the rock!
While many things may be more expensive on island due to being imported, there are some goods and services here on St. Vincent that I’ve actually found to be – you ready for this – CHEAPER than they were up north.
Here’s my list of 10 Island Deals Worth Celebrating:
(Just for reference: 1 EC (East Caribbean Dollar) = .38 USD or .47 CAD)
1) Chicken breasts
In which 1st world country can you buy chicken breasts for 1.75EC a pound?! Because local islanders don’t buy them (they seem to prefer wings, necks, and backs) it’s almost always available at this low price. And at that price, even your furry pets can enjoy gourmet dining – how cool is that?
This super food is available year round. In fact, on many a country road, you can see them lying in the ditches, free for the taking. You can boil it, mash it, grill it, make fries with it, or make dumplings… it’s all good and as starches go, quite healthy. One medium-sized breadfruit can provide about 4 meals for the two of us. The best part? They’re only 3.00EC per fruit. And if you’re lazy like me, you can buy them already roasted for 5.00EC. Or you can pick ‘em out from the gutters for free – your choice!
Yes, people complain about the spotty service and slow speeds. But generally speaking, internet, cellphone plans, and cable costs about half of what we paid up north.
4) Flowers and plants
Not only is gardening a year round pastime in the tropics, but for us gardeners and gardener wannabes, obtaining new or replacement plants does not break your bank account as can happen in colder climate countries. Most neighbours are more than happy to provide you with cuttings of whichever plant takes your fancy. Government nurseries sell fruit trees and plants for ridiculously low sums of money. How about 10.00EC for a passionvine? Or 20.00EC for a hibiscus? Ants and mites not included.
5) Car repairs
While sourcing the correct car part can be a frustrating undertaking (especially if you drive a unique car), car repairs are a true bargain here. How does 107.00EC for back brakes sound? And yes, that is for both parts and labour. So there’s officially no excuse for driving around with screaming wheels.
6) Veterinary services
People often say that in Canada, just setting foot into a vet’s office will set you back several hundred dollars. Not on our rock! 40.00EC will get your dog vaccinated, 200.00EC will get your female dog spayed (and that includes post-op care and meds!), and 80.00EC will get Fido x-ray’d with a consult. And no, the vets are not some “home schooled” variety of quacks. While our rock does not have many, the 3 private vets we do have are all very competent and professional – but the dogs still hate to go. Some things are the same everywhere.
No, not the illicit kind that gets you arrested (although that, too, can be obtained quite cheaply I’m told). I’m referring to medicine. As someone hailing from a country that has one of the highest drug costs in the world, visiting a local pharmacy here is a treat indeed. OTC meds cost about half what they do up north, especially if you are not averse to generics, or country of origin. Pharmacies on the rock stock comes from all over: Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, the UK, and the USA. A tube of 1% Hydrocortisone cream (for those ever-present itchy ant and mozzie bites) sets you back about 8.00EC, and 400mg extra-strength Ibuprofen (so necessary for those hangovers – see the next bullet on Rum) and bad knees, will cost you about 18.00 EC for a box of 84. Brand name box of hair dye costs around 12.00EC. As you can see, not only can you feel good on budget, you can look presentable as well.
No list would be complete without this island staple. Local rum can be had for about 25.00EC for the amber, a few dollars less for the white, and a couple more dollars for the strong (ie: over- proof aka “porch climber” or “widow-maker”). You can buy rum just about anywhere on island. Grocery stores, rum shacks, the island’s only liquor store, or even at gas stations, seven days a week. If locally made rum is not to your taste, no worries. Most stores stock rum from nearby islands at just a few dollars more than the local spirits. I have yet to witness a shortage of this island staple!
We are fortunate to live on a rock that not only gets regular rainfall, but we have pumped-in water as well, which many islands sadly do not have. Our water bill runs around 45.00EC a month. And if that’s not enough to wet your whistle, our volcanic island has several springs which pump out glorious natural spring water… and it’s all free. You just drive up, fill up your bottles, and off you go. I’m guessing the government hasn’t figured out how to make money on this yet, so mum’s the word.
10) Medical and dental services
Even without insurance, paying for basic medical and dental services will not send you to a bankruptcy lawyer. A mammogram in the hospital costs 60.00EC and to have a radiologist read the x-ray and write a report, it is an additional 80.00EC. All that without a lengthy waiting period. Keeping your pearly whites, well, pearly white, means a trip to a European-trained dentist for checkup and cleaning costs about 100.00EC, or the equivalent of 3 good bottles of wine. I’ve heard it said that a mouth full of dental implants costs about the same as one tooth done in Canada. Good information for those of us getting on in years.
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Do you have any goods or services that you consider a bargain on your rock? Celebrate the savings in the comments below!