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cost of living in US Virgin Islands vs Puerto Rico

Cost Of Living In US Virgin Islands vs Puerto Rico

Happy November Everyone! A while back, I promised you a direct cost of living comparison between Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. So, here is a comparison between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico (our area).

Keep in mind that the St. Thomas numbers were obtained from both Numbeo and our (short) experience on the island. While the eastern side of Puerto Rico prices are mostly based on our experience of living here for eleven months.

In addition, it’s worth noting that St. John prices seemed a lot higher than St. Thomas, so take that for what it’s worth. We also hear that St. Croix is the cheapest for cost of living of all the US Virgin Islands but, since we didn’t visit St. Croix, I won’t be speaking to that.

Anyway, here is my cost of living in US Virgin Islands vs Puerto Rico Comparison:

  East Side PR St Thomas USVI
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 7.00 $ 16.50 $
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course 40.00 $ 65.00 $
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) 6.25 $ 6.75 $
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) 2.00 $ 3.00 $
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) 4.00 $ 4.00 $
Cappuccino (regular) 3.00 $ 4.75 $
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) 1.50 $ 2.67 $
Water (0.33 liter bottle) 1.50 $ 1.50 $
Milk (regular), (1 gallon) 6.13 $ 7.79 $
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb) 1.65 $ 3.62 $
Rice (white), (1 lb) 0.97 $ 0.75 $
Eggs (12) 2.38 $ 4.64 $
Local Cheese (1 lb) 3.02 $ 2.72 $
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1 lb) 3.19 $ 4.98 $
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) 4.00 $ 7.49 $
Apples (1 lb) 1.50 $ 2.63 $
Banana (1 lb) 0.70 $ 0.99 $
Oranges (1 lb) 1.50 $ 4.13 $
Tomato (1 lb) 1.99 $ 2.04 $
Potato (1 lb) 1.10 $ 1.36 $
Onion (1 lb) 1.05 $ 1.09 $
Lettuce (1 head) 3.00 $ 2.33 $
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 1.50 $ 3.00 $
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 10.00 $ 17.00 $
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) 1.50 $ 2.50 $
Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) 2.50 $ 5.16 $
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro) 6.00 $ 4.00 $
Gasoline (1 gallon) 2.40 $ 3.99 $
Utilities (Monthly)
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for 915 sq ft Apartment 250.00 $ 400.00 $
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans) 0.10 $ 0.25 $
Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) 45.00$ 70.67 $
Sports And Leisure
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult 40.00$ 62.50 $
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat 6.00 $ 7.50 $
Clothing And Shoes
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) 40.00 $ 56.67 $
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store 35.00 $ 30.00 $
1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range) 90.00 $ 89.99 $
1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes 80.00 $ 75.00 $
Rent Per Month
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City 550.00 $ 675.00 $
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of City 450.00 $ 900.00 $
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City 1,200.00 $ 2,033.00 $
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of City 725.00 $ 2,150.00 $

I highlighted in red the higher prices. So, there you have it. St. Thomas seems considerably more expensive, doesn’t it?

That’s especially true when it comes to real estate and utilities.  While we were there, we looked around for inexpensive apartments to rent in St. Thomas but there really wasn’t much of a selection.

Also, we felt that going out to eat and groceries in general were very expensive in St. Thomas comparing to Puerto Rico. Our breakfast, each day, was between $30-$40 for two – to me that’s expensive! 

In fact, the only prices similar to those in St. Thomas I have seen, anywhere, were in big US cities like Chicago.

To be completely fair, I do want to add that there are places here in Puerto Rico, in the tourist saturated areas, where you will pay $4.00 for a domestic beer, but that is the exception, not the rule. Any local bar around here, offers beer for much cheaper than that.

Where we came from (Michigan), real estate prices were higher than here on the east side of Puerto Rico but still cheaper than St. Thomas. However, food was probably a little cheaper in Michigan than even here on the island.

The main thing that Puerto Rico has going for it is the inexpensive real estate. It is very common to find a nice house to rent in town for around $600\mo, perhaps even cheaper. You can also buy a 1-bedroom condo, directly on the beach for $120,000 if you stay out of the bigger towns – heck in Luquillo I saw beach front 2-bedroom condos going for that price. Good luck finding that anywhere in the USVI – just sayin’...

Anyway, hope this helps you figure your finances regardless of where you end up living.



About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. What about hurricanes? I am allergic to mold, do lots of apartments have it? I think I would like to move there. Are there public beaches in San Juan? Is it easy to get work there? I have a small pest control business in New Mexico, are there lots of bug companies there? Thanks, randy

    • Hi Randy,
      Yes, we do get hurricanes but anything big is pretty infrequent. As anywhere else in the tropics, I’m sure there is mold here, especially during wet season. I have not seen any inside though but I guess it will depend on where you live. All beaches in Puerto Rico are public. The unemployment is high on the island and many people leave the island in search of jobs. So, if you need a job, I would make sure you get one first before you move here. I don’t know about bug companies, Terminix is here and there are some locals guys too.

  2. Very helpful…. I had heard just electric in PR was 300 but everything for $250 is fantastic!

    • Hi Alexandria,
      It all depends on your usage. Sure you can have $300 electric bill if you use AC all the time. We hardly use AC – don’t need it on the beach and all of our utilities (without cable) are around $100\mo. That’s water, electric, trash.
      Internet access is actually quite reasonable here and cell service is the same as US with the same companies.

  3. Wow, those are very expensive costs! I have a hard time figuring out why eggs are so high when there are chickens everywhere. Perhaps it is only mainlanders who buy them in the store. Thank you, so much for putting this comparison chart together, much appreciated!

    • Yeah, dairy in general is pretty expensive. $3/dozen is actually cheap for the medium eggs, they can run as much as $5 for the jumbo. I try to get mine from the locals for about $3/dozen and they are awesome. My theory on this is that all the stuff shipped in from US costs more because refrigeration is expensive, so dairy and frozen is going to be high cost.
      On the flip side, Econo carries a lot of locally grown produce and it is all very reasonably priced. So, it’s a trade off.

      • We shopped Econo a lot and hit their sales along with the road side stands for fruits/veggies. We are vegetarian fish eaters :), hubby doesn’t eat eggs or dairy but I do. Quite the mix, lol!