Settling in to life on St Helena

In News & Travels by Fran Bryson

So I’ve got some internet sorted, and some food options and three nice guys sharing the hostel with me until I move to an apartment next week. They’re here making a doco and were here for nine months last year so are great for (and generous with) info.

Some facts: The currency is the St Helena Pound, it is commensurate with the Pound Sterling (which is also accepted everywhere but change will be given in St Helena currency).

Wifi is £13.20 for 2 hours (in wifi hotspots at cafes etc.) or £10 per 100 mb (on phone, which is, at least, better than £1 per mb on the ship). If you live here and get broadband then it costs anywhere from £13.30 per month (a ‘Lite’ plan which gets you 650 mb) to £162 per month (gets you 14,250 mb). There’s been a recent price increase and allowance decrease (used to be 750 mb for £14.44 for example).

There are two types of wages on St Helena: a local (‘Saints’) wage which is somewhere between £6-10,000 p/a (yep, you read that right and yep, on that wage you really cannot afford internet) and an expats’ or visiting workers’ wage which is roughly commensurate with UK wages. There are some discounts (e.g. shipping, shops) available for Saints that are not available to non-Saints but these do not seem to compensate for the wage difference.

Rush hours are lunchtime and 4pm when the office workday ends for most.

There are two areas in which the approx. 4000 people live: Jamestown (the capital) and ‘the country’. Flinders Island (pop. 800) is about 10 times as large but much flatter.

There is no free-to-air TV (that costs nearly as much as the internet) but there are some local radio stations which are a very good window into island life.

To finish for today: there are a lot of similarities between Flinders and St Helena Islands as you can probably imagine. A lot feels familiar. For example: a major topic of conversation is what food is and isn’t currently (or regularly) available!