In the Western Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the Mariana Trench, the deepest oceanic trench on earth. (Its deepest point has been measured at 36,070 feet below sea level, or nearly seven miles below the ocean’s surface!i) Just to the west of the trench, you’ll find a curving arc of 15 islands that owe their formation to a stretch of underwater volcanoes—the Mariana Islands. The 14 northern members of this chain make up the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. At the southernmost tip of this chain, you’ll find Guam, an unincorporated U.S. territory.
Many tourists have found themselves drawn to Guam to enjoy its sunny, tropical weather, its impossibly clear waters, and its picturesque white sand beaches. In fact, more than 1.6 million tourists flocked to Guam in 2019.ii
However, maybe you’re thinking about taking it a step further and actually moving to the island of Guam. If that’s the case, there are a couple of things you need to know before taking the plunge. We polled our DeWitt Guam team and asked each member to share a piece of advice they’d offer if a friend of theirs was considering a move to Guam. Below, you’ll find our nine must-knows.
#1 Guam is U.S. Territory
First, let’s set the stage by answering one of the most common questions our team gets: “Is Guam a part of the U.S.?” To clear up any potential confusion, Guam is what’s called an unincorporated territory of the United States. Practically, though, what does that mean if you’re moving to Guam?
- U.S. citizens and permanent residents don’t need any special paperwork or work visas to get a job on Guam.
- Everything runs on the U.S. dollar, just like in the continental U.S.
- When it comes to moving to Guam with your household items, Guam does have its own Customs and Quarantine Agency. For a run-down of the procedures and regulations you need to know, check out our Step by Step Guam Moving Guide.
#2: What to Bring and Not Bring
For this next one, we turned to John Burrows, CEO of DeWitt Guam, who lived and worked on Guam for many years. When moving to Guam, he believes there are certain things you should take with you—and others that you shouldn’t.
- What to Take: “All of your home comforts and furnishings,” says John. “Although there are a few quality furniture stores on Guam, there isn’t as much selection as you might be used to in the continental U.S.”
- What to Leave Behind: “Family heirlooms and outdoor patio furniture, which doesn’t always weather the tropical climate well. Also, if you have a nicer car, I’d suggest you sell it or leave it behind. Buy a used car in Guam. You can always sell it if you decide to leave the island.”
#3: Seasons Are a Little Different
Guam sits at just 13.4° north of the equator. (Compare that to San Diego, California, at a latitude of 32.7° N.) Because of its proximity to the equator, Guam’s climate is tropical—warm and humid. Practically, though, what does that mean in terms of what you can expect of the year-round weather on Guam?
“Don’t expect four seasons,” says Becky Chiguina, Business Development Coordinator at DeWitt Guam. “On Guam, we only have two: the sunny season and the rainy season.”
If you decide to make the move to Guam, you’ll be able to leave all your winter gear behind. Guam’s dry (and sunny!) season lasts from about December–June. You might want to pack a light rain jacket for the wet and rainy season that lasts from about July–November.
#4: The Welcoming Culture
The island of Guam was originally settled more than 4,000 years ago by a people known as the CHamoru.iii Although the island has seen an influx of many different global influences over its long and fascinating history, you’ll still find the culture of the CHamoru deeply infused into island life today.
As Becky Chiguina puts it, “Expect an abundance of hospitality, as CHamoru culture is full of it.”
Joyce Diamadi, Sales Director/Records Manager at DeWitt Guam, also commented on this aspect of the island: “CHamoru culture is friendly and open to newcomers. It welcomes you with open arms and warm hospitality—and immediately makes you feel like you‘re part of the family.“
In addition to a welcoming sense of hospitality, you’ll also see the CHamoru culture alive and well in Guam’s food. If you get the opportunity to try chicken kelaguen, CHamoru barbecue short ribs with red rice, buñuelas aga, or any other traditional dishes, dig in to get a taste of Guam’s rich cultural heritage.
By the way, if you’re someone who enjoys food, Joyce also added that Guam has a wide variety of restaurants to explore, with cuisine that includes Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai fare. “And, of course,” she added, “let’s not forget Italian food!”
#5: Pets Require Paperwork
If you’re bringing your beloved family pet with you to Guam, Ralph Rivera, our Business Development Manager, has a tip for you.
In his words: “Guam is rabies-free and has one of the most stringent animal rabies quarantine programs. Depending on where you’re coming from, you might be required to place your pet in quarantine. The length varies, but you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of the requirements as a pet owner.”
When it comes to the paperwork and the requirements, start early. If you meet certain circumstances, your pet can be released to you within 24 hours. However, you could also be looking at up to a 120-day stay in quarantine.
To discover exactly what you need to know to minimize your pet’s stay in quarantine, check out our Complete Guide to Moving Your Pets to Guam. Your veterinarian will also be an excellent resource for you in terms of any tests or paperwork you need to complete.
#6: Beautiful Beaches
Take it from us. The beaches you’ll enjoy on Guam are as good as they look in the pictures.
In fact, Cori Berking, President of DeWitt Guam, recommends you load up on sunscreen before you make the move. “Guam’s climate is humid and we get plenty of sun year round. If you love the ocean and beautiful sunny days, pack your bags and come on down.”
And if you like spending your time in the water, Joyce Diamadi suggests getting certified to scuba dive while you’re in Guam. If you take the next step and get your Advanced Open Water Certification through PADI or your Advanced Diver Certification through NAUI, you’ll have “plenty to keep you busy as you explore Guam’s fascinating waters,” as she puts it.
And that’s just the start of the activities that await you on Guam…
#7: Things to Do
While you can enjoy a slower, island-paced lifestyle on Guam, you’ll also discover a number of ways to keep yourself as busy as you want. If you enjoy hiking (also known as “boonie stomping” on Guam), Joyce Diamadi notes that “Guam has a lot of natural pools and hidden waterfalls for you and your family to enjoy.”
In addition to hiking, you’ll also find opportunities to explore Guam’s fascinating history, enjoy a happy hour cocktail overlooking the sunset, immerse yourself in a wildlife refuge, and much more. Our top 10 list of things to do, activities, and attractions in Guam will give you a good sense of how you might fill your days off.
Continuing in the vein of your leisure options in Guam, we think this next must-know might surprise you.
#8: It’s a Golfers’ Paradise
Victor Valenzuela, Vice President and General Manager of DeWitt Guam, always enjoys sharing this little tidbit about Guam:
“Those who love golf know that, even though we’re a small island, we have seven golf courses. (You’re probably wondering how they all fit!) In fact, the course at LeoPalace Resort Country Club was designed by legendary golfers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.”
In other words, as you’re packing up for your move to Guam, don’t forget to throw in your clubs.
And if golfing isn’t quite your speed, you might also want to keep this final must-know about Guam life in mind.
#9: Local and Stateside Shopping
When you’re done admiring Guam’s natural beauty and you want to indulge in some retail therapy, you’ll be pleased to know that Guam has plenty of opportunities for you to get your fix. Shopping in Guam has a little of something for everyone, from luxury brands to recognizable names to tax-free options and even a colorful selection of local stores. Our team recommends you check out the local flea markets for some fun weekend shopping.
Additionally, because you’re in a U.S. territory, you can still order from many of the same online retailers you enjoyed in the continental U.S. You will find a few stores who don’t ship to Guam. In those cases, make sure you check out our E-Ship program. (It’s also perfect for any large, bulky, or oversized items you might want to ship to Guam.) Order exactly what you want from any retailer who ships to the contiguous 48 states, and we’ll help you get it to Guam.
Your Must-Knows for an Easy Transition to Guam
Even though it’s a U.S. territory, living in Guam will feel pretty different than living in the continental U.S. (It’s all part of the adventure of moving to an island in the Western Pacific!) That said, with these nine pieces of intel under your belt from our on-the-ground team in Guam, you’ll be well-positioned to decide whether Guam is the right place for you and to make a smooth transition to the island.
Have more questions about life on Guam—or moving to the island? Our team would be happy to help! Just reach out to us. We’ll get you all the answers you need, and we can also arrange for a complimentary quote for your move.