Planning on visiting the British Virgin Islands or the United States Virgin Islands, then check out our guide on what 10 things to know before you vist.
A destination you must visit once in your lifetime is the British Virgin Islands and the United States Virgin Islands. The islands offer a paradise in the form of local seafood, lush tropical landscapes, and clear underwater reefs or shipwrecks to explore. People come here to sail and explore the different islands and discover the history that shaped these territories. Who wouldn’t want to know more about pirates and buried treasure?
Well, my wife and I have had the amazing privilege to sail around to some of these islands. With it, we have discovered from locals or by trial and error, what to try and what you should prepare for. So, to help you plan your trip, here are 10 things you should know before visiting the BVI’s and USVI’s.
Ever heard of the phrase, “Cash is King”? Well this is where that phrase comes into play. The BVI’s and the USVI’s both use American dollars for their currency. It can be easy for a bar or establishment to lose wifi with storms or other events. Those credit cards that everyone loves will be useless. If you fly in and don’t have any cash, then go to the local bank and grab some. We have even encountered a few places where it was cash only. So be prepared and have those dollars ready.
2. To Take The Passports Or Not
Plan on visiting the U.S Virgin Islands, then don’t worry about needing a passport. These islands fall under the United States territory, so if you’re a U.S citizen then you won’t need one. You will still be asked about your citizenship, so if you can bring one, do it. Not a citizen, then make sure to have your passport and a U.S. visa or ESTA paperwork ready. The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and Wake Island.
Visiting the British Virgin Islands instead or plan on hopping over to one, then have the passport ready. You will need one when leaving or entering this territory. For U.S citizens, an easy way to head to Tortola Island is by flying into St. Thomas first and buying a round trip ferry ride to Tortola. This will cost you around $50, take an hour for the ferry ride, and you will need to go through customs. This territory consists of over 50 smaller islands and the 4 bigger ones, which are Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada.
3. Pack Less For Your Own Sanity
One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is packing too much for their trips. We can say, without a doubt, that we are guilty of this. While exploring the BVI’s or the USVI’s, you will encounter sun, sand, and water. You only need a few things to swim in and maybe a few casual outfits for dining out. Save that extra space in your luggage for that delicious rum you plan on bringing back and other souvenirs. In addition, if you plan on visiting more than one island, then be prepared to lug all of that gear everywhere.
4. Liquor Can Be Expensive
Liquor can be expensive at restaurants or bars on many of the islands. If you’re on a boat or renting a place, then a good alternative is to make your own drinks. Buy your liquor at the grocery stores on the bigger islands for cheaper prices. Great way to have a few drinks for cheap is find out when happy hour is and make sure you are there.
Still, you will want to experience a few establishments, like Foxy’s or the Soggy Dollar Bar, on Jost Van Dyke. Their Painkiller drink is so delicious. Did I mention the Painkiller drink was amazing and you need to try it? Good, so make sure to sail to Jost Van Dyke. If you’re planning on visiting during New Year’s eve, then make reservations for Foxy’s. It’s considered one of the greatest New Year’s Eve parties in the world.
5. Food Is Expensive
The food at restaurants can be expensive, but that’s to be expected when you visit an island. Any island destination can have trouble getting supplies delivered or them being cheap. If you plan on dining out, then be prepared for higher priced menus. On almost every menu you will find a selection of seafood, from the local waters. Make sure to try a few of the different dishes, like Conch, Salt Fish, or Jerk Chicken.
Let’s be honest, everyone has raved about the Lobster on Anegada, in the BVI’s. Our group visited this island and each had one with garlic butter. Not sure if it was due to recent hurricane Irma affecting the area and thus Lobster, but it wasn’t as good as it should have been. Will we try it next time we visit? Why, yes of course. Always worth a second try.
6. Take 1-2 Days To Relax
Once you fly in on one of the islands, you will want to relax for a day or two. Whatever island you end up on, will have places to see and restaurants to try. Also, take this time to grab the cash you need from a bank, buy your ferry tickets, or buy your liquor at the grocery store.
Another good reason you should relax for a day, is you might be one of the unfortunate souls whose bag somehow didn’t make it on the flight. Trust us, you don’t want to arrive to your catamaran for a 7 day sailing cruise, without your bags. It can be hard to get your bags to you once you leave the mainland.
7. Bring Your Own Snorkel Gear
If you have your own gear, then make the room in that suitcase and bring it. Buying or renting gear on the islands can be expensive. Another reason to have your own is because of all of the clear water at the beaches. You will find many opportunities to want to jump in the water to snorkel and having your own makes it that much easier.
As a scuba diver, I can say, I have been through four diving masks till I found one that fits perfect. If you’re in the water for a bit you want one that fits right, so bring your own. Don’t forget, if you are scuba certified, then make sure to book a dive trip at some point. The water is perfect, with many reef and shipwreck sites to choose from.
8. They Drive On The Left
For the BVI’s this can be common, since they drive on the left in the UK. What will be different is since the islands are close to the U.S., you will get cars that have the steering wheel on the left. If you’re an American, then just keep chanting to yourself the word, left, or have your partner do it. You can do.
The USIV’s are exactly the same as the BVI’s where you will drive on the left. Wonder why this is? It is Denmark’s fault, plain and simple. The islands were once part of Denmark’s territory, which was sold to the United States in 1917. Since they were already driving on the left, they choose to keep it, to make it easier. I say, challenge accepted.
9. Locals Are Nice, Talk To Them
On every island we have visited, the locals we have talked to were always kind and informative. A great way to find a local hangout or what restaurant to try is to talk to the people around you. This doesn’t really apply to the more tourist areas like the cruise ship docks. We even have had a few local guys help us change a flat tire on our rental car, without hesitation. Thank you kind sirs!
When visiting Anegada, locals pointed us to the scooter rental shops, when wanting to explore. One of the most memorable days of our trip was riding on a scooter around this small island. You would agree too if you saw a grown man holding onto another grown man on a tiny scooter. Can you say, priceless? If you can put this destination on your itinerary, then do it and make sure to rent some scooters.
10. Drinking Age Is 18
Last, but not least, is if you’re from the United States and 18 or over, then you can drink. Some places might make you show your identification if you look young. Since you’re having a blast and love that rum so much, you decided to take some back. Well if you’re under 21 then this is a big, do not do, for it will be taken away during customs.
So enjoy the drinks on your vacation and remember to drink responsible. A bottle of Rum Punch and climbing on rocks at the Bath’s do not mix well. That’s all I am saying, so have a blast on your trip and don’t forget to try the Painkiller drink over at the Soggy Dollar Bar, on Jost Van Dyke.
Have you visited the British Virgin Islands or the U.S.Virgin Islands? Did you enjoy yourself and is there anything you would recommend? Have any other activities or places we should see, let us know in the comments section. From Phoenix? Hi neighbored! Thanks for taking a look at our site and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles and tips.
The information on this website has come from research and by experiencing it ourselves. Opening hours, closures, prices, etc. are always subject to change. We try to keep up to date on any new information, or tips to help make your adventure more enjoyable. All pictures and videos are our own.