Essentials

Before you trave

l
Documents

All nationalities need a valid
passport
, a return or
onward ticket
and should be able to prove their ability to fund their visit. Visitors from some countries, such as Guyana, require a visa.

Tourist offices overseas

Germany
, bvi@travelmarketing.de.

Italy
, staff@aigo.it.

UK
, infouk@bvi.org.uk.

USA
, info@bvitourism.com.

Money

The US dollar is the legal tender. There are no restrictions on exchange. Try to avoid large-denomination traveller's cheques. Cheques are rarely accepted; cash is king.Credit cards are all right for most hotels and the larger restaurants, but not for the majority of bars/restaurants and they are not accepted on Anegada except at the Anegada Reef Hotel.


Getting there

Air

The main international airport is on Beef Island for Tortola (connecting bridge), but there is also one on Virgin Gorda, with a domestic airport on Anegada. There are no direct flights from Europe or from the USA, Canada or Latin America.

From Europe
: Same-day connections can be made through Puerto Rico, Antigua, Sint Maarten or St Kitts.

From the USA
: Connecting flights can be arranged through Puerto Rico or the USVI.

From the Caribbean
:
American Eagle
,Cape Air, www.flycapeair .com, and
LIAT/Caribbean Star
, fly several times a day from San Juan, or arrange a charter. Only charters fly from St Thomas, otherwise get the ferry.
LIAT/Caribbean Star
,
American Eagle
and
Winair
, from St Maarten.
LIAT/Caribbean Star
from Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados and St Kitts. Charter flights with
Fly BVI
,
Island Birds
, Caribbean Wings, and
Air Sunshine
, Bohlke International Airways, Flight Adventures International Ltd, Island Helicopter Int.

Boat

There are frequent connections with the USVI. On Tortola, ferries depart from Road Town and West End.
Inter-Island Boat Services
, www.bviports.org/inter_island.htm (St John-West End, Jost Van Dyke and/or Virgin Gorda); also water taxi available, T7766501.
Native Son Inc
, www.bviports.org/native_son.htm (Red Hook-St John-West End or Road Town),
Smith's Ferry Services
, www.smithsferry.com (Red Hook-West End or Road Town and Virgin Gorda),
Speedy's
, www.speedysbvi.com (St Thomas-St John-Road Town-Virgin Gorda), Caribbean Maritime Excursion, operating as
Road Town Fast Ferry
, www.tortolafastferry.com (St Thomas-Road Town),
Nubian Princess
, (Red Hook-St John-West End).

Ports of entry
: (British flag) Ports of entry are located in Road Town and West End on Tortola, Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke and St Thomas Bay (Virgin Gorda Yacht Club) in Virgin Gorda, where there are Customs and Immigration officers. All vessels entering the territory must clear in with BVI Customs and Immigration immediately upon arrival into the territory.

Boat documents
: The captain may clear the crew, taking passports and boat documentation ashore. Do not proceed to a marina until you have cleared your yacht. If you arrive after hours, raise your yellow flag and do not go ashore. You may seek permission in advance from Customs and Immigration for a late arrival by calling one of the ports of entry. A cruising permit (and a national parks mooring permit) are required by everyone cruising in the BVI: 1 December-30 April. All privately owned yachts cruising in the BVI are charged nominal cruising fees.

Anchorages
: The
BVI National Parks Trust,
 www.bvinationalparkstrust.org, has placed moorings at many dive sites, available on a first come, first served basis, with a 90-min time limit. Overnight use is not allowed. Purchase mooring use sticker from customs. Buoys are colour coded: yellow for commercial dive boats, orange for snorkelling, and blue for dinghy dock lines. Moorings have been placed and are maintained by Moor Seacure at West End (register at Soper's Hole Marina), Cane Garden Bay (Rhymer's Beach Bar), Fat Hogs Bay, East End (Penn's Landing), Trellis Bay, Beef Island (De Loose Mongoose), Marina Cay (Pusser's), White Bay, Jost Van Dyke (Ivan's Campground), Diamond Cay, Jost Van Dyke (Foxy's), Little Harbour, Jost Van Dyke (Abe's and Harris' Place), Norman Island (The Bight, Soldier's, Benures and Privateer's Bay), Great Harbour, Peter Island (Callaloo on the Beach), Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island (Cooper Island Beach Club), North Sound, Virgin Gorda (Bitter End Yacht Club and Leverick Bay), Saba Rock, Spanish Town and Anegada (Anegada Reef Hotel and Neptune's Treasure), at US$20 per night. In winter months, northerly swells and high surf can make northern anchorages (and landing at the Baths) untenable. Listen to ZBVI 780AM for weather reports. There are 13 marinas on Tortola, 3 on Virgin Gorda, one on Peter Island, one on Marina Cay and a new one on Scrub Island to come in 2007-08.

Touching down

Tourist information

Local tourist office, www.bvitourism.com; also an office at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour; some offices overseas can help with reservations. The BVI Welcome is a bimonthly colour tourist guide (www.bviwelcome.com). To find out what's on, weekly, monthly or annually, get the Limin' Times, www.limin-times.com. The Tourism Directory is published annually and is a detailed listing of services. The tourist board has these and many other brochures.

Getting around

Air

Clair Aero flies from Tortola to Anegada. There are several charter airlines based at Beef Island for inter-island or sightseeing trips: Island Birds, Caribbean Wings, Island Helicopters International. Fly BVI, www.fly-bvi.com, is another small charter airline with trips to Anegada. Pack light, there is limited luggage space on the small aircraft. Or take a day trip to Anegada from Tortola from Virgin Gorda (minimum two people), contact Fly BVI. If you can fill the aircraft, charters often work out cheaper.

Boat

There are ferries between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Always check availability and departure times in advance. The
North Sound Express
, crosses between Beef Island-Virgin Gorda, calling at either The Valley, Leverick Bay (for Mosquito Island) or Bitter End, reservations essential. Bus service (not included in fare) to and from Road Town waterfront (Pussers) and Beef Island ferry dock.
Speedy's
, has between Virgin Gorda and Road Town.
Smith's Ferry Services
, cross frequently from Virgin Gorda to Road Town then some boats continue to West End on their way to St John and St Thomas. They also have a service from Road Town to Anegada. They will pick up in Virgin Gorda with prior reservation.
Peter Island Ferry
, has crossings from the Peter Island Ferry Dock, Road Town.
New Horizon
, www.jostvandykeferry.com, cross between West End and Jost Van Dyke.
Marina Cay Ferry
, runs between Beef Island and
Pusser's Marina Cay.
Bitter End Ferry
, between Gun Creek and Bitter End Yacht Club hourly.
Saba Rock Ferry
, North Sound between Gun Creek and Saba Rock.

Road

Car
: There are only about 50 miles of roads suitable for cars. Drive on the left. Maximum speed limit 40 mph, in residential areas 20 mph. Jeeps may be more useful than cars for exploring secluded beach areas. They can be hired on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada. Car rental offices (or the
Traffic and Licensing Department
) provide the necessary temporary BVI driving licence but you must also have a valid licence from your home country.

Car hire
: It is advisable to book in advance in the peak season. Rates range and credit card needed for the deposit. A 5% tax is charged on all rentals.

Taxi
: There are several taxi firms on Tortola and Virgin Gorda, island tours arranged. Maximum taxi fares are set by the government but open air taxis tend to charge less than private cabs.

Maps

The tourist office distributes a road map, updated annually with some tourist information on resorts, restaurants and what to do.

Sleeping

Hotels

There is a 7% hotel tax and a 10% service charge in the BVI. Rates apply to double rooms, EP, winter-summer. Hotels are mostly small, intimate and low-rise but few are cheap.

Villas

There are some truly luxurious houses for rent, with the most famous, or infamous, being Richard Branson's house on Necker Island. A wide choice of stylish properties is on offer.

Camping

Allowed only on authorized sites.

Eating

Most things are imported and will cost at least the same as in Florida. Try local produce which is cheaper, yams and sweet potatoes rather than potatoes, for example. Fish dishes are often excellent, try snapper, dolphin (
mahi mahi
, fish, not the mammal), grouper, tuna and swordfish, and don't miss the lobster.

Once a rum producer for the Royal Navy, when sailors were issued a daily tot of rum by the ship's Purser, 'Pussers' (Pursers); rum is available from
Pusser's
or supermarkets. The custom was stopped in 1970, but in 1979, Charles Tobias gained the rights and blending information from the Admiralty and set up Pussers on Tortola, bottling and selling
Pussers Rum
to the public for the first time. It is a blend of five West Indian rums and is mostly pot-stilled for better flavour and has led to several awards, www.pussers.com. Local rums of varying quality are also sold by hotels and restaurants.

Shopping

There are gift shops and boutiques in Road Town, Tortola and in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. The BVI Philatelic Bureau or Post Offices sell stamps for collectors. You can also buy BVI coins, but they are not used as a currency.
Samarkand
, samarkand@caribwave.com, sells gold and silver jewellery created by the local Bibby family with nautical themes; you can buy earrings of yachts, pelicans, etc and they will make anything to order, also a branch at Soper's Hole Wharf, West End:
Caribbean Jewellers
.

Sunny Caribbee Herb and Spice Co
, is on Main St with
Sunny Caribbee Gallery
next door, also at
Skyworld Restaurant
and
Long Bay Hotel
, selling spices, herbs, preserves and handicrafts, mail order and shipping services available.
Pusser's Co Store
in Road Town and West End, Tortola, and Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda, sells nautical clothing, luggage and accessories as well as Pusser's Rum.
Turtle Dove Boutique
, in Road Town, has a good selection of gifts and home furnishings and a limited selection of books.
Caribbean Handprints
, Main Street, has a silkscreen studio and shop with local designs and clothing made on site.
Crafts Alive
, Road Town, is a government funded crafts village where local artisans sell their work in a replica of a traditional village of wooden houses. Aragorn Dick-Read has a working studio in Trellis Bay as part of his Caribbean arts and crafts shop, giving lessons in pottery, woodcarving and basketry, T4951849, www.aragornstudio.com. His metal sculptures are featured in the Fireball Full Moon Party in Trellis Bay .
Bamboushay
is a pottery studio in Nanny Cay where you can buy the work of Val Anderson, who specializes in blue and green glazes, the colour of the sea.
Pat's Pottery
is a roadside shop and studio run by Pat Faulkner on Anegada. She has a second outlet at Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola, where you can buy her bowls and domestic ware decorated with designs influenced by the sea.

Sport and activities

There are lovely sandy beaches on all the islands and many of them are remote, accessible only from the sea. The clean, crystal-clear waters around the islands provide excellent snorkelling, diving, cruising and fishing. Most of the hotels offer a wide variety of watersports, including windsurfing, sunfish, scuba, snorkelling and small boats
.

Diving

Considerable work is being done to establish marine parks and conserve the reefs. The Department of Conservation and Fisheries is in charge of the BVI's natural resources and fisheries management plan. The 11-mile
Horseshoe Reef
off the south shore of Anegada is one of the largest reefs in the world and is now a Protected Area. There are 80 visible wrecks around Anegada and many more covered by coral; about 300 ships are believed to have foundered on the reef.

Humpback whales migrate to the islands every year and the
Department of Conservation and Fisheries
is trying to estimate their numbers with the aim of designating the BVI waters as a marine mammal sanctuary. If you see any (mostly north of Tortola), let them know. Similarly, turtles are being counted with the help of volunteers in order to draw up protective legislation. Leatherback turtles travel to north shore beaches to nest, but their numbers have been declining fast. Hawksbill and green turtles are more common but still endangered. For several months of the year the killing of turtles or taking their eggs is prohibited and the export of turtle products is illegal. Despite the government's conservation policies, approval was granted for a captive dolphin programme, which started in 2001. Dolphins caught in the wild are now in the lagoon at Prospect Reef and tourists can swim with them.

There are over 60 charted dive sites, many of which are in underwater national parks. They include walls, pinnacles, coral reefs, caverns and wrecks. The most-visited wreck is that of the
Rhone
, sunk in 1867 in a storm and broken in two. The bow section is in about 80 ft of water and you can swim through the hull. The stern is shallower and you can see the prop shaft and the propeller (and an octopus). Another wreck is the 246-ft
Chikuzen
sunk in 1981 about 6 miles north of Tortola, where you will see bigger fish such as barracuda and rays. Most Caribbean and Atlantic species of tropical fish and marine invertebrates can be found in BVI waters, with hard and soft corals, gorgonians and sea fans. Visibility ranges from 60-200 ft and the water temperature varies from 76°F in winter to 86°F in summer.

All users of moorings must have a national parks permit. These are available through dive operators, charter companies, government offices and the
National Parks Trust
. National Parks Trust moorings are located at The Caves, The Indians, The Baths, Pelican Island, Carrot Shoal, dive sites at Peter Island, Cooper Island, Ginger Island and Norman Island, the
Rhone's
anchor, the wreck of the
Rhone
, the wreck of the
Fearless
, Deadchest Island, Blonde Rock, Guana Island, The Dogs and other popular diving and recreational sites.

There are several dive shops around the islands which offer individual tours, package deals with hotels or rendezvous with charter boats.

Fishing

Sport fishing day trips are popular. A local permit is required for fishing, call the
Fisheries Division
for information, spearfishing is not allowed. There are areas known to house
ciguatera
(fish poisoning) around the reefs, so contact the Fisheries Division before fishing.

Sailing

'Bareboating' (self-crew yacht chartering) is extremely popular and the way most visitors see the islands. The BVI are one of the most popular destinations in the world for bareboaters. If you do not feel confident in handling a yacht, there are various options from fully crewed luxury yachts to hiring a skipper to take you and your bareboat out for as long as you need. You can also rent a cabin on a private charter yacht, several charter companies find this a useful way of filling a boat. Most of the islands have at least one beautiful bay and it is possible even at the height of the season to find deserted beaches and calm anchorages. Bareboaters are warned not to sail to Anegada because of the hazardous, unmarked route through the reef. The exception is the
Moorings
fleet, which organizes a special flotilla once a week from the
Bitter End Resort & Yacht Club
for its clients. If you are sailing independently, check the charts, ensure you approach in clear daylight when the sun is high, or call the
Anegada Reef Hotel
at Setting Point when you are within sight and they will direct you over the radio.

Regattas

Jan
uary sees the annual schedule kick off with the
Governor's Cup
, hosted by the Royal BVI Yacht Club, followed in
Febuary
by the
Sweethearts Regatta
at West End Yacht Club.
 March is a busy month with the annual
Spring Regatta
(Royal BVI Yacht Club) is held in Sir Francis Drake's Channel, considered one of the best sailing venues in the world. It is one third of the Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle (CORT) series of regattas, www.bvispringregatta.org. Contact the Royal BVI Yacht Club
, bviyc@surfbvi.com. Ask for regatta discounts on rooms or slips. The annual
Dark and Stormy Race
in the same month is from West End Yacht Club, Tortola to Anegada. Fireworks, dancing, food, drink and entertainment greet sailors on arrival in Anegada, where they take a day off before racing back to the
West End Yacht Club
. The
BVI Sailing Festival
is also held in Mar at the Bitter End Yacht Club. In
April Virgin Gorda holds the
Fisherman's Jamboree
and the
Virgin Gorda Festival
.
Foxy's Wooden Boat Regatta
is in
May
, while the
Highland Spring HIHO Windsurfing
race is in
June
. The
Annual Anegada Yacht Race
is in
July
, with a route from Road Town to Anegada, together with a youth regatta, the
KATS Chief Minister's Cup
and
Firecracker 500
hosted by the West End Yacht Club. In
November
things pick up again when
Pusser's
sponsor a
Round-Tortola
race and the
Pro-Am Regatta
is held at the Bitter End Yacht Club. There are races of one sort or another going on all year round; check The BVI Welcome, or www.bviwelcome.com, for what is coming up, or contact the Royal BVI Yacht Club.

Day sails

Lots of yachts offer day-sails to all the little islands with snorkelling, beverages and sometimes lunch. When the cruise ships are in town they are often full. All day sail boats should carry the Daycharter Association of the British Virgin Islands symbol to prove they are licensed and have had safety checks.

There are many charter companies on Tortola and several more on Virgin Gorda. Contact the tourist office for a list of bareboats with prices.

Festivals and events

January


New Year's Day
.


March

1st Monday - H Lavity Stoutt's birthday

2nd Monday - Commonwealth Day


May

Whit Monday
2nd Mon
Queen's Birthday
.

Last week May- Annual
BVI Music festival
, Cane Garden Bay, started 2001.

June

2nd Monday - Queen's Birthday

July

1st Territory Day


August

Emancipation Festival - Mon-Wed beginning of Aug, celebrating the abolition of slavery. Entertainment every night with steel bands, fungi and calypso music, a Prince and Princess show and a calypso show.

October

St Ursula's Day

December

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Keeping in touch

Post

There is a post office in Road Town, branches in Tortola and Virgin Gorda and sub-branches in other islands.

Telephone

All telecommunications are operated by
Cable & Wireless
. Phone cards are available, discount rates in evenings at weekends. To make a credit card call, dial 111 and quote your card number. Dial 119 for the operator or 110 for the international operator.
Cable & Wireless
is at the centre of Road Town at Wickhams Cay I, also in The Valley, Virgin Gorda. They operate Tortola Marine Radio, call on VHF Ch 16, talk on 27 or 84. The
CCT Boatphone
company in Road Town offers cellular telephone services throughout the Virgin Islands for yachts; also a prepaid cellular service,
CCT Flexphone
. To call VHF stations from a land phone, call Tortola Radio, T116.
Caribbean Connections
at
Village Cay Marina
, has phone, fax, email, courier service.
Moorings
allows use of phone for collecting email.
Village Cay Marina
has a computer room.
Jolly Roger
has fax and email services.

Media

Newspapers
:
Virgin Islands Daily News
covers Tortola as well as the USVI and is available online, www.virginislandsdailynews.com.
The Island Sun
, www.islandsun.com, is published on Fri, while the
BVI Beacon
comes out on Thu.
The Limin' Times
, printed weekly, is a free magazine giving entertainment news: nightlife, sports, music etc.
Standpoint
on Tue, is popular with young islanders, with lots of advertising.
All At Sea
is a local monthly lively tabloid for yachties, editor@allatsea.net.

Radio
 Radio ZBVI
broadcasts on 780AM. Weather reports for sailors are broadcast hourly. There are 4 FM stations:
Reggae
at 97.3,
Country
at 94.3,
Z Gold
at 91.7and
ZROD
at 103.7.

Television
:
VITV
, Channel 5, is a locally owned station showing news, sports and entertainment programmes. Cable TV is widely available.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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