Set sail for adventure on a breezy boat ride along the secluded shores of the British Virgin Islands for a trip that includes vibrant scenery and peaceful solitude.
Made up of more than 50 individual islands that each boast lush natural beauty, the British Virgin Islands are ideal for travellers who love to explore the unknown while being outside in a beautiful tropical environment.
Fifteen of the islands including the four main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke are inhabited. The rest of the islands that make up the volcanic archipelago that is the British Virgins Islands are left completely unspoiled in their natural state.
With so many islands to explore in one tropical destination, this guide is designed to help you navigate your trip to the British Virgin Islands so you’ll be prepared for wherever the winds take you.
- Where are the British Virgin Islands?
- When to Travel to British Virgin Islands
- Things to Know Before You Visit British Virgin Islands
- Things to Do in the British Virgin Islands
- Places to Visit in the British Virgin Islands
- Getting Around the British Virgin Islands
- Highlights of Traveling to the British Virgin Islands
Where are the British Virgin Islands?
Scattered along the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the British Virgin Islands account for about 60 islands in the Virgin Islands Archipelago. The British Virgin Islands are located east of Puerto Rico and northwest of Anguilla.
Situated north of their US Virgin Islands neighbours, the British Virgin Islands include four main islands with Tortola being the largest and home to the capital city of Road Town.
When to Travel to British Virgin Islands
Figuring out the best time to travel to The British Virgin Islands depends on the weather and if you’ll run into higher fares during popular booking dates.
While the dry season in the British Virgin Islands starts in December, many travellers book their stays a year in advance to travel during the Christmas holiday making the fares more expensive and harder to find.
The same can be said about January, but a great time to visit the British Virgin Islands is from February to May when it is still the dry season, but fares are not as high and there’s more room for flexibility in booking options.
The rainy season and hurricane season last from June to November so while fares are at their lowest, be sure to check the weather in advance so that an unexpected shower doesn’t rain on your parade.
With enough planning ahead of time and some flexibility with the weather, travel during the rainy season could be an option if you’re looking to save a little on travel expenses.
Weather in British Virgin Islands
If you’re looking for a breezy tropical getaway, British Virgin Islands have the ideal weather for your trip. With a tropical rainforest climate that’s moderated by trade-winds , the British Virgin Islands are warm and breezy making it an ideal destination for outdoor adventures.
Temperatures average about 90F in the summer months and about 75F in the winter months. The dry season begins in December and lasts until May with its rainy season starting in June. The months of June through November are also designated as hurricane months so be sure to check the weather ahead of time to ensure you are traveling during a safe and sunny time of the year.
Things to Know Before You Visit British Virgin Islands
You’ll want to know these details before you go.
Traveling to British Virgin Islands
Because there are no direct flights to the islands, the most common way to travel to the British Virgins Islands is to fly first to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and then take the ferry to Tortola. You could also take a connecting flight from Puerto Rico, Antigua, or St. Maarten and then ferry over to the British Virgin Islands.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ferry ports for vessels that enter from outside the British Virgin Islands are scheduled to reopen on April 15.
If you prefer the added adventure you can also charter the British Virgin Islands on a yacht or sailboat. Though it's a more expensive option, sailing the British Virgin Islands is a unique experience that you’ll only be able to try at this island destination.
Visa & Passport Requirements
The British Virgin Islands are a territory overseen by the British Government and as such the passport and visa requirements are similar to that of the United Kingdom.
If you are traveling from the US or any country other than the UK, you will need to present your passport before entering the territory.
Because of the global pandemic, the British Virgin Islands have new restrictions for travellers trying to visit the territory. Here are a few of the entry requirements you should know before your trip:
- All travellers will need to request approval for their trip via the online BVI Portal.
- All travellers will need to provide a certified COVID-19 negative test within five days prior to arrival
- All travellers must take a COVID-19 test on arrival. If the test is negative you’ll be allowed to move within the confines of an approved property or vessel for four days.
- After these four days, travellers will take another COVID-19 and, if negative, will allow you to move freely within the territory.
- A positive test at any time after arrival will result in a mandatory 14 day quarantine.
- All arriving travellers will be issued and required to wear a tracking bracelet for at least 8 days.
- A charge of $175 per person will be collected from all passengers to cover the cost of in-Territory testing and the BVI Portal app
With so many new requirements to enter the British Virgin Islands, you’ll want to set aside extra time for planning out your itinerary to account for different potential scenarios that might play out on your trip.
Flights to British Virgin Islands
While there are no direct flights from the US to the British Virgin Islands, major airlines like United, Delta, JetBlue, and American Airlines do offer connecting flights with stops in Puerto Rico.
Once in Puerto Rico, regional airlines like Cape Air and Silver Airways offer flights to TB Lettsome International Airport on the island of Tortola, which is currently the only airport travellers are permitted to enter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With connecting flights as your only for flying, be prepared for a long travel day that could last up to eight hours or more by packing things like FLIGHTFUD’s Flight Elixir can help you stay hydrated so you can stay focused for your busy day.
Also be sure to check the time between your connection to ensure that you're not cutting it too close between flights. You wouldn’t want to delay or derail your travel plans and schedule.
Is British Virgin Islands Safe to Travel To?
The British Virgin Islands are known for their seclusion and uninhabited islands so there is less crime to worry about than busy cities, but travellers should still be on their guard.
While crime rate is relatively low, there is still a chance that potential incidents can occur while on your trip so its best to be aware while traveling to the British Virgin Islands.
What Language is Spoken in the British Virgin Islands?
While on your trip to the British Virgin Islands you’ll be able to speak English easily so asking for directions or recommendations is a breeze.
The main language spoken in the British Virgin Islands is British English with each island adopting its own unique dialect.
Money in the British Virgin Islands
Before you go, you’ll want to know important money details.
British Virgin Islands’ Currency
While the British Virgin Islands are governed by the UK, they also take influence from their neighbour to the north the US Virgin Islands when it comes to currency.
The US dollar was adopted in 1959 and is the official currency of the British Virgin Islands.
Are the British Virgin Islands Expensive?
Expect a typical splurge for a Caribbean island getaway you’re planning your trip to the British Virgin Islands. A trip for one week to the British Virgin Islands can cost about 2000 dollars per person and doubles to 4000 dollars per person for a two-week stay, which is about average for the Caribbean.
When you factor in the airfare, hotel stays, food, getting around islands and visiting other islands, a trip to the British Virgin Islands is about average for a tropical island destination. Planning to travel in the off-season can help with airfare and a few all-inclusive resorts will give you more bang for your buck.
Tipping Etiquette in the British Virgin Islands
Tipping in the British Virgin Islands is similar to that of the UK and the US and is based on the service you have received with a common percentage of 15 percent added for good service.
Be sure to read your receipt before doing so though because a service charge of 10 percent is typically added to your bill in hotels and restaurants.
How to Pay for Things in the British Virgin Islands
Because the main currency in the British Virgin Islands is the US dollar, you will be able to pay with US bills while on your stay.
Most businesses in the British Virgin will also accept major credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard, American Express and they can also accept travellers cheques.
For more cash, you’ll find ATM machines throughout the main island of Tortola so be sure to make your transaction there before hopping over to another island.
Dress & What to Pack for the British Virgin Islands
The tropical climate of the British Virgin Islands means planning for warm days and breezy nights.
Whether you’re spending a majority of your time sailing on a chartered boat or relaxing at a resort, here’s a few things you’ll want to bring with you:
- Swimsuit for relaxing by the beach, hanging out by the pool or laying out on your charter boat.
- T-shirts and short sleeved blouses
- One pair of open toed shoes and one pair of close toed shoes
- One pair of resort-wear clothing for a romantic dinner
- Light jacket for breezy nights or a cool day
- Hat and sunglasses to keep the sun at bay.
For the long travel day spent getting to the British Virgin Islands, packing Flight Elixir will help keep you healthy with its natural ingredients like coconut water, which is high in electrolyte content for hydration, and tart cherry, which helps alleviate jet lag symptoms.
As an added bonus, the Inflight Elixir is also made with camu camu, which has the highest natural source of Vitamin C and will give your immune system a boost while traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
British Virgin Islands Laws to Know
- The legal drinking age in the British Virgin Islands is 18.
- Smoking in public places is banned in the British Virgin Islands. It also bans smoking within 50 feet of any public space.
- The British Virgin Islands is a separate legal jurisdiction to the United Kingdom and has its own laws.
- Possession of even small quantities of illegal drugs including marijuana can lead to large fines or imprisonment.
Things to Do in the British Virgin Islands
With more than 50 islands to explore, the British Virgin Islands have plenty to offer when it comes to exciting things to do. Even getting around the islands can be an adventure in itself.
Hopping from one island to the next might seem like a hassle on the surface but, in reality, sailing from island to island is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the British Virgin Islands.
Chartering a sailboat or a yacht gives you the chance to sail over the crystal blue waters of the British Virgin Islands while spending time with your loved ones getting to know the area and mapping out a course. With plenty of private companies to choose from, you can set sail and anchor anywhere you’d like, giving you full control over your one of a kind adventure at sea.
If you feel like diving below sea level for a bit, the British Virgin Islands are home to some of the world’s best scuba diving spots. You can explore sunk ships like the Kodiak Queen, which is off the coast of Virgin Gorda and was one of only five ships that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. The British Virgin Islands have some of the most exciting dive spots where you’ll be able to explore history and nature all at once.
With trade winds blowing steadily throughout the year, the British Virgin Islands is a great destination for windsurfing and kite surfing. There are plenty of ideal spots where the winds pick up to make this exciting outdoor sport possible for eager travellers.
Exploring uninhabited islands is a unique experience you can only get in the British Virgin Islands and there are many that are ideal for hiking in the lush terrain and walking by the beach. As with any new adventure, be sure to do your research about the island you choose to explore so that you’re best prepared should anything change during your stay.
Places to Visit in the British Virgin Islands
Home to some of the most beautiful and untouched natural landscapes in the world, The British Virgin Islands offers travellers an authentic exploration of the lush, unspoiled tropical environment.
One of the most iconic places to visit in the British Virgin Islands is the Baths on Virgin Gorda. The baths themselves lay beneath a collection of volcanic boulders that pile together to form a grotto. The glistening waters beneath the colourful stone are picture perfect and a must-see if you’re on a trip to the British Virgin Islands.
Offering another unique natural wonder is Sandy Spit, a private, exposed beach situated in a channel between the islands of Jost van Dyke and Tortola. Sandy Spit is a popular spot for travellers who are lured in by the promise of seclusion along with the overall relaxing atmosphere of this pristine beach.
A popular and less secluded beach is Cane Garden Bay on the Island of Tortola. This stretch of white sand backed by steep, green hills is a sanctuary for many ships looking to dock tucked away from the British Virgin Islands’ infamous Tradewinds. Locals and travellers alike flock to this beautiful beach to socialize, listen to music, and relax beneath the sun.
If you’re looking to spend some time hiking, Gorda Peak National Park has two well-marked hiking trails that lead up to Gorda Peak, the highest peak on Virgin Gorda.
Wherever your trip takes you, the British Virgin Islands will have an exciting spot worth exploring on your adventure.
Getting Around the British Virgin Islands
Sailing from island to island is the most popular way to see the British Virgin Islands with private charters taking you exactly where you want to go.
When it comes time to dock your boat, the best way to get around the islands is by car or by simply walking as most islands are only a few miles long.
Highlights of Traveling to the British Virgin Islands
Under-rated Attraction: As the largest uninhabited island in the British Virgin Islands, Norman Island has inspired legends dating that tell tales of buried treasure. Brimming with undeveloped terrain, this island is home to some of the most beautiful scuba diving sites in the British Virgin Islands. Here you’ll find Treasure Caves, which consist of four underwater caves, believed to be the place that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson while writing his book Treasure Island.
Best Cup of Coffee: Omar’s Cafe boasts the best cup of coffee in the British Virgin Islands that is so good, many locals have stopped making coffee at home and instead turn to Omar's each morning. This welcoming, homestyle cafe is located on the island of Tortola and invites guests to try to sit down for a delicious breakfast or brunch. But be warned, there’s a chance you’ll never be able to find a cup of coffee as good as you find at Omar’s in the British Virgin Islands.
Best Hidden Gem: Unlike the other volcanic islands that make up the British Virgin Islands, Anegada is an entirely flat island surrounded by a vast coral reef. These traits are exactly why more than 300 ships have sunk off its coast making Anegada home to the most shipwrecks anywhere else in the Caribbean. This also makes it one of the best places in all of the Caribbean for scuba diving with so many reefs and underwater shipwrecks to explore.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Locally owned and situated high up on the island of Virgin Gorda, Hog Heaven welcomes travellers and locals alike to try its delicious barbecue while enjoying one of the best views on the island. With melt-in-your-mouth ribs and packed plates full of sides like homemade coleslaw, potato salad and the conch chowder, you’ll fall in love with this homestyle restaurant with every bite.
Little-Known Fact: The British Virgin Islands were home to what is referred to as the “Golden Age of Piracy,” during the late 1600s and lasting into the mid 1700s. While there is no proof that the infamous pirate Blackbeard sailed throughout the British Virgin Islands leaving crew members stranded on different islands, the myth of Blackbeard was perpetuated in the British Virgin Islands when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his book Treasure Island.
Celebrations to know about: The island of Jost van Dyke is famous for hosting a New Year’s Eve party in the scenic location of White Bay that many locals and frequent travellers affectionately call “Old Year’s Eve.” Celebrating New Year’s in the British Virgin has become so well-known that the British Virgin Islands has been labeled the New Year’s Capital of the Caribbean.
Don’t Forget to Pack: It can get very windy in the British Virgin Islands and that wind can take a toll when you spend the entire day on the open sea so packing a windbreaker and extra jacket is essential.