British Virgin Islands: A Guide for First Time Travelers
British Virgin Islands, just like it’s name, is a very interesting place to visit. The British Virgin Islands have a lot to offer their visitor, from stunning beaches and rich wildlife, to unique dining experiences. Here is some information about the British Virgin Islands that you may want to know about before arriving:
1) British Virgin Islands Highlights
The British Virgin Islands consists of a group of islands. The main islands are Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke. In this article I will write about the general characteristics of each island.
The largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands. It is also the official home of Destination BVI, a government agency that markets and promotes tourism in the British Virgin Islands. Tortola boasts beautiful beaches, lovely resorts and some of the best diving sites in the world – famed for its underwater caves and rocky pinnacles.
Anegada is the only coral island in the British Virgin Islands. It has no beaches because of its limestone base. You can snorkel or dive around Anegada to see the coral reef, stingray and other marine life under water.
Virgin Gorda is famous for it’s big boulders and cliffs, which you can see from miles off shore. There are 3 main bays in Virgin Gorda; Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island (located in North Sound), The Baths and Little Dix Bay (called the BVI Yacht Harbour). Virgin Gorda is also home to the Bitter End Yacht Club, marina and resort.
Virgin Gorda is know for it’s excellent resorts. The Baths are steep granite boulders submerged in the surf. You can swim or take a boat out to them, but be aware that they are slippery and there will not be anything between you and the ocean but a chain and a rock.
Jost Van Dyke is located near Tortola, to the east of Nanny Cay Marina. The island has an interesting history, as it was frequented by pirates seeking safe harbor for their ships. There are many historic sites on the island to visit.
2) Visiting the British Virgin Islands
The main airports in the BVI are located near Tortola (BVI), Jost Van Dyke (JVD) and Beef Island International Airport (EIS).
You can take commercial airlines from USA, Europe, Africa or Canada to these airports. Charter flights are available from anywhere.
Tortola has the largest airport in the British Virgin Islands, with multiple commercial flights coming in daily. The Beef Island Airport is close to Tortola and is used for private planes, charters and small airlines. There are also charter flights that fly into Jost Van Dyke (JVD). From any of these airports, you can take a ferry or water taxi to your desired island.
The BVI Yacht Haven is located close to the Beef Island Airport and serves as a home port for most charter companies, private yachts and small commercial airlines. The Water Taxi leaves from here. From the Water Taxi’s main office, you can take a water taxi to any island in the BVI for about $8 USD. However, these are not regular times for these boats – they may leave only every few hours or not at all, so make sure to plan ahead!
The Water Taxi leaves from Road Town, Tortola and goes to most major islands in the BVI. You can catch a ride to Spanish Town or West End on Tortola, JVD and Gorda. The trip from one end of the island to the other costs about $6 USD.
3) Getting Around in British Virgin Islands
The best way to get around is by renting a car or jeep. You can find these at the airport or ferry terminal. You will get a local driver’s license when you rent your car, which is required by law.
The roads in the BVI are pretty simple, with few cars and mostly two lane country roads. Speed limits are low (about 30 mph) but there’s not much traffic so just take it even easier! Driving is easy and convenient, but be aware that you must drive on the left side of the road and yield to traffic coming from the right.
For something more affordable than renting a car, you can rent scooters in most major towns throughout the islands. Gas is expensive (about $6 USD per gallon), so only use these when you plan to drive in one town or island and completely return before running out of gas. You can find rental scooters in Road Town, Jost Van Dyke and North Sound. There is no English spoken on the islands so take a phone or translator with you!
4) Accommodations in British Virgin Islands
BVI is known for its beautiful resorts. While many of these island resorts are pricey, there are options like the Bitter End Yacht Club and Caves (BEYC) that offer an affordable stay! You can contact them directly or ask your travel agent to help you book a room.
You can find hotels and guesthouses everywhere in the BVI. Many of these island resorts are pricey, but there are options like the Caves Club that offer an affordable stay! You can contact them directly or ask your travel agent to help you book a room.
There are also many boat rentals available from about $1,000 USD per week.
If you are traveling on a tight budget, this is an affordable way to stay in the BVI!
5) Island Hopping & Snorkeling
The British Virgin Islands are small enough that it’s easy to explore them all. You can get anywhere by boat very quickly.
*Beach Tips for Visiting the BVI* – The sand is soft and white, perfect for sunbathing. Check out Long Bay Beach on Tortola and Cane Garden Bay on Jost Van Dyke to see what we mean!
If you’re a diver or snorkel enthusiast, the BVI offers plenty of opportunities to spot underwater life through barrier reefs. There are also dozens of sunken ships and planes that have been turned into artificial reefs. The most popular sites for snorkeling are Hawksnest Bay on St. John, Brewers Bay on Jost Van Dyke, the Indians on Anegada and Salt Island near Tortola.
Snorkeling and island hopping in the British Virgin Islands is a great combination of exploring new places and seeing underwater life. It’s easy to get around, with plenty of accommodation options for every budget.
I hope you have fun traveling! Stay tuned for more articles about the British Virgin Islands.