Sailing the British Virgin Islands
A paradise-like archipelago consisting of over 60 islands, most of them uninhabited, it’s no wonder these islands call themselves "nature's little secrets". Offering an incredible year-round sailing itinerary, each of the islands and islets has their own unique character and enchanting history.Discover the diversity of breath-taking beautiful beaches, super snorkel hideaways and exciting opportunities for island adventures in friendly anchorages. Every day in the BVI's offers wondrous adventures with you at the helm.
There are a number of ways to get to Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI); Most common route is to fly into Tortola and its main airport, the Terrence B. Lettsome Airport (also known as Beef Island Airport, although its actually connected to Tortola by means of a bridge!). Airport code is EIS.
Flights via San Juan, Puerto Rico
The most direct way to fly to the BVI is via San Juan, Puerto Rico, Airport Code [SJU]. Frequent connecting service is offered by American Eagle (American Airlines), Cape Air, Liat, and with occasional service by other airlines and charter flights. Air Sunshine has direct flights from San Juan to Beef Island, Tortola.
Flights via St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
If you choose to arrive via St. Thomas, (airport code STT), Air Sunshine has regular flights to Tortola. There is also an excellent network of ferries frequenting between St Thomas and Tortola. Its a great service and not expensive.
Ferry Service via St. Thomas/St. John
Fly directly into St Thomas (airport code STT). Then take one of the frequent ferries that travel between downtown Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook to either West End of Tortola or Road Town, Tortola. From the St Thomas airport to Charlotte Amalie, its approximately 12 minutes by taxi. From the St Thomas airport to Red Hook by taxi, its approximately 45 minutes. Getting to the next ferry is very easy - just take a taxi at the St. Thomas Airport and let the taxi driver know that you need to take the next ferry to Tortola. The taxi drivers will know of any schedule changes and make sure you reach the proper ferry terminal for your connection. There are two ferry terminals in Tortola - Road Town and West End. Both are approximately 15 minutes taxi ride to
Remember that ferries from St. Thomas to Tortola only operate during daylight hours - so the last ferry is usually around 5pm. Make sure that your flight arrives in time. Ferry service starts at approximately 7:30am. Click for the complete ferry schedule. Upon arrival in Tortola, you will need to clear with immigration at the ferry dock.
Travel tip; take a look at the schedules to see if the same ferry company is returning at a convenient day/time. If not, then it is recommended to purchase one-way tickets so it doesn't tie you in to any particular ferry company on your return journey.
At the larger docks, especially Charlotte Amalie, porters will attempt to take your luggage from you so you travel with their ferry company. It is advisable to resist and check out which ferry you want to travel on before handing your bags over.
Flights via Antigua/St Maarten
Many Canadians and Europeans find it easiest to fly into one of these Caribbean islands on an international carrier, then use Liat or Winair to connect to Tortola.
Stopping En route
If you would like to stay in St. Thomas en-route many of our guests have stayed at Mariott, Green Iguana, Blackbeard Castle, Wyndham and Ritz Carlton. For more accommodations see or www.virgin-island-hotel.com.
For accommodations or www.ultimatebvi.com.
If you will be staying for a few days and renting a car, then Sopers Hole towards the West End of Tortola is a must. A drive out to Cane Garden Bay is always lovely and there are a few places there for you to have a bite. Myetts is a reasonably rated little hotel on Cane Garden Bay and then you have the upmarket Sugar Mill hotel which is a truly wonderful experience with its high end restaurant.
From other Caribbean Islands
Charter Airline Service can be arranged from almost anywhere in the Caribbean. The following charter airlines provide service between the BVI and many Caribbean destinations:
Air Sunshine Inc -- 284-495-8900
Bohlke International Airways -- 340-778-9177
Caribbean Wings -- 284-495-6000
Flight Adventures International Ltd. -- 284-495-2311
Fly BVI Ltd. -- 284-495-1747
Island Birds -- 284-495-2002
Island Helicopter Int -- 284-499-2663
Seaborne Airlines -- 888-359-8687
The British Virgin Islands are situated just 18 degrees north of the equator and are considered subtropical. Temperatures fluctuate slightly between winter and summer months where the average day temperature in the winter ranges between 22-28°C (72-82°F) dropping a few degrees at night; it does get slightly warmer in the summer months, it is still very pleasant - average temperatures range between 26-31°C (79-88°F). Brief, intense showers followed by beautiful sunshine can occur at any time of the year but the rainfall is higher in the autumn. The hurricane season is officially between June and November with the majority of possible activity taking place in September. We have an excellent safety and weather preparation record, should a named storm approach, yachts will be redirected and guests assisted with alternate arrangements on land. The upside to traveling in the summertime and autumn in the Caribbean in general is that the weather is truly great and the waters are as gorgeous as ever. There are no high seas to talk about and the waters are calm with a great breeze for sailing. Gentle trade winds (8-15 knots) waft through the islands year-round reducing the humidity in the hottest months.
What to bring
Please pack as lightly as you can. Most of our guests wear only a fraction of what they bring! All you really need are shorts, tee shirts and beachwear. In addition to this perhaps something a little more dressy for the two evenings you will be dining ashore. Soft luggage is preferable if you have it. We have some limited storage onshore for your empty bags, but please bring as little as you are comfortable with. Between meals, fresh fruit is available. If you like to eat more between meals, please feel free to bring snacks with you.
If you are a scuba diver, you may want to bring a thin wetsuit in the months between November to March. We have many guests who don't need one all year around, but you may find it more comfortable to wear one throughout that period. Water temperature in January is 79F/26C and in July 85F/29C.
It is advisable to bring a change of clothes and toiletries in your hand luggage. If your luggage gets lost en route it may not be able to be delivered to you until a few days later.
What shoes shall I bring?
You only need sandals or other shoes for the nights on shore as you will be barefoot whenever you are aboard. If you are a runner, bring your sneakers, there are several opportunities to go for some nice runs!
All of our yachts have a fishing rod onboard - we usually troll a line when sailing from island to island and will often catch yellow fin, wahoo, mahi-mahi or similar ...... which might become lunch, served fresh off the yachts barbecue or as a sushi/sashimi dish!
We strongly advise that all guests cruising with us have fully comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all eventualities such as hotel accommodation, lost baggage, changes to flights etc.
The currency in Tortola and all of the British Virgin Islands is the US Dollar. This is the only form of currency. Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and boutiques, but smaller businesses may ask for US$ cash. All imports are subject to varying rates of duty. Imports entering the BVI temporarily are not subject to duty.
Dress code on the islands is casual (shorts and t-shirts) and only the most exclusive restaurants require elegant clothing. The wearing of swimsuits is considered offensive if worn around town or in residential areas. Please cover up.
You will be around water for the week. If you are concerned about getting your purse, wallet or watch wet, bring a small dry bag. These can be purchased from sports and outdoor vendors. Some of them roll up and trap the air inside which has the added benefit of making the bag float.
A valid driving license is required by all those seeking to drive in the British Virgin Islands. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road throughout the islands. Minimum age for hiring a rental car is 25 years.
The electrical current is 110 volt, 60 cycles.
It is advisable to inform your credit card company (if you plan to use it on island) that you will be staying in the British Virgin Islands. Some credit card companies will decline a card, especially for larger amounts, assuming it to be a fraudulent transaction.
Visas and restrictions
A valid passport is required to enter the British Virgin Islands with proof of a return or onward ticket. Visitors from some countries may require a visa - If in doubt about the necessity of a visa, contact the nearest BVI Tourist Board Office, the nearest British Embassy, or contact the Chief Immigration Department, BVI Government at Tel: (284) 494-3471 or 468-3701 ext. 4700.
As in all Caribbean Islands, a valid passport is required to enter the British Virgin Islands with proof of a return or onward ticket. Visitors from US, Canada and the EU do not require a visa. Some other countries, including some of the Caribbean Islands may require a visa - If in doubt, please contact the nearest BVI Tourist Board Office, the nearest British Embassy, or contact the Chief Immigration Department, BVI Government at Tel: (284) 494-3471 or 468-3701 ext. 4700.
BVI tourism board
Please click here to read more about a sample itinerary for a crewed sailing charter in the British Virgin Islands.