Of course you don't want to be connected with the rest of the world if you choose to travel to the BVI. In case you still want a working mobile phone during your stay I suggest the following:
Buy yourself a B Mobile SIM card for 20$ and charge it with ~ 20 more dollars. You will get rather cheap prices per minute and you will avoid horrendous roaming charges. You can top up your b mobile card in many small shops on the islands.
The BVI is a surprisingly conservative country. Beachwear anywhere but the beach or pool is considered rude and offensive to the residents. Bring a beach cover-up for the beach bars and shops and more clothes for off the beach and especially in Road Town. Men, please wear a shirt. You will find the people will respond to you better for showing this kind of respect. It is also considered inappropriate to sunbathe in the nude or for women to go indiscreetly topless. You may even save yourself a painful sunburn. :-)
Casual dress will be the most appropriate during the day and for casual evening meals. Shorts and a shirt. There are a few upscale restaurants with a dress code. This means long pants and a collared shirt for the men and a dress or resort wear for the women. You will notice the residents really dress up for these restaurants.
Please, if you go into Road Town or into a restaurant dress up a bit at least. Bikinis and Barefoot work at beach bars and in the marinas but not in the main town. Topless bathing is forbidden everywhere on the islands.
I saw cruise tourists who sat in Pusser's Pub in Road Town in a bikini or men who walked into the jewellry shops of the capital topless. It's not appropriate. BVIlanders even dress up when they go to Road Town. Please respect their way of life. Thank you.
We visited the BVI in early to mid November 2008 which is considered the end of hurricane season and off-season. High season is from mid December to mid April. Hotel prices increase during this time so I can really recommend coming in November before "all" the tourists come (which still are refreshingly few ;).
When we were there the weather was perfect. It was around 27-35°C all the time with the water being a perfect ~25C everywhere. With the contant wind the temperatures are good to cope with, even for a northern-person like me.
It rained from time to time but mostly in the mornings or evenings and mostly the Caribbean rain lasted only for 5 minutes. Before we had arrived there was a lot of rain on the islands. This is why they were incredibly green when we were there which was lovely. I also liked seeing the rain in the distance. A cloud, a rainbow and you could see that it was sunny around for miles and miles.
The BVI have developed an interesting mixture of cultures:
The islands are British. You can tell from the left-hand-driving and from school uniforms you see everywhere. The official head of state is the Queen. However, the currency is the US Dollar and the influences from the US are very visible, the products in the supermarkets are normal stuff you get in the US, the cars come from the US, too. The Caribbean flair comes from the locals, descendant of African slaves. They add jerk spices, a diverse mixture of religions and styles and a language that is hard to understand to the fascinating mix.
You should plan your stay on the BVI according to the official cruise ship calendar. Whenever there's a cruise ship in the port you should avoid places like The Baths or Cane Garden Bay, the beach all cruise tourists are being brought to.
The calendar gets published in the local newspaper, the BVI Beacon, and you can also check it out online here.
These calendars are important not only for the local taxidrivers. Apparently a cruise ship in town filling up its tanks means no water for the locals.
It's the custom on many of the Caribbean Islands to greet anyone in passing with a "good morning" or "good afternoon', and it's considered rude not to respond in kind. This is a charming custom, a little bit more formal than a nod & "hello", but I love it! So keep your smile ready & a greeting on the tip of your tongue.
The locals and business owners are in the BVI because they want to be. They love it there. Just some advice I picked up from talking to a few people there: Try and be polite and treat the proprieters as friends- not subordinates. You will not find your typical "master-servant" relationship that is often found in big resort towns or on casino islands. The people of the BVI are offering your their hospitality (for a charge) be polite, cool and you will win friends, not servers. (of course I guess this is good advice for most places).
Get used to island time as fast as you can, it is a different world here and people do not really work or run on schedules. Except for the ferries between islands (which ran like clockwork right on time) everything else happens when it happens, so don't think of it as patience, think of it as enjoying the good life. Everyone wants to have a good time here, even the people who work.
Call well in advance if you need something from a business (you may not find the person you need who may be at the beach or out on a boat all day). Plan ahead and most of all RELAX and ENJOY.
The local drink of choice is a Painkiller.
4 parts pineapple juice
1 part cream of coconut
1 part orange juice served over the rocks
and fresh nutmeg on top.
Many will order the drink with 2, 3, or even 4 shots of rum. Enjoy!
You really need some means of transportation to get around the island.
We rented a jeep which was quite reasonable . I have read where there are pricey during high season. It is best to reserve ahead of time and shop around for the best price.
You will see a police jeep on the roads occassionally. I think they patrol in case you don't make the curve.
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