If you're visiting the US Virgin Islands and would like to stop by the British Virgin Islands, there are ferries from St. Thomas and St. John to Tortola. You must go through customs/immigration to enter. Make sure and bring a valid passport.
Beef Island International Airport is the entryway to the BVI if flying. The island is just east of Tortola and is connected by bridge. You can take a taxi to Tortola rather cheaply. Travel time approx. 30 minutes.
Most flights to BVI are from San Juan, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
There is no public transportation available on any of the British Virgin Islands. Locals use their cars or hitchhike. Tourists rent a car or take taxis. What we did was a bit of both:
On Tortola we rented a small jeep for the whole time from D&D Car Rental. It was a plasticy jeep without a lot of power but it brought us around the islands and up and down the hills reliably. Rates are around 60-70$ a day/350-450$ a week. Their location is near the West End Ferry Dock, the number is (284) 495-4765. They picked us up from the ferry and brought us back on the day we left. Very friendly service. Would definitely rent here again the next time!
On Jost Van Dyke we took a taxi to get from the pier to the Soggy Dollar Bar. Later we called Claude Callwood so that he would pick us up from Ivan's to bring us to Foxy's. Each way was 5$ per person. His number is: (284) 443 4178. Taxis are a very entertaining way to get from A to B. They are mostly open taxi busses you share with other people.
On Virgin Gorda we were picked up and drive from A to B most of the times. The only time we really needed a taxi was when we tried getting back from The Baths to Little Dix. Unfortunately we didn't bring any cash onto our trip to The Baths and we couldn't find a taxi that would accept credit cards. Fortunately angels still exist. We found a taxi driver that brought us to Spanish Town for free!!
On Anegada we got a rental car again, this time through D.W. Jeep Rentals. They were one of the companies that asked us at the ferry whether we needed a car. We said yes, drove to their rental office and later that day they brought us back to the ferry. Very friendly service and a great car for 65$. Their number is (284) 495-9677.
We chose a bit of a complicated way of getting to the BVI in order to avoid small planes and in order to combine our stay here with a few days in New York City. We flew Contintental from Frankfurt to Newark, the next day we continued from Newark to St. Thomas and one day later we took the ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola. We would have probably made it from Newark to Tortola in one day but we didn't want to risk missing the last boat and being stuck on the USVI without hotel room so we booked a hotel near Red Hook Ferry Dock in advance.
The normal way to get here from Europe to fly to either St. Martin, Antigua or Puerto Rico (British Airways, Condor, Air France, Iberia, KLM) and continue by small plane (LIAT, Winair, American Eagle) from there to Tortola. You can easily do this within one day.
The "big" international airport on the BVI is located on Beef Island, a small island that is connected with Tortola by bridge. The 3-letter-code of the airport is EIS, better tell this to your travel agent. They keep searching under the wrong code!
Once you get to the BVI you will be surprise that hardly anybody drives a normal car. I have never seen a place that is full of Jeeps in all brands, colours and sizes. Once you get into the hilly roads of Tortola or Jost van Dyke you will understand why. A 4 wheel drive is necessary to tackle steep dirt roads.
The BVI (and the USVI) are the only place in the world where you drive on the left (the British heritage!) in a car that has its steering wheel on the left side (the US imported cars!). I thought it would be more difficult than with a right steered car because I found it difficult in Ireland years ago. On the BVI, however, it's easy. Driving is mostly slow, the roads are mostly narrow so being on the left hand side of the street is no problem at all.
On Anegada you will realise that steering on sand roads is about as easy as steering on an icy street. Be careful.
On the steepest streets of Tortola you will get to spots where you think that the car will fall down the mountain - backwards! Just keep going. You will be fine! If a hill is too steep for your engine it works if you stop the A/C.
Watch out for the many speed bumps and pot holes on the streets. I overlooked quite a few of them and we jumped over them a few times ;) It's best if you have a local in front of you, they know where to brake! It's not too easy to see the speed bumps because they are lacking a lot of their original yellow paint. There are signs ahead though!
Watch out for chickens, goats, cows and other wild animals on the streets.
Ferries are a great way to get from one island to the other. We took a lot of them during our stay and loved it. You are basically among locals, you get to see the beautiful islands from the water side and they are fast and reliable. And sometimes they even leave on time ;)
Here are your options:
Ferries from Road Town, Tortola go to
- Peter Island (5$ round trip)
- Virgin Gorda (30$ round trip)
- Anegada (via Virgin Gorda, 45$ round trip)
- and to the USVI.
Ferries from West End, Tortola go to
- Jost van Dyke (25$ round trip)
- and to the USVI (45$ round trip).
Ferries from Trellis Bay, Beef Island go to
- Virgin Gorda and
- Marina Cay (Free).
Ferries from Jost van Dyke go to
- and the USVI.
Ferries from Virgin Gorda go to
- Beef Island
- and to Anegada.
Ferries from Anegada go to
- Tortola via Virgin Gorda. (Mo, We, Fr)
The typical ferry companies are as follows:
Smiths Ferry, 284-495-4495
Speedy's Ferry, 284-495-5240
New Horizon, 284-495-4495
North Sound Express, 284-495-2138
Native Son Inc., 284-495-4617
Peter Island Ferry, 284-495-2000
Marina Cay Ferry, 284-494-2174
The ferry timetable is published at all ferry docks. You can also find it here.
When leaving the BVI you have to pay departure tax. When leaving by plane the departure tax is 20$. When leaving by ferry you only have to pay 5$. You have to pay it in cash so don't forget to keep a few dollars for it!
Jerry's Car Rentals worked out a really good deal with us for a full-sized Montero for $600 for 12 days! Insurance was only an additional $100. I would highly recommend him for a rental car while on Tortola.
It is highly important to note that, while the cars are the same as in America with the steering wheel on the left, that all cars drive on the left side of the road instead of the right. It takes a lot of getting used to, and usually if you rent a car, they will send someone with you to give you a crash course on driving this way. Also, roads are INCREDIBLY steep, narrow, and everyone else drives at twice the speed limit. Some people may not be comfortable driving in these sorts of conditions.
Little Beef Island Airport can only handle commuter size planes so we changed planes in San Juan, Puerto Rica.
Flew from there on American Eagle for the 20 minute flight.
I love these tiny planes, where you can see every light and every button, take loads of pictures and never even get a drink served :-)
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