Why Not Go to the BVI?

Make your escape to the British Virgin Islands

Photo credit: © Neil Steiner

Why Not Go to the BVI?

The British Virgin Islands were first spotted by Europeans when Christopher Columbus sailed the Caribbean in 1493. Though he was unimpressed, these islands were annexed by Britain in 1672 and have remained part of the United Kingdom ever since. Today the islands have their own elected government and rely on the U.K. only for defense and foreign affairs.

Most of the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.) remain unpopulated to this day, with three major inhabited islands and many small unpopulated bits of land. These deserted islands make great dive sites and have wonderful beaches. The B.V.I. are also one of the world's most popular sailing destinations, and the laid-back atmosphere is reminiscent of colonial times.  More detailed information is available on our comprehensive Virgin Islands travel guide.  It is because of all of these things and more that in 2014, Conde Nast named the British Virgin Islands one of the "Top 30 Islands in the World."  For up-to-the-minute information, check out the BVI's major newspaper, the Island Sun.

British Virgin Islands: Facts at a Glance
Currency Because of its close business relationship with the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar (USD).
Electricity Like most of the North American continent, the B.V.I. uses a 110-volt electrical system.
GDP Per Capita The average per capita income in the B.V.I. is $38,500(USD).
Island Size The main islands comprise approximately 58 square miles of land area.
Language English is the official language of the B.V.I.
Population The B.V.I. are home to 24,041 residents, and see about 295,600 visitors annually, 62 percent of whom are from the U.S.

Getting There

Travelers to the island of Tortola typically arrive via air at Tortola's Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport or by ferry from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Passengers can book direct flights from many major American cities such as New York, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and more. Connecting flights are also available from Caribbean regional carriers, Canada, the U.K., and the Far East.

Ferries depart approximately every 45 minutes from Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to Road Town on the British Virgin Islands. Tortola has two ferry docks, one at Road Town and one at West End, both of which are easily accessible from most places on Tortola.

Government regulated taxi services will meet you at the airport or the docks to take you to your final destination. A trip to Road Town will generally cost less than $20.

Entry Requirements

U.S., U.K., and Canadian citizens are required to provide a valid and up-to-date passport to gain entry into the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as prove their departure plans. Those traveling from other countries will also need a passport, but should check with their local travel authority to determine if any further documentation is necessary.


The British Virgin Islands experience a moderate 40 inches of rainfall annually, which is average when compared to the rest of the Caribbean. Temperatures are also relatively stable, from 73 to 80 in January, and 84 to 89 in July (all in degrees Fahrenheit). Further information can be found on our guide to the weather in the Caribbean.


The British Virgin Islands are located to the northeast of the US Virgin Islands. With a total area of 59 square miles, the British Virgin Islands are comprised of four main islands and 32 smaller ones while

Tortola is the largest and most visited island of the British Virgin Islands. That being said, the atmosphere of the island is laid back and calm. Visitors will find every type of accommodation imaginable here, from campgrounds to apartments, villas to five-star resortsAttractions on the island are outdoors in nature, including Sage Mountain National Park, and J.R. O'Niel Botanical Gardens.

Seclusion is the name of the game in Virgin Gorda, BVI, and it is for this reason that Travel + Leisure named it number 20 on their list of "World's Best Islands." Exclusive resorts and private beaches are what draw visitors to the island, allowing those who seek a peaceful, quiet, and calm vacation to revel in privacy. Featured attractions here are The Baths and Coppermine Historical Site. The Baths are one of the most popular destinations on Virgin Gorda. This mysterious site houses a collection of enormous granite boulders, which are rarely seen this far south. The rock formations collect pools of refreshing water when the tides change, and provide an excellent spot for taking a relaxing dip or snorkeling adventure.

Health and Safety

All of the water in the B.V.I. is potable, meaning it is safe for consumption. The island itself is one of the safest in the Caribbean, and crime is a rare occurrence. Still, follow the same precautions as you would in your hometown. Safeguard your valuables and lock your hotel room and car doors.


Peaceful and casual are the two best words to describe the attitude of these islands. The people of the B.V.I. are warm and kind-hearted towards tourists; visitors do not have to worry about the defensive hostility towards tourists that may be found in some other regions of the Caribbean. Where other Caribbean islands have emphasized and developed tourism, B.V. Islanders have kept to themselves. They know what they have, and they know that there will always be people escaping to their home, without the hustle and bustle of major resorts and huge events. Culturally, the people are Caribbean, despite an African heritage. Most residents have lived on the island, if not in the same home, for generations. As part of their British heritage, B.V. Islanders consider hospitality of the utmost importance, and any visitor is guaranteed a wonderful stay on these friendly islands.


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