A vacation in the Virgin Islands is a priceless experience. Wise travelers anticipate the cost of their trip before leaving home to ensure they spend their time enjoying the gorgeous weather, picturesque scenery, and vibrant culture, not worrying about money. A little planning can go a long way toward making your vacation relaxing and carefree.
Lodging, transportation, and dining are obvious expenses, but smaller costs such as shopping for souvenirs, hospitality taxes, and gratuities should not be overlooked when planning the financial aspect of a vacation.
The peak tourist season in the Virgin Islands runs from mid-November to May, and prices during this time reflect the increased demand for lodging. Because so many different types of lodging and accommodations are available in the Virgin Islands, visitors should be able to find an exact fit for their travel needs and budget. Smaller hotels start around $80(USD) per night, while nightly rates at posh, all-inclusive resorts may run as high as $500(USD) during the peak season. Travelers should note that these estimates do not include taxes and service fees.
Vacationers should also bear in mind that the services and amenities offered by a hotel are generally reflected in the room rate. More expensive, all-inclusive resorts will accommodate guests with meals, activities, and a knowledgeable concierge staff, while some of the more moderately priced lodgings may provide only a standard hotel room. Vacationers should always be mindful of the amenities a specific hotel offers before reserving a room.
Money-conscious travelers should consider traveling during the off-season of June through October. Visitors often find great deals on accommodations during these months. Lodging rates are considerably lower, and many of the most popular tourist areas are free of their peak-season congestion.
Dining will represent one of the largest expenses in any budget, though a wide range of prices makes accurate budgeting difficult. At many of the small local eateries, $10(USD) per person is a fairly good estimate for a meal; tabs at upscale restaurants can run as high as $40(USD) per person. Drinks and between-meal snacks will also represent a dining expense and should be represented in the budget.
The safest financial bet is to plan how many meals you plan to eat at the more expensive establishments and budget accordingly. Breakfast and lunch generally cost less than dinner. If you'd like to try an upscale establishment but can't afford to go there for dinner, try lunch instead.
Tipping waitstaff is important when eating at any restaurant. In the Virgin Islands, the tipping standard is 15 to 20 percent of the bill. Bar service generally receives 10 to 15 percent, but travelers should tip more or less based on the quality of service.
A well-planned budget will also include transportation costs. Most travelers do not limit themselves to just one mode of transport, so an accurate budget should allow for several options.
On the whole, taxis are not particularly expensive in the Virgin Islands unless visitors insist on having private cabs. Because the price of a taxi is based on destination charts and not metered rates, sharing rides make the experience more affordable.
Buses are another economic option. Bus fares on all of the islands hover around $1(USD), though the service provided in the British Virgin Islands is somewhat unpredictable. The bus lines operating in the U.S. Virgin Islands are reliable and comfortable but have a tendency to fall behind schedule. All in all, buses are an affordable way of getting around but should be avoided when timeliness is crucial.
Independent travelers, however, may prefer to rent a car on the island, enabling them to explore at their own pace. Fortunately, rental prices on the Virgin Islands tend to be among the best in the Caribbean. Cars can be rented on either a daily or weekly basis, and rates should fall somewhere between $50(USD) and $80(USD) and $300(USD) to $500(USD), respectively.
Exploring all of the Virgin Islands, however, requires travel by air or sea, and ferries are an extremely popular option for vacationers interested in island-hopping. All of the major islands have busy ports for ferries and a multitude of lines offering service. Rates will depend on the length of the trip and may vary from $5(USD) to $45(USD).
An accurate budget will also anticipate leisure travel expenditures. Many local companies rent bicycles and motor scooters to adventurous travelers hoping to sightsee off the beaten path. Budget for approximately $30(USD) per person for daily rates throughout the islands but also consider that more affordable rates are available if you rent by the week.
Vacationers hoping to take advantage of the area's shops, museums, and nightspots should incorporate souvenir costs, admission prices, and cover charges into their financial planning.
Visitors should also bear in mind that their daily spending might fluctuate greatly, and that a day or two of shopping will probably comprise a higher percentage of their budget than the inevitable time spent soaking up sun and scenery on the beautiful beaches.
The British Virgin Islands do not have duty-free shopping, though there are many stores and shops in which local arts and crafts are sold. Hand-screened fabrics, liquor, and pottery are just a few of the souvenirs to which visitors are drawn.
On the other hand, the U.S. Virgin Islands are known throughout the world for duty-free shopping and for the availability of luxury items that can be hard to find in other parts of the Caribbean. Jewelry, cameras, electronics, china, perfume, and liquor are among the most popular items for sale, and the lack of expensive import taxes make them all great deals for international visitors.
Shoppers should be aware that leaving the British Virgin Islands with some of these items may require extra fees when going through customs. Americans are permitted to return with $600(USD) worth of untaxed goods and five liters of alcohol per person (six liters, however, if one of them is locally-produced). A tax of 10 percent is added to the value of all items exceeding the duty-free limit. Canadian citizens are allowed to return with $750(USD) in merchandise and 40 ounces of liquor as long as they have been traveling outside the country for more than seven days. Holidaymakers from Britain may return with approximately $275(USD) worth of merchandise and one liter of alcohol per person. All other international visitors are advised to contact their own travel commissions or embassies to determine the applicable regulations.
Many travelers will find the customs requirements the U.S. Virgin Islands are different from those of the British Virgin Islands and should budget and buy accordingly. Americans are permitted to return with $1,200(USD) worth of untaxed goods and five liters of alcohol per person (six liters, however, if one of them is locally-produced). A tax of 5 percent is added to the value of all items exceeding the duty-free limit. Canadian citizens are allowed to return with $750(USD) in merchandise and 40 ounces of liquor as long as they have been traveling outside the country for more than seven days. Holidaymakers from Britain may return with about $275(USD) worth of merchandise and one liter of alcohol per person. All other international visitors are advised to contact their own travel commissions or embassies to determine the applicable regulations.
Visit our guide "Shopping in the Virgin Islands" for more insight.
Travelers must pay a departure tax upon leaving both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Children under 5 are exempt from this charge, which in the BVI varies depending on how visitors are leaving. Travelers leaving by air will incur a $20(USD) tax, those leaving by cruise ship will need to pay $7(USD) and those who depart by sea (in a yacht or other personal watercraft) are subject to a $5(USD) departure tax. All vacationers leaving the U.S. Virgin Islands will pay a flat-rate departure tax of $10(USD). This charge is often included in the price of the plane or cruise ship ticket; otherwise, it must be paid in cash at the airport or exit marina. Check with your travel agent before leaving to find out if this charge has already been taken care of in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Neither the British Virgin Islands nor their U.S. owned counterparts assess sales tax, but many stores affix a service charge to goods that are paid for by credit card. This charge will range from 5 to 10 percent of the total bill. Another small charge must be added to bills paid by travelers check.
Hospitality tax in the Virgin Islands is 7 percent for the British islands, 8 percent in the U.S. islands. This figure refers to the percentage of the total bill and will be assessed upon check-out. A 10 percent service fee, to take the place of tipping maids, bellhops, and waitstaff, could also appear. Not all hotel bills will include the service fee, however, and travelers should review the bill carefully to determine whether additional tipping is necessary.
Travelers who anticipate their financial needs before leaving home enjoy the assurance of accounting for every aspect of their vacation. Budgeting allows visitors to plan their activities without worrying about running out of money.
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