Staying Healthy in the USVI

Health and medical facilities in the Virgin Islands vary by island

Photo credit: © Ken Clark

When traveling to any destination, health and medical considerations should be taken seriously. This holds true for the Virgin Islands as well as any other nation in the Caribbean.

Obtaining traveler's insurance and researching medical warnings and general precautions before you go will ensure peace of mind during your visit to the Virgin Islands. Should any health or medical issue arise while you are vacationing, you will be glad you tended to these simple, last-minute errands.

Traveler's Insurance

Although most insurance companies (Medicare/Medicaid and certain HMOs excepted) will provide some kind of coverage should you need medical care abroad, be sure to investigate before your trip. A high deductible or "out-of-network" cost could make the purchase of traveler's insurance worthwhile. Further, hospitals may frequently require payment from tourists up front, to prevent people from leaving the country without paying for medical care. Traveler's insurance is relatively inexpensive, and usually provides thorough coverage and assistance. Additionally, most traveler's insurance will bear the cost of an emergency evacuation should it become necessary.

General Precautions

Following certain general precautions are necessary when traveling. If you take prescription medication, it's especially crucial that you keep in mind the following general rules to prevent problems once you arrive in the Virgin Islands. Although these rules are not law, observing them can help prevent possibly difficult situations.

  • If bringing prescriptions from your doctor that you will want to fill in the Virgin Islands, make sure that they are for generic and not brand-name medications;

  • Make sure you carry all medications in their original, properly labeled containers;

  • Bring copies of prescriptions;

  • Be sure to note any pre-existing conditions or allergies, possibly by wearing a medical alert bracelet, or by keeping this information in your wallet near your ID;

  • Make sure to carry emergency contact information with you at all times, in your wallet near your ID, especially if you are traveling alone;

  • Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website ( before departing for your trip to ensure there are no recommended vaccinations.

Common Problems

Certain problems are relatively common when visiting the Virgin Islands (or the Caribbean in general) and can be easily dealt with if one is prepared.

If you have a sensitive stomach to begin with, or develop stomach problems while in the Virgin Islands, drink lots of bottled water, and make sure to eat only food cooked thoroughly at high temperatures. In the case of sea sickness, over-the-counter medications are available throughout the region, simply ask a store clerk before heading to the high seas. Though sun is one of the things that draw many visitors to the Virgin Islands, it's important to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen to prevent heat exhaustion and stroke, dehydration, and painful sunburn. In all cases, if you develop a fever, chills, or the symptoms do not dissipate within a day or two, contact a doctor.  Also be warned that several cases of chikungunya have been discovered in the British Virgin Islands.  The disease is spread by mosquitos, so be sure to protect yourself from bites with topical creams and sprays that repel the insect. 

For minor issues, you should pack a Travel Medical Kit, including the following items:

  • Painkillers including acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Topical disinfectant;
  • Antacids;
    Rubbing alcohol;
  • Bandages;
  • Thermometer.

No one wants to think about falling ill during their Virgin Islands vacation, but it does happen, and it is best to know what to do in case something dire does occur.  Knowing is half the battle, and by you taking the time to prepare, you may just prevent a more serious situation from occuring.


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