WHEN TO GO
The climate is pretty ideal year-round, with constant trade winds cooling temperatures that range between 70 and 90 degrees—summer being the hottest, most humid time. Most rain comes in short tropical showers during the late-June-to-mid-November hurricane season. Crucial information for divers: Visibility drops in the summer months to around 60 feet, but in winter and spring it can reach a whopping 200 feet. As always in the islands, hotel rates also drop precipitously in the summer.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are no direct flights from the United States to the Terrence B. Lettsome Airport on Beef Island (linked to Tortola by bridge), so you need to connect through San Juan or St. Thomas. If you fly to St. Thomas, it's easier to take the ferry to Tortolaotherwise you'll have to charter a flight, which could take you straight to the small airstrips on Virgin Gorda or Anegada as well as Tortola, but obviously is far pricier. Ferries from Red Hook or Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas, to West End Tortola stop at duskthe last one leaves around 5 p.m., so you may need to schedule an overnight stay in St. Thomas. Once on Tortola, there are many interisland ferry services and also air-charter companies (try Fly B.V.I., 284-495-1747; www.fly-bvi.com).
NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Road Town
Area: 59 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 1
Electricity: 110V, 60 Hz
Currency: As of Dec 30, 2008:
1 United States Dollars = $1.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
The British Virgin Islands do not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a six-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
The Sugar Mill Caribbean Cookbook, by Jinx and Jefferson Morgan (proprietors of the eponymous restaurant) is a great guide to the lifestyle and cuisine of the British Virgin Islands, from fish fritter to rum torte.
There is no shortage of excellent restaurants and hotels serving local and international dishes. Specialties include lobster, snapper, shark, mussel pie, and conch stew. Seafood is what most tourists crave when surrounded by azure water. Though not as exquisite as the restaurants on French Caribbean islands, the cuisine on the British Virgin Islands would put many nations to shame.
The islands of the Caribbean are pretty much identical when it comes to shopping potential, and the British Virgin Islands are no exception. The main attractions are duty-free goods offering substantial markdowns on jewelry, watches, electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, liquor, and tobacco. Local wares such as conch jewelry, carved wood, and other folk arts are everywhere, but aren't really worth the luggage space.
January: 1, New Year's Day
March: Second Monday, Commonwealth Day
June: Second Saturday, Sovereign's Birthday
July: 1, Territory Day
October: 21, St. Ursula's Day
November: 14, Prince Charles' Birthday
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Easter; eighth Monday after Easter, Pentecost Monday