British Virgin Islands, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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British Virgin Islands

Visitors to the British Virgin Islands will not be hard pressed to find out why they're nicknamed 'Nature's Little Secrets'. Abounding in natural beauty, the 36 islands making up the Caribbean archipelago (16 of which are uninhabited) have kept the effects of tourism at bay and offer unblemished beaches, numerous unspoilt anchorages, exotic fauna and flora and a relaxed, low-key lifestyle.

Situated about 50 miles (80km) east of Puerto Rico and just northeast of the US Virgin Islands, the islands and cays that make up the British Virgin Islands are clustered around the Sir Francis Drake Channel, which is renowned for its sheltered, crystal clear waters. Its location has made the archipelago a popular destination for yachting enthusiasts, and the islands are known as one of the best and safest sailing destinations in the world with reliable trade winds, near-perfect weather and a choice of secluded and intriguing bays to visit.

The largest island, Tortola, is the yachting capital of the Caribbean and the territory's main commercial centre, its beautiful mountainous slopes endowed with tropical fruits and flowers. It is an ideal base from which to explore some of the other inhabited islands such as Virgin Gorda, noted for its spectacular geological formations and one of the British Virgin Islands' most famous landmarks: The Baths. Travellers in search of a remote and rustic retreat, with the smell of freshly baked banana bread and the sounds of calypso music in the air, should head for the friendly beach haven of Jost Van Dyke, while the reefs surrounding Anagada's low-lying coral atoll and its miles of deserted white beaches shouldn't be missed by divers, snorkellers and sun worshippers. Besides these major islands, there are also dozens of secluded islets and cays to explore, each blessed with its own special charm and unique beauty.

Information & Facts

Business

Business attire in the British Virgin Islands is fairly formal and conservative; a lightweight suit is appropriate for most meetings, unless in an informal outdoor setting where smart slacks and a shirt is more appropriate. Handshaking is customary for introductions between both men and women; women are considered equals in the business world and should be treated as such. Business cards are exchanged on introduction. Being late for meetings is considered offensive despite the laid back impression of the island, although meetings are usually fairly unstructured. The language of business is English, and hours of business generally from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Climate

The British Virgin Islands have a sub-tropical climate with high humidity, although temperatures are moderated by trade winds. Temperatures in summer average from 79-88°F (26-31°C) and between 72-82°F (22-28°C) in winter. Rainfall is erratic with occasional droughts.

Communications

The international dialling code for the British Virgin Islands is +1 284. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01127 for South Africa). No area codes are required. A GSM 900/1900 network covers the islands. Internet cafes are available throughout the islands and many hotels provide Internet connections. Phone boxes are widely available and accept coins and phone cards, which can be purchased in most shops.

Customs

In the British Virgin Islands, it is considered impolite to take photographs of the local people without asking their permission beforehand.

Duty Free

Travellers to the Virgin Islands over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 227g of tobacco and wine or spirits up to 1 litre.

Electricity

Electrical current is 110 volts, 60 Hz. Plugs are the same as in the US with two-pin flat blades and one with a third round grounding pin.

Getting Around

There are regular ferries between the various islands. There are car rental agencies on each island, but as they are expensive and drivers with valid licenses from their home country will need to obtain a BVI license for $10. There are flat-fare taxis available.

Health

There is a risk of dengue fever in the British Virgin Islands, so visitors should protect themselves with insect repellent. Limited medical facilities can be found on all the main British Virgin Islands and there is one hospital located in Road Town, Tortola. There is no hyperbaric chamber in the British Virgin Islands for diving emergencies, and complicated medical conditions are usually referred to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or the USA. Comprehensive medical and travel insurance is recommended.

Language

English is the main language spoken on the islands.

Money

The official currency is the US Dollar (USD), which is divided into 100 cents. Most establishments on the larger islands accept credit cards and travellers cheques, but on Anegada it is best to have cash. Banks and exchange facilities can be found in Road Town, Tortola. ATMs are available in Tortola and Virgin Gorda.

Passport Visa

Travellers need a return or onward ticket and all the documents required for their next destination, as well as sufficient funds. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities.

Safety

The British Virgin Islands have a low crime rate, but sensible precautions should be taken regarding valuables, especially on beaches. The islands are susceptible to hurricanes particularly during the months between June and November, but tropical storms can occur throughout the year.

Time

Local time is GMT -4.

Tipping

For good service, a 10 to 15% tip is usual in the British Virgin Islands. Hotels often add a service charge to the bill, usually between 10 and 12%, so it is best to check before tipping. Bellhops and porters usually expect $1 per item of luggage. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped as most own their own vehicles.

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