If you are reading this article, you are most likely getting ready for your trip and getting all the logistics on top. This article will help you understand ‘the big picture’ on how to get to the BVI and what to do on arrival & departure day.
First off, a little geography lesson…
The Virgin Islands are divided into different islands that do not belong to the same country. Indeed, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) are US territory, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are UK territory. This won’t impact your trip in any way, you will simply have to pass through customs when traveling between the two territories, just like a normal border crossing - we just thought you should know this information!
There are two airport options to get to the British Virgin Islands:
~ flying into Saint Thomas, which is the area’s largest airport (Code STT), then taking the ferry to the BVI
~ or flying directly to the BVI into Tortola (Code EIS)
Most of our travelers will fly into St. Thomas, considered the ‘main’ airport, because it is connected to most US “hub” airports (NYC, Miami, D.C., etc).
You may find an itinerary that brings directly into Tortola, which is usually more convenient when you arrive because you do not need to take the ferry, simply because you will already be on the island. However, it is usually more expensive, and has more connecting flights, which makes the trip longer. Only very few people will fly into this airport.
We only recommend you fly out of Tortola if you plan on leaving early on departure day (you’ll understand why below).
If you decide to fly in to Saint Thomas (like most people!), you need to make sure you book a flight that lands before 3:00pm in order to make the last ferry that will bring you to the BVI.
Remember that flights often run late, so we suggest targeting flights landing before 2:00 pm. A majority of the sailors actually arrive a night early, landing in St. Thomas sometime Friday night and book a hotel for the night.
In case you were wondering, *it is a big deal* if you miss the ferry or your flight. Simply because there aren’t many flights in & out of the BVI and the ferry isn’t frequent (last one usually around 5pm), which means that if you miss one, you will most likely incur hotel costs, and expensive water taxis or ferries to catch up.
With the time needed to sail back, turn your boat in, unload it, take the ferry over to Saint Thomas (usually running late...), go through customs and airport security, it is almost impossible to fly out from St. Thomas and still make the US-bound flights on the last day of the trip - Saturday.
If you must fly out Saturday, it needs to be from Tortola, because you can rely on making a flight from Tortola after 2:00 pm, whereas you cannot rely on a flight in St Thomas until 6 pm.
On the last night of the trip, we strongly recommend you book a hotel in St. Thomas so that you are there for your flight home on Sunday. There are lots of hotels, Airbnbs and hostels where you can stay.
If you want to leave on Saturday, it is up to you, but the timing will be incredibly tight for the US-bound airline schedules.
We realize it is obvious for some of you, but this is nice reminder that travelers need to make their own flight and hotel reservations - we are *not* in charge of booking these for you.
Let’s hope this article made you excited about the trip! Remember that your trip is meant to be fun and relaxing...you can minimize/avoid incidents or drama (like missing your flight…) by planning in advance, arriving early and checking the ferry schedules before getting there!
In case you haven’t booked your tickets for your next BVI sailing vacation yet, check out our boat rentals and yacht charters: https://www.sailo.com/boat-rentals/British_Virgin_Islands!