Prepare for your British Virgin Islands Yacht Charter Vacation

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Planning Your Arrival in the British Virgin Islands

Note: if you have a yacht on hold or if you have a confirmed charter please login to see travel information customized to your ports.

Depending on where you will meet your crew and your arrival airport, you may need to catch a ferry and / or taxi to the yacht. The main airports in the Virgin Islands are on St. Thomas, (STT, US Virgin Islands) and Beef Island (EIS, British Virgin Islands).

Sailing from St. Thomas

St. Thomas is a common choice when choosing flights to the Virgins Islands. Flights are often more direct, frequent, and economical than flights to the BVIs. If you are meeting your yacht in St. Thomas, simply catch a taxi to the marina (or hotel if you fly in the evening before your charter).

Note that St. Thomas airport requires that you check in at least 2 hours prior to your departure flight home and you'll want to factor in time for waiting in line for check-in (which is longer in high season). They can be very strict enforcing this rule!

Sailing from Tortola

If you are meeting your yacht in Tortola, then a flight into Beef Island is the most convenient option as Beef Island is linked to Tortola by road.

Alternatively, you can fly into St. Thomas and catch a ferry across to Tortola. The downtown ferry terminal on St. Thomas is a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport. Please purchase one-way ferry tickets to keep your return options open. The last ferry from St Thomas to Tortola is at 4.30pm, so if your flight is due to arrive in St Thomas any later than 3.00pm and you are meeting the yacht in Tortola you may need to stay a night in St Thomas prior. Alternatively, you can arrange a private water taxi from St Thomas to Tortola during daylight hours.

Flights

There are several airlines that service the Caribbean. You can book directly with an airline or use a flight matching website.

Flight Matching Websites

Flight matching websites include local carriers for Caribbean legs. A couple of recommended options include:

Airlines Flying to St Thomas (Airport code: STT)

Airlines Flying to Tortola / Beef Island (Airport code: EIS)

Local Caribbean Connecting flights

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Passports & Visas

Passports are required for all visitors in the Caribbean.

The United States government will require a valid passport to regain entry into the US. Please remember to bring passports for each member of your group. For information on renewing your US passport or obtaining your first passport please click here.

US Citizens can enter the British Virgin Islands with a valid passport - no visa is required. See British Virgin Islands International Travel Information for more detail.

Non-US Citizens may require a visa to enter the US and / or British Virgin Islands. For a list of countries that qualify for the US visa waiver program please see US Visa Requirements.

For more information on Visa requirements for the British Virgin Islands please see BVI Visa Requirements.

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Travel Times

From: St. Thomas Airport (STT) to: (by taxi)
To:
Main ferry terminal (in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas)
 
10 min
Crown Bay Marina, St. Thomas 15 min
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas town center 17 min
Red Hook Marina, St. Thomas 35 min
Bimini Marina 35 min
Compass Point Marina 35 min

Note: Last ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola is at 4.30pm daily!

From: Beef Island International Airport (EIS) - connected to Tortola by road - to: (by taxi)
To:
Trellis Bay, Beef Island
 
1 min
Road Town & Village Cay Marina, Tortola 15 min
Nanny Cay Marina, Tortola 25 min
West End & Sopers Hole Marina, Tortola 35 min
From: Road Town, Tortola ferry terminal: (by taxi)
To:
Village Cay Marina
 
5 min
Nanny Cay Marina  
15 min
From: West End, Tortola ferry terminal: (by taxi)
To:
Sopers Hole Marina
 
5 min
Nanny Cay Marina  
15 min
Road Town & Village Cay Marina, Tortola 25 min
Ferries:
St. Thomas (Charlotte Amalie) to Tortola (Road Town) 50 to 90 min
St. Thomas (Charlotte Amalie) to Tortola (West End) 45 min
St. Thomas (Red Hook) to Tortola (West End) 35 min

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Ferry Information, St. Thomas to Tortola

We recommend Road Town Fast Ferry as their ferries are larger, more spacious, professionally staffed, and offer a smoother and faster ride.

Please do not book the public ferries in advance as the individual operators can change their schedule at any time, unless you're planning to take the Road Town Fast Ferry. It is best to treat the ferry terminal like a bus stop and simply take the next ferry that is arriving. It is a good idea to purchase one-way ferry tickets so you can remain flexible on your return trip and are not locked into one ferry company. In peak season, aim to arrive at the ferry terminal 30 to 40 minutes before departure to purchase tickets.

For all ferry schedules please click here for current ferry information to and from the US and British Virgin Islands.

Sailing Directions Tip: Instead of using the public ferries, consider a private water taxi shuttle service which makes for a smooth transition from St. Thomas to your yacht in Tortola. See water taxi details below.

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Water Taxi, St. Thomas to Tortola

Private water taxis are available from St. Thomas to ports in the BVIs, including Tortola, and are available outside public ferry hours. They will take you from the St. Thomas airport or your St Thomas hotel, through US/BVI customs in Tortola, and on to your yacht's marina.

This service does cost around twice the price of the public ferries (around $90 to 115pp one way compared to around $50pp) however, it can save you time waiting for the public ferry schedules and is a good option if you're flying in to St Thomas later in the day.

Water Taxi Providers

Dolphin Water Taxi is the Virgin Islands' best alternative to the public ferry system they can facilitate BVI entry AFTER the regular ferries have departed for the day, accommodating passengers with planes landing as late as 7:30pm in St Thomas. Unlike other water taxi companies, Dolphin Water Taxi is the only U.S. provider serving seamless transport from the St Thomas airport to any BVI marina by boat. Call 340 774 2628 or book online at www.dolphinshuttle.com.

Dohm's Water Taxi is another water taxi option from St. Thomas that can take you to the BVIs after hours. Call 340 775 6501 or email vitaxi@viaccess.net for availability and reservations.

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What Should I Pack?

Luggage

When deciding what to bring, we recommended that you try to pack light. The ideal amount of luggage to bring on a sailing holiday should fit in a duffel bag that can be taken on the airline as carry-on luggage. Soft luggage or duffel bags are strongly preferred for packing instead of hard-sided bags with wheels as they are yacht-friendly and will stow away easily. A dry bag for keeping valuables dry while getting ashore can be useful - just make sure to seal it correctly!

If you are taking hand luggage with you on the plane please remember there are restrictions on carry-on liquids and gels. 3oz containers are the maximum size allowed. You can read full details for permitted and prohibited carry-on items here. The best idea is to pack all liquids in your collapsible / soft-sided check-in baggage (including sunscreens, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.).

Clothing

The dress code in the islands is very casual and even the finer restaurants only require long pants and a collared shirt (with the exception of Peter Island where a blazer is required).

Most charter guests find they are comfortable wearing swim wear, shorts, and t-shirts with long sleeves reserved for cooler evenings or sun coverage during the day. A light rain jacket can come in handy for rain showers.

All yachts are barefoot on board to protect the yacht’s surface and minimize debris. However, if you need to wear shoes on the boat please bring a pair of new or clean shoes with soft non-marking soles that will be worn on board only. Regular shoes and or sandals are necessary for trips ashore.

Snorkeling

Every yacht carries an assortment of snorkel gear in all sizes available for your use. If you prefer, feel free to bring your own mask and snorkel gear.

Sun

The Caribbean sun is fierce and commands respect. Mega-factor sunscreens are a must; however we kindly ask that no oily lotions or spray-on sunscreens are used as it stains the yacht's upholstery and can make the decks and hand holds very slippery. Look for PABA-free lotions or reef safe sunscreen.

Remember to bring a good pair of sun glasses and at least a couple of sun-hats or visors. A rash vest is ideal for keeping the sun off while swimming and snorkeling.

Toiletries

The yacht provides items similar to a hotel room with towels, beach towels, hair dryer, soap, and basic shampoo and conditioner.

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Weather

Sunshine is practically an everyday affair in the Caribbean. Winter highs are around 80 degrees and summer highs around 87 degrees, with the evenings dropping off to a comfortable 70 degrees.

Historical Weather Forecast

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Food and Beverage

You will have the opportunity to indicate your group's food and beverage preferences with the comprehensive charter preference form. Please use this form to indicate your likes and dislikes as well as any food allergies for the members of your group. As your charter start nears, your crew will be in touch to discuss your preferences in further detail. The preference sheet is an important guide for your crew when they provision the yacht - the more detail you can provide in the preference sheet the better!

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Meeting the Yacht

Once you confirm your booking and have submitted your preference sheet, your crew will be in touch to introduce themselves and discuss where and how to meet them on the first day of your charter. The port / marina which you will be sailing from and the start time will be listed in your account and the charter agreement.

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Itinerary

Your itinerary is completely flexible within the navigation limits detailed in your charter agreement and is tailored to your preferences. You can change or adjust your plans as you go.

We feel that the best way to plan an itinerary is for your group to sit down with the Captain after you have boarded the yacht on the first day and review the charts together. This way you can ask any questions and create an itinerary to suit your interests that factors in the current weather conditions.

The captain and crew will make sure you have a pleasing itinerary and with their local knowledge, will be able to help optimize your vacation time and get you to the best anchorages for the evenings.

Sample Itinerary

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Crew Gratuities

Standard crew gratuities are 15% to 20% of the charter fee are standard and should be based on the service you receive from your crew.

Gratuities are left solely at the charterer’s discretion and they are a direct way of expressing appreciation for the crew's services. Please remember that your crew works hard to ensure your vacation is one that will be remembered fondly for many years to come.

They are your chef, bartender, waiter, tour guide...

Like most hospitality positions, gratuities are an important part of the crew's income and offer feedback on their performance.

Ideally crew gratuities should be offered in the form of cash or US$ check. Venmo or Paypal may also work well too.

Sailing Directions Tip: The easiest way to handle the gratuity is to place the amount into an envelope addressed to the crew and either hand it to the captain or leave it on the saloon table on the last day of your charter.

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Money

The US Dollar is the local currency in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Major credit cards are accepted at some USVI stores and hotels, as well as a few larger BVI restaurants and establishments. However, you should not count on using credit cards frequently. Personal checks are not accepted anywhere.

In the islands cash is king. We strongly recommend you travel with the cash you will need to purchase souvenirs, SCUBA diving (if not included), onshore food and beverages, taxis, gratuities, etc. It is likely that you will not be passing any ATMs once you are on charter.

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No Smoking Rules

All charter yachts are non-smoking. If you have a smoker in your group they will be allowed to smoke in the transom - the very rear of the yacht - where the breeze will take the smoke directly away from the vessel. All other areas of the boat are strictly 100% smoke free.

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Shoes Aboard

All yachts ask that shoes are taken off in the dinghy or on the dock before stepping aboard. This is to protect the yacht's surfaces and to keep sand and grit to a minimum. If you do need to wear shoes while you're aboard the boat, please bring a clean, non-marking pair specifically for boat use.

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Internet

In the Virgin Islands many yachts offer WiFi onboard through a wireless service which you can connect to with your own laptop or smartphone. Please ask us and we can let you know the internet situation aboard your yacht. The local network speed is generally slow, but enough to check emails.

There are a number of hotels and restaurants throughout the islands which offer wireless internet free of charge.

If you're planning to play your own music on board, please download the songs to your device as local network speeds are not fast enough for streaming services.

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Mobile Phone Coverage

The Virgin Islands has cell phone coverage in most areas.

If you’d like to use your phone for calls and / or web browsing, please make sure to speak to your service provider to find out about their international coverage.

Depending on your service provider, data access is available on smartphones and mobile broadband modems in the Caribbean. Please contact your service provider directly to find out about coverage offered, enable international roaming, and purchase a data plan. Make sure to check on international roaming data fees.

The captain has a marine VHF radio, mobile phone, and in some cases a satellite phone for official boat use.

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Fishing

Note: The BVI government is enforcing a law that states personal fishing permits will not be issued for charter guests unless the yacht is registered as a fishing vessel. The process for yachts to register as a fishing vessel will take some time and some yachts may not register at all. We will try to make it clear which yachts are registered BVI fishing vessels. If you're planning on applying for a fishing license please ask us and we will check with the yachts on their status.

License Requirements

It is a legal requirement that anyone over the age of 18 putting a line in BVI waters must have a fishing license. There may be heavy fines, confiscation of fishing equipment, and the boat if you are not in compliance. There are not any license requirements for USVI waters.

Applying for a License

BVI fishing licenses can be applied for through the BVI Department of Conservation and Fisheries. Currently the license costs US$45.00 per person and should be applied for around two weeks prior to your charter. A BVI pleasure fishing license will be valid for 30 days. A color photocopy of a valid passport must accompany the application.
Helpful links to get started with your fishing permit application:

Email completed forms to cfd@gov.vg

Fishing Options and Concerns

Please note that spearfishing is not permitted in the BVIs. The use of SCUBA equipment to capture or remove any marine animal or coral is against the law. Fishing within the boundaries of any marine park is strictly forbidden. Please review the BVI Guide to Recreational Fishing for more detail.

We do not recommend eating your catch due to the possibility that the fish may be infected with ciguatera. Ciguatera is a foodborne illness which is poisonous to humans. The poisoning is caused by eating marine species whose flesh is contaminated with a toxin known as ciguatoxin, which is present in many microorganisms living in tropical waters.

Fish for consumption will be purchased by your crew. Should you choose to fish, the crew will be able to guide you on any fishing related questions.

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Travel Insurance

While we hope that your trip is relaxing and worry-free, we'd like to remind you that situations may arise before departure or during your trip that are out of your control. Having travel insurance can be a valuable asset.

When purchasing trip insurance, please make sure that the policy you choose provides coverage for your insurance needs. This may include:

We are pleased to offer trip insurance coverage from all the major insurance providers. Purchasing trip insurance within 21 days of confirming your reservation gives you the benefit from additional coverage which is available only within this 21-day period.

You can compare all insurance packages and prices here or you can generate individual quotes and purchase directly from these providers:

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Hotels

You can search www.tripadvisor.com for candid customer reviews of these hotels.

If you have a long flight, or if your flight is arriving in the afternoon, it is best to arrive in the Caribbean the day before your charter begins and stay in a hotel. This way you will have plenty of time to relax, adjust and get to the marina in time for the start of your charter vacation the next day.

St Thomas Hotels

(in order of distance from downtown ferry terminal):

Blue Beards Castle St Thomas

Blue Beards Castle
The hotel has a nice pool, an excellent view and two restaurants and a bar on site. With St Thomas flights this hotel offers great value and is a convenient place to stay the night before or after your charter.

www.bluebeardscastles.com

Frenchman's Reef Marriott

Frenchman's Reef Marriott
Large quality hotel with nice beach access and three restaurants 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from downtown Charlotte Amalie. AAA member discounts available. From our experience: Request that you not be placed in the east wing rooms which used to be staff quarters.

view hotel web site

Olga's Fancy Inn

Olga's Fancy Inn
Small family-run neighborhood hotel with water views and salt water pool. Located between the airport and down town Charlotte Amalie.
view hotel web site

Emerald Beach Resort

Emerald Beach Resort
Mid size hotel close to St Thomas airport on one of St Thomas' nicest beaches. All rooms with ocean views, restaurant on site, 10 minutes from Charlotte Amalie.
view hotel web site

Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St Thomas

Sugar Bay Resort & Spa
Large quality hotel 20 minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from downtown Charlotte Amalie, 5 minutes from Red Hook marina on the east end.
www.sugarbayresortandspa.com

Ritz Carlton, St Thomas

Ritz Carlton
St Thomas's premier hotel 30 minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from downtown Charlotte Amalie, 5 minutes from Red Hook marina.
www.ritzcarlton.com

Tortola Hotels

(in order of distance from Road Town):

Sopers Hole Tortola

Village Cay Marina Hotel
Village Cay Marina Hotel has seen better days. The hotel offers basic accommodation located right on Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola. This place can be noisy especially Friday and Saturday nights.
www.villagecayhotelandmarina.com

Maria's by the Sea

Maria's by the Sea
Basic, clean and convenient hotel two blocks from Village Cay marina and Road Town ferry terminal. Nice sea views from some rooms.
www.mariasbythesea.com

Nanny Cay Hotel Tortola

Nanny Cay Hotel
Located in Nanny Cay marina a 15min ride from Road Town, Tortola or West End, Tortola. Ideal overnight stay if you're meeting your yacht in Nanny Cay marina. They have budget (but clean and spacious) rooms as well as nicer two bedroom rooms available. Try Peg Leg's restaurant which is right next door.
www.nannycay.com

Sugar Mill Hotel

Sugar Mill Hotel, Tortola
Comfortable resort set amid lush tropical surroundings, nestled on the northern shore in Little Apple Bay. Beach located across the road. 30min from Village Cay Marina.
www.sugarmillhotel.com

Long Beach Resort

Long Bay Resort
Large resort with private beach located in Tortola's West End.
www.longbay.com

Scrub Island Resort

Scrub Island Resort
Great choice if you are flying into Beef Island airport. The resort ferry will meet you by Beef Island airport and take you to Scrub Island. Your yacht will meet you at the resort dock at 1pm on your first day of charter.
view hotel website

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Disclaimer

While we make every effort to ensure that the information for ferries, airlines, hotels, and insurance partners is current, we cannot guarantee that the details listed are 100% up to date. Please contact us and we will happily verify any details for you.

Who do I contact if I can't find the answer to my question?

If we have not addressed all of your questions here, please contact your Sailing Directions broker, email: info@sailingdirections.com or call 1 877 66 YACHT and we will be happy to help you further or connect you with the crew as needed.

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