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British Virgin Islands travel guide

About British Virgin Islands

Sloping hills of green, lush mountainous terrain, extensive coral reefs and famous shipwrecks sum up the thrills and spills of the British Virgin Islands. With myriad nautical pursuits on offer, the 50 idyllic islands are a slice of paradise.

Norman Island was supposedly the location that Robert Louis Stevenson based Treasure Island on. Today's visitors might not stumble across swashbuckling pirates or half-concealed treasure troves, but they will find a highly prized booty of soft sand and gentle, teal waters. For travellers who prefer to watch the sea rather than get into it, there is the breathtaking chance of spotting dolphins and whales criss-crossing the surface.

Throughout much of their history, the string of islands and cays were sleepy and unnoticed. Today, colossal cruise ships glide to a halt in the shadow of Road Town on Tortola, the largest of the islands. Smaller ships also take in Virgin Gorda, the second biggest island, docking outside the curiously named Spanish Town. Hardly qualifying as a town, the latter has a few shops and a pretty marina, and is quiet, picturesque settlement. Road Town offers a little more action, with a gleaming harbour and waterfront, as well plenty of pastel-coloured West Indian architecture. Sir Olva Georges Square is a pleasant spot to take a seat and admire the views.

Although the tourism industry is booming here, you can easily get away from it all. Much of the accommodation beyond Road Town offers utter tranquility, while some of the hotels elsewhere in the territory pretty much have islands to themselves.

Paradise does come at a cost. Overall, the British Virgin Islands are quite an expensive destination. But, for some, this is the necessary price of saving a Caribbean gem from over-commercialisation. And if that's the intention, the British Virgin Islands are, for now, a resounding success.

Key facts

Area:

153 sq km (59 sq miles).

Population:

30,659 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

218.7 per sq km.

Capital:

Road Town, Tortola.

Government:

British Overseas Territory.

Head of state:

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor John Rankin since 2021.

Head of government:

Acting Premier Natalio Wheatley since 2022.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the British Virgin Islands on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

There are limited commercial flights to and from the BVI. Check with your travel company for the latest information. The Terrance B. Lettsome International airport is operating from 7am to 10pm.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do prior to travelling and when you arrive in the BVI.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in the British Virgin Islands

Domestic air travel services between Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada are operating.

There are regular ferry services between Tortola and its sister islands of Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Ferries are allowed to operate with up to 65 people at a time. Commercial ferries to and from the US Virgin Islands are operating three return journeys per day.

Freight couriers and charter companies are permitted to operate between the BVI and USVI.

From 1 November 2021, foreign-based charter companies must obtain authorisation to operate in BVI’s territorial waters.

Further information can be found on the Government of the Virgin Islands website.

Public spaces and services

Mask-wearing is not a requirement by law in the BVI, however private establishments and public service providers are allowed to implement their own policies on mask-wearing.

Organisers of events likely to attract more than 300 people are required to notify the Environmental Health Division at least 5 days prior to the event.

Beaches are open.

Healthcare in the British Virgin Islands

Information on risks to travellers, avoidance measures, symptoms and how to self-quarantine is available on the BVI Ministry of Health and Social Development website.

You should make sure that your travel insurance covers medical repatriation and COVID-19 medical costs in the event you contract COVID-19 during your stay in the BVI.

If your stay needs to be extended due to coronavirus related restrictions, a UK prescription will be honoured by local pharmacies provided the prescribed medicine is available in the BVI.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in BVI.

Developing symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19 in the BVI

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms whilst in BVI you should take a Rapid Antigen test or a PCR test. If you test positive for COVID-19 you should self-isolate. You can re-test on Day 7 and end isolation if the test result is negative, or you can end isolation after 10 days with no re-test required.

Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should take a rapid antigen test or a PCR test on day 5 and day 7 after exposure. You should also wear a well-fitted mask when around other people for a period of 14 days, and avoid contact with vulnerable people for 14 days.

Further information can be found on the Government of the Virgin Islands’ website.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent assistance, see Emergency assistance.

Crime

Levels of crime in the British Virgin Islands are relatively low, although serious incidents do occur including armed robbery and drug-related gun crime. While most visits to the BVI are trouble-free, you should take sensible precautions to protect your personal safety and belongings - at least to the same level as you would at home, including:

  • be vigilant and carry a mobile phone with roaming capability;
  • avoid walking alone in isolated areas including beaches, particularly after dark;
  • don’t carry large amounts of cash or jewellery and use a hotel safe if possible;
  • never leave anything valuable unattended, especially when on the beach;
  • don’t offer resistance to an armed robber.

Take particular care of your passport, as it can’t be renewed or replaced in the BVI.

Always follow the advice of the local authorities. If you need help contact the police on 999/911 (emergencies) and 311 (non-emergencies).

Road travel

You can drive for up to 30 days on a UK licence and then you must apply for a local one at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Cars are left-hand drive, and vehicles drive on the left as in the UK.

Take great care when driving, particularly on the mountain roads.

Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations, but it is sensible to clarify the fare with the driver beforehand.

Sea travel

Many visitors to the BVI take part in water sports. The rate of accidents is very low, but they do occur. Many accidents involve the consumption of alcohol, so take care if you have been drinking.

Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) respond to emergencies at sea. VISAR can be contacted by sending a distress call on VHF Channel 16, or dialling 767 (SOS), +1 284 499 0911 (emergency) or +1 284 345 4357 (office).

Emergency assistance

As the BVI is a British Overseas Territory, there is no formal British diplomatic or consular representation. The local authorities deal with all requests for emergency assistance.

For medical assistance and other services, call:

  • Peebles Hospital on Tortola: +1 284 852 7500 or +1 284 394 3497

  • Peebles Hospital Disaster Centre: +1 284 852 7525

  • BVI Red Cross: +1 284 547 4047

  • BVI Department of Disaster Management (DDM): +1 284 468 4200

  • VHF Channel – 16

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the BVI, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

The BVI is a separate legal jurisdiction to the United Kingdom and has its own laws.

Don’t get involved with illegal drugs, including marijuana. Possession of even small quantities can lead to large fines or imprisonment. Drug trafficking is a serious offence. Pack your own luggage yourself and don’t carry items that don’t belong to you.

Observe customs regulations on the import and export of agricultural products and the protection of marine and animal life. There are a number of marine and animal specimens that must not be taken from the island. If in doubt, check with the local customs authorities or the Government’s Conservation & Fisheries Department before buying or attempting to import or export such items.

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry must be notified of a grounded vessel that has sustained “material damage affecting her seaworthiness or efficiency”, within 24 hours of the accident.

Spear fishing isn’t permitted in the BVI. The use of scuba equipment, explosive, poison or other noxious substance to capture or remove any marine animal or coral is against the law (this includes dead coral and shells). Fishing within the boundaries of any marine park is strictly forbidden. Commercial, sport and pleasure fishing requires a fishing license and the boat you are fishing from must be registered. You can get a temporary permit from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Homosexuality is legal under BVI law. There’s no provision for marriage or civil partnerships between same-sex couples. Attitudes in the main tourist destinations are tolerant and hotels and resorts are generally welcoming regardless of sexual orientation. Local attitudes outside the tourist areas can be conservative and some people may not approve of public displays of affection between same-sex couples. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page has information on travelling to British Virgin Islands.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in British Virgin Islands set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how British Virgin Island’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

All travellers

You will need a valid passport, with validity covering the proposed duration of your stay to enter or travel through the British Virgin Islands as a visitor. See below for further information on travel documentation.

Entry to the BVI by air is through the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Taddy Bay International Airport and Auguste George Airport. You can enter by sea through the Road Town Jetty; Soper’s Hole Dock, West End; Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke or Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.

Effective from 15 July, there are no testing or quarantine requirements on arrival.

There is a US$50 tax for all passengers, payable on leaving the BVI by air ($15 departure tax, $5 security charge departure tax and a $30 airport development fee). This is generally included in the ticket price. If you’re departing the BVI by ferry, a departure tax of US$20 per person or US$15 for residents is payable. Visitors arriving by air or sea are also charged an Environmental and Tourism levy of US$10 on arrival.

If you’re fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for the BVI are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Proof of vaccination status

You don’t need to provide proof of your vaccination status for entry to the BVI. Effective from 15 July, there are no testing or quarantine requirements on arrival.

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for the BVI are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year

You do not need proof of COVID-19 recovery to enter BVI. Effective from 15 July, there are no testing or quarantine requirements on arrival.

Children and young people

From 15 July, there are no testing or quarantine requirements for children and young people on arrival.

If you’re transiting through the British Virgin Islands

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.

If you’re transiting through the British Virgin Islands on your way to another country, effective from 15 July there is no testing regime or proof of vaccination status required in BVI. However, you should meet the requirements of the country of destination. Further information about transiting through the British Virgin Islands can be found on the Government of the Virgin Islands website.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

If you’re visiting the British Virgin Islands, your passport should be valid for the proposed period of your stay.

If you are a resident in the British Virgin Islands, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to visit the BVI. It’s normal practice for BVI immigration authorities to issue you with a one-month entry stamp on arrival. You may also be granted an extension for one further month. Extensions for up to 6 months are granted on the discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer, providing the individual can show proof of independent financial means. You may need to show evidence of accommodation and your plans to leave the BVI at the end of your stay.

Work Permits

Travellers who hold an expired work permit and are re-entering the BVI must submit a written request to the Immigration Department at least 5 working days prior to travel. This also applies to holders of valid work permit exemptions.

For all other immigration and labour matters, including work permits, contact the BVI authorities:

Immigration Department
Chief Immigration Officer
Government Offices
Road Town
Tortola
BVI
Telephone: 001 284 494-3471 or 001 284 468-3701 extension 4700/4770
Fax: 001 284 494-4399

Labour Department
Geneva Place
Road Town
Tortola
BVI
Telephone: 001 284 468 3701 extension 4708-4713 or 001 284 494 3451
Fax: 001 284 494 3027

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from the BVI. If you’re travelling via the USA on an ETD, you will need to get a valid US visa.

As the BVI is a British Overseas Territory, there is no formal British diplomatic or consular representation. UK ETDs are processed by the British High Commission in Barbados.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each overseas territory page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

You should contact the Public Health Division on +1 284 468 2274 or the Medical Hotline on +1 284 852 7650 for information on testing facilities.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in overseas territories. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the local territory government.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

There is only one hospital in the BVI and medical facilities are limited. Complex medical problems are frequently referred to hospitals in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or mainland USA. The US visa waiver scheme does not apply to one-off charter flights. Special arrangements have to be made for any non-US visa holder who is medically evacuated by charter flight. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

UK health authorities have classified the BVI as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in BVI and the number of reported cases in the region is increasing. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

The BVI Environmental Health Division is continuing its mosquito vector control activities as the risk of Dengue is present.

There is no hyperbaric chamber in the BVI. Patients needing treatment for decompression illness are transferred to the US Virgin Islands. More sensitive medical cases are transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 or 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from June to November, but can occur any time of the year.

You should monitor weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and the BVI Department of Disaster Management (DDM), and follow the advice of the local authorities. Visitors should download the DDM alert app from the App or Play Store. BVI Department of Disaster Management can be contacted on Tel: (284) 468-4200.

See our Tropical Cyclones for advice about how to prepare effectively and what to do if you’re likely to be affected by a hurricane or tropical cyclone.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.’

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