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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


153 sq km (59 sq miles).


30,659 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

218.7 per sq km.


Road Town, Tortola.


British Overseas Territory.

Head of state:

HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Governor Daniel Pruce since 2024.

Head of government:

Acting Premier Natalio Wheatley since 2022.

Travel Advice

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

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals in making informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice 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 the British Virgin Islands (BVI) set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the BVI immigration department.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 entry requirements for the BVI.

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.

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.

Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Airport and ferry charges

Visitors arriving by air or sea are charged an environmental and tourism levy of 10 dollars on arrival.

There is an airport tax of 50 US dollars for all passengers, to be paid when leaving the BVI by air. This consists of:

  • 15 dollars departure tax
  • 5 dollars security charge departure tax
  • 30 dollars airport development fee

The tax is generally included in the ticket price.

If you’re departing the BVI by ferry, you must pay a departure tax of 20 dollars per person or 15 dollars for residents.

Passport validity requirements

If you’re visiting the BVI, your passport should be valid for the period of your stay.

If you are a resident in the BVI, 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.

Visa requirements

British nationals do not need a visa to visit the BVI. The BVI immigration authorities will issue you with a 1-month entry stamp on arrival. You may also be granted an extension for 1 further month.

Extensions for up to 6 months are granted on the discretion of the Chief Immigration Officer, if you can show proof of independent financial means. You may need 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 before 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:

If you’re transiting through the BVI

If you’re transiting through the BVI on your way to another country, there is no COVID-19 testing or proof of vaccination status required. However, you should meet the requirements of the country of destination. More information can be found on the Government of the Virgin Islands website.

Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need on TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre).

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of the BVI. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Follow customs rules on the import and export of agricultural products and the protection of marine and animal life. There are several marine and animal specimens that must not be taken from the BVI. Check with local customs authorities or the Government’s Conservation & Fisheries Department before buying or attempting to import or export these items.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)

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


Levels of crime in the BVI are low. However, some serious incidents do occur including armed robbery and drug-related gun crime.

Take sensible precautions to protect your personal safety and belongings, as you would at home:

  • carry a mobile phone with roaming capability
  • take care if you are walking alone in isolated areas including beaches, particularly after dark
  • do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery and use a hotel safe if possible
  • be aware of the risk of leaving your valuables unattended, especially when on the beach
  • do not attempt to resist an armed robber or take any action that puts you at greater risk

Take particular care of your passport, as it cannot be renewed or replaced in the BVI. If you lose your passport, you will need to apply online for an emergency travel document.

If you need emergency help, contact the police on 999 or 911. Contact 311 for non-emergencies.

Laws and cultural differences

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

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Do not get involved with any illegal drugs, including marijuana. Possession of small quantities can lead to large fines or imprisonment. Drug trafficking is a serious offence. Pack your luggage yourself and do not carry items for anyone else.

Conservation and fishing

Spear fishing is not allowed. The use of scuba equipment, explosive, poison or other toxic 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 banned. Commercial, sport and pleasure fishing require a fishing licence and the boat you are fishing from must be registered. You can get a temporary permit from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

LGBT+ travellers

Homosexuality is legal in the BVI. 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. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks in the BVI

Road travel

You can drive for up to 30 days on a UK licence in the BVI and then you must apply for a local licence. The majority of cars are left-hand drive, but vehicles drive on the left as in the UK.

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) can be contacted to respond to emergencies at sea.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

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

You should:

See FCDO’s advice about travelling in areas at risk of tropical cyclones.

Before you travel, check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 999 or 911 and ask for an ambulance.

For emergencies at sea dial 767 to contact the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR).

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Emergency medical assistance

As the British Virgin Islands (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, contact:


At least 8 weeks before your trip, check:

Health risks

Health risks in the BVI include:

  • Zika virus
  • risks from biting insects and ticks
  • dengue

See the ‘Other risks’ section of the TravelHealthPro BVI guide for more details.


There is only one hospital in the BVI (Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital) 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 must be made for any non-US visa holder who is medically evacuated by charter flight. Make sure you have travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Travel and mental health

Read TravelHealthPro guidance on travel and mental health.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

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

Emergency services in the British Virgin Islands

Telephone: 911 (ambulance, fire and police)

You can also use the telephone number 311 to contact the police.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
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