British Virgin Islands


The British Virgin Islands are close to United States but as per their history, they have this English touch mixed with the local Caribbean culture and they are truly a Caribbean Island. Just east of Puerto Rico and next to the US Virgin Islands, the BVI form roughly two chains separated by the Sir Francis Drake Channel. British Virgin Islands have some 60 islands, islets, rocks, and cays, of which only 16 or so are inhabited. They are all of volcanic origin except one, Anegada, which is coral and limestone. These unspoilt, idyllic islands are beautiful. With their white sand beaches, turquoise waters and vibrant lifestyle, they are a heaven for snorkelling, fishing and diving enthusiasts. Referred to as the sailing capital of the Caribbean, everyone can experience the British Virgin Islands by sea as the BVI offers the finest and safest sailing in the world.


Three hundred years ago, the British Virgin Islands swarmed with pirates, who took refuge in the protected waters and kept guard from secluded mountain look-outs. Some say there is still buried treasure. Although Christopher Columbus is often credited with discovering the Virgin Islands, the first people to come to these pristine isles, in fact, were the Amerindians. This pre-historic people, who originated in theOrinoco Basin in Venezuela, settled throughout the Windward and Leeward Islands, migrating via dugout canoe. They arrived in The British Virgin Islands around 900 BC and flourished here for well over 1,000 years.

Columbus came across the Virgin Islands on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. He named this beautiful archipelago, Islas Virgines, likening their untouched beauty to the legend of St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who followed her to martyrdom. Columbus' sights though, were on the larger islands of Puerto Rico andHispaniola where he hoped to find gold. The Virgin Islands remained untouched for over 100 years . . . or at least until its many sheltered coves were discovered by the pirates and privateers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the era's most famous scallywags are reputed to have launched their raids from the BVI's shores, including Black Beard, Norman and Jost Van Dyke. Several of the islands here, includingNorman, Jost Van Dyke and Great and Little Thatch, are named after these legendary characters.

The first European settlers arrived in the mid-17th century. All indications suggest that there was no serious Spanish settlement in the islands. There is evidence to suggest however, that there may have been a Spanish emplacement to protect their Copper Mine interests on Virgin Gorda. A hardy group of Dutchmen are believed to have constructed a fort at the West End of Tortola, but their stay here was short-lived as well. They were soon replaced by British settlers, and in 1672, the BVI was annexed byBritain and administered by the Government of the Leeward Islands. Although the islands' hillsides were steep and rocky, the English quickly set up plantations to grow cotton and sugar. Sugar eventually became king and by the end of the 18th century, sugar, molasses and rum were the BVI's main exports.

In 1834, the emancipation of slaves in the British West Indies, a hurricane and a series of bad economic years put an end to the plantation system in the BVI. By the mid-1800s, the plantation holdings were sold to the islands' former slaves, who turned to fishing and farming as a way of life. Over the next century, the territory was administered by a British governor and the people had little say in the running of their own affairs. Although there were intermittent calls for greater local autonomy, it was not until 1950 that the people's voices were heard and a permanent Legislative Council was established. In 1966 a new constitution was implemented.

Today, the BVI government is comprised of a Legislative Council of elected at-large and district representatives, and an Executive Council formed from the majority government. This territorial government is headed by a Chief Minister chosen by the members of the majority party. A British Governor is appointed by the Queen and acts as her representative here.


The British Virgin Islands are overflowing with stories and secrets. Anegada has its tales of shipwrecks, Salt Island's history tells of taxes paid with bags of salt, and on NormanIsland and Deadman's Chest, stories of pirates and lost treasure abound. Even tiny Marina Cay was the inspiration for a book and film. This rich history has made the islands distinct, yet they all hold something in common - warm, gracious, friendly people who are happy to share their folklore and culture with visitors.

Although named by Columbus, many diverse groups of people have called the Virgin Islands home. The Arawaks emigrated from South America over a thousand years ago, and they were followed by the Caribs, Africans, and Europeans. Each community has contributed to the islands, creating the rich cultural tapestry that is the British Virgin Islands. The two major islands, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, along with the groups of Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, contain most of the population.


To See

BVI is a Sailor's Paradise. It has the consistency of the Caribbean trade winds, clear blue water, islands close enough for a day sail, and sunshine every day. Each island is within easy reach of another, so island hopping is a great way to explore, whether on a day sail or longer bareboat or fully crewed charter. TheBritish Virgin Islands are renowned for idyllic sailing, diving and windsurfing.

Throughout the islands, beaches are splendid and the beach bars exceptional. Gourmet cuisine can be found, along with background music of steel pans and guitars.

On land, there are national parks to be explored, including Little Fort, with the remains of a Spanish castle, and the Coppermine ruin on Virgin Gorda. For naturalists, Anegada's 1,100 acre (4.5 sq km) bird sanctuary is a must, as is SageMountain, the last remnant of a rainforest on Tortola. There are twenty national parks within BVI and rainforest. The islands are also home to a variety of birds as well as the protected Anegada Rock Iguana.

Snorkellers should visit the four caves at Norman Island, said to be the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Windsurfers benefit from steady winds and calm water. The Baths on Virgin Gorda, a labyrinth of mysterious volcanic grottoes and caves with secret saltwater rock pools and deserted beaches are worth a visit too. Other activities like deep sea, fly-fishing, bone fishing, and more are common on the British Virgin Islands.

Usefull Information

Airports: Beef Island International Airport, on Tortola Island.

Area: 152 square kilometres (59 square miles).

Business: Banks are open Monday to Thursday, 9am-3pm, and 9am-5.30pm on Fridays. There are many banks. Shops generally are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. Payment cards are widely accepted.

Capital: Road Town, on the island of Tortola.

Climate: The BVI's weather is warm, subtropical, and sometimes humid, with temperatures moderated by trade winds.

Clothing: Tropical lightweights. Dress is generally informal but beachwear is confined to beaches.

Currency: US dollars - US$.

Customs: Imports entering The British Virgin Islands on a temporary basis will not be subject to duty.

Economy: The economy of the British Virgin Islands is highly stable and one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean. The BVI's economic engine is fuelled mainly by tourism. Other active industries in the BVI include construction, rum production, and offshore financial services. The BVI government began offering offshore registration to companies wishing to incorporate in the islands over twenty years ago, and incorporation fees now generate substantial revenues.

Electricity: 110 Volts, 60 Cycles.

Entry & Departure requirements: Please refer to the official British Virgin Islands tourism website (link below) or ask us.

Health: You can get sunburned quickly and seriously, even through clouds. Use a strong sunscreen, hat and barrier cream for your nose and lips. Calamine lotion and aloe vera are good for mild sunburn. Protect your eyes with good-quality sunglasses.

Holidays: New Year’s Day (01JAN), Lavity Stoutt’s Birthday (MAR) Commonwealth Day (MAR) Good Friday, and Easter Monday (MAR-APR), Whit Monday (JUN), Queen’s Official Birthday (JUN), Territory Day (JUL), Festival Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (AUG), Saint Ursula’s Day (OCT), Christmas (25-26DEC).

Language: English.

Political status: United Kingdom Overseas Territory.

Population: 21,000.

Religion: Protestant 86%, Methodist 45%, Anglican 21%, Church of God 7%, Roman Catholic 6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Baptist 4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2%, other 2%.

Security: The General Hospital maintains twenty-four hour Emergency and Ambulance Services, with Laboratory and X-Ray facilities available, on Tortola. Limited emergency care can be provided by the outlying Public Health Clinics, during day-time hours, but aid should best be sought at the General Hospital.

Shopping: BVI are not duty-free. There are gifts shops and boutiques in Road Town, Tortola, and Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.

Taxes & Service charges: There is no Sales Tax in the British Virgin Islands. However, there is a 7% Hotel Accommodation Tax and a 10% service charge.

Telecommunications: the international dialling code for the BVI is 1 284 followed by the local number. On the island, use local number alone.

Time: Standard Time Zone: GMT – 4 hrs. BVI Time does not operate Daylight-Saving Time.

Transportation: There are some small charter airline for travel between the islands or ferry boats company. On the island, there is no real bus service, so taxis and car rental are the best options. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road in The British Virgin Islands. Minimum age for Car Rentals is 25.



Scenery from Virgin Gorda
Pusser's in Tortola
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
The baths, Virgin Gorda
Long Bay Beach
Sail boat
Virgin Gorda Fauna
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