Questions & Answers
We're heading to the Virgin Islands. Any advice or preferred routes?
There are two main avenues from the U.S. to the Virgin Islands (U.S. or British). Getting to either destination usually entails one or two plane changes along the way.
Flying into the U.S. Virgin Islands is a fairly straight forward being that it's a domestic flight. Technically anyway. No passports needed if you're only visiting the U.S. side. You'll find multiple carriers flying into St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie. If you're flying from the west coast or middle of the U.S. plan on changing planes in Charlotte, NC or Miami (or other coastal city). From there it's a straight shot in on a 757 (or the like).
Approximate travel time: 6-7 hours
If your plan is to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British side, be sure to bring your passport.
Heading to the British Virgin Iislands or BVI for short, passports are a must for all U.S. Citizens. You'll also have a couple of route options. Go though St. Thomas or head straight for Tortola, Beef Island.
Going the St. Thomas route, you'll take a short taxi ride to the dock and hop a fast ferry out of Charlotte Amalie for a one hour boat ride to Sopers Hole in the West End of Tortola. You'll clear customs there.
Approximate travel time: 8-9 hours
Heading straight to Tortola means you have one primary airline choice. American Airlines. For the major airlines, this is it. Departing from just about any state has similar options.
Head to Miami then San Juan, then Tortola, Beef Island.
Approximate travel time: 9.5 - 12 hours
Or, straight to San Juan and on to Beef Island.
Approximate travel time: 8-9 hours
Or, straight to San Juan, spend the night there, then, fly out the next morning to Tortola, Beef Island.
Approximate travel time: 14-18 hours (including 6 hours for overnight)
The last option may sound nuts but it sometimes works out better to leave a day early, spend the night in San Juan (we use the airport hotel for this short stay), and fly out early the next morning. This works particularly well if you're on a later flight. If you can take the extra time, even with the hotel room, this route can save money! Not to mention you get a full day the day you arrive in the BVIs instead of the remains of a travel day.
If you're on your way back from the BVIs you'll clear customs in St. Thomas if you came in that way. If you went though San Juan, you'll go through customs there. Please be sure you account for time in customs when you're booking your flights. A short transfer time in San Juan is a sure way to miss a connecting flight. Try to give yourself and hour and a half at least. Most times we're through in thirty min. But when the lines get long, it can take a bit. The extra time keeps the stress at bay too!
Here are a few quick tips:
The shorter the flight, the more expensive (generally speaking).
Overnight stops are the least expensive (if you stay at the airport hotel or something similar in price).
Flying into Beef Island, Tortola means you're flying American Air.
If you have a preference for an airline other than American, you're taking the St. Thomas route.
Give extra time for customs on the return trip.
Pack light and only take what you can carry yourself.
There are no baggage carts in use in the San Juan customs baggage claim. They are there, locked up, right next to the baggage claim! We've tried. No dice. The carts are for show, not for use.
Layers. Dress in layers. Each airport and plane you get into seem to have their own weather systems. Some frozen others... Amazon hot. It helps to have something to throw on when you get to the San Juan airport (as an example). And just as easy to take off when you get on the propeller plane!
No matter what route you take, they all lead you to the same place: Paradise!
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