Most of BVI yacht charter customers visiting Tortola and the British Virgin Islands first fly into the St. Thomas airport (STT) in the American Virgin Islands (USVI) and take the ferry over to Tortola. There are ferries almost every hour from 8 am to 5 pm.
As soon as you arrive to St. Thomas, you are instantly transported into the mystical Caribbean world that overwhelms all your senses! As you step off the plane, tropical heat warms your body and soul as the tropical air warms your lungs. Lush green hills surrounding the airport are welcome eye candy. You are looking forward to arriving on the charter yacht and set sail!
The beautiful sounds of local children playing modern hits with a traditional twist, right inside the terminal, fill your ears. Free samples of fruity local rum waiting for you at the information desk are a refreshing treat for your taste buds. Your heart can almost feel the paradise that awaits you in Tortola and the British Virgin Islands, the paradise for those willing to rent one of our sailing boats, catamarans and yachts in the BVI!
Skipping USVI and flying directly into the BVI
Few airlines (AA, United & Jet Blue) fly directly to the Beef Island Tortola Airport (EIS), actually located on Tortola’s adjoining Beef Island.
Tortola’s airport runway can be seen from most of the Northern beaches of Tortola Island.
If you’re able to find a good flight directly to Tortola, getting to West End – where your CharterAlia rental yachts and captains will be waiting – will be quick and easy by taxi for an average rate of $45-60, but be sure to ask your driver for a price before accepting the ride. The currency both in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is the USD.
For the rest of you, before beginning the unforgettable sailing adventure of getting to Tortola Island and the rest of the British Virgin Islands, we remind you that you’re in the Caribbean now and patience is key since life moves at a slower pace on the islands. It’s part of the price to pay when you charter a boat in the Caribbean. 🙂
Flying through St. Thomas, USVI
The first thing you should do is change into your island wear at the airport since you’ll probably still be dressed for colder climates and the chilly flight. After you have stripped off your extra layers and real world worries, you are ready to continue your journey to your charter yacht.
Taxis can be found waiting outside the airport terminal to take you to one of the two ferry docks in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas. The Charlotte Amalie Ferry Dock has several companies running ferries to Road Town and West End, both in Tortola. The Red Hook Ferry Dock, which is a longer taxi ride from the airport but a shorter ferry ride to Tortola, has limited routes to West End in Tortola. Because of this, we recommend taking a ferry from Charlotte Amalie.
Taxis in the Caribbean
Taxis in St. Thomas are usually shared large vans that will leave only once filled with 5-10 passengers, so be prepared to wait a bit if you’re in a small group. The average price for the 10-minute ride from the airport to the ferry stop is $8 per person plus $2 for luggage.
Upon arrival to the dock, you can buy your ferry ticket if you haven’t already done so online in advance. There are several ferry companies, so keep in mind that only some of the services (more info here) offer routes to West End, where your CharterAlia BVI yacht charter will be waiting. Round-trip tickets cost $60 per person on average, but you will also have to pay a $10 tax to leave St. Thomas (and a $20 tax to leave Tortola on the way back) and $2 for each piece of luggage checked in.
Ferries connecting St. Thomas (USVI) and Tortola (BVI)
Ferries do not run very frequently, so it’s possible you’ll have several hours before departure, but make sure to get your passport checked and ticket stamped as soon as you arrive to the dock to assure you have a spot on the usually crowded ferry.
If you have a shorter wait, you can enjoy a drink and/or food at Petit Pump Room Bar & Restaurant, on the second floor of the ferry dock, while watching beautiful boats and seaplanes go to & from the bay. WiFi and restrooms are available for customers. Tip: Skip their coffee (not the best tasting) and try a Carib, a local light beer, instead!
Charlotte Amalie, capital of St. Thomas, USVI
If you have more than a couple hours, walking the few blocks along the water to the center of Charlotte Amalie is a good option. Tip: if you have used ATS taxi service, ask your driver about the free luggage storage at the dock. This will make your short walk to the center more enjoyable.
You’ll find plenty of ways to pass your time in the center of Charlotte Amalie even when we know that you will be looking forward to arriving to your rental boat in Tortola.
Hungry? Enjoy a traditional Curry Chicken Roti and a Pina Colada at Gladys’ Cafe.
Eager to start your shopping? The center’s alleys are full of shops to suit all budgets.
Looking for handmade souvenirs? Explore the outdoor crafts market where you’ll find a wide range of island clothing, jewelry, stuffed animals, pipes, and more!
Don’t like shopping? Don’t worry, there’s a Husband Daycare Center in Drake’s Passage (one of the alleys) that anyone can enjoy! Cash only, so come prepared.
Now that you’ve had some time to experience an American Virgin Island, it’s time to hop on the ferry and head to the British Virgin Islands and your charter vessel.
Tortola, capital of the British Virgin Islands
The ferry ride to West End itself lasts approximately 45-50 minutes, but ferries often depart behind schedule. It’s the Caribbean! 🙂 As you approach West End (Tortola Island), try to be one of the first to get off the ferry since passing through Immigration & Customs can be a lengthy process and we don’t want you to be late to your BVI boat hire check-in appoinment.
Being on a Caribbean island means nobody’s in a rush and there is sometimes a lack of direction, so stay calm and don’t forget you’re on a sailing vacation! First, you’ll have to have your passports checked and submit your completed forms (given to you at the Charlotte Amalie dock). Then, you can grab any checked bags and lastly go through customs.
Chartering a yacht in the BVI is so common that even in the immigration form you will find a “charter boat” checkbox as the purpose of your trip.
BVI grocery shopping before boarding
The most convenient place to buy groceries in West End is the Harbour Market located in Soper’s Hole Marina. Alternatively, you can get a taxi and head to the RiteWay located in Road Town if you’re looking for a bigger market. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find everything you’re used to as selection of products can be very limited on the island. However, you will find the basic essentials: meat, produce, and drinks! Oh yeah, remember to grab some toilet paper, paper towels/napkins, dish soap, trash bags, and any personal items you may have forgotten to bring with you since grocery markets will be a rarity once we set sail on your BVI charter yacht.
Now you’re ready for your final destination…your floating CharterAlia home for the next week! Your captain, or crew, will welcome you on board and their smile will make you feel that this is only the beginning of the incredible week that’s ahead. Time to kick off your shoes, lie back, and let us do the rest – the wonders of the BVI yacht charter are expecting us!
By Ann Sandoval. You can read about Charteralia, yacht charters in the BVI and the Caribbean.