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Tourist Survival Guide to the BVI

While not a complete SURVIVAL list . . .  You might find some information that you weren’t privy to, prior to reading… this won’t help you if you’re seriously injured, but will give you some insight into what island life is really like.

On Travelling & Packing
When flying into the BVI – or anywhere else, it’s a very good idea to pack your toiletries and your ID and personal information with your carry-on bag. This usually goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning.  This way, when your luggage ends up in Aruba, you can still brush your teeth in Cane Garden Bay!

Bring at least two swimsuits with you on your trip – nothing sucks worse than putting on a wet, sandy swimsuit – so bring two.

On Sunscreen – yes, put it on.
Unless you want to look like an ass, put sunscreen on, everyday.

On Scooters
Don’t ride a scooter or motocycle in the BVI unless you are on Virgin Gorda or you have a death wish on Tortola.

On Hitchiking
You can hitchike safely in the BVI – so take advantage of this if you need to. Be friendly and point in the direction you want to go – or use the old thumb trick. Avoid taxis whenever possible as they are
expensive. Rental cars are far more fun and they are available at about $40 a day. You can drive in the BVI with a US drivers license for a 30 day period without having to deal with any paperwork. After that, you’ll need to get a license.

Driving & Roads
Okay Evel Kinevel, this is no place for you. Motorists make a habit of stopping in the middle of fast lanes to pick others up, the roads are always in some sort of disrepair and steeper than you’re used to. Slow the feck down – and stay slow down. Learn to downshift when heading down a steep grade – DO NOT ride your brakes – unless it’s a rental car or you feel like paying for new brakes. One wrong turn can land you literally in someones living room, falling and sliding off a cliff, or even right into the sea. Again, slow down.

On Sunsets
The Caribbean sun sets quickly – in Winter, at 5:59pm it’s clear as day and by 6:01 it’s pitch black. It’s the same in the Summertime, but an hour later. If you were planning to sip some wine while watching a lengthly sunset, think again.

There are cows roaming free on many islands. This includes being IN the middle of the road, right around a sharp bend where you can’t see them. When it’s cow v.s. car, cow wins and loses at the same time. It’s best to drive slowly at all times. Ever seen a cow on the beach? Well here’s your chance.

The BVI  has them all – From mosquitoes, scorpions, roaches and sand flies to the brown recluse spider that can land you in a hospital nursing your wounds, the BVI plays host to every creepy crawlie imaginable. Use a good bug spray with deet, cover up at night with light clothing. Get a mosquito net for night-time and try not to be on the beach when the sun sets – the sand fleas come out in numbers and for some reason they like to target faces. You’ll get used to it, but it’s better if you come prepared.

Leave your alarm clocks at home, the free-range chickens that roam the BVI have taken care of that
responsibility for you. Chickens tend to avoid being at higher elevations – so if you can’t stand them, see if you can get  accomodations on a mountain top. Aside from that, they’ll eventually blend into the
background noise.

Coqui Frogs
These are excessively loud after rainfall. Coqui frogs can be heard throughout the islands, nightly as they make eachother aware of their presence. The chirping can be disturbing to some, but to most, the sound becomes something they find relaxing. It’s best to learn how to make the sound by whistling, and then join the frogs in their peeping – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

On Drinking Water
There are many differing opinons on the drinkability of the local water. It is best and advisable to stick
with bottled water. We have tried the local tap many times and had few problems, but it doesn’t exactly taste great. Read the label on the bottled water you buy carefully, or you might just be buying local tap water in bottles!

On Drinking
Yes, you will (should) drink rum while in the BVI – and you should. Of course, liquor-free alternatives are available, but who’s asking? Look for happy hour deals and also purchase beer and liquor locally. In some cases, you’ll pay an additional refridgeration charge for cold beer – so buy warm and buy ice. The prices of booze can’t get any lower than in the BVI. You can get a bottle of rum for under $8 – one that you’d pay over $20 for in the US. So drink up and be safe.

On Drinking & Driving
Driving with a drink in the center console is do-able in the BVI. Is it legal or not? Well, that seems to be a grey area. Can you get away with it? Yes, most definitely. is a firm believer in moderating this behavior and drinking responsibly. That does mean that you should stop and “do a road soda”, from time to time and it also means – DO NOT DRIVE DRUNK – it’s dangerous. This having been said, we have seen police in police cars, drinking beer.

On Smoking & Cigarettes
Cigarettes are anywhere from $2.00 – $5.00 a pack in the BVI. The cheaper prices are going to be found at grocery stores. If you smoke, do take advantage of this. BVI law prohibits smoking within 50 feet of businesses – this is rarely if ever enforced. If you smoke, be cognizant of others and keep your distance from anyone that might not share your interest. Don’t litter cigarette butts.

On Power / Electricity
Blackouts are frequent and common in the BVI. In our experience, it’s not heavy rain, but high winds that seem to cause the most problems. The length of blackouts can be from minutes to days depending on your location. Many resort locations have generators that kick-in so fast you won’t even notice, you’ll notice when they don’t.

On Getting Good Service – Kill them with kindness.
Start off smiling and end up with an even bigger smile on your face as you walk-in, and do your best to get what service you can. Service varies from place to place of course – but if you’re going to be an adventurer, you’re going to run into bad additudes sooner or later. The best thing to do is not think about it – enjoy yourself and try to spread love as you go. There can never be enough! Be prepared to wait.

On Getting Deals
Ask for the ‘locals’ price whenever it is appropriate. Tourists often pay different prices. Act as if.

Getting Lost
You aren’t going to get lost in the BVI, unless you already are, or you really really want to.

On Local Accents
Do your best to try and understand when dealing with someone or something you can’t understand. Don’t attempt to mimic or learn how to speak like an islander – you’ll never, ever do it right and you’ll sound ridiculous. It’s actually very rare that you’ll be in a situation where you can’t understand what is being said or what you might have to do. Just play it cool and be yourself.

On Bands & Musicians
BVI bands and musicians have a very tough time earning a living – as you might expect. Next time you’re in the BVI, buy the band a round of drinks or a shot. This goes a long way with getting the band to play ‘Freebird’, or whatever other song you’re hoping to hear.

Got a tip that we’re missing? Add it in the comment section below!