I saw a Facebook post in my morning internet wanderings today that made me go “Hmmmm.” A friend of mine had shared a post from an individual who blogs about the BVI that basically said day trips would be allowed as of October 1. Well, that’s totally true and there will be some changes made to the current restrictions as of that day that will likely make that a bit easier. But, don’t book a boat for the BVI and pack your bags quite yet. There is some serious fine print to look at….
Before I get into the meat of this, let me clarify that the loosening on the entry restrictions beginning on October 1 ONLY apply to fully vaccinated travelers. Non-vaccinated travelers are still welcome, but will still be required to complete the travel portal before arrival and a quarantine period and multiple tests upon entering the BVI. The details on travel for the un-vaccinated visitor can be found here.
First thing’s first, let me lay out the details of what is required for fully vaccinated travelers to enter the BVI via water taxi, ferry, plane, private vessel, etc:
- You must provide a negative COVID-19 test, administered within five days of arrival, when you enter the territory.
- You will be required to take a antigen test (with negative results) upon arrival at a cost of $50 per person.
- You must provide proof of being fully vaccinated.
- To RE-ENTER the USVI, you will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of re-entry. —I imagine that if you are there for the day, or even overnight, that arrival test would work for re-entry to the USVI but that has not been clarified to my knowledge.
Fully vaccinated travelers will no longer need to complete the travel portal prior to arrival. You just bring your negative test and proof of vaccination with you to clear customs, take your rapid test, wait for results and you’re on your way. This applies to ALL vaccinated guests or residents arriving via airport or seaport in the British Virgin Islands.
Premier and Finance Minister Hon. Andrew Fahie made the announcement late this evening, September 21 during the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) radio programme.
“You don’t have to worry about the portal at all if you are fully vaccinated and go through all these tests. You don’t even have to tell us you are coming, you just show up at the port you are leaving from with a negative test [no older than five days], proof of vaccination and you come and when you land you have to pay for the antigen test, right now its $50 per person,” he said. – BVI Platinum Article – September 21, 2021
Sounds pretty simple, correct? Well, yes and no.
From a charter boat operator’s perspective, I think this sounds like A LOT. Will the captain and crew be required to test before and upon entering in order to bring guests in? I would think it is likely. On St. John, we can get free tests on Wednesdays, so that would cover us for most of the week but if someone wants to travel on a Tuesday that would put us out $150 or a trip to St. Thomas in order to get a test that fits the timeline. If we are going to the BVI six days a week (while that DOES sound heavenly) we would be getting at minimum EIGHT things in our noses on a weekly basis (one for each day of arrival in the BVI and two spaced out over the course of a week to cover the entry tests). What I’m saying here is, this sounds like a TON of work, run around and extra money for the captain and crew or charter company and I’m not hopeful that ALL of them will immediately jump at the chance to start running charters to the BVI immediately.
Have you ever waited to clear customs in the BVI? During normal, busy times it can take FOREVER. Now factor a COVID test for each and every arriving passenger into the mix. What are the chances you get cleared in, get your test done and get your results in under a few hours time? You will need to clear back into the USVI by 5PM at latest. So, if you don’t get your clearance on that side by say, 11 or 12(?) you;ll be looking at a few hours at best in order to explore and play.
Oh, and speaking of USVI customs, you WOULD still have to complete the USVI Travel Portal for re-entry and gain approval with the green QR code. Generally speaking, they ask for 48 hours to process the portal submissions and generate the approval code. So, who knows how that would work. I guess you would submit the portal two days before leaving for the BVI?
If you can time up your first test with one of the free weekly pop-up testing sites on St. Thomas or St. John OR your USVI arrival test, then you’re in the clear cost-wise for the arrival test! Basically, if you got a rapid test the day before you travel to the USVI and go to the BVI within a few days of arrival, in theory, you could use that same test.
If not, however, you are looking at around $150 for a test on St. John or St. Thomas at a private facility. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say you are paying that in order to get your arrival test done. Then, you pay an additional $50 upon arrival for your second test in the BVI. So, $200 per person for the testing.
Then there’s customs…who know what they are going to be doing in the customs offices as far as the per person price when we get back to this! Before the shutdown, it could be $60 or it could be $95 per person to enter the BVI, depending on the day. It NEVER made any sense but had become exponentially more expensive over the years. It was like $40 per person when I went on my first BVI boat trip in 2012!
So, roughly, you are looking at around $300 per person just to ENTER the BVI. That doesn’t include, boat, food, beverage, captain, ferry ticket, tip, etc. Just to get in, that’s the cost to you. Additionally, on a private boat, the cost of testing for the Captain and crew would likely be absorbed by the guests. That is really the only way it would make sense for the charter company, financially speaking.
Ok, ok, ok. I’m EXCITED to get back to the BVI as well…Remember when I told you about my Soggy Dollar Dream??? I’m not saying it isn’t possible. I’m also not saying that I won’t jump at my first chance to get over there. But, I am saying that you should not EXPECT every charter boat company and captain to jump at the chance to start running these trips seven days a week. I do not want to speak for everyone out there, but I think it is likely that a lot of USVI based charter companies will approach these new allowances with caution and “test the waters,” if you will, before beginning to book commercial trips to the BVI.
So, for the above reasons, day trips to the BVI on a private vessel likely don’t make a ton of sense. Not immediately anyway. But, there are some instances where I believe it would make sense to head over for some fun in the sun on our favorite sister islands that we miss so dearly!
- Term Charters- If you are staying in the BVI for several nights, it might make sense to you financially to pay the extra money for the tests and customs fees. Those costs absorbed over several days and nights and not just a few short hours, would be worth it to me! Keep in mind, you will likely be looking at additional costs in order to test within 48 hours of returning to the USVI. But, if you’re there for a week, the added expense doesn’t hurt as much in my mind.
- Water Taxis- If you are flying into St. Thomas, water taxis are a great way to get to your final destination for a few nights stay in the BVI. Again, in my mind it would not make sense to do a day trip like this. But, if you wanted to stay on Jost for a night or two and come back to the USVI within a 48 hour window of your BVI arrival test…Well, I could justify the cost of the tests and transportation for myself in the end.
- Overnight stays in general- A night on Anegada? I would do anything for that right now! Two nights on Jost? Yes please! A week on Virgin Gorda? I’m in! As I mentioned above in the Term Charter section, for an overnight stay or longer, I could totally make realistic sense of the costs and wait for customs and testing. But for a few hours? Well, I personally don’t see the justification for an extra $150-300 for that. As much as I hate to say it….
Anyways…The long and the short of it is that even though you may start seeing random posts about BVI day trips being open on October 1, don’t believe the cover of every book you pick up. Now, I would imagine that in the coming months (hopefully by Thanksgiving!) we will start to see our favorite charter companies beginning to take the plunge into BVI trips for their anxiously awaiting guests. However, when you book a boat trip for your vacation this winter, let them know you would like to go to the BVI. But please don’t be fully expectant of that or put it on the company for not being able to follow through on it. Things are changing, still, every day. And we are a long way from the days when the BVI was on total lock down! But, I believe it is going to be a bit difficult, costly and a lot of hoops to jump through for a few months to come for private charter operations to offer these trips daily like we were used to in the past.
DO book your boating excursion for this fall or winter tho! With the BVI closed, many day stops in the USVI waters have flourished and have developed quick and easy ways for you to get a great lunch, a cold drink and a fantastic time in our local waters. Maho Crossroads, Lovango Resort + Beach Club, Pizza Pi, Lime Out, Honeymoon Beach and Water Island are all great places for a lunch stop or an ice cold beverage and some afternoon fun!
The snorkeling and exploration of the waters in the USVI are absolutely incredible…And, who knows, by the time your scheduled trip rolls around, you might just get that Soggy Dollar Painkiller you’ve been waiting for 🙂