Getting to the BVI and What to Expect Upon Arrival

Getting to the BVI and What to Expect Upon Arrival

Good MORNING!  Now that the dust has settled on the easing of the British Virgin Islands’ restrictions on foreign charters, there are still a ton of questions flooding in.  How do we get to the BVI?  How much is it?  Is there any type of COVID-19 requirements?  Do my kids need a passport?  TONS of questions flood the ole inbox every week.  So, I thought it might be time to address all of these concerns and answer all of your questions to the best of my abilities. 🙂

First, I want to say that I LOVE boating in the USVI.  Teddy and I have been cruising here exclusively for the past three seasons and I still stand by my original statement in regard to our home waters…I see something every single day that is new to me and leaves me with a sense of awe and wonder.

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Guests snorkeling at Dog Island

Maybe it’s a spectacular sunset, maybe it’s goats on the teeniest point of Lovango Cay, maybe it’s a shark or a turtle or a fish acting in a way that I haven’t noticed before.  Or, maybe it’s just that, as far as natural beauty is concerned, this place is just as picture perfect as anything in the BVI (save maybe the Baths…They are a natural wonder).

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Whistling Cay

Additionally, I adore our select few on the water dining options.  Much like anything else here, they represent an outlandish idea that was brought to life!  A floating taco bar?  A boat that makes pizza?  The transitions that Lovango Resort + Beach Club has gone through in order to get it JUST right for day trippers with their new healthy, delicious and quick lunch options?  Bringing the vibe of Caneel Bay back to the beach with crafty island cocktails and delicious eats from a food truck?  It’s all just genius and I enjoy supporting my friends and neighbors wherever I can.

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Lunch at Lovango Resort + Beach Club

But we have spent a hefty amount of time in the BVI over the past little bit.  And I will also admit this:  There is really nothing quite like it.  The local vibes and eats at sandy floored beach bars, shot skis and jumping off the upper deck into the crystal-clear Caribbean blue waters, the water and the sand at White Bay (it’s just DIFFERENT, right?), a jolly good laugh with Foxy…In the BVI there are timeless entities and characters that we consider to be a piece of the nostalgia we carry with us away from that place.  It’s just special.

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Teddy with our friends Patrick and IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart on a private trip to Jost earlier this winter.

Which is the whole draw, right?  The customs fees, the hoops to jump through, the wait time at the beginning of an epic adventure day…It’s all worth it, right?  In my humble little opinion…Yes, absolutely.

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“The Dr. is in.” If you don’t know Leon…Well, you’re missing out 🙂

I guess what I’m getting at here is, regardless of your destination, a day on the water here is priceless.  I can still remember my first few boat days in both our local waters and the BVI as clear as if it were yesterday (most of them anyway lol).  So, whichever direction you go, you’re NOT gonna have a bad time 🙂

But, the news today is the BVI since it has been so everchanging…So that’s what we are going to focus on here.

First, how do you get there for a day trip if you are staying on St. John?

Let’s focus on the smaller groups first.  You know, solo or duo travelers who can’t swing the steep price for a private vessel for the day.  You’ve got options!

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Most of the group trips go exclusively to Jost, but Voodoo, Cruz Bay Watersports and Bad Kitty offer additional destinations

Inter Island Boat Services Cruz Bay/Red Hook/Jost van Dyke Ferry

Check-in at Great Harbor (JVD) and then taxi to destination of your choice on Jost- $150 per person (includes customs, tipping is nice 😉 )

Voodoo VI Group Trips

  • Jost van Dyke:  $210 per adult or $160 per child under 12 plus tip and $75 for customs
  • Virgin Gorda (with stop at Scrubb Island for lunch!)-  $210 per adult or $160 per child under 12 plus tip and $100 for customs

Calypso/Bad Kitty Group Trips

  • Calypso (jost van dyke): $170 per adult ($120/child under 12) plus tip and $85 for customs
  • Bad Kitty “Best of the BVI” (The Baths/Willie T/White Bay):  $185 per person plus tip and $85 for customs

Kekoa Group Trips

  • Jost van Dyke:  $250/person- plus $90 for customs and tip

Cruz Bay Watersports

  • Jost van Dyke:  $199/adult, $149/child under 12- plus tip and $75 for customs
  • The Baths: $199/adult, $149/child under 12- plus tip and $75 for customs

All of the above vessels (except the ferry) are also available for private charters and include an open bar and some other extras.  Please refer to the website for your charter of choice to see which days they are offering the trips you would like to join.

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Cooper Island at dusk

In my opinion, the BEST way to experience the BVI is by chartering a private boat for the day.  If you only have a few folks in your party and are looking to share costs…Well, you know the perfect place to make new boat friends at happy hour?  St. John.  So, if you are in a smaller party and don’t want to foot the whole bill on a private boat (but also don’t mind a little leg work) make some new friends who are dying to head to the BVI for a day!  Or simply book your own vessel for a glorious day of exploring many the off-the-beaten-track destinations that Jost, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and the smaller surrounding islands have to offer!  The following St. John based charter companies are currently free and clear to tour the BVI with paid guests:

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The Indians
Flyaway Charters (the only company out of Coral Bay that is currently operating in the BVI)
Now, prices and number of guests will vary by the companies listed above but you can definitely plan for at least a $75 per person customs fee on any trip.
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Off the beaten path: Lobster lunch at Sydney’s is one of my ALL-TIME favorite stops!
Which leads me to my next topic of discussion:  What is up with the customs fees?
To be short about it, the customs fees can vary based on the size of the vessel (per foot docking fees…even if you aren’t docking), the number of paid guests on board, the number of crew on board (captain and crew customs fees are not waived), who happens to be working at customs that day, whether or not it is a holiday, or a weekend, or a birthday….Etc, etc, etc 🙂
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Sunshine Daydream Charters at Sandy Spit
But the entire breakdown of the BVI customs fees goes a little deeper than that.  In May of 2017 the BVI enacted the Environment Protection and Improvement Fund Act.  If you think back, that’s about the time that customs fees started to spike.  I remember, back in the day, it was like $40 bucks all in to head over to the BVI.  Well, times they are a changing and in 2017 this act that dedicates funding to be “utilized to facilitate the environmental protection and improvement along with the climate change, the maintenance and development of tourist sites and other tourism related activities” was implemented, adding $10 per person to the overall fees.  Other fees that you are paying in the $75-100 per person customs charges are as follows:
  • BVI Cruising Permit fee
  • BVI Environmental fee
  • BVI Departure Tax fee
  • BVI dockage fee
  • BVI National Park fee
  • US Port Authority dockage fee
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If you’re looking for luxury, Oil Nut Bay Marina is an incredible lunch option as well.

In that same year, the per person cruising permit fee went up as well.   And, if my memory serves me right, sometime during the season after Irma was when we began paying the $75-ish per person fee.  It hasn’t changed much since then if I’m recalling correctly.  But, I’ve been wrong before…So feel free to correct me!

So, if you are headed to the BVI, I would say it’s safe to bring about $200 per person cash along with you to cover your customs, food and beverages on shore.  Yes, a lot of the bars and restaurants will accept credit cards…But some of the best ones don’t 😉

On to the next subject…The wait time for check-in at customs.

This is SO variant.  It’s incredibly difficult to give you a specific idea of how long exactly you will be waiting on the vessel while your incredible Captain heads in to deal with the customs check-in process.  It could be 20 minutes.  It could be three hours.  LOL.  And, no, you can’t go hang at Foxy’s or Corsairs while check-in is happening anymore.  All guests must remain on the vessel until it has been cleared into the territory.  My advice?  Book a boat that offers an open bar, snacks or breakfast and other amenities so that you can kill time relaxing and enjoying a cold beverage or breakfast on board.  Because you never can tell how long you might be waiting until it is happening.

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Island Explorer VI at White Bay

Alright on to COVID things….

There are none.  You do not need to prove vaccination status or provide a COVID-19 negative test result in order to go to the BVI.

And, finally, passports…

EVERY guest on board needs a valid unexpired passport or passport card in order to go to the BVI.  I recently saw a query about using a birth certificate for a small child in order to get into our neighboring territory.  The short answer is, it is possible.  But, you’re going to find it difficult to nail down a charter company willing to jump through the hoops on both the BVI and the US side to make this happen.  Simply put, if you have little ones traveling with you and you plan to go to the BVI, get them a passport or passport card.  It is likely that you will be sticking to the beautiful waters of the USVI on your planned boat day if everyone participating does not have a valid (READ: unexpired) passport or passport card.  For foreign passports, reach out to your charter company directly well in advance to notify them that a person in your party is carrying a NON-US passport.

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The William Thornton 😉

That’s all for my final BVI post.  Thank goodness we are through all of that and back to cruising the seas surrounding some of our favorite watering holes once again.  And, remember, no matter where you choose to go or who you chose to go with for your day on the water, it will be beautiful.  It will be memorable.  And it will, absolutely, be something you will want to do again!

4 thoughts on “Getting to the BVI and What to Expect Upon Arrival”

  1. What time does BVI customs open and what time does US customs close . I assume you have to check in upon returning to STJ?

  2. Thank you for all the info. We got to enjoy the BVI from Saint John and paid 120 plus taxes on the website for the ferry (each) our custom tax to get to Jost was 10 bucks, on the way back it was 20. The ferry was quick and Captain Henry was no nonsense. he clearly stated to be on the ferry again at 3:30 or “The bus was leaving”. So we got on at 730 ish, got back to St. John about 4. With three painkillers each, we bought a family a round to share a taxi, a couple of souvenirs and Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar, I think we spent 300 total (having already bought the tickets). It was worth every penny. I wish we could have seen that bubbling pool, but our friend really wanted to do Foxy’s and see Miss Gertrude. I believe that was Friday, the 6th of January, 2023. When we got back it was maybe 25 minutes of customs. Everyone was in good spirits.

    We can’t wait to come back. Next year can’t come fast enough. Also, if you are going to take the ferry, I know everyone likes to sit on the top, but I like the bottom, so I don’t get super sunburnt or splashed before I am ready. We always do the bottom of the ferry, less likely to spill your drink!

  3. Thanks for this valuable overview. Do you have any suggestions for transportation to Tortolla /Scrub Island after a week on Saint John? We’re doing a 3 night stay before heading back home. Trying something different to lessen the pain of leaving.
    Thanks Hilary!

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