Essential Virgin Islands Tips

Back to Virgin Islands

Before you embark on your journey to the Virgin Islands, please make sure to read the following for a survival guide in the islands.

Visa Situation

For US Citizens, you’d not need a visa but carry the passport. For an Indian living/working in the US with a valid US visa, you do not need a visa as it is an US territory. This applies to B1, F1, H1, L1, J1, and other common visa categories.

Language and Currency

English is the primary language and all USD currency bills are accepted.

Local Guides/Driving
Driving in USVI is interesting as you drive on the left (opposite of that in the USA) but the cars mostly are US made and therefore the steering wheel is on the left. Offline apps with travel guides and maps are useful here as data coverage can be tricky. Make sure your GPS has Virgin Islands maps loaded if you plan to drive here. Although navigating the roads is easy as there is only one main road that circles each island.
Getting Around
We always prefer to rent cars because of the flexibility and impulsive journeys we frequently partake. Driving in Virgin Islands though has its drawbacks. Rental companies do not allow their cars to be taken on the barges to hop between islands. If St. Thomas (STT) Airport is the port of entry,  you can rent a car there if you intend to stay in STT. Then return the car and go to St. John and rent another. It is best to get the four wheelers as the roads are sometimes steep and not paved in some cases. You will see the Jeep Wranglers everywhere. Always buy the liability insurance unless your credit card covers loss and damage protection.
If you do not intend on driving, there are taxis in all the islands, and there is a ferry between islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix) with convenient timings and affordable fares. There are cab-pool rides as well if you can get one from the hotel, but due to lack of cellular reception in parts of the island, it is way more convenient to rent a car.

Food and Nightlife

We love trying out local restaurants and bars everywhere we go, and have had a ton of fun finding local joints, street food, even food from roadside huts in the trip. Since it being a touristy area, the food prices can get expensive unless you find good local places. Yelp and Tripadvisor works pretty well in the islands.We tried out a few caribbean joints for late night drinks and food and were not disappointed in most cases. We will talk about the restaurants in related posts/pages.

Safety wise, we found St. John to be much safer than St. Thomas, since STT is a major commercial port and tourists are susceptible to crimes. Like other locals, dress appropriately while walking around. A swimsuit is not appropriate outside the beaches even if it may be convenient sometimes.

 

Shopping

Last but not the least, shopping for gifts and memorabilia is an inseparable part of the adventures. Although the Virgin Islands is a US territory, the memorabilia from here might resemble what you find in mainland. Plus lack of rich artsy culture means you wont find decorative items related to art or history. Coffee and rum are probably the most popular items to buy for home. Some woodwork, masks, flavorful spices are the stuff you can bring as gifts.

The port area near St. Thomas has several duty free shops along the water. Be sure to take a stroll in Charlotte Amalie along Veterans drive to check out the shops and bars/restaurants. But these are not quite your local shops and instead are really touristy because of the cruise ships that dock here.

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