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U.S. Virgin Islands Planning Tips and Fast Facts

“Lime” – the West Indian Verb for Doing Absolutely Nothing – in America’s Favorite Paradise

Our Expert Opinion

The U.S. Virgin Islands are the gateway to the BVI, and together, the Virgins are the most popular sailing destination is the world. Constant trade winds, short sailing distances between islands and calm seas make this is an ideal location for chartering a sailing yacht or catamaran. Don’t “rush” to the BVI - enjoy at least a day in St. John with its pristine beaches, hiking trails and boutique shopping.

What is Destination Known For?

White sand beaches, duty free mega-shopping, rich marine life, remote National Park anchorages in St. John, adrenaline adventures, easy to get to, gentle winds.

Location and Size

The United States Virgin Islands are a group of volcanic islands in the eastern Caribbean, situated 1,100 miles (1,770 km) southeast of Miami. The territory covers a total land area of 133.73 square miles (346.4 km2) with St.Croix, St.John and St.Thomas being the major destinations. The capital of the region is Charlotte Amalie, situated on the island of Saint Thomas.

History

The first inhabitants of this place were the Ciboneys who landed here during the Pre-Ceramic Culture. The Arawaks were the next to arrive here, establishing sites on St. John and St. Croix around 100 AD. The fierce Caribs and the more peaceful Tainos followed them and remain as the best-known inhabitants of this place.

Christopher Columbus disembarked here in the late 1400s and gave the Virgin Islands their name. Several countries including France, Spain and Denmark attempted to annex the islands with the Danes prevailing when they settled in St. Thomas in the late 1600s and established a slave trading post. The majority of the slaves worked in sugar plantations, and slavery greatly boosted the island's sugar cane industry.

On 2nd July, 1848, a slave rebellion on St.Croix prompted Peter von Scholten to liberate all the 17,000 slaves on the island.

The islands remained relatively untouched until the U.S. bought them in 1917 because of their strategic location during World War I. They became a U.S. Territory and by 1936, most of its residents were granted U.S. citizenship. Today, they elect their own governor and have one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.

Getting There

By Air: The Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St.Thomas connects the island city with direct flights to the U.S., and connecting flights to Canada, Europe, South America and the Far East. St. John does not have an airport, but is easily accessible via ferry or private water taxi from St. Thomas. Several inter island air carriers are available for traveling within the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and neighboring Caribbean islands.

By Sea: Ferries run between all three US Virgin Islands, as well as to and from the British Virgin Islands.

Best Time to Go

The USVIs are considered a year-round travel destination with sunny skies, warm weather and favorable winds throughout the year so the best time to visit the USVI is anytime from November through July. The named hurricane season is June 1 – November 1. The active hurricane or tropical storm time is generally mid-August through late October, and we do not recommend chartering in the USVI at that time. Temperatures in the winter range from the mid 70°F (21°C) to high 80°F (27°C). Evenings are pleasant and breezy. The average water temperature on St. Thomas, USVI is around 82° F (29° C) in the summer and 80° F (26° C) in the winter.

Local Customs to Observe

Always greet people with “good morning” or other suitable greeting (depending on the time of day) rather than “Hi”, it is sure to make a huge difference in how well you are treated. Virgin Islanders are quite conservative with their dressing. It is uncommon for the local inhabitants to be scantily clad unless on the beach or by a poolside. Females usually wear beach cover-ups by the sea-side.


Helpful Fast Facts

Currency: United States Dollar (USD)

Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time (UTC-4)

Local language: English

Population: 106,377 as of Thursday, March 10, 2016

Airport: The Cyril E. King Airport (STT) located in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

Entry Requirements: U.S citizens do not need a passport to enter the Islands but need a government-issued photo ID document for leaving. Children (17 or younger) do not need ID documents however it is advisable to carry a copy of their birth certificate or other document as proof of their age. If your sailing itinerary includes the BVI, passports are required. Others need to comply with the same entry requirements as of the U.S mainland.

Departure tax: None

Legal Drinking Age: 18 years

Smoking Regulations: Smoking is prohibited in and within 20 feet of all public places, including enclosed restaurants, bars, cafes and any waiting lines.

Staying in touch: The islands have a good coverage of internet and mobile services. US registered mobiles operate domestically and do not 'roam' here.

Medical Information:

  • The Roy Lester Schneider Hospital in St. Thomas offers extensive medical facilities
  • The Myrah Keating Smith clinic in St. John is well equipped to tend to medical cases
  • Emergency medical evacuation or 'Medevac' is readily available across the territory

Public Holidays: New Year’s Day(1st January); Three Kings' Day(6th January); Holy Thursday(Thursday before Easter); Good Friday; Easter Monday; Memorial Day(Last Monday of May); Emancipation Day(3rd July); U.S. Independence Day (4th July); Labour Day(First Monday of September); Columbus Day(Second Monday of October); Hamilton Jackson Day/Liberty Day(1st November); Veteran’s Day(11th November); Thanksgiving Day(24th November); Christmas Day(25th December); Second Christmas Day(26th December)

Tourist Office:

  • http://www.visitusvi.com/ contains various useful tourist information
  • Telephonic enquiry is facilitated with the toll free helpline number 800-372-8784

Shopping Information: The USVI is a duty free port. U.S. citizens, including children, are allowed to bring back $1600 of duty free merchandise every 30 days. Mongoose Junction is the numero uno shopping destination on the island of St. John. An abundance of outlets selling a wide variety of merchandise: from gems and jewels to rum and tobacco products thrive across the Islands.

Top Ten "Must Do's"

The USVI's things to do list is long enough to keep you busy during your yacht trip.

  • Tee off at the glorious yet challenging terrains of the Mahogany Run Golf Course in St.Thomas
  • Try the Caribbean dumb bread by Miss Olivia at the Annaberg Plantation in St. John
  • Snorkel with starfish the size of your hand at Water Lemon Cay in Leinster Bay , St.John
  • Shop ‘til you drop in the historic streets of Charlotte Amalie
  • Hike the Cinnamon Bay Trail in the National Park on St. John
  • Shop for local art and crafts in the galleries at Mongoose Junction
  • Get an adrenaline rush on the Zipline tour on St.Thomas
  • Kayak or stand-up paddleboard into Mary’ Creek on St. John
  • Find a secluded cove on the south side of St. John where you might be on the only yacht in the harbor
  • Get a bird’s eye view from a parasail

Major Local and Regional Events

Major Local and Regional Events

  • Mardi Croix Parade – an annual street parade in March
  • St. John Blues Festival – features regional artists who perform at the Coral Bay Ball Field in the month of March
  • St. Thomas International Regatta – annual yacht racing event in March participated by contestants from all over the world
  • St. Thomas Carnival (April/May) - the carnival month is one of the most preferred and best times to visit St. Thomas

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