Your gateway to the B.V.I. will most likely be Tortola or Virgin Gorda, although currently there are no direct flights from North America or Europe to any of the British Virgin Islands (American Eagle discontinued all service to the island in 2013). Most visitors arrive into the international airports in St. Thomas or San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then fly or ferry to the B.V.I. A handful of regional airlines also offer service between Tortola or Virgin Gorda and islands like St. Croix and St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Air Sunshine (tel 800/327-8900 in the U.S. or Canada, or 284/495-8900 in the B.V.I.; www.airsunshine.com) offers direct flights between San Juan (or St. Thomas) and both Tortola and Virgin Gorda; direct flights between Vieques, Puerto Rico, and both Tortola and Virgin Gorda; and direct flights between St. Croix and Virgin Gorda. Cape Air (tel 800/227-3247 in the U.S. and U.S.V.I., or 284/495-2100 in the B.V.I.; www.capeair.com) flies between San Juan and Tortola or Virgin Gorda and between St. Thomas and Tortola. Seabourne Airlines (tel 866/359-8784, or 340/773-6442 in the U.S.V.I.; www.seaborneairlines.com), which moved its headquarters from St. Croix to San Juan in late 2013, offers regularly scheduled flights between San Juan and both Tortola and Virgin Gorda, as well as service between St. Croix (and St. Thomas) and the B.V.I.
Flying time between Tortola (or Virgin Gorda) and San Juan is 30 to 40 minutes; between Tortola and St. Thomas, 15 minutes; and between Tortola and St. Croix, 45 minutes.
Beef Island, the site of the major airport serving the British Virgins, the Terrence B. Lettsome Airport (EIS), is connected to Tortola by the one-lane Queen Elizabeth Bridge. Supplies and services on the other islands are extremely limited.
Many B.V.I.–bound visitors who arrive in St. Thomas via the island’s international airport then travel on by public ferry. (The more upscale resorts offer direct transfer from the airport by private ferry—for a fee, of course.) Public ferries connect to the B.V.I. via St. Thomas’s two ferry terminals (Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook). It’s essential to plan your flights around ferry connections. The last ferries from St. Thomas to the British Virgin Islands leave around 4:30 or 5pm. If you’re arriving on a late flight into St. Thomas or your flight arrives late it’s likely you’ll need to overnight on the island. If you’re just a little bit late, you can arrange a private water taxi. However—and this is a big however—the B.V.I. Customs on Tortola’s West End closes at 6pm, so any water-taxi ride will have to leave by, at the very latest, 5:30pm.
In addition, it’s important to build time into your schedule for the taxi ride from the St. Thomas airport to the closest ferry terminal, Charlotte Amalie—it’s about a 15-minute trip, but traffic gridlock can make it longer—and so can stops for other passengers along the way (most airport taxi vans load up with passengers no matter where the destination). If time is tight, consider hiring a private water-taxi service, which includes transfers from the airport in private taxis it’s pricier than public ferries, but it’s also a hassle-free, crowd-free way to make your connections.
Tortola has two main ferry terminals, Road Town and West End. Beef Island (Trellis Bay), off Tortola’s East End, also gets ferry traffic and is where many of the Virgin Gorda and private island resorts have water launches for connecting guests. Public ferries from the other islands have regular runs to both the Road Town and West End terminals, so plan your itinerary around the terminal (and the departure time) that’s most convenient for you. If you’re staying on the island’s West End, for example, it makes sense to take a ferry to the West End.
You can also get direct ferry service from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda, but runs are infrequent (and only operate on certain days of the week)—so you may need to ferry to Tortola first (most likely Road Town) and then catch another ferry to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.
For those traveling on to the North Sound in Virgin Gorda, here’s another option: Take a taxi ride from the Road Town ferry to Trellis Island, on Tortola’s East End, and hop aboard the North Sound Express (tel 284/495-2138), which has daily connections to Spanish Town, Leverick Bay, and the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda; round-trip fares are $40 to $55 adults, $20 to $32 children.
Public ferries making runs between the U.S. Virgins and the B.V.I. include Native Son (tel 284/494-5674; www.nativesonferry.com), Smith’s Ferry Services (tel 284/495-4495; www.smithsferry.com), and Inter-Island Boat Services (tel 284/495-4166). (The latter specializes in somewhat roundabout routing—that is, you may find yourself traveling to St. John or Jost Van Dyke before you arrive in Tortola.) One-way and round-trip fares range from $25 to $49.
If you prefer private water-taxi service, contact Dohm’s Water Taxi (tel 340/775-6501; www.watertaxi-vi.com; St. Thomas to Tortola: $325–$625, five-person minimum; $65 each additional person), a private, full-service (pickup and transfer) inter-island water taxi service that offers travel anywhere in the Virgin Islands in custom-built catamaran powerboats; or Dolphin Water Taxi (tel 340/774-2628; www.dolphinshuttle.com), which includes private taxi airport pickup to Red Hook with its private boat transfers to Tortola ($79–$95 per person, four-person minimum). Dolphin also offers water-taxi services throughout the Virgin Islands and day-trip charters to Jost Van Dyke ($55 per person one-way).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.