Most of Tortola's shops are on Road Town's Main Street. Unfortunately, the British Virgins have no duty-free shopping. British goods are imported without duty, though, and you can find some good buys among these imported items, especially in English china. In general, store hours are Monday to Saturday from 9am to 4pm.
You might start your shopping expedition at Crafts Alive, an open-air market lying in the center of Road Town and impossible to miss. It consists of a series of old-fashioned West Indian-style buildings that are stocked with crafts, ranging from Caribbean dolls to straw hats, from crocheted doilies to the inevitable B.V.I. T-shirts. Very few of these items, however, are made on the island; we noted that some, in fact, come from Panama.
In arts and crafts, you'll find higher-quality items at Aragorn's Local Arts and Crafts Center, Trellis Bay (tel. 284/495-1849; www.aragornsstudio.com), a showcase for the most talented artisans on the island. "A lot of Europeans used to look down on Caribbean art," Aragorn Dick-Read once told the press. But he has worked to create a greater appreciation of Caribbean culture among visitors. Here you will find an array of copper sculptures, island prints, local art, and jewelry, including the island's best selection of handcrafted pottery. The finest of woodcarving and metalwork is also displayed here in a newly expanded studio.
Sunny Caribbee Spice Co., 119 Main St., Road Town (tel. 284/494-2178; www.sunnycaribbee.com), in an old West Indian building, was the first hotel on Tortola. It's now a shop specializing in Caribbean spices, seasonings, teas, condiments, and handicrafts. With an aroma of spices permeating the air, this factory is an attraction in itself. You can buy two famous specialties here: the West Indian hangover cure and the Arawak love potion. A Caribbean cosmetics collection, Sunsations, includes herbal bath gels, island perfume, and sunscreens. There's a daily sampling of island products -- perhaps tea, coffee, sauces, or dips.
Samarkand, Main Street, Road Town (tel. 284/494-6415), is an unusually good bet for jewelry and other items. Look for an intriguing selection of bracelets, pins, and pendants in both silver and gold, and pierced earrings. Caribbean motifs such as palms and seabirds often appear in the designs of the jewelry.
Pusser's Company Store, Main Street and Waterfront Road, Road Town (tel. 284/494-2467; www.pussers.com), has gourmet food items including meats, spices, fish, and a nice selection of wines. Pusser's Rum is one of the best-selling items here.
Arawak, on the dock at Nanny Cay (tel. 284/494-5240), is known for its household furnishings, such as placemats and candleholders, but also sells sporty clothing for adults and kids, along with a selection of gifts and souvenirs.
Flamboyance, Waterfront Drive (tel. 284/494-4099), is the best place to shop for perfume and upscale cosmetics.
If you've rented a villa or condo, or if your accommodations have a kitchenette, consider a visit to Ample Hamper, Villa Cay Marina, Wickham's Cay I, Road Town (tel. 284/494-2494; www.amplehamper.com). This outlet stocks some of the best packaged food and bottled wines on the island. It also offers fresh fruit and a tasty selection of cheeses.
Philatelists from all over the world flock to the British Virgin Islands post office, Main Street, Road Town (tel. 284/494-3701, ext. 4996), for its exquisite and unusual stamps in beautiful designs. Even though the stamps carry U.S. monetary designations, they can be used only in the B.V.I.