In the Virgin Islands, hotel surcharges on long-distance and local calls are usually astronomical, so you're better off using your cellphone or a public pay telephone. Many convenience stores, groceries, and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50; for international visitors these can be the least expensive way to call home. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. Local calls made from pay phones in most locales cost either 25¢ or 35¢ (no pennies, please). Many of the most rural or expressly private resorts and hotels in the Virgin Islands do not provide phones in the rooms, but have phones in their lobbies or common areas.
To make calls within the United States, including the U.S. Virgins, and to Canada, dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and the number you are calling.
You can call the British Virgins from the United States by just dialing 1, the area code 284, and the number; from the U.K. dial 011-44, then the number. To call the U.S. from the B.V.I., just dial 1 plus the area code and the number; to call the U.K. from the B.V.I., dial 011-44-, then the number.
Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll-free. However, calls to area codes 700 and 900 (chat lines, bulletin boards, "dating" services, and so on) can be very expensive -- usually a charge of 95¢ to $3 or more per minute, and they sometimes have minimum charges that can run as high as $15 or more.
For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0, then the area code and number; an operator will come on the line, and you should specify whether you are calling collect, person-to-person, or both. If your operator-assisted call is international, ask for the overseas operator.
For local directory assistance ("information"), dial 411; for long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code and 555-1212.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands: The two largest cellphone operators in the U.S.V.I. include Sprint PCS (www.sprint.com) and AT&T Wireless (www.att.com/wireless), which is still referred to by some locals as Cingular. Phones operating in the mainland U.S. under those plans will usually operate seamlessly, and without any excess roaming charges, in the U.S.V.I. If your phone presently operates through some other carrier, it's wise to call them before your departure about signing up (at least temporarily) for one of their international plans, which will save you money on roaming charges during the duration of your trip. If your cellphone is not equipped for reception and transmission in the U.S.V.I., consider renting (or buying) a cheap cellphone for temporary use, or, less conveniently, head for a Sprint PCS or AT&T sales outlet (each maintains offices on all three of the U.S.V.I.'s major islands) for a substitute SIM card, a key operating component that can be inserted into your existing phone, making it operational. Throughout the U.S.V.I., the electrical system is the same as within the U.S. mainland (115 volts and female sockets which accept the U.S.-style "flat" plugs), so most U.S. residents won't need any special transformers or adaptors.
In the British Virgin Islands: The two largest cellphone operators in the B.V.I. include CCT Global Communications (www.cctwireless.com) and Digicell BVI (www.digicelbvi.com), both with offices in Road Town and on Virgin Gorda. Other than that, the cellphone situation is roughly equivalent to what's described immediately above in the U.S.V.I. The electrical system in the B.V.I. is the same as that within the U.S.V.I. and the mainland U.S. (115 volts), so British and European visitors may want to bring adaptors and transformers. Hotels in the B.V.I. often have the appropriate adaptors, and in some cases, those adaptors are physically built directly into the wall sockets.
Internet & Wi-Fi
There is limited Internet access on the major islands in the Virgin Islands chain. The best chances for Internet access are found in St. Thomas, less so in St. Croix, and even less so in St. John. On some of the more remote islands, you may be completely out of luck. Your hotel remains the best bet for Internet or Wi-Fi access, as there aren't many Internet cafes in the Virgin Islands. In Charlotte Amalie, you will find a few small cafes that will let you use an Internet-ready computer for the price of a coffee. Throughout the British Virgin Islands, it is difficult to find places where you can use the Internet. Increasingly, Tortola and Virgin Gorda have Internet access, but it is still very rare in the out islands of the B.V.I.