Tourist Tips

Banking Services
Some banks offer automatic teller machines compatible with stateside bank cards.  Citibank & Banco Popular are stateside banks with branches in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  If you visit the bank be sure to bring along 2 pieces of Identification.

You can expect beautiful weather year round.  Average temperatures are from 77 degrees Fahrenheit in January to April and 82 degrees Fahrenheit in July to November.  We often have short rain showers, but you can count on them normally ending quickly.

Dress is casual, but not too casual!  While on the street, it is actually illegal to go shirtless or to wear a swimsuit only.  Such attire is not welcome  in island stores, swim wear should be confined to the beach or pools.  Bikini tops are also a no-no when shopping downtown, and shirts must be worn in all other public buildings and banks.  Otherwise the dress code in the Virgin Islands requires only casual lightweight clothing.  Nights and evenings can sometimes get be cool, a sweater or light jacket could be needed.  Some upscale restaurants and casinos may require men to wear a jacket (but no tie), in such places you'll probably want to cover up even more  to be comfortable in the air-conditioning.  Topless sunbathing is not acceptable in most resort areas, although there are some secluded beaches which do allow it.

Crime & Safety
Unfortunately there is crime in paradise.  It is never  a bad idea to help discourage crime by being smart.  Follow the same rules you would in any big city.  When walking, stay on well lit streets at night.  In the some towns, such as Charlotte Amalie, a taxi at night is recommended for long distances.  When going by car, leave valuables in the safe deposit box at your hotel or onboard your ship.  Don't leave any valuables unattended on the beach.  Don't flash large amounts of bills in public.  On some of the smaller islands crime is almost nonexistent.

Throughout the islands there are many choices of foods.  However one variety you will undoubtedly see often are the West Indian foods, found on all the islands.  Local favorites you may not have heard of before are saltfish (fish that has been salted for preservation and boiled to rehydrate), pates (fried breads with meat fillings), fungi (a corn dumpling), dumpling (thick flour dumpling), lobster (Caribbean), stewed mutton (soup), conch (an island delicacy often added to fritters), plantains (like a banana but not sweet), Johnny cake (fried unleavened bread), and green sweet potatoes (taste similar to the orange sweet potatoes but not as heavy).  As well as some unusual island fruits, and many well known ones.  Also very popular are the East Indian influenced curried Roti (an Indian tortilla-like wrapper with curried a meal of chicken, conch or tofu and often vegetables & potato).  For a locals favorite try Victors New Hideout restaurant on St. Thomas waterfront with Caribbean foods.

Duty-free Shopping
The U.S. Virgin Islands is a paradise of shopping.  There are no sales or luxury taxes, and U.S. citizens are allowed a $1,200 duty-free shopping allowance per person - twice that of any other Caribbean island and three times that of European countries.  In addition to this exemption, shoppers may also mail home to friends and relatives one duty-free gift per day (other than perfume, liquor or tobacco) worth $ 100 or less.

Some note able Duty-free Shopping can be found in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Frederiksted, St. Croix, Road Town, Tortola, & Cruz Bay, St. John.  These areas are also full of local artists and craftspeople, although some items may be imported from other Caribbean Islands.  Electronics are a great buy for U.S. tourists, Europeans should be cautious and take a close look at the voltage of the device though, it may not be compatible at home.  Duty free items include; fine jewelry, linens, liquor & spirits, cigars, cigarettes, coffees, island made hot sauces, designer clothing,  imported soaps and perfumes, designer beauty care products, watches, cameras, and island made items.

Power output throughout the Virgin Islands is the same as in the United States, 110 volt/60 cycle.  Visitors from Europe who require 220 volt recharging facilities are advised to bring an adapter with them as they are not available on the islands.

Passports are not required of U.S. citizens who visit the U.S. Virgin Islands.  However, it is a good idea to bring your birth certificate or another form of identification when traveling as proof of citizenship.  If you wish to visit the British Virgin Islands a passport or birth certificate is required upon entry.

Don't bother carrying heavy liquor cartons around while you shop.  Most major retailers would be happy to deliver your liquor to the cruise ship or airport, free of charge.

Greeting someone appropriately ("good morning", "good afternoon", "good night"), shows respect, and is the proper island way to begin conversation, ensuring pleasantness in return.  If you need information, ask a local.  The Virgin Islands are small islands and residents are glad to help you find whatever you need.

Medical Care
Although this varies depending upon which island you are on, almost every island has 24 emergency service available.  St. Thomas' Roy Lester Schneider hospital is available for any problems that may occur during your holiday.  There are also many walk in clinics on St. Thomas at locations all over the island.

The U.S. dollar is the main currency in use on the islands, including the British Virgin Islands.  Most establishments honor major credit cards and travelers checks, some offer automatic teller machines compatible with stateside bank cards.    When using travelers checks be sure to follow the guidelines from the issuing bank.  Major banks with automatic teller machines can be found in the Virgin Islands, they include; Chase, Citibank, Scotia bank & Banco Popular.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands postage rates & services are the same as in U.S. due to the presence of the U.S. Postal Service.  In the BVI airmail is recommended.

After all you're on vacation!  The pace of life is slower in the islands, learn to take your time and don't worry, be happy.

Seeing the Islands
We drive on the left.  In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a valid stateside drivers license is all you need.   Taxi vans are available at the main tourist spots on the island to take you wherever you please.  You will often here the question, "Taxi?" as you visit the various island sights.  Licensed taxi drivers charge standard, published rates that are based on destination.  The taxis in the U.S. Virgin Islands carry multiple passengers, so be prepared to share a taxi. You may arrange for a private taxi by calling one of the taxi companies, but you will pay more for the privilege.  Rental cars and jeeps are available for visitors.  If you rent a car, don't forget that driving is on the left side of the road - a European legacy.  For tours and destination management see Treasure Isle Cruises and Caribbean Tour Services . Water Taxis are availalbe to down island locations.

Sun Protection
The Caribbean sun is strong! - be careful when you are in the sun, particularly during late morning & the early afternoon hours.   Each year, two and a half million tourists visit the Virgin Islands wanting to go home with a suntan.   However, many get burnt on their first day due to the cooling effects of  the trade winds, not realizing how much sun they are really getting.  It is very important to limit your sunbathing at first (10 min) to see how your skin takes to our sun, and only gradually increase the length of exposure to the sun's rays.  Even those with dark complexions should be cautious, sunburns can be painful.  A good rule of thumb is to stay out of the sun from 11am to 2pm to avoid the highest concentration of UV rays.  As a precaution keep yourself and your children especially well protected with a high factor of sun screen or clothing, paying particular attention to the top of the head (wear a hat), the nose, the backs of the knees, ears and the tops of the feet. When snorkeling, always wear some sort of protective T-shirt to protect your shoulders & back.

You can make international calls from most hotels, but hotel charges are normally 30-50% higher than the cost of using operators such as AT&T, (who are also able to handle you personal phone card calls).  Note that hotel charges will be made even if the call goes unanswered.  As in the United States, 1-800 toll-free numbers can be accessed from anywhere on the U.S. islands.  To make a long distance call from the Virgin Islands to countries which have a country code of '1'  including the USA, Canada, Hawaii and most Caribbean countries, you must first dial 1 + Area Code + Telephone Number.  For all other countries, including Europe and the Far East, dial 011 + Country Code + Area Code + Telephone Number.  The area code for the British Virgin Islands is 284. The area code for the United States Virgin Islands is 340.  Phone cards can be purchased throughout the islands to allow you long distance calling from any phone.

Time Zone
Time: Virgin Islanders live by Atlantic Standard Time.  Their clocks are set one hour ahead of those on the East Coast, except during Daylight Savings Time.

Baggage handlers are normally tipped per bag depending on the weight and size of the item.  All restaurants expect a standard tip of 15% and some will even expect as much as 20%, many add this automatically onto your bill, though an additional tip for good service is not out of the question!  Taxis also expect a tip, especially if you expect the driver to help with your luggage.  Tipping is appreciated on tours, normally at the end of the tour.


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