Sailing
the British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands Sailing Holidays

The British Virgin Islands, known as a "sailor's paradise", is an untouched volcanic archipelago that offers you turquoise crystal clear waters and white sand beaches with magical sunsets.

The climate and vegetation on the largest island Tortola and the BVI are much drier than on many Caribbean islands, which makes the water clarity much higher. This is why the BVI is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers.

Dive into crystal clear waters and enjoy the beauty of the coral reefs.   

Yacht Charter in the British Virgin Islands

Yacht Charter in the British Virgin Islands will spoil all your senses. Spend your sailing vacation aboard a luxury catamaran and explore the amazing warm underwater paradise full of colorful life, corals and reefs. Find hidden coves and enjoy exotic cuisine in pirate-ship bars and restaurants.

The high season for sailing in the BVI would be from December through April. In May and June, the islands get less busy and more peaceful. During September and October, there is a small chance of hurricanes. However, it is also the best time for sailing if you want to be alone and have a whole beach to yourself.

How to get to British Virgin Islands

When travelling to the BVI, there are no direct flights from Europe or the USA to the BVI's main airport on Beef Island, Tortola (EIS). All flights connect through other Caribbean airports such as St. Thomas (STT), Antigua (ANU),Puerto Rico (SJU), or St. Maarten (SXM).

We reccommend the following two ways ways of getting to the BVI. The first is to fly to Tortola Beef Island Airport (EIS), connecting through Puerto Rico Airport (SJU), Antigua Airport (ANU) or St. Maarten Airport (SXM). If you want the easiest and simplest option, and if you have much luggage, this is the way to go. However, this option is more expensive since Tortola Beef Island Airport is a small airport with only one runway.

The second way is to fly St. Thomas Airpot (STT) in the U.S. Virgin Islands and then take a ferry to Tortola. If you want the cheapest option or more flight options, you should choose flying to St. Thomas (STT) and taking the ferry to Tortola. Ferries run regularly to Tortola and the ferry ride is about an hour long. Keep in mind that there are two docks in Tortola, one on the West End and one in Road Town. However, if you are not willing or able to pass the U.S. territory, go for the first option.

Getting around in the British Virgin Islands

Surely the best way to explore the BVI is on your charter yacht. However, if you want to go sightseeing on Tortola or Virgin Gorda islands, we recommend the following options:

Car Rental in the BVI

To rent a car in the BVI at least 25 years old and hold a valid driver’s license. You will need to have a local temporary driving permit to drive in the British Virgin Islands. Get it at any car rental agency or at the Traffic Office by presenting your driver’s licence or an international driving permit.

Remember to drive on the left and be prepared for challenging road conditions.

Book your car in advance to get a better deal. If you make your booking on one of the car rental websites before you get to the BVI, you can save up to 50% .

Taxis in the BVI

Taxis are generally expensive but they are a hassle-free way to move around most of the islands. They are easily accessible in the main tourist areas and the drivers are also pretty good tour guides. Negotiate the fare before entering the car.

Buses in the BVI

There is no publicly run bus system anywhere in the British Virgin Islands. However, there are safari  buses which travel around Tortola and Virgin Gorda. For cheap transportation to well-known tourist spots, you should consider them.

Customs and Duty Free

Customs and Immigration offices are located on Tortola in Road Town and the West End, on Virgin Gorda in the Virgin Gorda Airport and on Jost Van Dyke in Great Harbour.

Visitors to the BVI can bring in food, with the exception of meat products, and can bring up to $10,000 in currency. 1L of alcohol per person is duty free. All pets will require an import permit from the Department Of Agriculture. Cats and dogs entering have to be vaccinated against Rabies.

Prohibited imports: illegal drugs, arms, explosives and ammunition, knives and deadly weapons, meat and meat products, hazardous materials, counterfeit money and goods, pornographic material

Determining what you can take home depends on your country of origin. Save your receipts because a  customs agent may ask to see them along with the items purchased.

Money and Banking

The offical currency in the BVI and is the U.S. Dollar. There are many banks all over the islands such as Scotia Bank, Banco Popular, First Caribbean and others. If you need to exchange currency, banks on the islands are your only option. Since their rates can be expensive, it is best to exchange money before you arrive.

You can find ATMs only on Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Each machine charges around $2 - $3 for a transaction fee.

MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in BVI. However, visitors should not rely only on credit cards. Some places like small boutiques and shops accept only cash. Most taxi drivers alos do not accept credit cards. Beware of credit card fees and check with your bank to see what fees will be charged for transactions in the BVI.

Weather & sailing conditions

The British Virgin Island’s climate is tropical and humid. Temperatures are constant and pleasantly warm throughout the whole year which means the sun shines all year round. The average temperatures are 29° C in summer and 25° C in winter but it can be significantly colder in the evenings from December to April when the trade winds are at their coolest.

The BVI weather and warm trade winds offer excellent sailing conditions which are ideal for sailing beginners. Thanks to this, it is simple to plan an itinerary.

Wind in the BVI

Trade winds are consistent throughout the year, blowing from 10 to 20 knots. Those warm and moderate winds make sailing in the British Virgin Islands a dream. Also, they almost constantly blow from the East.

During the winter months (November to February) the wind blows from 15 to 20 knots. In December, the Christmas Winds can produce 25 to 30 knots for several days in a row. In spring/summer months, the winds tend to be lighter, blowing at around 10-15 knots. In September and October, the trade winds are at their weakest.

Rain in the BVI

The rainiest months are May and September-November. However, when the rain does come it’s usually brief, heavy bursts which last less than an hour. The driest months are usually February to April. The annual amount of rainfall is around 1,000/1,200 mm per year.

Sea temperature

Sea temperature is warm and pleasant throughout the year in the BVI and it sits around late 26-28 ° C.

Hurricanes

Tropical storms and hurricanes can occur in the region in the second half of the year (June – October) but mainly in August and September. However, you can still come during the hurricane season – the BVI can go for years without a storm.

 Best time to sail in the BVI

The best sailing breeze blows around Christmas, when the Christmas winds blow at around 25-30. Nevertheless, the whole winter offers great sailing conditions. Therefore, the winter months (December – March) are the busiest. The summer months are the hottest, have the potential for hurricanes and there are no crowds.

Health and Safety

  • Bring your supplies of all medications in their original containers and don't forget prescriptions. Put all medications in hand luggage. Make sure your health insurance covers all medical expenses abroad.
  • Medical care in the British Virgin Islands is limited but adequate. Tortola has a small general hospital with a 24-hour emergency room. Day clinics are available on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyk. For an ambulance in the British Virgin Islands, call 999.
  • Avoid contact with stray dogs and other animals.
  • Apply insect repellents and don't sleep with the window open unless there is a screen.
  • Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked. Avoid buying food and beverages from street vendors. Do not eat raw meat or fish. if you have a delicate stomach, stick to bottled water.
  • The BVI has a very low crime rate. Of course, it’s always important to use common sense and avoid unpopulated areas, particularly at night.
  • Road conditions are generally good, but you should be extra cautious on steep and narrow mountain roads.
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun. To protect yourself use sunscreen, wear sunglassses, protevtive clothing and a hat. Seek shade during the hottest time of day.
  • Travelers' diarrhea is the most common problem. Bring an antidiarrheal drug.
  • Adjust your plans if weather conditions become unsafe. Limit physical activity during high temperatures.
  • Prepare for activities by wearing the right clothes.
  • Practice safe boating - follow all boating safety laws and don't drink alcohol if driving a boat.

 

Bans

  • Fishing without a permit
  • Spear fishing and removing of coral or marine animals
  • Possession of illegal drugs
  • Smoking in public places and within 50 feet of any public space

What to bring to the BVI – packing tips

Storage space on a boat is limited and you should use your space wisely. Therefore, pack smart and travel light!

Here is a list of things you would want to take with you on your week-long sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands:

- passport & money (U.S. Dollars and credit cards)

- driver's licence

- health insurance documents

- personal medicines and copies of all prescriptions

- clothes: 3 bathing suits, 5 T-Shirts, 1-2 Long-sleeved shirts, 2-3 Pairs of shorts, 1-2 pairs of lightweight long pants, 2-3 dresses, 1-2 sarongs, 1 sweater or sweatshirt, 1 windbreaker, pajamas, underwear and socks

- footwear: 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 pair of sandals/flip flops

- rain gear

- hat & sunglasses

- toiletries

- sunscreen & insect repellent

Choosing a yacht type for sailing in the BVI

We recommend chartering a sailboat or a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands. Either way you will have the most amazing sailing vacation ever. We offer three types of yacht charter - bareboat yacht charter, skippered yacht charter, and crewed yacht charter.

Can't decide between a monohull and a catamaran? Read this article. If you need any assistance in choosing the ideal yacht for you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The Sailing Beginners - Complete Guide for First Time Sailors

The Sailing Beginners - Complete Guide for First Time Sailors

Read guide
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Best time to sail

December – April

Number of boat bases

-

Closest airports

Beef Island Tortola (EIS), Virgin Gorda (VIJ), Anegada (NGD)

Currency

US Dollar (USD)

Languages spoken

English, Virgin Islands Creole

Tips

The Baths National Park, North Sound, Virgin Gorda, Anegada Island, White Bay Beach, Jost Van Dyke, Cane Garden Bay,Tortola, Rhone National Maritime Park & RMS Rhone, Shipwreck Dives

Interested in Sailing Holiday in British Virgin Islands?