153 sq km (59 sq miles).
213.6 per sq km.
Road Town, Tortola.
British Overseas Territory.
Head of state:
HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor John Duncan since 2014.
Head of government:
Premier Orlando Smith since 2011.
110 volts AC, 60Hz. North American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without a third grounding pin) are used; some sockets may not accept plugs with a third pin however.
Sloping hills of green, lush mountainous terrain, extensive coral reefs and famous shipwrecks sum up the thrills and spills of the British Virgin Islands. With myriad nautical pursuits on offer, the 50 idyllic islands are a slice of paradise, though for travellers who prefer to watch the sea rather than get into it, there is the breathtaking chance of spotting dolphins and whales criss-crossing the surface.
Norman Island, was supposedly the location that Robert Louis Stevenson based Treasure Island on. Today’s visitors might not stumble across swashbuckling pirates or half-concealed treasure troves, but they will find a highly prized booty of soft sand and gentle, teal waters.
Paradise does come at a cost. Overall, the British Virgin Islands are quite an expensive destination. But, for some, this is the necessary price of saving a Caribbean gem from over-commercialisation. If this is the intention, the British Virgin Islands are, for now, a resounding success.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Although most visits to the BVI are trouble-free, serious incidents, including armed robbery, do occur. You should take sensible precautions against petty crime. Avoid walking alone in isolated areas including beaches, particularly after dark. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Use a hotel safe if possible. Never leave anything valuable unattended on the beach. Take particular care of your passport as it can’t be renewed or replaced in the BVI.
Don’t offer resistance to an armed robber. If you need help contact the police in the first instance. The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force website provides crime prevention tips.
There are regular ferry services between Tortola and its sister islands of Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, and also to the US Virgin Islands.
Driving conditions can be hazardous, due to steep and narrow mountain roads, and poor driving standards.
Temporary driving licences are no longer issued in the BVI. You can drive for up to 30 days on a UK licence and then must apply for a local one at the Vehicle Department. Cars are left-hand drive, and vehicles drive on the left as in the UK.
Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations, but it is sensible to clarify the fare with the driver beforehand.
Many visitors to the BVI take part in water sports. The rate of accidents is very low, but they do occur. Many accidents involve the consumption of alcohol. Fear and dehydration exaggerate the effects of alcohol, so take care if you have been drinking.
Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) respond to emergencies at sea. VISAR can be contacted as follows:
- dial 767 (SOS)
- dial 999 or 911
- dial 494 4357 (494-HELP)
-send a distress call on VHF Channel 16
As the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a British Overseas Territory, there’s no formal British diplomatic or consular representation. The local authorities deal with all requests for emergency assistance.
If you need the police, call 911 or 311.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are processed by the British High Commission in Barbados and in a genuine emergency, the BVI Civil Registry and Passport Office (+1 284 494-3701 ext 3035/3036) may be able to issue a regional Emergency Travel Document (not valid for travel through the United States of America).