Virgin Islands Boat Charter
Clearing Customs in the British Virgin Islands
One of the reasons the British Virgin Islands are still beautifully unspoiled and free of crowds is that there are no direct flights to the the main airport, on Beef Island, just off Tortola (airport code EIS). Any flight to the area connects through other Caribbean ports, like San Juan, St Thomas, St. Kitts and St. Martin.
As a result, most visitors arrive by boat, which is really the best way to arrive in the British Virgin Islands. The thought of having to clear customs can be an intimidating thought, but it’s really quite simple, and can be a lot of fun, when you do it by boat with a Virgin Islands Boat Charter. There are more than 60 islands that make up the archipelago of the British Virgin Islands, each one is quite different than the other. If you arrive by plane and don’t “island hop,” you won’t truly experience the magic of the area. There’s nothing that compares to seeing deserted beaches, sugar mill ruins, stunning landscape, pirate history and different topographies by boat.
Everyone that enters the British Virgin Islands MUST have a passport or a visa to enter–regardless of age. If you are bringing an infant, that child must have a passport. European citizens from certain countries and citizens from some other Caribbean islands will require a visa to enter the British Virgin Islands. You can contact the the Immigration Department of the British Virgin Islands for a listing of which documents are required from each country or territory. Once you have your passport or visa in hand, the process is really easy and even fun.
There are four ports of entry in the British Virgin Islands. There is one in Road Town, Tortola, West End, called “Soper’s Hole” on Tortola, an office in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke and one in Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. These offices are located at harbors to easily accommodate those arriving by boat. There are fees associated with customs check-in that vary by day of the week and time of the year. It’s a pretty complicated formula and the fees change daily, but expect to pay around $25.00-$30.00 a day per person. Customs fees must be paid in cash. If you really want to make your customs experience easy–and fun–go through customs on a Virgin Islands Boat Charter. Your captain will take your passports and customs fees into the office and handle everything for you. If you’re on Tortola, check out Soper’s Hole–you can shop and dine while you clear customs. If you go in through Great Harbour, sink your toes in the sand and order a signature cocktail at Foxy’s while you wait for your captain to process the paperwork. In Road Town, you can tour the local crafts bazaar or the shops on Wickham’s Cay while your captain clears you in. In Spanish Town, you can stroll the Yacht Harbour Shopping Center. The average time to clear customs can vary by season and the number of people in your party–and other parties–but it’s typically about 20 minutes. The coolest part is that you come out with a “British Virgin Islands” stamp in your passport! The customs offices keep standard business hours. If you arrive after hours, you simply raise a yellow flag and and await the arrival of a customs agent before going ashore.
You can also call ahead to any of the ports of entry to get permission for a late arrival if necessary. Visitors may stay in British waters for up to one month after clearing customs on a “visitors pass.” Longer stays require application at the Immigration Office for an extension. Most folks just visit for the day and return to the US Virgin Islands in the afternoon. If this is the case, you must clear back into the U.S. through the customs office in either St. John or St Thomas no later than 5pm. There is no fee for return to the U.S. Virgin Islands. While the act of clearing customs is pretty simple, knowing where the customs offices are and the procedures for mooring or docking at those offices isn’t. That’s a big reason to rent a captained day boat charter as opposed to a bareboat charter where you are the captain. The best Virgin Islands boat charter Pirate’s Paradise Adventures, can make your customs experience very easy and your visit to the British Virgin Islands one of the best days of your life.