Getting to Tortola
There are no nonstop flights from the U.S. mainland to Tortola. U.S. and Canadian travelers destined for Tortola arrive via San Juan, Puerto Rico, or St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. American Airlines and Cape Air are the main airlines providing scheduled service between the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and San Juan. There are also a few commuter airlines that operate between the BVI, USVI, and Puerto Rico, including Air Sunshine (284/495-8900) and WinAir (284/494-2347). Visitors from Europe usually fly to Antigua and connect to the BVI on Caribbean Star or LIAT.
Other travelers choose to fly into St. Thomas and catch a ferry to Tortola. This is often a good choice if you are on a budget, since tickets from the U.S. mainland to St. Thomas usually cost quite a bit less than those to the BVI. If you choose this route, remember that the last ferries to Tortola usually leave St. Thomas around 4:30 p.m.
At least four ferry companies offer daily ferry service between Tortola and St. Thomas. Ferries run between Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook, St. Thomas, and Road Town and West End, Tortola. The trip from West End to Red Hook is about 30 minutes; from West End to Charlotte Amalie is about 45 minutes; and from Road Town to Charlotte Amalie is about an hour. Expect to pay about $50 round-trip, regardless of the route you choose. There is an additional $5 departure tax payable to the BVI Ports Authority at the departure gate. If you are going to the St. Thomas airport, be sure to get a ferry that will take you all the way to Charlotte Amalie (you’ll save on the taxi).
Up-to-date ferry schedules are printed in The Welcome (www.bviwelcome.com) and on its website. There is no need for advance ferry reservations, but it is always a good idea to confirm the schedule a day or so before your trip, because a change in the ferry schedule can ruin your vacation.
Ferry companies operating between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands are Native Son (284/494-4617, U.S. 340/774-8685, Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook to West End and Road Town); Smith’s Ferry Service (also called Tortola Fast Ferry) (284/494-4495, U.S. 340/775-7292, Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook to West End and Road Town) and Road Town Fast Ferry (284/494-2323, U.S. 340/777-2800, Charlotte Amalie to Road Town).
From St. John, Inter-Island Boat Services (284/495-4166, Cruz Bay to West End) makes four daily trips.
If you eschew crowds, charter the Virgin Islands Water Taxi (Red Hook, St. Thomas, 340/775-6501, www.watertaxi-vi.com) for $200 from Red Hook to West End (five-person minimum).
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition