COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a British overseas territory, part of the British West Indies, lying about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. There are about 50 islands in the BVI, many of which are uninhabited. Tortola is the main island, other islands include Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Tourist facilities are widely available.Back to Top
SMARTTRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM(STEP)/EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit the British Virgin Islands (BVI), please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you check in, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. We encourage U.S. citizens traveling to Barbadosto download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Google Play
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown
Wildey Business Park
St. Michael, Barbados
Telephone: (246) 227-4399
Emergency after-hours telephone: (246) 227-4000
Facsimile: (246) 431-0179
Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday, except Barbadian and U.S. holidays.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens must have a valid U.S. passport to enter the British Virgin Islands. For further information, travelers may contact the BVI Tourist Board at (800) 835-8530 or (212) 563-3117, Fax: (212) 563-2263 or visit the BVI Tourist Board online for current entry requirements.
All U.S. citizens traveling outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter the United States. This extended to all sea travel (except closed-loop cruises), including ferry service on June 1, 2009. Travelers must now present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport or a passport card for entry to the United States. While passport cards and enhanced driver’s licenses are sufficient for entry into the United States, they may not be accepted by the particular country you plan to visit; please be sure to check with your cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements. We strongly encourage all U.S. citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel. U.S. citizens can call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
NOTE: Be aware that Caribbean cruises that begin and end in the U.S. (closed loop cruises) do not require that you travel with a valid passport. However, should you need to disembark due to an emergency and you do not have a valid passport, you may encounter difficulties entering or remaining in a foreign country. You may also have difficulty attempting to re-enter the United States by air because many airlines will require a valid passport before allowing you to board the aircraft. As such, we strongly recommend that you always travel abroad with your valid passport.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of the BVI. Anyone who does not appear to be in good health may be required to undergo a medical exam, including HIV test, prior to being granted or denied entry. Please verify this information with the Embassy of the United Kingdom before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Stay up to date on safety and security information:
CRIME: Theft, armed robbery and other violent crimes do occur in the BVI. Visitors should take common-sense precautions to guard against petty crime. Travelers should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents. Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach or in cars, and do not leave them in plain view inside rental properties or hotel rooms. Always lock up boats when going ashore.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). If your passport is stolen we can help you replace it. For violent crimes such as assault and rape, we can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and help you get money from them if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the BVI is: 999 or 911.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the BVI, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the BVI,, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating BVI law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the BVI are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
If you are arrested in the BVI, authorities of the BVI are required to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The removal of any marine organism from BVI waters is illegal for non-BVIslanders without a recreational fishing permit. Fishing without a permit, even for sport, may lead to heavy fines or imprisonment. Contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour at (284) 468-3701 ext. 2147 for information. Please see our Customs Information.
If you are a women traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS:There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in the BVI. For more detailed information about LGBT rights around the world, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in the BVI consists of a small general hospital, Peebles Hospital (Telephone (284) 494-3497), with an emergency room staffed 24-hrs/day by physicians, several clinics on Tortola, and one public and one private clinic on Virgin Gorda. Both islands are served by ambulances staffed with paramedics. There is a clinic staffed by a government nurse on both Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. There are no medical facilities on the other islands. A volunteer organization, Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), responds 24-hrs/day to medical emergencies at sea or on the outer islands. VISAR transports casualties to the nearest point for transfer to ambulance. To reach VISAR, dial SOS (767) or call on Marine Channel 16.
There is no hyperbaric chamber in the BVI. Patients requiring treatment for decompression illness are transferred to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Most sensitive medical cases are transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.The information below concerning the British Virgin Islands is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Vehicles drive on the left (the “British side”) with most steering wheels on the left (the “American side”). Seatbelts are required by law, and cell phone use while driving is prohibited. Road signs are limited and drivers often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, even at painted crosswalks. Speeding and reckless driving are fairly common in the BVI. Drivers can encounter nighttime drag racing on main thoroughfares and livestock on roads both day and night. Roads in Tortola's interior can be steep and extremely slippery when wet. Travelers planning to drive across the island should consider requesting four-wheel drive vehicles and should ensure that tires and brakes are in good operating condition on any rental vehicle.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the British Virgin Islands’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the United Kingdom’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the British Virgin Islands dated March 7, 2013 with no substantive changes.