Most charterers use one of two ways to reach the British Virgin Islands: either fly directly to Tortola’s Beef Island Airport (airport code EIS), or fly to Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (airport code STT) and take a ferry over to the British Virgin Islands. Depending on where you fly from, one or the other way may be cheaper, but generally the two options are close to one another in price. When comparing prices, be sure to consider the cost of the ferry ride between St Thomas and Tortola, as well as the cost of overnight hotels which may be required depending on flight or ferry times. As an alternative to staying in a hotel, most charter companies will allow you to sleep aboard your charter boat the night before your charter starts for a small fee. Check with your charter company to see if this option is available.
Option 1: Fly Directly to Tortola, BVI
Beef Island (airport code EIS) is a small island/peninsula at Tortola’s east end. If your preferred airline does not fly all the way to Beef Island, you can book connecting flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico (or another Caribbean airport) to Tortola’s Beef Island with one of the smaller regional carriers like Cape Air, Liat, or Seaborne Airlines. For groups of 6 or more, you may consider chartering a private flight from San Juan or St. Thomas which can be comparable in cost and may fit your travel schedule better.
Beef Island is an ideal place to pick up passengers who join you mid-charter. The Trellis Bay anchorage is right next to the Beef Island landing strip, so put on sandals and saunter the couple hundred yards over to the tiny terminal to pick up your guests as they clear customs. Clearing customs is also faster here than if you travel via ferry, because you will only be in line with the 10-30 passengers on your plane (compared to 100 or more from the ferry.) This can add up to considerably less time in line.
A short 15 minute taxi ride takes you over the twisty island road to Road Town, where most charter companies are. Most charter companies have their own taxi vans that can be prearranged for a nominal fee (approximately $20 per person).
Option 2: Fly to Saint Thomas, USVI and take the Ferry to BVI
Saint Thomas (airport code STT) in the US Virgin Islands is a slightly larger airport than Beef Island, and is therefore a little easier to reach for some. There are several high speed ferries that take passengers from St Thomas to Tortola where the BVI charter companies are. The ferry ride is less than an hour, and is a fun way to begin seeing the islands and sailboats. Your charter company will usually assist with booking the ferry if you ask, or you can book it yourself online, a current list of ferry services is available at www.bviwelcome/ferries.php. You will need to catch a taxi between the airport and ferry terminal, which can be prepaid online via the ferry website. Round trip taxi is about $16 (US) per person and roundtrip ferry tickets are about $60 (US). Also check with your charter company to determine which ferry landing is nearest your charter base.
If overnighting in St Thomas, there are many shops and hotel choices. Highly recommened is a night at Blackbeard’s Castle, built in 1679 by the Danes as a lookout to protect Charlotte Amalie, and later rumored to be the hangout of Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. www.blackbeardscastle.com
Apply early for passports. If you need a passport to visit Britain, you will need one for the BVI. Remember that first time passport applications require you to apply in person, and your passport should be valid for atleast 6 months after the date of your BVI visit. You may or may not need a visa as well. Typically, if you need a visa to visit Britain, you will need one for the BVI. To find out, you can contact the BVI Tourist Board Office, the nearest British Embassy, or the Chief Immigration Department of the BVI Government at (284) 494-3471 or 468-3701 ext. 4700.
How Long for Boat Check-In and Check-Out?
When planning your flights, keep in mind the time it will take to check-out your boat when you arrive and how long it will take to check the boat back in at the end of your charter. You will need to allow for this time when scheduling your flights.
It is typically 2–4 hours from the time you arrive at the charter company to the time you are sailing away from the dock at the start of your charter. During this time you will finish any paperwork, a charter staff member will accompany you on a complete boat walk-through to familiarize you with all the systems and answer all your questions, a staff member will conduct a chart briefing where you may ask questions about your itinerary and get updates on current sailing conditions, and you will load provisions on your boat.