Most visitors get around by rental cars or taxis, and ferries. Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands drive on the left-hand side of the road. There is no public transportation in the BVI, and very limited bus service in the US islands, and ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft do not operate in the Virgin Islands.
Taxis are widely available on all the islands and can be a good way to get around if you are nervous about driving on the left or if you don’t want to move around too much. Taxis tend to be expensive and rates are by person, not by trip. If you want to do a lot of exploring, you would be better off renting a car and driving yourself.
Note that all taxis expect to be paid in cash; credit card machines in taxis are unheard of. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft don’t operate in the Virgin Islands.
Many taxis are large multi-passenger vans. It is common to share a taxi with strangers when arriving at any of the major airports or ferry terminals. Large open-air buses locally called “safaris” are geared more toward cruise ship visitors and island sightseeing tours, and they are a fun way to get around.
Rental cars are available on all the islands. For the greatest comfort, rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle, which will be handy for negotiating hills and unpaved mountain roads, especially on St. John, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda. For the best rates, and to be sure that you’ll have a car at all, reserve your rental car early, especially on small islands like St John and Virgin Gorda, which have relatively small rental fleets. Well-known U.S. car rental companies, including Avis, Budget and Hertz, have shops throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
Driving on the islands can be intimidating. In both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands you drive on the left, so that’s a big adjustment for visitors from North America. Other challenges include steep hills, poor road signs, narrow streets, roundabouts (if you’re not familiar with them), impediments like goats and donkeys, and other drivers who seem to treat the road like a NASCAR racetrack. In addition, GPS systems are unreliable, to say the least, on Virgin Islands roads. But local drivers are used to tottering rentals slowly making their way along the roads, and will generally give you a wide berth. So if you’re up for a challenge and have a reliable navigator, give it a try.
Many residents catch rides in the Virgin Islands, but few tourists do. It’s a slow way to get around, and, in some circumstances, unsafe.
Hitchhikers do not stick their thumbs out in the Virgin Islands. Instead, they simply stand on the side of the road and wait. Sometimes they raise an arm out in front of them and make a flagging motion.
There is nothing quite so pleasant as striking out over the water to a new destination.
Ferries operating in the Virgin Islands range from large catamarans with a capacity of several hundred to smaller monohulls built for 40 or fewer. While ferries are generally reliable, it is always wise to call ahead on the day of your trip to confirm the schedule. Engine problems and weather sometimes cause cancellations. When planning to cross between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, plan on spending anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes clearing immigration and customs when you arrive.
Up-to-date ferry rates, contact details and schedules can be found on the website VI Now.
Water taxis are really private charters, and they are a convenient but pricey way to get around.
Boats of various sizes are available for rent, with or without a skipper, for a couple of hours or a whole day.
Flying is a fun, fast, but expensive way to get around the Virgin Islands. There are airports on St. Thomas, St. Croix, Tortola (Beef Island), Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. In addition, seaplanes fly between San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and Virgin Gorda, and helicopters can fly to many more of the islands, including the private island retreats. In addition to being fast and efficient, flying around the islands is beautiful. A standard sightseeing tour costs about $100 per person for 30 minutes of flying time.
Charter plane and helicopter companies include Bohlke International Airlines and Capitol Air operating out of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Fly BVI, VI Airlink, and Island Birds operating out of the BVI. Additionally Air Sunshine is a Puerto Rico-based airline with daily scheduled flights to St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Croix, and Virgin Gorda, as well as charter services.