20 Things to know before visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands

If you’re planning a Caribbean vacation then the United States Virgin Islands (USVIs) is the perfect destination. Full of gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters, soft white sand and beautiful marine life; these charming islands located just southeast of Puerto Rico guarantees rest, relaxation and beach side adventures!

Here are 20 things you should know before going to the USVIs.

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The US Virgin Islands forms a territory of the United States of America. This means that if you’re a US citizen, you won’t need a passport or visa to travel there. However, if you usually need a visa to travel to the USA, then you will need a visa to enter the USVI.

Bring your passport anyway. Even if you don’t usually need a visa for the USVI, its highly recommended that you bring your passport anyway, especially if you plan of doing a day trip to the British VI as these are territories of the UK.

There are three main islands in the USVIs – St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.

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St Thomas is the main island in the USVI and is the international point of entry. Most cruise ships dock here as well. It’s also the point where you can catch the inter-island ferry or sea plane to St. John and St. Croix. There are also some direct flights to St Croix from the mainland USA.

They drive on the left side of the road here and you will need to get an international drivers permit. These however can be obtained at the car rental desks for around $25.

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There are some pretty steep and narrow roads here so you’ve got to really hone in on those driving skills! There are lots of sharp narrow turns and tight parking spots (well they aren’t really parking spots, you’ve got to just use your judgement!).

Head to St Thomas if you’re looking for shopping, nightlife and fancy resorts. Head to St Croix for beautiful snorkeling trails and marine parks and head to St John if you want to feel as though you’ve completely left the world behind.

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You’ll find some pretty great beaches, golf, and historic sites on St. Croix.

Be more vigilant on St. Thomas. Crime is higher here because it’s one of the more touristy islands.

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Inter-island travel is very easy between St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. You can catch a ferry from St. Thomas to St. John for around USD 120 one way or a seaplane for around USD 150. The prices do fluctuate with season so be sure to book in advance.

Island time is a definite thing here! Plan to arrive early for sailing expeditions, ferries, and other appointments but don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t leave on time.

The Caribbean is famous for its different flavors of Cruzan Rum which can be added to almost any cocktail you order! Be sure to specify the flavor you’d like to try.

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There are tons of mosquito in the USVIs so be sure to bring plenty of bug spray.

Since the islands are located so close to the equator, you can be sure that the sun is extra strong. Carry the SPF 50 sunblock, after sun sprays, caps and throws.

It’s not unusual to see animals wandering around freely so don’t be alarmed if you see cows, donkeys, goats and even iguana’s roaming the islands.

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The British Virgin Islands are very close and have some of the most beautiful beaches. Most travelers plan a day trip while visiting the USVI.

Always say hello and good morning. It’s one of the things that I’ll always remember about the USVI – just how polite the locals are! Everyone always greets each other, whether you’re stopping for a construction worker, ordering at a restaurant or walking past someone on the beach – always say hello!

Dress down! The great thing about the Caribbean is that it’s so hot that you, and everyone around you will want to be as comfortable as possible. You don’t have to dress up for dinner and most restaurants will allow you in with shorts and flip flops.

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Pack less than you think you need. The USVI is hot and laid back… and in all honesty, no one knows you! You’re traveling! Take out that extra pair of shoes, remove those fancy pants and you don’t need to pack that towel. You can rent beach gear on almost all the beaches.

Take care of yourself in the Caribbean. It’s super easy to get carried away on island destinations with all the sun bathing, sailing, snorkeling, diving, tasting local food and downright exploring but remember to take it easy. It’s very easy to get sun burnt and dehydrated, so be sure to take care of yourself.

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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