Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands : Many ask how to get to the British Virgin Islands from the US Virgin Islands as the far majority of vacationers fly into St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands (STT) and then either take a ferry or a private water taxi over to Tortola, if your charter yacht is not picking you up on St Thomas.

Ferry US-British Virgin Islands-Leaving Charlotte Amalie Harbor
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Leaving Charlotte Amalie Harbor

This is the summary of a recent trip I completed in May of 2017 following this exact route.  Yes, it is wordy. If you don’t like words, watch the video, then when you need the information we wrote it will be here.

I am sharing some tips in taking the ferry from US to British Virgin Islands to go along with the video which I have included in this post as well as uploaded to Youtube.

My route getting from the St Thomas airport to the Tortola ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie

  • Flew into St Thomas, US Virgin Islands from Atlanta arriving just shortly after 1 PM in the afternoon.
  • Grabbed my free rum drink at the welcome center for the USVI in the airport, made a quick stop at the bathroom and a quick look in the duty free store to see if anything caught my eye
  • I was traveling with just carry on, so no wait for luggage
  • Right outside the baggage hall there will be a taxi dispatcher asking you where you want to go
  • You want to go to the Tortola ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie. If you DON’T want to share a cab with others, tell him. It will cost you more, but yes, you can have your own private van.
  • Quickly left the airport with a full load of people, mostly all going to the ferry dock. Since the ferry dock is about the first stop after leaving the airport, no problem with waiting for the cab driver to drop off others at different locations
  • Once at the ferry dock there are going to be several ferry companies all vying for your business!

Available ferries in Charlotte Amalie to get you to Tortola

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands check in desks
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands check in desks

You can click on each of these ferry companies to be taken to their website and phone numbers.

  1. Roadtown Fast Ferry
  2. Smiths Ferry (who call themselves Tortola Fast Ferry since Roadtown Fast Ferry started up. Clever and confusing hey?)
  3. Native Son Express
  4. Ocean Dreams Water taxi is now offering some departures from Charlotte Amalie to Tortola.

You will find they all have similar schedules. Some will stop in Red Hook, some will stop at West End only on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, or stop at West End on Tortola AND Roadtown in the British Virgin Islands and Roadtown Fast Ferry generally goes direct to Roadtown from Charlotte Amalie. 

Which one do you want? Generally my rule of thumb is the NEXT ferry leaving for Tortola is the BEST ferry! Why wait for a later one and take a chance that it will be canceled, or break down. Which they do with quite some frequency! 

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Bomba Charger
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Bomba Charger

I do try and make sure that if I am going to Roadtown, which I was that day, that I confirm the ferry I am taking is going direct to Roadtown, but if I had to wait 3 hours for one to go to Roadtown instead of west end, I would take the West End of Tortola ferry and cab it if it was not going on to Roadtown. ESPECIALLY as it gets later on in the day.

Ferry Times

Here are some general guidelines for ferry times, however, it is always best to call the day before if you can and confirm and ask questions at the ferry dock to make sure you know what is the route of the ferry you are on.

I could go through the effort of listing all the ferry times here, but Best of BVI has made it one of their resources on their site and keep it up to date. I go there, the charter fleets go there for information…You get the picture. I trust it more then the ferry companies own websites.

Best of BVI Ferry schedule from getting to Charlotte Amalie to Tortola, BVI
Best of BVI Ferry schedule from getting to Charlotte Amalie to Tortola, BVI

I recommend that unless you are sure which ferry you will be taking back to St Thomas at the end of your week, that you buy a ONE WAY ticket. Yes, it is going to cost you more per person, but so many times guests do not end up on the same ferry company going back to St Thomas as they were on when they arrived it seems.  When I first arrived in the British Virgin Islands in 1998 it was fairly easy to get a ticket changed to another company, not so much any more.

You can book on line, but BOOKING ON LINE DOES NOT GUARANTEE you a seat on that particular sailing you booked. Just in case you are thinking you can show up ten minutes before the ferry and if it is full to get on board.  Anyone with a reservation has to check into the ferry dock an hour before departure, otherwise they fill up the boat. We have heard of many people caught with this.

A notable exception to this rule, is if you have prebooked the ferry with an airport taxi pick up through the company, since you think you may be tight on time, there will be a bit more leeway if you are a bit late on getting on board. The ferry taxi drivers can be in touch with the company and keep them updated on your arrival.

Many times the ferries try to leave on schedule, but it just does not happen.

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Bomba Tortola Ferry dock
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Bomba Tortola Ferry dock

Departure fees from the USVI and ferry fees

When you leave St Thomas you are going to pay a $10.00 departure tax.

A one way fee from Charlotte Amalie to Roadtown as of now (June 2017) is $40.00 for an adult. A return ticket is $60.00

You are going to pay $3.00 per piece of luggage. They will allow you a small carry on complimentary.

If you want the view and the weather is not going to either drown you or bake you, go upstairs for the view. Some of the ferries have better seating and some air conditioning which sometimes works 🙂

Ferry route from Charlotte Amalie USVI to Tortola, BVI
Ferry route from Charlotte Amalie USVI to Tortola, BVI

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands 

I personally have never figured out much of a rhyme nor reason on procedures once you get to Tortola with Customs and Immigration. Sometimes you are made to wait until all your luggage is off the ferry and then they let you off. Sometimes if the ferry is stopping at West End before going on to Roadtown on Tortola, they will have you get off in West End and clear in and then get back on the boat to Roadtown. This may happen more often toward the end of the day. Sometimes you will stay on the boat  and let those getting off at West End off so a short stop and then the ferry will go onto Roadtown and you will clear in there. 

That was the procedure when I took the ferry last month. The ferry stopped at West End to let the people off and then the rest of us continued on to Roadtown.

If you are picking up a bareboat and trying to get to the base before it closes, try and be near the front of the line when you are getting off the ferry. Sometimes the line can be quite long.

Clearing into the British Virgin Islands

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Sopers Hole Marina and Ferry dock at West End Tortola
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Sopers Hole Marina and Ferry dock at West End Tortola

The ferry will give you a form to fill in to clear into the British Virgin Islands. Fill it out neatly, in legible blue or black ink with NO cross outs. 

When I was coming in this trip there was a very helpful lady from the tourist board helping guests fill out their form in line before they arrived at the  Immigration office! That was nice to see. She quickly pointed out something I had not filled in and I have cleared into the British Virgin Islands hundreds of times over the last couple decades.

Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Which line do you belong in? Visitors, Residents or Citizens/Belongers?
Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands Which line do you belong in? Visitors, Residents or Citizens/Belongers?

This also stops you getting a scolding from the Immigration official 🙂

Declare anything you are leaving in the territory while going through customs with your luggage, and soon you will be out the door!

There will be taxi dispatchers outside the customs hall, if you have a taxi driver already arranged to pick you up, ask for him or look for the signs. Otherwise just tell them where you want to go and they will make sure you get there.

I was going to Village Cay Hotel and Marina which is just a short 5 minute or so walk from the ferry with little bags. No problem walking.

Walking over to Village Cay Hotel and Marina from the Roadtown Ferry dock on Tortola

Come out of the ferry building onto waterfront drive, turn right (maybe you want to stop in Pussers on the left hand side in the air conditioning for a cold one first!)

Pussers Pub in Roadtown, British Virgin Islands
Pussers Pub in Roadtown, British Virgin Islands

You will hit a set of traffic lights, you can turn right there and you will see First Caribbean Bank on the other side, right beside it is Noel Lloyd Action Park which you can cut through and you will see the masts of the boats right behind SCOTIA Bank and Commercial Dive Services / We Be Divin. That is Village Cay Marina and Hotel.

There is A, B, and C dock. A dock is directly through the passage behind the dive store toward the water. If you get to the water and look to your left you will see the restaurant along the dock. Walk through the restaurant and you see the bar to your left with steps beside it going up to the pool. 

Pool area at Village Cay Hotel and Marina in the British Virgin Islands
Pool area at Village Cay Hotel and Marina in the British Virgin Islands

If you are staying overnight at Village Cay Hotel, the reception is up there on the left.  You can also get to the reception by going to the other side of the Scotia Bank and turning right down that small road, B Dock will be in front of you and you turn right to get to the reception.

I have stayed at Village Cay Hotel many times over the years. I usually learnt a long time ago to ask for a lower floor, as there are NO elevators. If you have many bags, a top floor could be, lets say, problematic. I had forgotten this time and they cheerfully switched me a lower floor as they had a room available.

The buildings at Village Cay Hotel looking very pretty at night
The buildings at Village Cay Hotel looking very pretty at night

I was pleased with the room, it had recently been updated and was fairly comfortable.  The air conditioning worked and the hot water while I was there (that is not always the case, as although generally Roadtown has water, with there sometimes being rotating water shortages it is not always the case)

I like older beds, as they become softer! Village Cay Marina and Hotel is very pretty at night. The yachts, the water, the view, the pool. I was there on a Thursday night and there was a rousing evening of karaoke going on…

If your yacht is picking you up at Village Cay, it will be right on dock in the morning or the general meeting area there is by the bar where the dinghy dock is. Your Captain will be their promptly at noon to pick you up. Yes, I am assuming you are going on a crewed charter. 🙂

Overlooking the docks at Village Cay Marina in Roadtown in the British Virgin Islands
Overlooking the docks at Village Cay Marina in Roadtown in the British Virgin Islands

Happy to answer any questions you have on taking a Ferry US Virgin Islands to British Virgin Islands.  

H2o Trips

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