Travel, Currency and Money saving tips for the US Virgin Islands
This trio of islands in the Caribbean Sea—St. John, St. Croix, and St. Thomas—is famous for its dreamy beaches, world-class snorkeling and diving, and pristine beaches. Travelers can find accommodations for all types of trips, whether it's a family getaway or a romantic retreat. St. John, for example, is known as the "Beverly Hills of the Caribbean," thanks partially to its more remote location (visitors must arrive on a boat or ferry from Charlotte Amalie).
St. Thomas, meanwhile, is perhaps the most popular island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a popular port of call for cruise ships, and is the most likely place to get a flight.
And vacationers seeking exceptional food and a slightly more quiet island escape should head to St. Croix. The largest of the main islands, St. Croix is known for its burgeoning food scene (and an always-excellent West Indian curry).
What currency is used in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Currency is the US dollar (US$). There seems to be no shortage of ATMs in the Virgin Islands, all of which dispense U.S. dollars. They are everywhere -- on the downtown streets of Charlotte Amalie, within the large resorts, and in shopping arcades -- making it easy to get quick cash. Many establishments in the Virgin Islands, including most of those recommended in this guide, accept credit cards. MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted on all the islands that cater to visitors, especially Virgin Gorda, Tortola, St. John, St. Croix, and, of course, St. Thomas.
However, visitors should not rely solely on credit cards, as many establishments in the Virgin Islands accept only cash. Often, villas and condos or small inns will only accept cash or personal checks in advance.
How to get around in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
Seaborne Airlines operates seaplanes between the downtown harbors of St Thomas' Charlotte Amalie and St Croix' Christiansted. The flight takes 20 minutes and goes roughly once per hour. Cape Air goes between St Thomas’ and St Croix’ main airports.
Frequent ferries run between the St Thomas and St John. They go hourly from between Red Hook and Cruz Bay (US$7 one way, 20 minutes), and three times daily between Charlotte Amalie and Cruz Bay (US$13 one way, 45 minutes). No ferries currently go to St Croix. Check VI Now (www.vinow.com) for updated schedules.
Vitran operates air-conditioned public buses over the length of St Thomas, St John and St Croix. Buses run daily between 5:30am and 7:30pm (approximately one bus per hour). Service isn't very reliable. St Thomas also has ‘safari’ buses, ie open-air trucks outfitted with benches.
To rent a car in the USVI you need to be at least 25 years old, hold a valid driver’s license and have a major credit card. Cars start at around US$70 per day (higher on St John). If you’re traveling in peak season, it’s wise to reserve a couple of months in advance, as supplies are limited. Major international car-rental companies have branches at the airports and sometimes at ferry terminals.
All the islands have taxis that are easily accessible in the main tourist areas. Most vehicles are vans that carry up to 12 passengers; sometimes they’re open-air trucks with bench seats and awnings and room for 20 people. Taxis service multiple destinations and may stop to pick up passengers along the way, so rates are usually charged on a per-person basis. Rates are set, with prices listed in the free tourist magazines and at VI Now (www.vinow.com). Rates go down a bit if more than one person takes the taxi. Always confirm the price before getting in.
Travel tips for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Adventurous travelers love zipliningthis link opens in a new tab here, while the more leisurely prefer chartering a boat, eating slow West Caribbean lunches, and sipping wine. If you need a workout, look for the famed “99 steps” in Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of the Virgin Islands, which lead to Blackbeard’s Castle. Constructed in the 1660s by the Danish military, it's a great spot for a view.
Snorkeling and diving are top-notch here, with gorgeous reefs that lure visitors worldwide (the Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monument is a terrific spot for donning your goggles). And don’t miss the sprawling national parkthis link opens in a new tab on St. John, where you can snorkel, camp, and hike along mountain paths to hidden coves.