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Travel Security Advice for The British Virgin Islands

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a British overseas territory, part of the British West Indies, lying about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico.  There are about 50 islands in the BVI, many of which are uninhabited.  Tortola is the main island, other islands include Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.  Tourist facilities are widely available.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on the United Kingdom for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in the BVI are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the BVI.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy covering the BVI is located in Bridgetown, Barbados in the Wildey Business Park in St. Michael, Barbados.  The Consular Section can be reached by telephone at 1-246-227-4193, by fax at 1-246-431-0179, or after hours, the Embassy duty officer can be reached by calling 1-246-227-4000. Visit the U.S. Embassy in Barbados online for more information.  Hours of operation are 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, except Barbados and U.S. holidays.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires all travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada to have a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States.  U.S. citizens must have a valid U.S. passport if traveling by air, including to and from Mexico.  If traveling by sea, U.S. citizens can use a passport or passport card.  We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel.  American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.

In addition to the above documentary requirements, U.S. citizens should also present onward or return tickets, and proof that they have sufficient funds for their stay in the BVI.  Upon initial entry, a stay of no more than 30 days will be granted.  At the end of 30 days, visitors must report to the Immigration Department's main office in Road Town, Tortola to request an extension.  The length of extensions are at the discretion of the Immigration Officer, subsequent to an interview and document review.

Visitors entering the BVI by yacht during daylight hours are required to proceed directly to a port of entry and BVI clear immigration controls.  Visitors arriving by yacht outside of normal business hours should register with Immigration at the opening of business the following business day.  Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to heavy fines or imprisonment.

Visit the Embassy of the United Kingdom’s website for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at http://travel.state.gov/, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Theft, armed robbery and other violent crimes do occur in the BVI.  Visitors should take common-sense precautions to guard against petty crime.  Travelers should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents.  Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach or in cars, and do not leave them in plain view inside rental properties or hotel rooms.  Always lock up boats when going ashore.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Barbados.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting it to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds can be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to help you find an attorney, if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the BVI is: 999 or 911.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care in the BVI consists of a small general hospital, Peebles Hospital (Telephone (284) 494-3497), with an emergency room staffed 24-hrs/day by physicians, several clinics on Tortola, and one public and one private clinic on Virgin Gorda.  Both islands are served by ambulances staffed with paramedics.  There is a clinic staffed by a government nurse on both Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.  There are no medical facilities on the other islands.  A volunteer organization, Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), responds 24-hrs/day to medical emergencies at sea or on the outer islands.  VISAR transports casualties to the nearest point for transfer to ambulance.  To reach VISAR, dial SOS (767) or call on Marine Channel 16.

There is no hyperbaric chamber in the BVI.  Patients requiring treatment for decompression illness are transferred to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Most sensitive medical cases are transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of the BVI.  Anyone who does not appear to be in good health may be required to undergo a medical exam, including HIV test, prior to being granted or denied entry.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of the United Kingdom before you travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web siteFurther health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning the British Virgin Islands is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Vehicles drive on the left (the “British side”) with most steering wheels on the left (the “American side”).  Seatbelts are required by law, and cell phone use while driving is prohibited.  Road signs are limited and drivers often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, even at painted crosswalks.  Speeding and reckless driving are fairly common in the BVI.  Drivers can encounter nighttime drag racing on main thoroughfares and livestock on roads both day and night.  Roads in Tortola's interior can be steep and extremely slippery when wet.  Travelers planning to drive across the island should consider requesting four-wheel drive vehicles and should ensure that tires and brakes are in good operating condition on any rental vehicle.   Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

Civil aviation operations in the British Virgin Islands fall under the jurisdiction of United Kingdom authorities. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the United Kingdom’s air carrier operations.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

The removal of any marine organism from BVI waters is illegal for non-BVIslanders without a recreational fishing permit.  Fishing without a permit, even for sport, may lead to heavy fines or imprisonment.  Contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour at (284) 468-3701 ext. 2147 for information.  Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating BVI law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the BVI are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for the British Virgin Islands dated February 17, 2009 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information pertaining to the British Virgin Isles HERE........

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

Regards

The SW Team...........

 

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