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Travel Guide Caribbean British Virgin Islands Tortola

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Introduction

Tortolla

Tortolla

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Tortola is the main island of the British Virgin Islands, its capital being Road Town. Tortola island is the place to be for beautiful beaches and it has great nightlife as well. There are huge collections of restaurants and nightclubs and the capital Road Town is a decent place to spend some time and enjoy the colourful buildings and botanic gardens. It also has some fine museums, where you can witness some relics dating back to the slavery time.

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Geography

Tortola is a mountainous island 19 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide, with an area of 55.7 km2. Formed by volcanic activity, its highest peak is Mount Sage at 530 metres. Tortola lies near an earthquake fault, and minor earthquakes are common.

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Cities

  • Road Town - the capital of the British Virgin Islands.

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Sights and Activities

There's not a a lot to see after you've taken the obligatory tours of the island's "attractions", although the original architecture of little wooden houses housing some interesting shops, cafes and an art gallery or two and Cockroach Hall built on a huge rock on Main Street is not be missed.

Often overlooked are some of the island's interesting historical ruins, including "The Dungeon" (originally named Dojon, a Spanish fort dating from the 1700s) and the "African Church" (officially, St Phillips, a church for African slaves freed by the Royal Navy and dumped on Tortola, and reportedly the first free black church in the Americas). Although not as impressive as the larger colonial era ruins in Saint Kitts and Puerto Rico, they still make a nice change of pace.

For those tired of heat and sun, a stroll around the National Park in the rain forest at the top of Mount Sage offers a cooler alternative. The going is not hard, but the paths can be rough, and the elderly or infirm may want to consider whether to brave the paths.

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Weather

Tortola has a very pleasant and tropical climate with generally warm and humid weather. The seabreeze makes things relatively mild though and water is never far away. Temperatures generally average around 30 °C during the day yearround and 23 °C at night. December to May is the dry season, where July to October is the rainy season, but this generally means some showers at the end of the day instead of days of rain on end. Hurricanes are possible though from August to October.

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Getting There

By Plane

Fly BVI is a charter airline serving San Juan in Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands and Antigua. They also serve Anegada and Beef Island. Island Birds has charters from San Juan and Saint Martin to Tortola as well. BVI Airlines offers charter flights in the region from Tortola.
Aero Gorda flies to Anegada, the northermost British Virgin Island. There are 4 flights between Tortola and Anegada as well with Clair Aero.

By Boat

  • There are about 4 operators which have ferry services between St. Thomas (Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook) and Tortola (West End and Roadtown). Contact Road Town Fast Ferry for options. From Road Town there are also ferries about every 50 minutes to Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. From Red Hook to Road Town is about 35 minutes. Contact Caribbean Maritime Tortola Fast Ferry (340) 777-2800), Smith's Ferry (340) 775-7292 or Native Son Inc. (340) 774-8685 for details about schedules and prices.
  • There are about 4 or 5 sailings in eacht direction between Cruz Bay, St. John (USVI) and West End, Tortola (BVI).
  • Two operators have services between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Other connections are Tortola to Jost van Dyke vv, and Tortola to Peter Island vv. Check the schedule (also between BVI and the US Virgin Islands) at the BVI Welcome site.
  • Smith's Ferry now also makes sailings to and from the northern island of Anegada and Tortola.
  • Other operators between several islands include North Sound Express and Speedy's. New Horizon Ferry travels between West End on Tortola and Jost's Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are many small independent auto rental businesses, all with relatively comparable rates. Prices range from US$50 per day and up, as demand is usually high. Driving in the BVI can be challenging, as many winding mountain roads and cliffs, washed-out roads, and roaming livestock compound the difficulty for some drivers of driving on the left side of the road. Many roads have large "speed bumps", many of which are not clearly marked by road signs or road paint. Road signs may be confusing or non-existent. Take solice in that this is an island and it is practically impossible to become totally lost. Locals will always help direct you. Driving can be a good way to see the entire island of Tortola at your own pace.

Another way to see the island is to organise a readily available taxi 'tour'. Taxis are abundant on Tortola, and so long as you use a legitimate taxi association driver prices will generally allow you to travel anywhere you wish but for less than the cost of renting a car. Always ensure that you thoroughly confirm the fare charge before you get into the taxi.

By Bus

"Buses" in Tortola refers to full-sized passenger vans, or large modified open-air pickup trucks with bench seating and a canvas top: these are known locally as "safaris". Traveling by bus can be less expensive than having a taxi to oneself, and is often an option when traveling from the airport to Road Town, or from town to either end of the island.

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Eat

  • Palms Delight - Located in Carrot Bay, on the northwestern shore of Tortola, this place is located right at the beach/water, and serves great local West Indian food for very affordable prices. Rotis, fish and chicken are the main dishes and all go for US$11-16. Try the conch fritters as an appetizer and the hearty key lime pie for desert.

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Drink

Alcohol is immensely popular in the BVI, both beer and island cocktails, most notably rum. For beer, dark beers are rare. Red Stripe and Carib are the local beers, and other popular beers you'd expect to see are available as well. Roadside stands offer ice-cold beer for two or three dollars each, and bars offer beer at a comparable price to what you'd pay in an average-guy bar in the U.S. Rum Punch and Painkillers are two popular drinks. It is not at all unusual to chat up strangers and both buy and receive drinks. Remember to say "Cheers."

Restrictions on alcohol are very light. Bars usually stay open as long as business is booming, frequently about 3AM on weekends. It is acceptable to leave a bar with your beer, and if you know the bar well, not too unusual to walk in with one, either. Smoking is absolutely taboo in every business and public area in the BVI and cigarettes, though sold in the supermarkets are kept in locked cabinets since a recent law in July 2007. Drinking and driving is not actually illegal, but if you are involved in an accident you can be prosecuted for careless driving (on account of intoxication). Police generally do not stop cars until they have crashed, if you are found to be drunk you will be prosecuted for it, and if you were to injure or kill someone you could potentially face a long period of imprisonment - just because drinking and driving is not illegal doesn't mean that it is not stupid.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Near-D-Beach Limin Bar & HostelP.O. Box 2935 East End British Virgin IslandsHostel-

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Contributors

as well as Sander (3%)

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This is version 12. Last edited at 9:40 on Jul 26, 17 by Utrecht. 12 articles link to this page.

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