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US Virgin Islands (USVI) and The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are located in the Greater Antilles and are 17.8 miles from each other.
In this article, we will discuss how these two Caribbean island groups compare to help you decide which one is right for your next vacation.
As a general rule, the USVI is better for travelers who are interested in hiking, enjoying the beach, a bustling nightlife atmosphere and duty free shopping. Alternatively, the BVI is ideal for visitors who wants to go to the iconic beach The Baths, enjoys lobster dishes, snorkeling and kitesurfing.
Read on for further details and explanations on how these two beautiful Caribbean island groups compare. Contribution to this article was made by individuals who visited both islands on vacation.
US Virgin Islands Vs British Virgin Islands: Are The Islands The Same
The US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands are not the same. The USVI are overseas territory of the United States of America. On the other hand, the British Virgin Islands are dependencies of the United Kingdom.
US Virgin Islands Vs British Virgin Islands: Which Group Is Bigger
The US Virgin Islands are more than double the size of the British Virgin Islands with the former being 133 square miles. The BVI is only 59.3 square miles.
The US Virgin Island consists of four major islands being St Croix, St Thomas, St John and Water Island and about 50 smaller islets and cays.
Alternatively, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a group of 60 islands located East of Puerto Rico. The four main islands are Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.
US Virgin Islands Vs British Virgin Islands: Entry Requirements
As an overseas department of the United States of America, US Citizens can enter the US Virgin Islands without a passport.
However, a passport is required by US Citizens for entry into the British Virgin Islands which is accessible via ferry from the US Virgin Islands. Proof of departure is also required for US Citizens entering the BVI.
On other hand, UK Citizens require a passport to enter the British Virgin Islands and also the US Virgin Islands.
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: Is The Currency The Same
As an overseas department of the United States of America, the US dollar is the official currency.
Despite being a British Overseas Territory, the official currency of BVI is also the United States Dollar (USD).
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: Which Islands Are Easier To Access
US Virgin Islands are easier to access with Cyril E King being one of the busiest airports in the Eastern Caribbean.
The airport is located in the capital city, Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas. Major airlines such as Continental Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines provide both connecting and non-stop flights to the island.
Additionally, individuals can access the US Virgin Islands via St Croix. The Henry E Rohlsen Airport is a domestic airport that is located six miles from the capital city in St Croix named Christiansted. This airport receives daily inter island flight along with cargo and military airplanes.
Major airlines such as American Airlines and Delta Airlines have direct and non-stop flights from the US mainland to St Croix.
Alternatively, no international flights from cities such as North American, Canada, Europe and South America fly directly to the BVI.
According to the BVI Tourism Authority, international flights must connect to other Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico, St Thomas, Antigua or St Maarten.
If you are visiting the BVI from Europe the easiest route is through Antigua as British Airways have direct connections from London Gatwick.
Alternatively, if you are traveling from North America, St Thomas or Puerto Rico are the best routes to consider.
There is a ferry service from St Thomas to Tortola if you will like some adventure. On the other hand, access from Puerto Rico is only via regional airlines such as Cape Air.
It is important if you are visiting the BVI to plan your travel plans carefully as you may have to overnight due to the lack of direct flights.
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: Which Islands Are Better For Shopping
If duty free shopping is high on your agenda, then the USVI is the ideal destination in particular St Thomas.
The island of St Thomas is one of the best islands for duty free shopping in the Caribbean. Each visitor including children is allowed $1600 each of duty free purchases back into the USA.
Charlotte Amalie, the capital city of St Thomas has a wide selection of stores where you can find items such as perfumes and jewelery.
Havensight Mall which is located near the cruise ship port is another excellent place for shopping duty free in St Thomas. This mall has over 100 duty free shops and many of the businesses in Charlotte Amalie, also have branches there.
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: Which Islands Have Better Nightlife
Again the USVI is the winner when it comes to nightlife with St Thomas being the island with the active nightlife. In St Thomas, there are a number of restaurants are bars in areas such as Red Hook, Frenchtown, Charlotte Amalie and Haven Sight areas.
These restaurants and bars are nearby so it is very easy to go bar hopping on foot. Restaurants and bars usually feature live music from local bands.
In the BVI, Jost Van Dyke is the pinnacle of nightlife among the islands. There are several popular beach bars and a signature drink called the painkiller cocktail that is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
It is widely believed that Soggy Dollar Bar located at Sandcastle Hotel is the inventor of the painkiller cocktail. Other beach bars include Hendo’s Hideout and One Love Bar and Grill.
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: Which Have Better Beaches
Being islands, there are countless pristine white sand beaches with clear turquoise waters in both the USVI and the BVI.
Nevertheless, when it comes to whether the USVI or the BVI have better beaches, it all depends on individual preference. If the priority of a visitor is to visit beaches that are undeveloped, pure and unspoiled, then St John in the USVI is the clear winner.
With two thirds of the island being Virgin Islands National Park, the natural beauty and environment of the beaches there are protected.
Trunk Bay Beach is the most photographed and famous of all the beaches in the US Virgin Islands and it is what you will tend to see in pictures and videos.
On this beach, there is also an underwater snorkeling trail and an entrance fee. For your safety, there is a lifeguard at this location.
Contrastingly, if an individual’s preference is to visit an iconic and amazing wonder, then the BVI is the clear winner with The Baths. Located in Virgin Gorda, the Baths is the island’s biggest attraction.
The Baths is located within a unique national park on the southwest coast of the island. This beach has massive boulders which forms sea pools and is ideal for snorkeling and swimming. There is a fee required for access to this beach. A must see if you ever visit the BVI.
US Virgin Vs British Virgin Islands: What Are The Unique Things To Do
Unique Things To Do In The USVI
St Thomas- Coral World Ocean Park– This Park is an amazing way to see and learn more about sea life in St Thomas. There are activities available for all ages such as educational shark and sea lion tours. In addition, you can enjoy kayaking with the dolphins while at the park. This is an excellent activity for multi-generational families.
St Thomas- Mountain Top & Drake’s Seat– These two areas are must visit spots to take in the panoramic views in St Thomas. Mountain top is 1500 feet above sea level and provides a stunning view the other Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. From mountain top you can see a total of 20 islands.
St John- Hike-St John is unique in that two third of the island is National Park. As a result, there are numerous hiking trails of varying difficulties. Ram Head Trail is one of trails with a moderate difficulty level but features glorious and scenic views.
St John- Annaberg Plantation Ruins- St John was a producer of sugar in the 1780’s and Annaberg plantation was one of the 25 factories on the island. The ruins are protected by the Virgin Island National Park and a key feature that stands today is a windmill. A historic must see if you visit St John.
St Croix- Ham’s Buff Lighthouse– is a fantastic spot for incredible views. This lighthouse was designed and built by the Danish sometime between 1913 and 1915. In 1917, the Danish West Indies was sold to the United States of America.
St Croix-Point Udall- is a location of significance in St Croix as it is the most eastern point of the United States. The Millennium monument was erected in the year 2000 as this is the first place that the American soil experiences the sunrise.
Unique Things To Do In The BVI
Tortola- Callwood Distillery- this is one of the oldest distilleries in the Caribbean and the original boiler is still in use today. Drink is still stored in the original storage cask. There is an art gallery and shop available on site.
Tortola-Rhone National Marine Park- located in Roadtown which is the capital city, this marine park features two amazing dive sites being the wreck of HMS Rhone and the dive of Dead Chest Island. The wreck of HMS Rhone is also accessible to snorkel enthusiasts. Individuals can enjoy several types of sea life at this park.
Anegada- Kitesurfing– Keel point is one of the spots on the island that is excellent for kitesurfing due to its windy conditions. Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing is a school available on the island that has raving reviews for teaching individuals how to kitesurf.
Anegada-Eat Lobster- one cannot visit Anegada without trying one of the famous lobster dishes. The island is also host to Lobster Festival which is a two day event where chefs and food experts prepare and serve unique lobster dishes.
Virgin Gorda- Devil’s Bay National Park- this national park was established in 1964 and contains 58 acres. It is home to the iconic beach the baths and features several hiking trails.
Virgin Gorda- The Copper Mine- The ruins of copper mines on the island still stand today. The Spaniards were the first Europeans to mine copper on the island during the 18th century.
Jost Van Dyke– Scuba Dive at The Playground– located between Green Cay and Little Jost this area is attractive for divers. There are various coral and marine life formation in this area.
On a whole, USVI is an ideal choice for a traveler who loves beautiful natural scenery such as Virgin Island National Park and bustling nightlife. Alternatively, BVI is a great choice for a traveler whose priority is enjoying the beach, hiking and snorkeling in a peaceful and tranquil environment.
If you are contemplating traveling to USVI, BVI or the rest of the Caribbean, cruising is an affordable option to consider. I have recently completed an informative course by cruise specialist, Emma Cruises which you should check out titled How To Cruise For Less.
This course provides detail tips and techniques on how to save money while cruising onboard, onshore as well as the importance of insurance. So if you if you are considering a cruise for your next Caribbean vacation, check out How To Cruise For Less.
Need More Information?
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