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'''Tortola''' is the capital island of the [[British Virgin Islands]] and [[Road Town]] is the capital city.
[[Image:TortolaCaneGardenBay.jpg|thumb|400px|Cane Garden Little Apple Bay, Tortola]]
Tortola [] is 60 mi (96 km) east of [[Puerto Rico]] and 22 mi (35 km) east of [[Saint Thomas]]. The island is about 10 mi (16 km) long and 3 mi (4.8 km) wide.
English is universally spoken throughout the British Virgin Islands. Those who work with tourists will speak quite clearly, but older natives have a thick and distinctive West Indian accent that, when spoken quickly, can be very difficult to understand. Because of the influence of British culture, a stronger emphasis is placed on politeness and decorum. It is generally expected to begin any conversation with a "Good morning," or whatever time of day is applicable, rather than ; the common American English habit of simply beginning a conversation without salutationis considered aggressive and even rude.
==Get in==
Air travel is the usual way to access the BVI, however, long-distance direct flights are not available, and you must transit one of the four Caribbean gateways; San Juan ({{IATA|SJU}}), St. Thomas ({{IATA|STT}}), Antigua ({{IATA|ANU}}) & St. Maarten ({{IATA|SXM}}). Connections are readily available through commuter airline operations on the lower end, if your schedule allows.
There Private charter flights are unnecessary as there are several reliable scheduled airlines serving Beef Island, so don't think you need a private charter - these are mainly for oligarchs and movie stars.
Air Charter companies, like '''Fly BVI''' and '''Aeroshares Charter, LLC''' have become more popular in recent years. These charter flights get you to your destination directly, without transfers or water shuttles. They will also be there if your arriving flight is delayed for any reason. No sense paying for a ''Villa in Paradise'' or having a bare boat charter sitting at the marina under contract while you wait at the airport. That's no way to spend your vacation.
The airport on Tortola, '''Terrence B. Lettsome Airport''' ({{IATA|EIS}}) a.k.a. Beef Island Airport is located on the East Endof Tortola. Some travelers opt to fly into [[St. Thomas]], having Fly BVI Air Charter meet them for the 14 min flight. Some , while others opt to travel on take the water ferry to Road Town, then take a taxi to their villa or marina. Though, alhough depending on the ferry schedule and your arrival and departure times, this option can virtually tie up the better part of two days during your vacation.
===By boat===
The ferry is one of the more popular ways to reach Tortola from the U.S. This is due to the fact that Americans can reach Tortola via only one direct flight and then a short ferry ride. This will no doubt save the traveler several hundred dollars, since a second flight would not be necessary.
You can catch one of the ferries, almost anytime of day. After 5:00PM 5PM most of the services are shut down for the evening. The ride lasts about 50 minutes min depending on the weather. The scenery is well worth the price of the ride.
*One-way ranges from US$25-$30 for adults, US$19-$25 for children
*Round-trip ranges from US$45-$52 for adults, US$30-$42 for children
Vary greatly between companies. Some of the companies even alternate their schedules between themselves and another company. For a current list take a look at this page's ferry schedule [].
Many travelers find it easier to just buy two one-way tickets from different companies instead of one round-trip ticket with the same company. Since ferries from different companies are coming and going constantly, you should be able to catch a ferry at any time during the day. Often times one company will be convenient upon arrival, but not upon departure. Just check the schedule to find out if this will be the case for you, if not then by all means, buy the round-trip ticket and save a few bucks.
==Get around==
====Car rental====
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 very difficultchallenging, 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.
====Taxi tour====
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.
Taxi fares are regulated for each of the islands and taxi tariffs are published online by the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board. The 2013 prices can be found here. []
*BVI Taxi Association ☎+284 494 2322 / 3942
===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. Note that there is no public transportation, neither regular service.
===By thumb===
Hitch-hiking is still fairly common in Tortola during the daytime, as crime is fairly uncommon. Rather than the American "thumb" technique, Tortolan hitch-hikers will point with the index finger from an arm extended in the direction they wish to travel. Pickup trucks will often stop to allow riders in the back, and many drivers on this still-personable and friendly island will stop to give a ride.
===Day Sails===
To those who do not have their own yachts, there are day sails to some of the more popular BVI locations. One day sails are available on the Aristocat, ☎ +1 284 499 1249) to Virgin Gorda, Cooper, Salt and Peter Islands; and White Squall II, ☎ +1 284 494 25640 to Virgin Gorda, Norman, Peter and the Indians' islands. See BVI Newbie for a complete list of day sail companies.
[[Image:Tortola.JPG|thumb|300px|Sun over Tortola]]
There's not a heck of a lot to do 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. The Bat Cave If you’ve been to Brewers Bay, you’ve probably gazed in amazement upon its dramatic horseshoe hillsides. Little may you have known that the northeastern enclave can be accessed through a maze of trails leading through a bat cave and viewpoints that rival those on the cover of National Geographic. You’ll need a car to get there, but parking is limited. Ask a Brewers resident for exact directions. Salt Island Graves Take a boat trip to Salt Island, from where the Queen of England still gets a bag of salt each year (via the Governor as payment for rent). Atop a hill on the island, a circle of graves remains from those perished in the wreck of the Rhone in 1867. The unmarked graves continue to eerily exist at a vantage point overlooking Tortola. Head over the salt ponds on the south side of the island to come across a natural salt pond so large it takes over an hour to circle by foot. Nobody inhabits the island anymore, but the salt keeps coming. The Bubbly Pool If you’ve ever docked outside Foxy’s Taboo, this hot spot may just be the best place on Jost Van Dyke to cool down. On the northeast side of Jost, a 15-minute trail leads past a salt pond and up a subtle hillside to a dramatic rocky blowhole that has formed a natural whirlpool. In the winter, when tides are strong, this gentle pool can become a fierce water ride, while its summertime currents encourage quiet relaxation. [ Hidden Gems of BVI]
From the eastern end of Tortola, Beef Island, to the west end, there are many spectacular white-sand beaches along the north shore. Most deepen very gradually and have light surf, allowing for very leisurely swimming. However, some beaches do have heavier surf and undertow, so it is always wise to ask someone, or observe any signs, before swimming. The list below does not encompass all the beaches, but rather points out some of the most popular and easily accessible ones. Take into consideration that BVI has no sewerage system, therefore it is advisable to select beaches in less populated areas.
*'''Long Bay, Beef Island''' is just minutes from the airport, a long, curved stretch of beach that is one of the more secluded and little-used beaches. There are no amenities available.
[[Image:Lambert_beach_tortola.JPG|thumb|200px|Lambert beach, Tortola]]
*'''Lambert Bay''' is a very long beach, with moderate surf, and less clear water than several other beaches. There are two well-sign posted roads, one for the hotel and one for the beach. The hotel is very welcoming of lunch and dinner guests.
*'''Brewer's Bay''' is the only non-white sand beach on the island. The sand is a dark gold. The bay offers snorkeling opportunities in calm weather, but because of the runoff routes from the mountains, the water is often murky after even moderate rain. Development around the island has circumvented nature's natural filtration systems, such as salt ponds, and as a result most beaches are not attractive after heavy rains because of runoff from roads that zig and zag up the mountainsides, and home development sites cut harshly into the sides of the mountains as well. That said, Brewer's Bay is an excellent place to go if you want good snorkeling right off the beach, decent food, friendly locals, reasonably warm water (late April), and some peace and quiet. Watching the pelicans diving into the watch for fish is fascinating, but can be a little unnerving when they plunge in near where you are snorkelling. These pelicans and other predators (nothing scary) are after the large schools of small "feeder fish," which will let you swim along in their midst. If you take some bread or bagels with you in a plastic bag, the smaller fish will almost eat right out of your hand. A taxi from Road Town was only US$28 each way (US$7 each if you share a ride with 3 others). The drivers are happy to narrate what you are passing and will stop high above the harbor for a nice scenic photo opportunity. [[Image:Brewers Bay.jpg|thumb|Brewer's Bay, Tortola, BVI]]
*'''Cane Garden Bay''' is the most popular, populous, and touristy of the beaches available. Boats moor here, and on the nearly 3/4 mi length there are five restaurants, one bar and two vendors. It is also the only beach where there is a supermarket nearby. Live music is common. You will find it a Myett's (happy hour), Elms and Quito's, where local guitar legend Quito Rhymer often plays. There are two parts to this beach and one half, before Quito's dock, has no bars or restaurants and so mostly deserted. Cane Garden Bay is "ground zero" for all cruise ships. That means when cruise ships are in it will be crowded. If you want to go the the beach, go early so you can get a decent spot. Also, you want to arrive before many of the "vendors" that place chairs and lounges in the best locations and then rent you the chair. Cane Garden Bay, like all beaches in the BVI's are public and you have just as much right as the chair rental vendors. Also, if you are anchored with your sailboat, be aware that Cane Garden Bay has had a number of dinghy thefts. In March, 2010, one sailor was confronted at knifepoint when he tried to stop the theft of his dinghy.
*'''Apple Bay''' is a surf and party area, and does not offer much in the way of swimming. It is here that you will find the "Bomba Shack," a main party site for the island's full moon parties. During these parties the street is often flooded with native and tourist party-goers, and hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are legal to possess and use in the BVI, are readily available. Users should state a preference for fresh, live mushrooms if available. Apple Bay and Josiah's Bay are the two surfing areas of the island. There are several good restaurants here, Sugar Mill (fine dining), Coco Plum, Sebastian's and Bomba's. On Fridays there are fish frys under the two huge banyan trees.
*'''Long Bay - West End''' Not to be confused with Long Bay - Beef Island, this beach at the western end of the island is easily accessible, very large, and has good swimming and moderate surf. There are several restaurants and bars, however, they sit back from the beach rather than spill onto it, as in Cane Garden Bay.
*'''Smuggler's Cove''' Difficult to access but worth the effort, Smuggler's Cove lies at the extreme western tip of Tortola. Accessible by narrow and bumpy dirt roads, this is a small oasis used mostly by expatriate workers who reside in Tortola. There is a restaurant and bar and several small stands selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Try to get to the beach early to get a choice spot. There are three vendors who set up beach chairs in some of the best spots. All three vendors offer good and drinks. Generally, they offer these chairs free as long as people are willing to spend some money on food or drinks.
*'''Brandywine Bay''' is a recently man-made beach, one of the only on the island's south shore. It is generally not used by locals or tourists, as natural beaches abound.
'''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 strictly not actually illegal and although police , 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.
The roads on the island are at best "basic". Roads that have straightaways have large speed bumps and many of the speedbumpts speed bumps are not clearly marked. Many of the roads through the island have a width for no more than one and a half cars and are in a state of disrepair with numerous switchbacks and grazing livestock. These are not roads that you want to face with any level of intoxication.
*'''Le Cabanon''', casually known as "The Cab." An excellent bar with a great crowd in the heart of Road Town, the Cab has great, friendly bartenders, and a clientele composed mostly of ex-pat workers and tourists. Revelry here is par for the course from Thursday to Saturday night.
A work permit is needed for foreigners to work on the island. Work permits are only issued when no locally qualified applicant is available. It is illegal to look for work while on tourist visa.
The US Dollar (US$) is the official currency. Credit cards and travelers checks are widely accepted.
*Books on the BVI, its flora and fauna (not much, but there are small boa constrictors, mongooses, lizards and the smallest gecko in the world). The best place to buy them is at Serendipity Bookshop which is the largest and most fully-stocked bookstore on the island. Upstairs is an espresso bar a roti palace that serves West Indian curries and internet cafe with beers. It has free wi-fi and paintings by local artists. On Main Street in Road Town.
*Locally-made souvenirs at Bamboushay which sells handmade pottery in a little wooden house on Main Street and has a pottery in Nanny Cay where you can visit and even try your hand at making some china yourself.
'''Stanleys''' in Cane Garden Bay is located right on the beach, good food and a great place to hang out for hours, especially in the afternoon.
'''BannaKeetBananaKeet''' on Windy Hill in Carrot Bay has hands down the very best sunset views on Tortola. Great bar and great food. Live entertainment on Wednesdays and Fridays provided by the 12 string guitar and vocals of the well-known local artist Rubin Chinnery. The downside is that this place also has the worst service; you will wait hours for food that never shows up.
The '''Jolly Roger''' located in the West End has very good food and is located right on the water. It has a great Caribbean barbecue every night. Lot's and lots of good musical acts.
'''Peg Legs''' located in Nanny Cay has good food and is popular with expats.
* '''Caribbean Villas and Resorts''', []. Provides villa rentals on the beaches of Tortola.
* '''Frenchman's Lookout''', +1 866 940-0020,[]. Plantation-style villa with fifteen rooms, including five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a dining room, and 360 degree unobstructed views.
* '''Peter Island Resort''', Road Town, +1 800-346-4451, Fax: 1-770-476-4979, []. A self-contained resort on an 1,800 acre private island with 5 beaches in the British Virgin Islands .
* '''Casa Luna''', Smugglers Cove, []. Casa Luna overlooks Smugglers Cove, offering breezy outdoor living with beautiful views and total privacy. Minutes from the beach and near the West End ferry dock. 4WD recommended.
* '''McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas''', Representing a wide range of villas in West End, Cane Garden Bay, Belmont, Havers Hill, Beef Island, Greenbank Estate. []. Offering over 25 years' experience in island vacations and vacation planning. +1 800 537-6246 or +1 340 776-0635
*The police emergency number is '''999''' or '''911'''.
*The BVI's have several local phone companies (Lime, C&W Boatphone, Digicell) providing island cell phone service. Understand that you can easily use this service with your USA-based cell phone almost anywhere on the island but it will cost up to five dollars $5 per minute min in roaming charges. To avoid this you can use a local land line phone that permits you to use "USA Direct", (1-800-872-2881) which has considerably lower per minute charges for calls to the USA. If you have a computer or cell phone that can access wi-fi, most bars, restaurants and resorts have free Internet so you can use VOIP such as Skype or Google voice for inexpensive "phone calls" anywhere in the world. If you have a US-based cell carrier and it is available in the US Virgin Islands, another trick is to find a location that faces St. Thomas or St John, USVI (west end of Tortola or locations where St Thomas / St John is in sight). There is a good chance you can pick up your US carrier on your cell phone and avoid the BVI's local carrier's roaming charges. You may have to manually force your cell phone search and register with your US carrier. Double check that your cell phone is connected to the US carrier before you call.
*'''Marijuana''' is very frowned upon by authorities, so much so that immigration and visitation by Rastafarians was once regulated by legislation in the BVI. Being caught with even a small personal amount of marijuana will almost certainly lead to a stiff fine usually in the region of US$1,000 and instant deportation.
*'''Mushrooms''' (hallucinogenic inducing varieties) are legal in the British Virgin Islands. The native species grows in the hills and is available after rains, which occur throughout the year. Mushrooms and mushroom teas is are sold at full moon parties at Bomba Shack in Capoon's Bay and the mushrooms are available from casual purveyors at various bars. This is one experience you have to be in the right place for - do not ask people where you can buy mushrooms, it won't get you a result.
====Stings and bites====
Like many Caribbean islands, Tortola has its share of critters that bite and annoy. Bring a plentiful supply of insect repellent to keep the sand fleas and mosquitoes at bay. If you are going to be staying in a "villa", understand that many villas are not as always adequately screened as they are in the United States. Consider bringing some light mosquito netting. If you need mosquito netting when you are on Tortola, try '''Arawak Designs''' at Prospect Reef. Nothing in the BVI can give you a fatal bate (not even if you are a child), but a sting from a scorpion can hurt like the dickens. Also in common with the Caribbean generally, the BVI suffers occasional outbreaks of Dengue fever, which is a mosquito borne illness. Although not fatal, it can be very uncomfortable. As with all such things, prevention is better than cure. If you are told that there has been an outbreak of Dengue, be vigilant about applying mosquito repellant and sleeping under a net or in air conditioning. Certain species of reef fish in the BVI are susceptible to a virulent type of disease called Ciguatera, which makes them extremely toxic to eat. Fish served in a restaurant will be fine, but unless you are are really, really sure, don't eat any fish you have caught yourself without checking with someone knowledgeable. Barracuda are particularly prone, and should never be eaten in the BVI.
==Environmental Issues==
* Ferries sail to [[Virgin Gorda]], [[Anegada]], [[Jost Van Dyke]] and to [[Saint John (Virgin Islands)|St. John]] and [[Saint Thomas]] in the US Virgin Islands many times daily. Also available is a once a week ferry to Anegada, the only coral island in the BVI. Several airlines operate daily flights to all the islands of the Caribbean between Trinidad and Puerto Rico.
* To those who do not have their own yachts, there are day sails to some of the more popular BVI locations. One day sails are available on the Aristocat (1.284.499.1249) to Virgin Gorda, Cooper, Salt and Peter Islands; and White Squall II (1.284.494.25640 to Virgin Gorda, Norman / Peter and the Indians' islands.
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