Tuesday, March 29, 2022

[ROAD TOWN] A Boring Daytrip


While the US Virgin Islands changed hands from Danish to American, the British side remained primarily British through most of its history, except for the fact that they were originally part of the Dutch West Indies for 24 years before the Brits gained control in 1672 with the capture of the main island Tortola, where the modern-day capital of Road Town stands today. Despite being a British Overseas Territory, the currency here is the US dollar, and having a multiple entry US, Canadian or UK visa will suffice to be granted entry as a tourist.


The main islands are Tortola, Jost van Dyke to the west, Virgin Gorda to the east, and Anegada to the northeast. You are most likely to land or dock on Tortola where the international airport and port are located. Daytrips from the US Virgin Islands are doable, but unreliable due to ferry departure and arrival delays. The travel time from Charlotte Amalie to Road Town is just around 1 hour by fast ferry. Remember that while both are Virgin Islands, they are separate territories. Entering and exiting one en route to another translates to an international border crossing with immigration and customs control in place.


Leaving Charlotte Amalie for Road Town is as easy as checking in at whichever port your ferry company departs from. There are no passport controls whatsoever, but you pay a $10 departure tax. Entering Road Town requires immigration and customs control along with a $10 environmental fee. Immigration lines can be long but highly depends on the number of fellow passengers with you on the ferry. If you are in a rush, make sure you are first in line to disembark as the ferry docks.


My ferry which should have departed at 9 AM left at 10:15 AM. We docked at Road Town at half past eleven. I was out of the immigration queue by 12, meaning I only had two hours left before the ferry going back to Saint Thomas at 2:30 PM. Despite the crunch time, I only needed an hour to walk around Road Town. The other hour I spent relaxing and having lunch at Pussers right across the ferry port waiting for the ferry to leave. Yes, there is NOTHING to see in Road Town. Unlike its American counterpart Charlotte Amalie, this capital city does not have much to offer in terms of tourism.


This prompted me to declare the British Virgin Islands as a boring version of their US neighbors, which is quite unfair because despite the scarcity of tourist attractions in the capital, most of the BVI’s charms are in its neighboring islands and around the island of Tortola itself, either at the East or West End. It is because of this that I do not recommend a short day trip from Saint Thomas, unless your only purpose is to collect passport stamps, which I believe was my main reason anyway. To enjoy the most of what the BVI has to offer, stay for a couple of days and check out the other islands and beaches as well.


As for Road Town, it’s a sleepy town whose only main attraction seems to be the Old Government House converted to a museum which is closed on Sundays. Walking around town, what greeted me were abundant views of hills and hilltop houses along with a lot of construction going on. You will find a small tourist map of Road Town at the port, but the “attractions” listed there are lackluster at best, mostly churches and the like that do not even look like churches at all, but rather just blend in with the rest of the architectural style found in the vicinity.

[ROAD TOWN] A Boring Daytrip

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