BVI essential information

Back to the BVI

Find everything you need to prepare for a charter in the BVI. From important base information to required documents for international travel, you can use this information as your guide before and during your charter. Don't forget to pack a copy to take with you.


Before you go

Sunsail Tortola
Wickhams Cay II
Road Town
The British Virgin Islands

The Sunsail base is located at Wickhams Cay II just outside Road Town.

Base hours
The base is open 8 am until 5 pm, 7 days a week (evening staff to cover until all flights have arrived).

Time zone
The BVI is – 4 hours GMT.

The language of the British Virgin Islands is English.

Cost of living
Prices vary from restaurant to restaurant, however, the following is a guide for your reference:

  • A bottle of wine costs about $9 in a grocery or supermarket and from $22 in a restaurant.
  • A bottle of beer costs about $3 to $4
  • A cheap snack can be bought for about $5 (local chicken, rice dish)
  • A budget meal will cost around $10 to $15 (burger, roti wrap – not including drinks)
  • A mid-range meal will cost around $20 to $25 (fish, meat in sit down restaurant – not including drinks)
  • A top-end meal will cost around $60 to $80 (Brandywine Bay, Sugar Mill, etc., 3-course meal – not including drinks).
  • The average shopping bill for 4 people for 1 week (suggesting all breakfasts, all lunches and 4 evening meals are spent on board) would be approximately $350 to $400.

What to bring

Passport and visas
Please ensure your passport is valid for the period of travel and for six months after you return. Your passport name must match the name on the flight ticket otherwise you may not be able to travel and insurance may be invalid.

If you wish to sail to the US Virgin Islands during your yacht charter you must have a US Visa and a return flight ticket to your country of origin.

It is your responsibility to ensure relevant visas are obtained where necessary. Sunsail cannot be held responsible for the refusal of entry or travel due to a lack of visas. If you are in any doubt please contact your Embassy for full details.

You must fill in a Customs Declaration Form on entry to The BVI, whether you arrive by sea or air.

Please note country entry/exit requirements are subject to change. Please check for the latest information before you leave. Sunsail is not accountable for any requirement changes.

Customs + immigration
Before leaving the airport, you will have to clear Immigration and Customs.  A landing card will be given to you on the plane, along with a Customs declaration form. It is not possible to take fresh food into most Caribbean islands and airlines will assume no liability for perishable articles that may be confiscated by Customs.

On departure from Tortola a tax of $20 US per person will be charged – please organize departure tax payment prior to getting in line at the departure gate.

Environmental Levy: $10 USD per person, payable at the port of entry upon arrival.

Cruising Tax: Paid on the invoice prior to charter, $6 USD per person per day.

Sailing licences
Although no sailing licenses are required for cruising in the British Virgin Islands, we strongly advise that you take any sailing certification on vacation with you.  This may be useful should you be contacted by Customs or Port Police.  If you have not already done so then Skipper and 1st Mate will be required to fill in a Sailing resume to confirm that you have the necessary skills to sail in this region.

National Park Day Time Mooring Permits
The National Parks Trust of the British Virgin Islands has established a system of daytime moorings in reef sensitive areas. This is to eliminate the erosion of reefs but also to help damaged reefs to recover.
For this reason, should you wish to moor, snorkel or dive in any of the BVI National Parks, a Mooring permit is required. The cost is dependent on the number of passengers but it ranges from $25 per boat per week for 4 people to $55 per boat per week for 10 people. Payment must be made to the sales office in advance with the final balance and the permit is issued on arrival at the base.

There is also a government tax that enables you to cruise around the British Virgin Islands which will be charged by the sales office.

Luggage + packing list

We would highly recommend packing prescription medicine and essential clothing (swimsuit, t-shirt, and shorts) in your hand luggage as occasionally your luggage may arrive at the base after you do.
Please pack using soft-sided bags, as these are easier to store on your yacht. A small storeroom is available at the base which can be used to store luggage while on charter.

What's onboard

Cool boxes are available at the base on a first come first served basis at no additional charge. Please sign these out and return them clean and undamaged, otherwise, there will be a charge for replacement. Only one per boat.

Mobile phones
Your cellular phone may work when in the BVI please check with your service provider for coverage details and call costs. You will need to activate international roaming on your contract.

Music + iPods
All boats are fitted with a radio and CD player. If you wish to listen to your iPod while sailing you will need to bring along an iTrip or FM radio transmitter.


The use of flying drones may be restricted in some areas. For current drone regulations in this destination, please visit

The standard voltage on all yachts is 12 volts. In order to use electronic equipment that is 220v you will need an inverter suitable for use in a cigarette lighter. You may rent an inverter through your charter sales agent.

DVD / Internet / GPS packages
If you need to stay in touch or fancy settling down to a mid-week movie, you can consider the excellent packages available from Renport, pre-bookable through your sales agent or conveniently located at the base. Coffee Makers, inverters and blenders are also available for hire. These products can be purchased in advance via the Sunsail booking location.

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About the marina

Marina facilities

  • The Moorings Yacht Club Hotel – Oceanview Rooms
  • Amara Spa
  • Restaurants & Bar
  • Swimming Pool
  • Online Provisioning Service
  • Selection of shops
  • Water sport rental
  • Sail Caribbean Divers – dive equipment rental
We would highly recommend that all clients’ pre-pay fuel due to the high volume of boats returning to the marina and requiring fuelling on any given day. The cost is approximately $5.98 US per gallon. Fuel is available at Marina Cay, approximately two hours from the base.

Customs Fees

Approx. $30 US (in & out)




$3.50 US per bag

Fuel (diesel)

Pre-paid fuel is more cost-effective





Garbage disposal 





Yes – online



Bar & Restaurant


Money Change

Road Town Monday – Friday only




The base issues a free phone to each boat through partner Renport, allowing free calls only to the base. Renport offers great service plans that can be purchased on-site, at rates fare more preferable than roaming.

Jeep/Car Rental

Available through reception

Sailing licences

Experience level
BVI is a Level 1 sailing area

Experience levels are based on sailing conditions and the length of passages within your chosen sailing area.  Follow the link for more information on the sailing conditions.

This rating scale is designed as a guide based on the prevailing conditions during the most popular season.

Sailing grounds

Skippered charter information
The skipper’s time is booked from 12 pm to 12 pm in 24-hour periods. If you have reserved him for the first day of your charter and have a 6 pm start, he will use this time to ensure he is happy with all aspects of the yacht and will be at the base to meet you upon your arrival. If you have reserved him for a later date on your charter he will start at 12 pm on that day.

The skipper is responsible for the safety of the yacht at all times. He is not permitted to dive with you, nor leave the vessel overnight and must have his own cabin. He must conduct a safety brief with you before leaving the dock regardless of the duration of his contract with you.

For “check out charters” (anything less than the full duration of the charter) the check out skipper’s time is booked from 6 pm to 6 pm to allow for a meet and greet in the evening and go over basic systems, then a full day with you the next day. This skipper is required to give you a thorough briefing on all aspects of the yacht and dinghy in addition to assisting you with planning an itinerary for the trip and advising you on how to contact the base, the return to base procedures and the emergency assistance procedures. It is suggested that you attend the scheduled chart brief that will be supplemented by the skipper during his time with you on the yacht. It is also suggested that you make it clear exactly what you want to cover…anchoring, docking, etc.

The skipper will be required to give you as much information as you require concerning the yacht and its systems, sailing skills and navigation in general. For one-day check out skipper’s, it is the client’s responsibility to get the skipper back to the base. If you prefer not to come back to the base you must pay for his expenses (ferry, taxi, etc.) to get him back to the base. The average tip for a skipper is 15 to 20 percent of the skipper’s fee. This is, of course, at the client’s discretion.

More information on Skippered Charter Options.

Download Sunsail's BVI Cruising Guide here.

Sailing area restrictions
BVI: All the British Virgin Islands, including Anegada and US Virgin Islands (Chase boat coverage and 4-hour guarantee are not offered if you visit Anegada and USVI).

For Bareboat Charter with Sunsail Crew NO sailing in US Virgin Islands and the Spanish Virgin Islands.
Not all Sunsail yachts or sailboats are permitted to sail into the USVI.  If you wish to sail into the USVI you must be a US citizen, resident, or have a US Visa which has to be obtained before arrival in the Caribbean. You must also submit a request ahead of time if you wish to sail to the USVI since it is outside our 4-hour guarantee area.
Rest of Caribbean: No further than 20 miles out from Puerto Rico to Grenada, excluding Saba, Montserrat, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago.

Night sailing
Night sailing is not permitted; you must be moored at least one hour before sunset at all of our locations.

Overnight moorings buoys, by Moore Secure, mostly cost $30 per night, although this can be up to $65 US per night in places like Peter Island. Payment can be made at the bar managing the moorings, or usually, someone will come out to your boat to take payment. Dockage in Marinas currently starts at $1.50 US per foot per night.

Charts + pilot books
All the charts and pilot books you will need for the sailing area are on board the yacht.  Charts and pilot books can be purchased from the Sunsail booking location.  

Formalities + taxes
A valid passport & crew list is compulsory for clearance.

Checking out of BVI by boat: paid to Customs Office, USD 20 per person
Checking into the BVI by boat: paid to Customs Office, USD 7.30 approximately
Environmental Levy: paid upon arrival, USD 10 per person
Departure tax and security: paid at the airport, up to USD 20 per person
Departure tax: paid on the ferry, USD 20 per person
Cruising permit: paid on the invoice, USD 6 per person per day

Chartering from another country into the BVI's, Customs will charge cruising tax on entry into the BVI set as USD 6 - 16 per person per day, depending on the yacht's home port.

National Parks Day Time Mooring Permit: paid on invoice USD 25-55 per boat, per week.

Nighttime moorings: USD 30 per night (Although this can vary, with prices up to USD 65 per night at places like Peter Island).

Virgin Island Search and Rescue (VISR): USD 2 per person.

Moorings fees + taxes
Most overnight stops in the BVI will be at mooring buoys/anchors as opposed to alongside quays.
BVI National Park Fees and cruising taxes are paid before departure.

Health + safety

Illness or injury 
If you are sick and visit the doctor or hospital during your trip please have a member of your party contact the Sunsail base manager as soon as possible.

If you will need to make a travel insurance claim please contact your claim insurer’s emergency medical service immediately.

Obtain receipts for any medication, treatment or transport you have to pay for and submit with your claim.

Swim Safe 

Swimming is often a fun and important part of a vacation. However local rules, flag systems, currents and where swimming may be permitted, can be different and vary from country to country. Snorkel vests, Life Jackets and Diver Down flags are all available on board. 


  • Talk to children about water safety at the start of a vacation, making them aware of the potential dangers.
  • Accidents can happen at any time on vacation, but often they happen on the first and last day, so keep watch and do not get distracted when your children are playing by, or in the water.
  • Children in or near water should always be supervised by an adult and never left unattended. 
  • Get in the water with them, it is easier to keep an eye on them as well as good fun. Floatation devices are highly recommended for children but are not a substitute for supervision.

Be aware of your surroundings

  • Check warning flags and signage on the beach and only swim where it is permitted. 
  • Beware of dangerous currents, these can be very powerful. Not all beaches have lifeguards and/or warning flags.
  • Beware of underwater hazards, such as reefs, rocks, sudden changes in depth and marine life.
  • Never swim where a sign says not to e.g. in zoned areas for jet boats or jet skis.
  • Never swim at night or after drinking alcohol.

Look out for others

  • Never swim alone, ‘buddy up’ with others in your party and use the snorkel vests provided.
  • Know how and where to get help. If you see someone in difficulty; raise the alarm, preferably the emergency services. Ensure you know the correct number for the country you are in.

Do not overestimate your ability

  • Consider swimming lessons before you go if you think it would be useful to learn proper swimming technique.
  • Even if you regularly swim in a pool, remember that open water swimming can be very different.


All yachts are equipped with adult life jackets, harnesses, snorkel vests & diver down flags. You can see all this equipment demonstrated in our online safety briefing, and we strongly recommend that you make use this equipment during your vacation. This safety equipment will be displayed in the saloon of your boat on boarding - If you have any questions feel free to ask our base staff during your briefing. 

We have a very limited supply of children's life jackets on base so highly recommend that if you are travelling with children, you bring their own. This ensures that children have correctly fitting jackets that are comfortable for them.  

Children should not be allowed in the dinghy without a life jacket or buoyancy aid and should wear a buoyancy aid or harness whilst on deck. 

Children under the age of 16 should not operate an outboard engine and should be supervised at all times when in the dinghy. 

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Around the base

Allamanda Gallery
The Allamanda Gallery showcases the photographic artwork of Amanda Baker, who has been capturing the British Virgin Islands (in all its hues) since her arrival as delivery crew on a Moorings 432 in 1988. After ten years of owner, operating a private charter boat based in Tortola, she launched Virgin Portraits Photography and opened the first “Allamanda Gallery” in 2007 in Road Town. In July 2021, she opened Allamanda Gallery #5 located opposite Charlie’s at The Moorings base, offering an array of prints, books & souvenirs, as well as customizable metal prints, canvases and beautiful scenic photographs all available to ship worldwide. Unique teak framing and creative displays are her forte’.

Mariner Yacht Club Hotel 
Located at the Sunsail base, the Mariner Yacht Club Hotel invites you to stay a few days on land. All rooms are fully equipped with air-conditioning, USA cable TV, in-room refrigerator, coffee machine, and local phone service. To book your stay at the Mariner Yacht Club Hotel, or for more information regarding pricing and availability, please speak with a Sunsail Vacation Planner or request a room online.

US $ is the currency used throughout the British Virgin Islands. Credit cards are widely accepted except in smaller establishments. Small denominations and traveller's cheques are also accepted.

US Banks are situated in Road Town, Tortola and Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda and operate under normal banking hours, 9 am – 2 pm Monday – Friday.  Local banks on Tortola include First Caribbean, Banco Popular, Scotia Bank and First Bank. We do advise clients to change money before arriving in Wickhams Cay, although US $ traveller's cheques are accepted as widely as dollar bills.  

ATMs are limited. Please bring the cash you will need for your entire stay.

Credit card information
Visa and Mastercard are accepted by most restaurants and hotels, as well as by local stores and supermarkets.

Supermarkets are located in Road Town. Supermarkets are generally open daily and the hours of operation vary based on the day of the week as well as low or high season.

Post office
Located on Main Street, Road Town; Tel: 284 494 3701.  Mon. - Fri: 8:30 am/4:30 pm, Sat.: 9 am - 12 pm

Note: A postbox is available at the Mariner Yacht Club Hotel front desk.

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For more information on what's included on your yacht, please view the full list here.