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BVI General Information

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BVI General Information: Here’s some general information on the British Virgin Islands

  • Capital: Road Town, Tortola
  • Population: 19,000 Currency:
  • USD Official language: English
  • Political status: United Kingdom
  • Area: 59 square miles (152 square kilometers)
  • Religion: Churches for main Christian denominations
  • Business: Banks are open Monday to Thursday, 9am-3pm, and 9am-5.30pm on Fridays. There are many banks. Shops generally are open 9am-5pm, Monday to Saturday. Payment cards are widely accepted.
  • Electricity: 110 volts, 60 cycles.
  • Telecommunications: the international dialing code for the BVI is 1 284 followed by the local number. On the island, use local number alone.
  • Time: GMT-4

BVI History

Three hundred years ago, the 50-plus islands of the British Virgin Islands swarmed with pirates, who took refuge in the protected waters and kept guard from secluded mountain look-outs. Some say they left buried treasure that is still there. Today, the fine sailing and magnificent anchorages attract sailors from around the world, and most visitors still spend much of their time in or on the sea.

There are relatively few dangerous reefs, with the exception of Anegada – a favorite spot for divers and fishermen – so conditions are ideal even for part-time sailors, with safe waters and a constant breeze to fill your sails. Sparkling sandy bays beneath striking cliffs are favorite stopping-off points for beach picnics.

Scuba diving is popular around sunken reefs and wrecks. The RMS Rhone may be the best dive wreck in the Western hemisphere. Once the pride of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the Rhone hit Salt Island in a storm in 1867 and sank. It is now an official marine park. Snorkelers should visit the four caves at Norman Island, said to be the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Windsurfers benefit from steady winds and calm water.


On land, explore national parks, including Little Fort, with the remains of a Spanish castle, and the old works at Coppermine. For naturalists, Anegada’s 1,100 acre (4.5 sq km)bird sanctuary is a must, as is Sage Mountain, the last remnant of a rainforest.

The BVI has only 17,000 inhabitants, and more than 30 of the islets are unoccupied. Most of the population of Tortola live in and around the capital, Road Town. The other principal islands are Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost van Dyke. Ferries service these islands. Throughout the islands, beaches are splendid and the beach bars exceptional. Gourmet cuisine can be found, including great options on Virgin Gorda, along with background music from steel pans and guitars. But don’t expect early-hours entertainment – except at summer festival time, when parades and parties rule Tortola.