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U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Tips and Information

Magens Bay Beach
Magens Bay Beach is the most popular on St. Thomas. Credit: © USVI Economic Development Authority
The U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix represent a comfortable choice for U.S. citizens vacationing in the Caribbean for the first time.

They don't need a passport, the shopping is plentiful and the economy is robust.

St. Thomas is noteworthy for both good and bad reasons for shopping. For U.S. tourists, the duty-free shopping exemption of $1,600 is twice as much as other islands.

The capital of Charlotte Amalie is well known to tourists who visit via stopovers and eastern Caribbean cruises for the large number of duty-free shops, the quality of the merchandise, the aggressive pricing, but also the aggressive employees.

However, we have experienced more aggressive selling on some other islands, especially by the extremely poor residents of Haiti.

USVI is the sixth most popular place to visit in the Caribbean. Three times as many vacationers visit USVI from cruise ships than via longer term stopovers.

The rate of cruise visits is one of the highest in the Caribbean. Cruise ships promote and emphasize shopping more than any other activity on the islands.

Visitors from cruise ships who don't want to spend much time shopping of course can make a quick visit to the Havensight Shopping Center at the port rather than go into Charlotte Amalie and then take advantage of numerous excursions or hit beaches close to the port.

Virgin Islands Attractions


The most popular attraction on the island is the Charlotte Amalie shopping district, which is better reached by taxi, rental car or excursion bus than it is by walking the 2.5 miles to reach it.

Fort Christian is the oldest building on the island, dating back to 1762. It is still in use today as a museum.

Unique attractions include the historic town of Christiansted on St. John and Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas.

St. Thomas beaches include Magens Bay, the island's most popular beach and one of the most famous in the Caribbean. Other beaches include Coki Beach, Lindquist Beach and Bolongo Bay.

The islands have four golf courses -- one on St. Thomas, three on St. Croix (two 18-hole and one nine-hole) and none on St. John.

St. John has fewer man-made attractions, but it does have many natural attractions including Virgin Islands National Park. The park has more than 9,000 acres including an underwater reserve that is popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Cruise and stopover visitors to St. Thomas can take a 20-minute ferry ride to reach St. John as a day trip.

Tourism / When to Go


U.S. citizens do not need a passport unless they are flying there via another country. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship IDs available when leaving the ship and returning.

The number of stopover or overnight visitors is steady from December through August except for a spike in March during spring break for many colleges and schools.

March is the favorite time to go, followed closely by April. September is by far the least popular time to go, followed by October, because of hurricane season. The plunge in visits during September and October is typical for many Caribbean destinations.

St. Thomas Weather


U.S. Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas is one of the warmest islands in the Caribbean despite being more northern than most destinations.

The average high temperature reaches about 90 in the summer and the mid 80s in the winter.

Rainfall averages about two to three inches from December through early August and then climbs to an average of about five to six inches from September through November during the annual hurricane season.

The climate is subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds and has relatively low humidity.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes


U.S. currency is standard. Most hotels add a 10-15 percent service charge. Prepare to offer the same at restaurants and to taxi drivers. Hotels have an 8 percent room tax.

Culture / Geography


The dominant language is English with some Spanish. Tourism accounts for 80 percent of the economy and employment.

The geography is mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land. Several hurricanes have hit in recent years; there are frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasionally the islands experience earthquakes.

Sources / More Information
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Travel Tips   

October 25, 2015
St. Thomas is an easy choice for anyone going to the Caribbean for the first time."/>

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