COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a British overseas territory, part of the British West Indies, lying about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. There are about 50 islands in the BVI, many of them uninhabited. Tortola is the chain's main island; other islands include Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
There are no extremist groups or areas of instability in The British Virgin Islands.
Although the crime rate is low in the BVI, thefts and robberies do occur, with a small increase in robberies against boats in the far flung islands. Visitors should take common-sense precautions against petty crime. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents. Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach or in cars.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the British Virgin Islands' laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the British Virgin Islands are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical care in the British Virgin Islands is limited. There is a small general hospital and several clinics on Tortola. There are no medical facilities on the other islands. Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (�VISAR�) responds to medical emergencies 24-hrs/day by VISAR, who will transport casualties to the nearest land point on Tortola for transfer to ambulance. There is no hyperbaric chamber in the BVI. Patients requiring treatment for decompression illness are transferred to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Most sensitive medical cases are transferred to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, just a few miles away.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS ^
All Caribbean countries can be affected by hurricanes. The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the British Virgin Islands is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair
Vehicles drive on the left (�the British side�). Road signs are limited, and there are no existing seatbelt laws. Drivers often fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Speeding and reckless driving are fairly common in the BVI. Drivers can encounter nighttime drag racing on main thoroughfares, and livestock on interior roads. Roads in Tortola's interior can be steep, and are extremely slippery when wet. Travelers planning to drive across the island should consider requesting four-wheel-drive vehicles, and should ensure that tires and brakes are in good operating condition on any rental vehicle. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the British Virgin Islands civil aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the British Virgin Islands air carrier operations. The main airport is located on Beef Island, adjacent to Tortola and connected by a small bridge. There are smaller airstrips on Virgin Gorda and Anegada. American Eagle flies to Virgin Gorda as do other small airlines. In addition, visitors often access Tortola through St. Thomas or St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Ferries run several times a day between the two islands.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the separate
Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
January 12, 2004