You’ll no doubt have heard of the Virgin Islands but you may not be aware they are actually split into three distinct areas. These are the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands and the Spanish Virgin Islands. As such the different areas come under the territory of different countries. For the purposes of this article we shall be focusing on the British Virgin Islands, which are an overseas territory of Britain. Although the British pound is the official currency in Britain, this is not the case in the British Virgin Islands. Here the US dollar is used.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
You’ll already no doubt be aware that the dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are several coins in use, of which the smallest is the one cent coin. Then you have the 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent coins (the latter being known as a quarter). There are also 50 cent and one dollar coins available but these are not as commonly used.
You also have a range of banknotes you can use while you are in the British Virgin Islands. These are the $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. While a $2 note is in circulation it doesn’t often get used so you may not see it at all.
From past to present – the history of the British Virgin Islands US dollar
The US dollar has been in use for more than 200 years, so this is a long-standing currency. It is also used by several other countries and territories (including, incidentally, the US Virgin Islands as well). However the period of time the British Virgin Islands has used the dollar for is rather shorter than that of the US. Indeed, it has only used this currency since 1959, so it is still relatively speaking a baby in this area!
How to get hold of the British Virgin Islands US dollar
Since this is the US dollar and not a local version of it, you won’t have any problems getting hold of the currency. You can pre-order it at your local or preferred bureau de change before you leave for the British Virgin Islands so you are sure of having some cash with you when you arrive.
Cash machines can be a little problematic, but then you will be on an island territory and not a major city. Once you bear this in mind you’ll be able to plan ahead to find the best places to get cash whenever you need it. Tortola is one option that offers cash machines, as is Virgin Gorda.
You can also order some traveller’s cheques to take with you, since this can make life easier. Make sure you get these in US dollars as well. For the most part they are quite easy to exchange; make sure you keep copies of the serial numbers in case they should be lost or stolen.
It might be worth taking one or more credit cards as well. While you won’t be able to use them everywhere they can still come in handy. Just remember to check whether a particular outlet does accept credit cards before you assume you can pay that way.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the British Virgin Islands US dollar
You may already have a rough idea of the exchange rate between your own home currency and the US dollar. However if you’d like to know the latest rate you can find out how much your currency is worth against the dollar by using a good-quality currency converter. Be aware that some of them update far more frequently than others, so you may want to bear this in mind. Of course you’ll have to adjust the current figure to take into account the exchange rate you’ll be offered when you want to convert your own currency at a bureau de change, but it does at least give you a good point to start from.
Since this is a British overseas territory the best place to go when you need some up-to-date information about the British Virgin Islands is none other than the UK government website. The page at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/british-virgin-islands will provide you with the latest information about travelling there. If you’re planning a trip there at any time of the year it is a good idea to check out the information they provide.
Travelling safely with the British Virgin Islands US dollar
Many people enjoy holidays to the British Virgin Islands each year, and they have a great time there without incident. Of course there is always the chance something might happen but mainly you should be fine if you take some sensible precautions.
The basic precautions are much the same as you would expect anywhere in the world. For example you should be careful about the amount of money you carry with you. Ideally you should look for accommodation that furnishes you with a safe you can use while you are there. You can use this to store your passport safely along with any cash you don’t need; the same goes for your traveller’s cheques. Some people like to divide their cash into different amounts for different pockets. The idea is that if a pickpocket were to dip into your pocket you’d only lose a small amount of cash instead of losing everything.
There have also been cases where people have been held up by an armed robber. While these cases are rare you should never provide any resistance if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in this situation.
Where to spend your dollars in the British Virgin Islands – and what to spend them on
The British Virgin Islands can be found in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico lies off to the west of the islands, while Anguilla is to the east. Further beyond Puerto Rico lies the land mass shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
There are a variety of islands that form this British overseas territory. They include smaller islands such as Cooper Island, Salt Island and Beef Island, as well as the main islands. These are the ones you will be most likely to visit, and they include Virgin Gorda, Tortola and Anegada.
Since Tortola and Virgin Gorda were mentioned earlier on with regard to the prospect of getting hold of cash from cash machines, let’s start there. Tortola is the biggest island of the lot when you visit this part of the world. This is where you will find the capital proper of the British Virgin Islands – a place called Road Town. This is on the southern side of the island, just beyond an inlet that provides Road Town with its harbour. There is a ferry terminal here too that is worth knowing about, since ferries leave here for some of the other islands in the British Virgin Islands group. Road Town is a popular spot for tourists and it is possible to charter a boat from here to explore the islands on your own as well.
Elsewhere in Tortola you can enjoy exploring all the beaches open for your use. There is nothing quite like a spot of sunbathing although with clear waters you will find it impossible to say no to a swim too. There are some good reasons why water sports are popular across this island.
Let’s move on to Virgin Gorda now, another main island in the group. One of the biggest highlights here is surely the Gorda Peak National Park. This is home to the highest point on the island, and it provides you with some sensational views of the surrounding area. At a point of 1,370 feet you can spot some of the other smaller islands nearby as well, giving you a better idea of the lay of the land. The park is very popular with hikers as it has a network of trails that will take you to the peak as well as to explore other areas of the park. It’s worth the climb, which apparently takes less than an hour, and it is completed by a viewpoint platform at the top. Make the most of drinking in those views – every single angle is worth it!
Another highlight of this island is The Baths. This area is actually a beach, but it is probably quite unlike any other beach you will ever have seen. At first glance you may not think much of it, since the beach is littered with huge boulders. Yet these boulders have worn away to provide a series of grottoes protecting pools within, hence the name The Baths. You’ll find some great places to paddle out of the sun if it gets a little too much for you.
The British Virgin Islands offer you a superb chance to make the very best of a holiday in the sun. You’ve got a currency to use that will be familiar to you to some degree, and you can also enjoy some of the sights on one or more of the islands. Which one will you visit first?