U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- You're on island time People working in hospitality might move slower than you're accustomed. You will be waited on quicker if you say "Good morning," "Good afternoon" and "Good night" when you enter or exit a room.
- You're in the island sun Take it easy your first day on the islands to avoid heat stroke. And always apply sunscreen before venturing out.
- You'll see island critters Lizards and medium-sized iguanas roam freely outdoors.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is "America's Caribbean Paradise" -- the place to see moko jumbies dance at a Carnival parade, hear the lilting patois of a Creole dialect, or smell the spices in a saltfish pate (all without losing cell phone reception). You could visit either St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix, but better yet, spend a little time on all three islands. That way you'll get plenty of pampering, undisturbed nature and colonial history jammed into one vacation. And bonus: you can pay for everything with U.S. dollars.
Each island offers something different. Called "Rock City" for its hilly, craggy horizon, St. Thomas is better known for its luxury -- from the mega-yachts moored in the harbor to the Gucci, Nicole Miller and Tiffany & Co. storefronts along Main Street. Located a short ferry-ride east, St. John intoxicates honeymooners and nature lovers with more than 7,000 acres of dedicated parkland plus its pristine beaches. Way down south in the Caribbean Sea, less-visited St. Croix has sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries that offer a glimpse into both the past and the present of the Virgin Islands.
How To Save Money in U.S. Virgin Islands
- Book early It is possible to secure a good deal at one of the VI's four-star hotels in the peak season, but you should start looking for a room up to a year in advance.
- Visit in spring April and May hotel rates are as low as $120 a night, plus you'll get your Caribbean vacation in before the sticky, wet summer.
- Take an Eastern Caribbean cruise St. Thomas is the busiest port in the Caribbean, and the top cruises generally dock for up to eight hours. That'll give you time to explore Rock City or even take a ferry to St. John.
U.S. Virgin Islands Culture & Customs
Similar to the residents of other Caribbean islands, Virgin Islanders dress casually but conservatively. Wearing a bathing suit -- or even sandals -- anywhere besides the beach marks you as a tourist.
According to most sites, tipping etiquette is the same in the V.I. as in other parts of the United States; 15 to 20 percent is considered the standard, but more is appreciated for exceptional service.
U.S. Virgin Islands Dining
The U.S. Virgin Islands offer an assortment of restaurant options that range from hoity-toity white tablecloth establishments to affordable diners and fast food joints. Recent vacationers particularly enjoyed Frenchtown or Red Hook restaurants in St. Thomas, and also praised the eateries by Cruz Bay on St. John. However, there are also a handful of good options on St. Croix's West End.
Most restaurants in those areas will give you the coddling tourist experience, but you might also find the opportunity to try something more authentic. Look for menu options like pate (ground beef, chicken or salted cod wrapped and deep-fried in dough), johnnycake (deep-fried dough), fungi (corn meal) or peas and rice (kidney beans or lentils with brown rice) to eat like a Virgin Islander.