About British Virgin

British Virgin

British Virgin

The British Virgin Islands (BVI), located east of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, consist of the four main islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke), as well as over 50 smaller islands and cays. The most populous of the major islands is Tortola (whose population is 23,908 – out of BVI’s total population of 30,661. BVI’s capital, Road Town, is located on Tortola.

Politically, BVI is a British Overseas Territory (which means that its residents have British citizenship). In terms of colonial European settlements, these islands were first sighted by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Americas in 1493. Even though the Spanish Empire claimed these islands, they never actually settled in them. As a result, the Dutch, French, British, Spanish and even the Danish, vied for control of these islands over the centuries.

During the early 20th century, with BVI firmly in British hands, the nearby islands of St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix were owned by the Danish (who sold them to the U.S. for US$25 million in 1917 – now known as the “U.S. Virgin Islands”). By the 1960s, BVI’s economy diversified away from agriculture to tourism and offshore financial services (by 2000, an estimated 41% of the world’s offshore corporations were set up in BVI, given its status as a major international tax haven). The latter helped raise these islands’ estimated per capita average income to over US$42,000., making them among the more prosperous economies in the Caribbean.

Like some of the smaller islands in the Caribbean region (from Bermuda to the Cayman Islands), much of BVI’s tourism traffic is generated by cruise ship visits (much of the estimated 1.2 million tourists that annually visit BVI are cruise ship passengers). Due to these islands’ small size, air traffic (serviced by their main airport at the eastern tip of Tortola) consists of regional airliners like LIAT, InterCaribbean Airways, Cape Air, Seaborne and Vi Airlink, among others (travelers arriving from mainland USA and elsewhere can connect with these airlines through San Juan, P.R. International Airport – which acts as a major hub for regional flights within the Caribbean). There are also flights into Tortola via Antigua and St. Thomas (USVI). Along with these airlines, there are ferries that operate within the BVI, as well as to the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.


Note: even though these islands are British possessions, the local currency is the U.S. Dollar (US$) – a reflection of the importance of the tourist economy (driven in much part by American cruise ship visitors).