JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLIE BRIGDEN FROM BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS!
Charlie Bufton is an island lifestyle and travel blogger and has been living in the Caribbean for the past 10 years. She considers herself to be exceptionally lucky to call Virgin Gorda in the beautiful British Virgin Islands home, where she lives with her husband and three daft dogs. She loves sharing sunny adventures and aspects of her island life on her blog ‘The Barefoot Angel‘. An avid foodie and travel fan, she enjoys discovering new restaurants, resorts, products, destinations and activities and sharing her experiences with others.
THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
The British Virgin Islands are a chain of sixty islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. BVI are self-governing British overseas territory but surprisingly their currency is USD.
Out of the four most inhabited islands in BVI, Tortola is the largest in size and population.
Its nearest neighbours are Bermuda to the north, Anguilla to the east, U.S Virgin Islands to the south and south-west and Puerto Rico to the west.
When is the best time to visit BVI?
Peak season in the British Virgin Islands is December – March (with the busiest months being December/January over the Christmas vacations) when we have the warm dry days and the best conditions for sailing. In order to benefit from the lovely weather, but escape the crowds, I always advise guests to visit in March/April time.
The worst time to visit is in the summer months, July – September are incredibly hot and humid and right in the middle of hurricane season. Generally the weather is very good (if a little hot and sticky sometimes) with a good deal of sunshine year round. You just need to watch out for those hurricanes I mentioned.
Which are the main islands in BVI? Which island does one fly into to reach BVI?
The BVI has four main inhabited islands, Tortola (where the capital Road Town is located), Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke and Anegada.
When you fly into the BVI you will likely arrive into Beef Island (airport code EIS) which is connected to Tortola by bridge. Virgin Gorda and Anegada do also have their own airports, but only the smaller charter airlines operate out of those airports.
Which island should be picked as a base when in BVI?
That is a tough question – ideally your trip to the British Virgin Islands will try to incorporate as many of the different islands as possible. They are all very different. That is why sailing charters are so popular, allowing you to explore as much of the Territory as possible using the boat as your base.
If I had to pick, I would probably say Virgin Gorda as it still has easy access to Anegada and to Tortola via ferry. You might want to spend a couple of nights on Jost Van Dyke and on Anegada though.
Can you suggest the best hotel/resort to stay in –
A. If money is no object ?
Many of our premium resorts were badly damaged during Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and most have not yet been re-opened. My current recommendations for high-end accommodations would be Oil Nut Bay (Virgin Gorda), Scrub Island Resort (Scrub Island), or Anegada Beach Club (Anegada).
Another option (if you have seriously deep pockets) is to rent Sir Richard Branson’s private island resort, Necker Island.
B. Which is value for money ?
I love Guavaberry Spring Bay (Virgin Gorda) which has sweet little guest cottages near to the beach, amid the boulders. You can rent one or two bedroom cottages which makes it perfect for families and very affordable.
How long is enough to see BVI for short-term visitors?
I would suggest that holidays to the BVI should be at least 7-10 days. There is so much to see and do when you consider the variety across all the islands, it would be a shame to rush it and to miss out. Also – the BVI is not particularly easy to get to – so you want to make the
most of it when you do make the effort to get here.
What are the best water activities to do in BVI?
So many! The real beauty of the BVI is getting out on the water in some capacity. Either with a daysail, a powerboat trip, or a glass- bottom boat tour. Or underneath the water with SNUBA or a dive trip. SNUBA is the perfect cross between snorkeling and scuba diving. You can also learn to surf or rent a stand-up paddle board.
What are the best land activities to do in BVI?
The one land-based activity that is a must-do in the BVI is a visit the iconic landmark that is the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Building-sized boulders on the coast of VG form caves and rock pools that you can walk through. It’s truly a wonder of the world and one of our most famous activities.
Additionally, I think one of the best things to do is just pick one of our beautiful beaches and make a day of it – there are literally hundreds of beaches and with many of them you can have the whole thing to yourself.
Which are the most happening beaches of BVI?
The beaches with the most going on are White Bay (Jost van Dyke) and Cane Garden Bay (Tortola). Both are lined with restaurants/bars and very popular with visitors. White Bay (Jost van Dyke) is one of my favourites, home to the famous Soggy Dollar bar and their
signature ‘Painkiller’ cocktail. The Soggy Dollar bar got its name from the soggy condition of the dollar bills from sailors who swam ashore.
Which mode of transport to use on land when in BVI? Will renting a vehicle be cheaper?
Depending on how long you plan on staying on each island, I would recommend renting a vehicle. There is no public bus service, so if you don’t rent a vehicle you are limited to taxis, which are expensive. There is no Uber or Lyft here!
What is the local food of the island both sweet and savoury?
Local foods include West Indian curries (usually chicken based, or sometimes goat), Rotis (curry served in a paper-thin dough (roti skin) made from chickpea flour), Pates (savoury pastries filled with various meats or seafood with spices).
Sweet foods include tarts like coconut tart and guava tart.
At Christmas you can also enjoy Black Cake which is a dense fruit cake made with rum soaked dried food. Somewhat similar to British Christmas cake except that the rum soaked fruit is pureed before it goes into the cake mix, so it makes a smooth and moist cake. The majority of restaurants will have vegan/vegetarian selections on the menu but they may be somewhat limited. Most will be happy to cater to vegan/vegetarian guests with some notification in advance. I would recommend calling ahead and mentioning your dietary restrictions when making your reservation.
Is BVI vegan/vegetarian friendly?
For quick eats we have some great exclusively vegetarian/vegan eateries where you can get vegan food to take-out, like Mellow Moods, Chic Gourmet and Nature’s Way.
Where to shop when in BVI? What is the local craft or souvenir of the island?
The BVI is not really the place to come to if you are looking for retail therapy, it’s more about the experiences than the physical souvenirs. There are few shops, and supermarkets are relatively basic.
For local crafts and souvenirs we have Crafts Alive Village in the middle of Road Town (Tortola). Tortola Pier Park in Road Town (Tortola) is also an excellent place to shop and there are stores which sell local items. EC Soap Co (on Tortola) sells locally made soaps, bath products and Salt Island salts.
Possibly one of the best souvenirs in the islands is some of our locally produced rum – like the rums made at the Callwood Rum Distillery in Cane Garden Bay (Tortola).
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals?
Full-moon parties are big here – especially down at Trellis Bay (Beef Island, connected to Tortola by bridge) where there will be fireballs, local music, BBQ food and Moko Jumbies (traditional Caribbean stilt-walkers/dancers) definitely worth catching if your dates coincide with the full-moon.
The Emancipation Festival (the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August) is an important cultural event in the BVI – on the Monday the parade goes through the center of Road Town with music, costumes and many troupes performing. Many other cultural events are also held over that week.
Would you recommend any apps for food, transport or hidden gems in BVI?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that the BVI features on any apps at the