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Virgin Islands of the United States

Virgin Islands of the United States
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The Virgin Islands of the United States is part of the archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. It belongs to the USA but it is not American sovereign territory. It does not have any land borders and its closest neighboring country is Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands. The capital city is Charlotte Amalie.

The islands have a tropical climate with frequent trade winds. The temperature does not change significantly during the year. There are two dry seasons (winter and summer), the wet season is in spring and autumn. The best time for visiting the islands is winter and spring.

The official language is English but the majority of the population communicate among themselves in Creole which is based on the combination of English, Spanish, Danish and French as well as African dialects. Almost all people on the islands are the Christians and half of them are the Protestants.

The Virgin Islands of the United States are, mainly, a beach resort. Almost any spot on the coastline is good for spending lazy time near the sea. But the most popular places among the tourists are Magens Bay, Cruz bay, Caneel Bay and Trunk Bay.

The tourists do not come to the islands for excursions. It is just a nice way to break the monotony of sunbathing. The tourists usually take a boat trip to very picturesque bays renting a motor boat or a yacht. You can also have a walk along the old cities and see the examples of the Colonial architecture or head right into the depth of the large islands to enjoy the tropical nature.

Some tourists choose the Virgin Islands of the United States because of diving. There are many dive centers and the most popular are Aqua Marine, Red Hook and Aqua Action. The fans of windsurfing gather on the beaches of Hull Bay, Sapphire Beach and Vessup Bay. 

Get in

By Plane

There are no direct flights between the Virgin Islands of the United States and European countries. The travelers will have to take a transit flight with a stop in the USA or Puerto Rico. The European tourists prefer to fly through New York City, Miami, Atlanta and Washington D.C. 

By Sea

Cruise ships navigate the Caribbean sea all the year round and some of them arrive at the Virgin Islands of the United States. During a cruise, one can get to the islands. The tourists can also take the advantage of the companies who transport people between the islands on the yachts.

Visa

The tourists from the European Union can stay on the Virgin Islands of the United States for three months visa-free.

The citizens of CIS countries have to obtain a visa in the US Embassy or the Consulate. The documents are submitted personally as the procedure is just the same as for people who want to visit the mainland United States. Usually, it takes from 7 to 30 working days to process the documents for a visa. 

Customs

Import and export of foreign or national currency is not restricted however, the sum exceeding 10.000 US dollars must be declared.  The tourists also must declare gold and gold jewelry.

The tourists can import duty-free the following goods:

  • a small amount of alcohol and tobacco;
  • personal belongings and electronic devices for personal use;
  • gifts the total cost of which does not exceed 100 US dollars.

It is prohibited to import:

  • meat
  • dairy products and eggs from certain countries;
  • fish and fresh caviar;
  • absinthe and other drinks containing  artemisia absinthium;
  • plants, fruits and seeds;
  • soil;
  • insects;
  • rare animals and plants and any goods made of them;
  • matches and lighters;
  • Cuba cigars;
  • books, film and digital media with the propaganda of extremism;
  • lottery tickets;
  • the objects of the pre-Columbian period.

It is prohibited to export from the Virgin Islands of the United States:

  • almost all local plants and animals;
  • objects found on the sea bottom, sea shells and corals. 

Cuisine

The cuisine of  the Virgin Islands of the United States is heavily based on the African, European and North American cooking traditions with a wide use of seafood. 

There are not so many traditional meat dishes but the truly authentic is Cayce (a mix of pork by-products) and Jerk Chicken (smoked chicken). A special place holds curry meat which can be cooked with chicken, beef, pork and even fish.

The local chefs strive to please the tourists and try to compensate the lack of meat by cooking European and North American dishes with a tropical twist. They like to add fruits or seafood.

If you are staying on the Virgin Islands, you should try a thick soup with vegetables, meat, seafood and spices Callaloo.

Seafood holds a central place in the diet of the locals. In the restaurant, order Conch (a mix of fried and stewed seafood served in a big sea shell), Pates (an appetizer from the spicy fish in a dough jacket) and Salt Fish (air-dried boneless fish. The locals fry, stew it and add to soups).

The locals fry bananas, make soups and porridges with okra, rice, beans and maize. Do not miss a chance to try maize flour and okra flatbread Fungi. It is usually served with fish and meat as a side dish. Rice and beans is a very simple dish but due to the local herbs and spices even experienced foodies will be delighted.

Exotic fruits and very popular Caribbean cake Johnny Cake are served at the end of the meal for a dessert.

The locals like to drink green from herbs Bush tea. This is the local version of South American Mate.

The main alcoholic drink is rum and cocktails with it. Do not leave the islands without trying the most popular brand Cruzan Rum.  

Money

The official currency on the Virgin Islands of the United States  is US dollar which is equal to 100 cents. 1 cent coins and 1 dollar coins and bank notes from 1 to 100 dollars are in circulation.

One can buy American dollars beforehand as it is one of the most converted currencies in the world. The tourists can exchange the currency at banks and in exchange offices.

International credit cards are accepted everywhere even in small souvenir shops. But they are almost not used on the small islands.

ATMs are everywhere and even on the small islands so the tourists do not need to have much cash.

One cash traveler’s checks in US dollars at any bank.

On the Virgin Islands of the United States , VAT is not charged so the entire country is a tax-free territory. That is why this country is so attractive to the shoppers. One can buy and export the goods the total cost of which does not exceed 1.200 US dollars. 

Details of interest

Sightseeing on the Virgin Islands of the United States  

On the territory of the Virgin Islands of the United States, there are no UNESCO sites. However, there are many places and sights of great touristic interest.

  • The Buck Island Reef National Monument is a unique reef ecosystem and a popular place for diving.
  • Saint George Village Botanical Garden.
  • The Annaberg Sugar Plantation is the remnants of the sugar plantation on the Saint John island where one can see the scale and the ways of sugar production in the Colonial period.
  • The Virgin Islands National Park on the islands Saint John and Saint Thomas. This is the most popular place among the tourists. This park is known for its picturesque hiking trail running through the tropical forest and excellent conditions for diving.
  • The  Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is the largest mangrove on the Virgin Islands. This is the only place on the US territory where stopped the expedition of Columbus.
  • The Christiansvaern Fort and Frederik Fort built by the Dutch in the middle of the 18th century for protecting the bays of the Saint Croix island. This is a popular touristic sight.
  • The Christian Fort and the Blackbeard’s castle are fortifications built by the Dutch in the 17th century to control the bay on the Saint Thomas island. 
  • The Saint Thomas Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue on the territory.
  • The Main street of the capital city.

Souvenirs on the Virgin Islands of the United States  

  • perfume;
  • various Caribbean souvenirs;
  • rum;
  • jewelry.