I had things as perfectly planned out as I could considering I was going somewhere I had never been before. My childcare arrangements fell through two weeks before departure and no family would commit to help me out with my 9 year old. But I didn’t panic. It did make me feel a bit unloved and under appreciated, but, hey, that’s my gig.
Luckily a friend agreed to help me out and take her for the week, so I could have my once in a lifetime (I hope this isn’t true) vacation without kids. Because no one I am kin to volunteered to help me out, I gave myself a bonus guilt trip which I wasn’t planning on, deducing that they all thought this was a majorly selfish thing for me to do,leaving at Christmas, and they were punishing my selfishness by refusing to even take her to their family gathering for a day. I’m still not quite over that one but, hey, another life lesson in who you can count on when push comes to shove. It worked out fantastically and I want to say a big “thank you” to Kristyna Lathem for spoiling my daughter while I was spoiling myself.
On to the awesomeness that this trip was… Tortola was very interesting and relaxing in a unique way. I had worried about my “never traveled anywhere before” boyfriend handling the culture differences and ins and outs of traveling in general. He did so great. It was like going on a vacation with all of the best parts of him. He was relaxed when I was tense, reassuring when I was doubtful and brave when I was frightened. I had read somewhere that traveling out of the country as a couple was a good way to gauge compatibility… I would say we passed that test, having never argued or even disagreed that I can recall.
At first he said he was worried about driving on the left. So I drove for about 45 seconds, pulled into the wrong driveway, which was very steep and altogether ridiculous. I got out, walked up the driveway and said “meet me at the top”. And that was how he became a super- confident and competent driver in Tortola. He drove us everywhere and trust me, it was no short feat. The roads over there are rough, largely unpaved and mostly singletrack full of switchbacks. He said he loved driving over there. It was his favorite part.
First, Making it to the Island…
I apologize for getting ahead of myself. I realize there are people who actually want to know details about the travel part because, I looked for the same types of articles and blog posts before I left. So I will try to be as explicit as possible in that area.
We took a flight on a little commuter jet from Kingsport TN, where there were zero wait times at 6:10 AM. This put us in Atlanta around 7AM. Since it had been some time since I traveled through Atlanta, I left us a little layover time to get to the gates.
Customs entering the BVI
** I should mention to those of you who are worried about customs and wait times where catching ferries and connecting flights are concerned, when you go to Tortola through St. Thomas, you don’t have customs until you reach Tortola on the ferry. So don’t worry about a wait in St. Thomas for that until your return trip. They give you a customs carbon form to complete at the ferry dock and you can complete it on the ride over… eh hem…unless you ride on top and it gets wet… Then you have to start over. Remember, dates on that form go: dd/mm/yyyy… apparently this is very important. 😬
Connecting Flight from Atlanta to St. Thomas
We then took a larger plane where we rode Delta Comfort Class and had free drinks 🍹 and two more square inches of space.. and a movie 🎥 ….these are good things. We arrived about 1:30PM. We lost an hour. When we got off it was pretty warm so I went into the restroom to change clothes. Came out and had to:
1. Take a taxi to the West End Ferry Dock. (It is important that you know where on the island you are staying. I had a rental car already waiting for me at West End. DeDe’s Car Rentals did that happily. If you take the wrong ferry, it’s a 30 minute cab ride to Road Town or West End. Whichever place you were supposed to be for your stay. It’s not the end of the world but it’s an extra expense)
This taxi from the airport to Charlotte Amalie Ferry Dock cost $6 each and $2 for bags 💼
** It is also very important to get to St. Thomas before the last ferry ⛴ of the day. Checking those schedules is easy and can be done online while booking your flight. But remember you do not have to account for customs times so “no worries” as they say on the island.
A quick ride in the Taxi got us to the Charlotte Amalie dock in just a few minutes.
2. Take the ferry to Tortola (West End for us) this somehow cost $90 but I was too excited to figure out why. Also if your bag has wheels, they make you check it on the ferry. I didn’t care because I was sick of lugging that thing around anyway.
A caveat here to describe my experience on the ferry.
We took the Native Son Ferry which I am quite certain is one of the most preferred ferries here. However, we chose to ride on top on what seemed like calm waters… On this ride I learned all about how when you are at these little ports and docks the water is usually calm no matter WTH is going on at sea… so we rode on top and the seats were just plain hard metal (with some sharp corners) and it was all la-tee-da until we hit the open waters and started getting splashed and beaten around. I tried to move up to the front and fell down and got some lovely 😊 bruises and a hard lesson. And no one… (I was certain at the time), is going to come save you if you go flying off the damn thing….See before and after ferry ride photos below.
My tip for you, ask how the waters are before you get on top, if the locals say it’s rough, go ahead and stay inside and complete your form. There will be plenty of time to see the islands and beautiful views later. As a bonus you won’t have bruises, sopping wet forms and a continuing irrational fear of ferry rides for the rest of your life. 😳
3. Wobble off the ferry and take your form through customs. They will usher you in the right direction. Passports at the ready, it took us about 10 minutes to get through customs and boom we were thrust out into the dirt parking area where our rental car was awaiting us. There was a half tank of gas and the key was, get this, under the mat. 😂
(Part two through ?? of this blog will include tips we learned and more photos and videos of our adventures in Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Norman Island and St.Thomas. I’ll include a link here when I get it written.)
Karen Bradberry is the owner and sole writer for “Really Traveling“, a humorous yet factual blog found at http://www.clearlyiamdisturbed.com. She began this blog in effort to try to fill in the gaps for travelers like herself, ready for adventure and avoiding disaster. As a parent, college student and full time counselor, Karen strives to bring a better understanding of the places she visits, how to get there and how much it really costs to readers who have always wanted to travel. You can reach Karen Bradberry by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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