The British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a British overseas territory, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The islands make
up part of the Virgin Islands archipelago, the remaining islands constituting the U.S. Virgin
Islands. Technically the name of the Territory is simply the "Virgin Islands", but in practice
since 1917 they have been almost universally referred to as the "British Virgin Islands" to
distinguish the islands from the American Territory. To add to the regional confusion, the Puerto
Rican islands of Culebra, Vieques and surrounding islands began referring to themselves as the
"Spanish Virgin Islands" as part of a tourism drive in the early 2000s.
The British Virgin Islands consist of
the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other
smaller islands and cays. Approximately fifteen of the islands are inhabited. The capital, Road
Town, is situated on Tortola, the largest island which is approximately 20 km (approx. 12 mi) long
and 5 km (approx. 3 mi) wide. The islands have a total population of about 22,000, of whom
approximately 18,000 live on Tortola.
The Virgin Islands were first settled by the Arawak from South America around 100 BC (though
there is some evidence of Amerindian presence on the islands as far back as 1500 BC). The Arawaks
inhabited the islands until the fifteenth century when they were displaced by the more aggressive
Caribs, a tribe from the Lesser Antilles islands, after whom the Caribbean Sea is named.
The first European sighting of the Virgin Islands was by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his
second voyage to the Americas. Columbus gave them the fanciful name Santa Ursula y las Once Mil
Vírgenes (Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins), shortened to Las Vírgenes (The Virgins), after the
legend of Saint Ursula.
The British Virgin Islands comprise
around sixty tropical Caribbean islands, ranging in size from the largest, Tortola 20 km (approx.
12 mi) long and 5 km (approx. 3 mi) wide, to tiny uninhabited islets. They are located in the
Virgin Islands archipelago, a few miles east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The North Atlantic Ocean
lies to the north of the islands, and the Caribbean Sea lies to the south. Most of the islands are
volcanic in origin and have a hilly, rugged terrain. Anegada is geologically distinct from the rest
of the group and is a flat island composed of limestone and coral.
As a tax haven the British Virgin Islands enjoys one of the more prosperous economies of the
Caribbean region, with a per capita GDP of around $38,500 (2004 est.)
In the British Virgin Islands it has long been fashionable to talk about the "twin pillars" of the
Territory's economy - tourism and financial services.
Politically, tourism is the more important of the two, as it employs a greater number of people
within the Territory, and a larger proportion of the businesses in the tourist industry are locally
owned, as are a number of the highly tourism-dependent sole traders (e.g. taxi drivers and street
vendors). Economically however, financial services associated with the territories tax haven status
are by far the more important. Nearly 50% of the Government's revenue comes directly from licence
fees for offshore companies, and considerable further sums are raised directly or indirectly from
payroll taxes relating to salaries paid within the trust industry sector (which tend to be higher
on average than those paid in the tourism sector).
Tourism accounts for 45% of national
income. The islands are a popular destination for U.S. citizens, with around 350,000 tourists
visiting annually (1997 figures). Tourists frequent the numerous white sand beaches, visit The
Baths on Virgin Gorda, snorkel the coral reefs near Anegada, or experience the well-known bars of
Jost Van Dyke. The BVI are known as one of the world's greatest sailing destinations, and charter
sailboats are a very popular way to visit less accessible islands. Every year since 1972 the BVI
has hosted the Spring Regatta, which is a seven-day collection of sailing races throughout the
islands. A substantial number of the tourists who visit the BVI are cruise ship passengers,
although they produce far lower revenue per head than charter boat tourists and hotel based
tourists. They are nonetheless important to the substantial (and politically important) taxi
The primary Language of the British
Virgin Islands (BVI) is English mix in with a quick Creole accent.
History of the British Virgin Islands Flag
The National Flag is the Union Flag being a composite design of St. George’s Cross (England),
St. Andrew’s Cross (Scotland) and St. Patrick’s Cross (Ireland). The colours are red, white and
blue. The National Flag of the BVI is the Blue Ensign defaced with the Badge of the Territory on
its fly, however, the Governor is allowed discretion to authorize its use in the following
i. for decorative purposes
i. for distinguishing purposes inside or outside the Territory on occasions when the use of the
Union Flag would be inappropriate or likely to cause confusion.
Authority to fly this flag is limited to the time and locality of the event for which approval is
The Badge of the British Virgin Islands comprises a green shield charged with twelve golden oil
lamps with red flames and a female figure, St. Ursula, patron saint of the British Virgin Islands
attired in white and wearing sandals, carrying one of those lamps.
Get married in the British Virgin Islands
Get married on the most beautiful places on earth.
The British Virgin Islands is the most meaningful place on earth to Share that wonderful day of
your life with the people you love the most, and make it a memorable day.
The softly swaying palms, warm, gentle breezes, secluded beaches and pristine crystal-clear waters
in attendance, you marriage on the British Virgin Islands will be incredibly special.
Marriage Rules & Regulations
A marriage license is easy to obtain in the British Virgin Islands and the certificate is valid
internationally. A couple is required to be in the BVI for three business days before they can be
married. On your day of arrival, apply for a license at the Registrar-General's Office, located on
the 2nd floor of the Central Administration Complex in Road Town, Tortola. The office is open
Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Your application will take three business days to
Requirements of the Registrar-General's
1. Your passports as proof of identity and date of arrival in the BVI.
2. Proof of marital status (certified original copies of Degree Absolute for divorced spouses or
Death Certificate of deceased spouses).
3. $110.00 (in BVI postage stamps) for a special license for those residing in the BVI for three
days or $50.00 (in BVI postage stamps) for those residing in the BVI for 15 days or more.
4. Two witnesses: (1) for signing the license application and (1) to be present at the marriage
ceremony. (Witnesses need not be the same for both exercises; persons in the BVI may be selected as
Having applied for the license, go to the Registrar-General's Office to schedule an appointment
for the date and time you propose to be married. The Registrar-General will require the following
1. The names of the two parties as they appear on your travel documents
2. The ages of both parties
3. The occupations of both parties
4. Marital Status
5. The names of the two witnesses to the ceremony
Fees payable to the Registrar-General's Office are $35.00 if the wedding ceremony is to be
performed in a church, and $100.00 is it is performed elsewhere. If you wish to be married in a
church, wedding announcements must be published on three consecutive Saturdays or Sundays in the
church of your choice. You must make arrangement with the minister of the church of your choice.
(Publishing of announcements is not necessary if a marriage license is obtained.)
Accommodations in the
British Virgin Islands
Escape to the Jewels of the BVI. To help you discover the very special and secluded guest
accommodations in the Caribbean, the BVI Tourist Board provides a list of our "Jewels of the BVI",
including cottages, hotels, inns, apartments, guest houses and villas. These charming places are
locally owned by BVI slanders and provide affordable rates as well as a chance to
experience the lands from a local perspective in some of the most pristine locations
found on earth.
In addition to the Jewels of the BVI, the island offer a wide range of places to
stay across all if the islands. Whatever you have in mind, the British Virgin Islands has a place
to make your Caribbean dreams come true.
Things to do in The British Virgin Islands
joyride in paradise.
Exploring sixty islands makes for one scenic trip and you’re in the driver’s seat. Crisscross the
azure waters aboard a boat, cruise the long, scenic roads by car and then bike down to shorelines
filled with secluded beaches. No matter what mode of transportation you choose, experience the
little known parts of paradise in the BVI.
Powdery white-sand beaches, lush green mountains and a sheltered yacht-filled harbour characterize
the island of Tortola.
The dramatically shaped island
of Virgin Gorda reminded Christopher Columbus of a reclining woman, so he named it Virgin Gorda,
the "Fat Virgin."
Jost Van Dyke
Jost Van Dyke has fewer than 200 inhabitants and they are widely known as a friendly, welcoming
The only coral island in the volcanic B VI chain, Anegada is a world apart. The Spanish named
it Anegada, which means "Drowned Land."