Finding the Cheapest Way to Get to the British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands     Destinations, Getting To and Fro
Road Town, Tortola, BVI. More than one way to get there!
Road Town, Tortola, BVI. More than one way to get there!
Taschengeld
What a puzzle it was to put together the least expensive way to get from the US to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. But I nailed it and cut the initial cost in half!
My goal was to get me and my boyfriend from San Diego to Tortola, BVI in the end of June. Because we would be meeting friends who had some set plans, our timing was not entirely flexible.

People always ask me how I find my flight deals. It takes time and tenacity. Maybe a bit of frustration too. But keep looking until you have exhausted every option. Here is the process I took to find my deal to Tortola. Jump to the end to see what turned out to be the best option.

With the ultimate destination of Tortola, there are few main options. Fly into Tortola, Saint Thomas, or San Juan (Puerto Rico). From St. Thomas, you take a ferry into Tortola. From San Juan, you can either fly into Tortola, or fly into St. Thomas then ferry to Tortola.

The Initial Flight Search

Figure Out the Best Departure and Destination
Using Google Flights for my initial search, the first look at flight cost from San Diego or LAX to Tortola started at around $1000 each so that was out of the question.

So then I looked at flights from San Diego (or LAX) to either St. Thomas or San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As far as which city to depart from, fortunately the prices from San Diego were the same or cheaper than from LAX because that can be kind of a pain and cost extra money to get up there. I also saw some inexpensive flights from Las Vegas but was not sure about making that drive. So from San Diego, I found $457 to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and $605 to St. Thomas (STT).

Truth be told, I had discount passes to get to Puerto Rico so I stopped short of calculating the difference in total cost if we flew into St. Thomas. Plus we preferred to spend a day or two in San Juan as part of our trip so San Diego to San Juan would be our departure and destination cities, regardless of the cost of connections to Tortola. But check the prices, it might be worth it for you to go right into St. Thomas!

Check Different Dates
Since I knew I'd be flying into San Juan, I then checked Google Flights for rates from SJU (San Juan) to EIS (Tortola). I found InterCaribbean Airways had a flight for $435 from June 16-22. So that's $870 for both of us to get in and out of Tortola from Puerto Rico. Add to that $28 (each way) taxi to get to the marina, and $10 each for environmental fees (total $1,046).

Then I noticed that it's only $315 if we flew out a day later. It turns out that was consistent across all airlines. So I would need to extend a day. Even if it's a wash with the extra hotel, I'd rather have an extra day on the islands for the same price.

Compare Booking Methods
I looked up what airlines fly between Puerto Rico and Tortola and checked each one of those directly on the airlines' website.

Turns out in this case it saved me about $50 if I booked the flight through Expedia and bundled it with the hotel rather than booking directly with airline and booking the hotel separately.

So many options to look at!

I ended up at $916 total for 2 of us to get from Puerto Rico to and from Tortola including taxis,1 night hotel on Tortola, and environmental fees. The expensive hotel hurt that budget but it's still better than $1,046!
flights.google.com is a good place to start to get an idea of flight prices and airlines.
flights.google.com is a good place to start to get an idea of flight prices and airlines.

Thinking Outside the Box

It really pays to look at all your options. What about a ferry? A bit of research revealed that there are no ferries from Puerto Rico to BVI, but taking a ferry from St. Thomas is $60 round trip, and a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas was only $150 each! Now we're getting somewhere.

I looked at bundling the flight on Expedia to St. Thomas with a hotel in St. Thomas for the night. I picked the most reasonable hotel in the area but it still cost almost $200/night. Ugh.

Then after checking the flights on Google, I went back to the airline websites. Wow - the price booking directly on Seaborne's website was only $117 each?!

Then I checked the hotel rate by booking directly on the hotel website. Bingo.

One last check to see if flying one way between San Juan and Tortola and taking the ferry / flight option via St. Thomas the other direction yielded a better price. Almost, but not in this case. Still worth it to check since when a friend of mine booked it, that was a better deal.

Something I didn't realize at the time, was how much are the ferry fees would add up. $60 round trip turns out to be more like $100. But even with all that, the price was still far better than flying directly to Tortola.
Depending on where in BVI you are ending your trip, there are ferry options from other islands.

For instance, you can take Speedy Ferry from Virgin Gorda straight to St. Thomas (only on certain days of the week). There is also a ferry from Jost Van Dyke to St. Thomas on F, Sa, Su for $80++. Many people in our group used this ferry rather than going all the way back to Tortola to take a ferry from there, but it was not cheap! There are also ferries from many of the islands that will take you back to Road Town to catch a ferry from there, so check prices and departure schedules for all your options ahead of time.

Also keep in mind that ferry schedules are not exact! They may or may not leave on time. I was scheduled for a noon ferry but they put us on a ferry at 11am instead. Then my friends who were also supposed to be on the noon ferry (but were not at the dock yet), ended up on a 1pm ferry. So leave room for that in your scheduling.

During the low season, there is no need to book the ferry ahead. In fact, I highly recommend not doing so. It's best to leave your options open to ferry company, time, and departure location.
The ferry from St. Thomas turned out to be a great option.
The ferry from St. Thomas turned out to be a great option.
Flickr

To Sum it Up


Puerto Rico > St. Thomas > Tortola (via ferry)
$117 each round trip flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Thomas booked directly on Seaborne Airline's website
$20 each for round trip taxi to / from airport and Charlotte Amalie ferry terminal
$62 each round trip ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola
$5 each per piece of luggage each way
$10 each port fee from St. Thomas to Tortola
$10 each environmental fee when entering BVI
$20 each departure tax when leaving BVI
$90 Galleon House hotel in St. Thomas booked directly on hotel website

$588 total cost for 2 people to get from San Juan to Tortola! A far cry from our original $1,046!

Total time spent - about an hour and a half. My time is worth it save that much $!

Cheat Sheet

With extra costs and fees at every turn, here's your cheat sheet to compare and find the cheapest option for your dates. Prices are per person unless otherwise specified.
When piecing this together, be sure to check actual schedules. You might find the cheapest flight is on a Monday evening, but if it causes you to miss the last ferry and requires you to spend money on an extra night at a hotel, you might want to spend the extra $20 on the morning fight.
home > Tortola
$______ round trip flight from home to Tortola
$54         round trip taxi from airport to Road Town (or $24-28 per person shared)
$10         environmental fee
$______ possible extra hotel cost due to this itinerary
$______ TOTAL

home > St. Thomas > Tortola
$______ round trip flight from home to St. Thomas
$55         ferry from Charlotte Amalie to Road Town ($10 taxi, $30 ferry, $5 luggage, $10 port fee)
$65         ferry from Road Town to Charlotte Amalie ($10 taxi, $30 ferry, $5 luggage, $20 departure tax)
$10         environmental fee
$______ possible extra hotel cost due to this itinerary
$______ TOTAL

home > Puerto Rico > Tortola
$______ round trip flight from home to Puerto Rico
$______ round trip flight from Puerto Rico to Tortola
$54         round trip taxi from airport to Road Town (or $24-28 per person shared)
$10         environmental fee
$______ possible extra hotel cost due to this itinerary
$______ TOTAL

home > Puerto Rico > St. Thomas > Tortola (via ferry)
$______ round trip flight from home to Puerto Rico
$______ round trip flight from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas
$55         ferry from Charlotte Amalie to Road Town ($10 taxi, $30 ferry, $5 luggage, $10 port fee)
$65         ferry from Road Town to Charlotte Amalie ($10 taxi, $30 ferry, $5 luggage, $20 departure tax)
$10         environmental fee
$______ possible extra hotel cost due to this itinerary
$______ TOTAL

home > Puerto Rico > St. Thomas > Tortola (via flight and and ferry)
Check flying one way into Tortola and taking the ferry though St. Thomas the other direction.
$______ round trip flight from home to Puerto Rico
$______ one way flight from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas (or vice versa)
$55         ferry from Charlotte Amalie to Road Town (or $65 vice versa)
$______ one way flight from Tortola to Puerto Rico (or vice versa)
$27         one way taxi from Road Town to Tortola airport (or vice versa) (or $12-14 per person shared)
$10         environmental fee
$______ possible extra hotel cost due to this itinerary
$______ TOTAL

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