View of open road while driving in the US Virgin Islands along the coast

Driving in the US Virgin Islands in 2022 (Ultimate Guide)

Driving in the US Virgin Islands is an intimidating venture for one main reason: driving on the left. But trust me, as someone who was a first-time driver in the US Virgin Islands not too long ago, it’s much easier than you think.

This handy guide will help you navigate the most challenging aspects of driving in the US Virgin Islands!

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Driving Laws and Rules in the US Virgin Islands

View of cars passing along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie
The waterfront in Charlotte Amalie is the widest road on St. Thomas

Driving in the continental United States and driving in the US Virgin Islands are entirely different. For starters, we drive on the left. And that’s not to mention all the other nuances that come with driving on these tiny rocks.

🛣️ Although two lanes, most roads are narrow as they wind through mountainous sections of the islands.

👋🏻 Drivers are generally defensive yet friendly. It’s customary to stop and allow other drivers to enter traffic.

🚦 With such narrow, curved roads, the speed limit rarely exceeds 35 mph anywhere in the USVI. And in many places, a speed limit won’t even be posted as the curves in the road won’t allow excessive speeds.

🚗 All other standard driving laws found in mainland USA apply.

⛰️ Backroads, particularly driveways to hotels or condos, can be extremely steep

🚧 Potholes are common causing drivers to suddenly veer. Don’t worry, the driver typically corrects quickly.

🚙 You must be an extremely active driver in the US Virgin Islands – so rarely will you see anyone on their phone.

🙋‍♂️ It’s not uncommon for locals to stop for some social time with people they see along the road.

🍺 Having an alcoholic drink while driving is permitted as long as you don’t exceed a .08 BAC. So don’t be surprised when you see someone tipping back a Heineken at a stop light.

USVI License Requirements

With its status as a US Territory, visitors with a valid US driver’s license can easily and legally drive in the US Virgin Islands.

International Visitors will need an International Driver’s Permit before being able to drive in the Virgin Islands.

🗺️ Planning Your Trip: St. Thomas is the perfect starting point for most things to do. But don’t forget about St. John and St. Croix and all the other amazing places to visit in the Virgin Islands!

Where to Rent a Car in the US Virgin Islands

Mountain view while boarding a plane in USVI

Most major American rental car agencies are based in the airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix with smaller, locally owned Jeep Rentals stationed upon arrival on St. John in Cruz Bay.

🏝️ St. John: 4×4 Jeep Rentals in Cruz Bay are commonly used to explore the island and its secluded beaches.

🇻🇮 St. Croix: Discover Cars lets you search for car rentals at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX).

🌴 St. Thomas: You can search rates for most car rental companies in Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on RentalCars.com

👉 Pro Tip: The easiest way to see the USVIs during your Caribbean vacation is to stay in St. Thomas, rent a car (particularly with 4WD) and take one of the car barges to St. John for a day or two into the Virgin Islands National Park.

US Virgin Islands Car Insurance Rules

Most forms of car insurance in the United States cover the US Virgin Islands but it’s important to double-check. Under your policy, you’ll find either an inclusion or exclusion of US Territories. It’s typically worded as, “Covered in all of the United States and its territories” or vice versa.

If your car insurance policy does not cover, you can always purchase car insurance through the rental agency but it is not required.

⛱️ Exploring the Islands: Public transportation is sparse in the islands so the best way to explore during your visit is by renting a car. That way you can find secluded beaches on St. Thomas, drive the entire length of St. Croix, and reach distant trailheads on St. John.

Driving on the Left Side in US Virgin Islands

Cars on the main street of St. Thomas
Main Street on St. Thomas

The largest hurdle to overcome for visitors to the USVI is driving on the left side of the road, particularly in a car with the driver’s seat on the left side of the vehicle (a result of being manufactured in southeastern United States). However, once you get on the road, you’ll find your brain adjusting easier than you would imagine.

But I get it, that doesn’t make the endeavor any less intimidating. So my top tip would be, as you depart the car rental company, constantly and periodically tell yourself, “left, left, left, left”. And once you’re with the flow of the traffic, things get MUCH easier.

Keep in mind, what would be a right turn at home is now a left turn. And vice versa. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your brain will adapt. You can do it!

5 Tips for Driving in US Virgin Islands

Tip #1 – Use a Quick Honk or Two to Say Thanks

A pickup truck with a view from its background on USVI

As you drive around, you’ll hear many quick honks – this is how Virgin Islanders say thank you or you’re welcome to other drivers! 

Tip #2 – Stay in Your Lane When Approaching a Corner

The narrow mountain roads in the USVI take sharp turns at unexpected times. Oftentimes, you’ll come around the corner and it’ll feel like other cars are entirely in the wrong lane. It’s a scary experience at first but it always seems to work out, just be sure to stay in your lane!

Tip #3 – Avoid Driving the Backstreets of Downtown Charlotte Amalie, if Possible

Cars passing through the back roads of Charlotte Amalie
The back roads of Charlotte Amalie are tight

Downtown Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas is a labyrinth of one-way streets, insanely narrow roads, and tight corners. Let’s just say, there’s a reason nearly every vehicle on the side of the road has multiple scratches and dents. So stick to the Waterfront and Main Street in Charlotte Amalie!

Tip #4 – Ditch the Car for a Golf Cart on Water Island

Effectively the 4th US Virgin Island, Water Island is a wonderful day trip from St. Thomas where you leave your car behind before hopping aboard one of the passenger ferries to the small islet. Upon arrival, you’ll rent a golf cart for the day directly at the docks.

See my guide to things to do in Water Island for more info.

Tip #5 – Watch Out for Animals

Close up view of goats in US Virgin Islands

At times, in the Virgin Islands, it may feel like the entire barn has been let loose. Chickens everywhere. Goats unexpectedly grazing the road’s shoulder. Deer darting across the street. And even donkeys trotting up the mountains on St. John.

FAQ for Driving in the US Virgin Islands

Is it easy to drive in US Virgin Islands?

It’s easy to drive in the US Virgin Islands once you get on the road. It takes a few minutes of maneuvering around the islands to get used to it, but once you enter the flow of traffic, it’s as easy as driving anywhere else.

Why do you drive on the left in US Virgin Islands?

You drive on the left in the US Virgin Islands because donkeys, the original mode of transportation, were trained to pass other donkeys on the left. When cars were introduced to the islands, many people still utilized donkeys on the same roadways. You simply couldn’t retrain the donkeys so the rules of the road stuck.

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How do you feel? Are you ready to drive on the left? I promise, it’s easier than you think! Be sure to come back here and let us know how it went. Or check out all my USVI travel guides.

I hope I’ve helped you feel more comfortable about driving in the US Virgin Islands!

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2 Comments

  1. In the states there’s right hand turning on red. In the V.I. is there left hand turning on red?

    1. Hi Linda,

      That’s an excellent question! YES! In most cases, you can make a left-hand turn on red (similar to your right-hand turn on red back in the US) while at a stoplight.

      Andrew

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