Ocean view from the ferry ride from St. Thomas to Tortola

St. Thomas to Tortola (Exactly How to Go in 2023)

👉 Jump to: Ways to Go From St. Thomas to Tortola | Tips | FAQ

Are you looking to get from St. Thomas to Tortola? Here’s everything you need to know.

Going between the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands is daunting despite their proximity. What documents do you need? What’s the best way to get there? How can I save a few bucks along the way? These are all valid questions that I’ll be answering in this article.

As a local Captain in the US Virgin Islands residing on St. Thomas, I’ve navigated the journey between the two territories before. Here’s a quick practical guide on how to get from St. Thomas, USVI, to Tortola, BVI.

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5 Ways to Get From St. Thomas to Tortola, British Virgin Islands (& Back)

Ferries, airplanes, water taxis, and other boat charters. All will get you there, but which is suitable for you?

St. Thomas to Tortola by Ferry (Red Hook to West End Tortola)

🚍 Best for: Cheapest way to get to Tortola for individuals, couples, and small groups. 
💵 Cost: $$
👉 Where to Book: Native Son Ferry or Aquatic Rentals

People enjoying the view from the top deck of the Native Son Ferry
Top deck of the Native Son Ferry between Red Hook and Tortola

If you plan to stay on Tortola (or another nearby island), getting to the island aboard a ferry is the best, cheapest, and easiest method. Depending on where you’re departing from on St. Thomas and where you need to go on Tortola, you’ll have a few options.

The first is leaving Red Hook (St. Thomas East End) and landing on Tortola’s West End. If you’re staying near Apple Bay, Long Bay, Cane Garden Bay, Nanny Cay, or plan to hop aboard a catamaran charter in Soper’s Hole, this is your best option.

Two ferry operators travel between Red Hook and Tortola’s West End: Native Son Ferry and Aquatic Rentals (Sea Express). Both will promptly get you there for similar prices, so choose the best time for your schedule.

Pros of the Red Hook to West End Ferry: 

  • The shortest and cheapest ferry ride between the two islands.
  • Convenient departure point on the East End of St. Thomas near resorts.
  • Possible as a day trip from St. Thomas.

Cons of the Red Hook to West End Ferry: 

  • The departure point is distant from the airport on St. Thomas.
  • Only conducive if you stay on Tortola’s West End. Otherwise, take the ferry straight to Road Town (see below).

St. Thomas to Tortola by Ferry (Charlotte Amalie to Road Town)

🚍 Best for: Convenience from the St. Thomas Airport (STT), going further into the BVIs aboard another ferry, or setting sail aboard a Moorings vessel or other charter based in Road Town.
💵 Cost: $$
👉 Where to Book: Native Son Ferry or Aquatic Rentals

View of the sailing Sea Express II
Sea Express II is one ferry between Charlotte Amalie and Road Town.

The direct ferry service between Charlotte Amalie (the capital of the US Virgin Islands) and Road Town in the BVIs is slightly more expensive since it’s a greater distance. 

Again, this route is only conducive if it makes more sense for you logistically. Ask yourself where you’re departing from on St. Thomas and where your final destination is on Tortola or elsewhere in the BVIs.

For example, this option makes sense if you’re coming directly from St. Thomas Airport (STT) or your final destination in the British Virgin Islands is accessible via the Road Town Fast Ferry (think Virgin Gorda, Norman Island, Peter Island, or Anegada). 

Also, large-term charters like the Moorings are based in Road Town, making this a convenient option for sailors.

Pros of Charlotte Amalie to Road Town: 

  • Convenient for airport transfers, ferry services, or departure points for sailing charters.
  • Use as a possible day trip to the BVIs from the USVIs.
  • Travel between the US Virgin Islands’ Capital City, Charlotte Amalie, to the British Virgin Islands’ Capital City, Road Town, Tortola. 

Cons of Charlotte Amalie to Road Town: 

  • Most expensive ferry service between the two islands.

St. Thomas to Tortola by Private Water Taxi

🚍 Best for: Saves time with ultimate comfort, freedom, and thrill.
💵 Cost: $$$$
👉 Where to Book: Dolphin Water Taxi, Seahorse Water Taxi

A private water taxi docked at the immigration office in Tortola
Private water taxi docked at the immigration office in Tortola.

If you want to skip the wait times at the airport or ferry terminal, a more intimate approach to travel is with a private water taxi. 

Most water taxis depart Red Hook on St. Thomas before bringing you to wherever your final destination is – no ferry hopping or confusing itineraries and times necessary.

You can find all sorts of water taxis available to bring you where you need to go, but the two I’ve seen in action most with professional conduct are Dolphin Water Taxi and Seahorse Water Taxi.

Pros of a Private Water Taxi: 

  • Intimate experience with a speedy arrival.
  • Get dropped off at the doorstep of your final destination.
  • Scenic drive aboard a fast and fun vessel.

Cons of a Private Water Taxi: 

  • One of the most expensive options but possibly worth the cost with large groups.

St. Thomas to Tortola on a Day Charter

🚍 Best for: Witnessing the best of the BVI in one day from St. Thomas.
💵 Cost: $$$
👉 Where to Book: Sonic Charters (Private), Stormy Pirates Charters (Public Small Group)

View of the private charter named Poseidon from the ocean water
Private charters are one way to enjoy the BVIs from St. Thomas

One of the most popular ways of going between the two island nations is aboard a day charter originating on St. Thomas. 

Although most of your time won’t be spent on Tortola, you’ll likely stop there for immigration before going to dazzling sights like The Baths on Virgin Gorda and the world-renowned beach bars of Jost Van Dyke.

Regardless, this is one of the best, easiest, and most affordable ways to experience the British Virgin Islands from St. Thomas – even if it’s only for a day. The best private charter is aboard Sonic Charters, and Stormy Pirates Charters runs a fantastic small group trip.

Pros of a Day Charter: 

  • The easiest, cheapest, and hassle-free way to get in and out of the British Virgin Islands while witnessing the top sights and experiences.
  • Let the Captain, crew, and charter boat handle all your needs – drinks, snorkel gear, and itinerary.

Cons of a Day Charter: 

  • You won’t get the whole experience of Tortola and the BVI that a multi-day stay would provide.
  • Costly compared to other day charters around St. John or St. Thomas (since you’re crossing international borders).

St. Thomas to Tortola by Airplane

🚍 Best for: Saving time and landing close to Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Scrub Island.
💵 Cost: $$$$
👉 Where to Book: Expedia

View of the BVI airport from the outside
Outside of the BVI airport on Beef Island

Honestly, I can’t think of many reasons you’d take the plane from St. Thomas (STT) to Tortola’s Beef Island (EIS) other than despising boat rides, saving a little time, or getting close to Scrub Island from Trellis Bay for a week’s stay at the Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

I would not recommend taking a flight for a day trip.

Fares are typically much higher than ferry rates, with a total flight time of 22 minutes. You can search for prices on Expedia

Although, if the British Virgin Islands are your final destination and you’re visiting from the US mainland, I’d recommend looking into flying into the airport aboard a flight from San Juan (SJU) rather than St. Thomas (STT).

Pros of Flying STT to EIS: 

  • Quicker mode of travel with more comfort.
  • Avoid windy and wavy days aboard a ferry.
  • Close to Scrub Island and its five-star resort.

Cons of Flying STT to EIS: 

  • Much more expensive and not conducive for day trips.

5 Tips For Getting Between St. Thomas, USVI, and Tortola, BVI

Mix and Match Methods of Travel Between the USVI and BVI

View of the seats inside a ferry
Inside a different company’s ferry returning from Tortola.

My wife and I purchased one-way ferry tickets aboard the Native Son Ferry from Red Hook to the West End and a one-way ticket aboard the Sea Express on our return. The reason being the scheduled times were more conducive to our timeframe.

This could even apply to flights, departure points (i.e., leaving Road Town as opposed to the West End), and private water taxis. It’s the beauty of having so many travel options – giving you flexibility and chances to save money. 

Bring a Valid Passport to Travel to the British Virgin Islands

Although American citizens do not need a passport to travel to the US Virgin Islands, they will need one when visiting the British Virgin Islands. 

Upon arrival at Tortola, you must present your passport to enter the British Territory. And conversely, you’ll show your passport again before returning to the US Territory.

The Ferries Also Visit and Depart from Cruz Bay, St. John

Travelers outside the docked ferry
Offloading the ferry on St. John to pass through immigration.

The customs and immigration office for the US Virgin Islands is based in Cruz Bay on St. John. So after visiting the BVIs, a quick stop into Cruz Bay Harbor is essential, giving those vacationing on St. John the opportunity for day trips to Tortola. 

Checked Baggage is Extra

You’re allotted one personal item like a backpack or travel bag. Large suitcases and carry-on luggage may be additional fees depending on the ferry operator.

Prepare to Pay Entry and Exit Fees in the British Virgin Islands

View of the departure tax signage
Ever heard of a departure tax?

As of this writing (May 2023), non-residents of the British Virgin Islands must pay a $10 Environmental Tax to enter the territory. Before departing the BVIs, you must also pay a $20 Exit Tax per person. These fees are not included in most ferry or water taxi fares but are included in airplane prices.

Since the onset of 2020, these rules, taxes, fees, and regulations have changed constantly, so check with the BVI tourism board to get the latest details. 

👉 Read Next: Best Beaches in Tortola

St. Thomas to Tortola FAQ

How Long is the Ferry Ride from St. Thomas to Tortola?

The ferry ride from St. Thomas to Tortola takes 45 minutes to one hour, depending on your departure point and disembarking port. Ferries from Red Hook to West End Tortola are shorter, while those between Charlotte Amalie and Road Town are much longer.

How Much is the Ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola?

A round-trip ferry ticket from St. Thomas arriving in Tortola runs between $95 and $120, depending on the company, route, and departure point.

Do You Need a Passport to Take a Ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola?

All travelers need a passport to take the ferry from St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands to Tortola and the British Virgin Islands.

How Do You Get from St. Thomas to the BVI?

You can get from St. Thomas, USVI, to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by taking one of the few ferry routes, an airplane, a water taxi, or a day charter.

Map of How to Get Between St. Thomas and the BVI


This guide could include an endless list of other charters, water taxis, and more tips and tricks depending on specific situations. So let us know your recommendations or questions below so we can answer the best we can!

Otherwise, start planning more island-hopping adventures from St. Thomas to St. Croix!

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