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Old 07-08-2009, 23:58   #1
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Getting to Tortola from San Juan, PR

Nice forum... I'm new. We're setting up a charter and I've got my eye on a cat in Tortola. We have 5 people, 3 from Chicago and 2 from NY, and I'm looking at airfares. Seems like there's a little gouging getting from San Juan to Beef Island airport, since that 90 mile run costs about the same as the first leg from Chicago to San Juan.

With the between-flight wait I have to think there's a cheaper way that doesn't take much longer. But the ferries don't seem to cross customs borders. Any better way to get to road town? Air costs $250 x 5 = $1250ish. 4-5 hours on the water would be preferable to 6 hrs of airport, plane, airport, cab time.

Any tips appreciated. Road town or SeaCows Bay is the ultimate destination.
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Old 08-08-2009, 00:40   #2
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I have been to both San Juan and Tortola. It was a very short plane ride from San Juan to Tortola , about an Hour and a Half...if i remember right. The San Juan air Port was not too full, or any long waits. However that was 6 years ago.
The air port on tortola is very small so I dont think there should be a problem with flying. Great place to go!! I think I was told it was the sailing capital of the world!

If you are talking about the layover at the air port. I did have one that was about 5 hours, which was not fun. We decided to go into San Juan for some sightseeing, and then on our way back to the air port we got stuck in a traffic jam, which is quite common there, and almost missed our flight. So I do not reccomend leaving the airport between flights.
hope that helps!
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Old 08-08-2009, 00:43   #3
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Many here use STT (St. Thomas) as the final airport destination then take one of the frequent ferries from there to the BVI. I researched ferries from SJU a while back and came up empty.
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Old 08-08-2009, 00:44   #4
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Oh I forgot to mention. If you are in a hurry in Tortola, rent a car. Because public transportation is really slow. Its a small island and you cab driver wont mind stopping and chatting with a friend or relative along the road.
And I recommended the Treasure Island Hotel, it is within walking distance to many Marinas.
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Old 08-08-2009, 00:57   #5
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Thanks. We should have a sleep aboard on the charter so no hotel needed and we're not in too much of a hurry, though settling into the boat and maybe starting on provisions would be nice.

I was looking at the STT option but haven't found a direct flight yet but several make the stop in Atlanta or Miami and the price is cheaper than the SJU bounce. (and no 5 hr wait.)

On with the hunt. Something tells me it's just one of those things you just accept.
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Old 08-08-2009, 05:53   #6
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...Something tells me it's just one of those things you just accept.
My experience has been that the San Juan to "wherever" in the Caribbean will cost an arm and a leg, no matter what. The 1:20 hour hop from SJU to Nevis typically costs just about as much as SJU to Philadelphia, for example.
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Old 08-08-2009, 06:40   #7
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- - The St Thomas Airport STT has good service by the big airlines operating out of the continental USA. Sometimes they stop in San Juan and transfer you to one of their affiliate subsidy airlines, some days they arrive non-stop from USA - depends on traffic for that particular day. So if you have a variable date maybe a day or two you might be able to get a better deal or better connection. Taxi's from the airport to downtown are about US$7/person. "Safari" buses are flat bed truck bodies with seats under a canopy on the back. They are the most popular way to get from here to there on St Thomas. Cost is US$1 on the western half of the island and US$2 if you cross to the eastern side of the island. You can easily spend a day or two before your bareboat charter starts touring St Thomas by these Safari buses and doing some grocery shopping at much cheaper prices than on Tortola.
- - From St Thomas' Charlotte Amalie waterfront there are frequent water ferries running to Tortola's West End and RoadTown. See: Virgin Islands Ferry Schedule
Fares are about US$30 to $35 per person and the ride takes just under an hour - and - you get to experience the waters and see the bays along the south side of the islands all the way to Road Town, Tortola.
- - Good luck, you will thoroughly enjoy the Virgins but remember the USVI are separate from the British Virgins and taking a bareboat charter boat across requires checking in/out with Customs/Immigration - and - there have been very recent reports of the US Coast Guard boarding boats to see if they have checked in/out.
Others can fill you in more about this and other "little bits of knowledge" to make your experience more enjoyable. I only go there in my own boat and only once per year as I sail up island from Grenada to get mail packages and US style supplies.
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Old 08-08-2009, 07:03   #8
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......Because public transportation is really slow...
I got a chuckle from that one ; it must be slow. Particularly in that as far as I know, it is non-existant. The best one can do is get one of the cabs for locals and get a cheaper price as opposed to paying "tourist rates".
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Old 08-08-2009, 07:38   #9
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Another possibility is to fly from SJU to STT, then take the ferry to Tortola.

Cheap flights (recently $80) are to be had. Then, add the $30 for the ferry...say, $110 per head rather than $250 if you fly to Beef Island.

See, e.g., http://www.farecompare.com/flights/S...TT/market.html

And, as was implied in the above, the ferry is a real experience...great sightseeing and a good "entry" into island life.

By the way, the ferries go first to West End, then on to Road Town. If your destination is Sea Cow Bay (just east of Nanny Cay), then West End would make the most sense, IMO.

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Old 08-08-2009, 07:58   #10
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AA has a flight that goes through Miami, then direct to STT, bypassing STJ. Then hop on a ferry. STJ has a bad habit of losing luggage.
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:31   #11
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Agree that routing through Miami to St Thomas. The ferry is a nice way to introduce your crew to the islands. Shopping in Tortola is OK for groceries. I wouldn't want to carry provisions on the ferry.
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:40   #12
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STT is minimum $230 as well. Thanks for the suggestions, but apparently they have me by the short hairs. I went to Grenada 3 times and paid less for SJU to Grenada than this tiny hop. But hey... 20 minutes into the first sail and I just won't care, right?
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Old 08-08-2009, 16:45   #13
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Avoid San Juan if at all possible. Cost are far higher and if you hope to fly to and from Tortola using San Juan... better have your hiking shoes on as the terminals are on totally different end of airport and the distance you have to take your bags to customs is extensive. I've gone the San Juan path 4 times and hate it.

Do fly into St Thomas from states, then take ferry to Tortola, either West End or Road Town depending on which charter service your using. Check the Schedules, available on line but as a general rule you need to be on Ferry by 5:00PM Some late ones run in prime season but don't count on them. This will generally save you about $300 per person over Tortola Beef Island and less Airport hassle. The Ferry ride is generally nice and only takes about 45 Min. I've gone this way about a dozen times or more, and is the Only way I recommend my friends go.
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Old 08-08-2009, 17:19   #14
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ha I remember the ferry hop from Tortola to St. Thomas and vs versa. It was awful rough seas the days i traveled, people needing barf bags, way way way worse than turbulance... hope no one has a weak stomach.
But I had fun it was like a roller coaster ride. The ferries are interesting there, not like the ferrieis up here in bremerton seattle.
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Old 08-08-2009, 18:53   #15
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Cape Air has some sort of coupons -- 10 one-way flights for a 1000 from SJU to EIS. Your note reminded me of this. I would try to find about this -- at their website possibly. As I remember (from reading a brochure a couple months ago while doing laundry Near Penn's Landing), it is possible for a group to use the coupons. Good luck!
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