Continuing with our series of posts that address things that people write to us about, and probably a lot of stuff you don’t need or never wanted to know either. Let me now address the issue of phone communications and Internet access while on a chartered yacht or catamaran in the BVI. People are divided into two groups, a lot of my clients, mostly Europeans, simply leave the outside world to itself and DON’T WANT TO KNOW what’s going on in the workplace. Others, mostly Americans, feel the need to be on top of things ALL THE TIME and the kids simply have to have FACEBOOK with them on charter or they feel abandoned. Cultural wars.
So, in order to keep everyone happy, here’s the skinny on phones and Internet access in the BVI. This is different from the USVI where US cell phones with major carrier contracts work fairly well. In fact, so long are you are in “line-of-sight” with the communications tower on the highest point of St. John in the USVI, you’ll get a signal.
The BVI has a quasi monopoly in communications that is a relic from the past: the BVI Cable and Wireless Company but they are VERY GOOD at blocking signals, and charging outrageous fees if you use your US based cell phone in roaming mode in the Islands. So my advise is DON’T use your US cell phone in Tortola. Period.
Here are some solutions:
1. Rent a local phone. If you’re a bare-boater, ask your charter operator if you can rent a phone from them Some even provide one for free but you have to pay for the calls. It will come with a prepaid $10 on it that will last for a few minutes but you’ll have to call in and put some more loot on it before you can do some serious talking. This is still expensive but it’s cheaper than using your US cell phone. There is a company in the BVI called Renport, contact them by calling (561) 847-3447.
2. You can also rent a laptop card to access the Internet while you are on charter, again, Renport offers this service.
3. Now, if you are chartering a larger motor yacht or catamaran, it probable that the yacht itself offers this service for free (included in your charter fee). Most of the more recent- vintage vessels now have a LAN (local area network) on board and you may be able to use the SKYPE phone service via the on-board Internet. You need to download Skype onto your laptop if you do not already subscribe to this service. This is arguably the best solution.
4. If all else fails, there are plenty of WiFi hot-spots around the islands, including Village Cay Marina and Soper’s Hole on the West End.
5. A word of warning, BVI phones do not work in the USVI and vice versa, if you need to communicate from both areas, get a BVI phone for the BVI and use your own US cell phone from the USVI. Some companies bill you for roaming in the USVI and others do not; so check with your carrier.
6. Some US carriers (AT&T) for example offer a temporary international roaming package that you can purchase before you leave and discontinue when you return to the US. This will resolve the issue of using your own cell phone in the BVI BUT you have still spent money on the package.
In summary, it’s not perfect yet and it’s a moving target BUT it’s a lot easier to communicate with office or family from the BVI now than it ever was – but it’s going to cost you either way..!!
For more information and availability of BVI charter yachts and catamarans visit our website.