Do You Need a Passport for the U.S. Virgin Islands?

By Amy Curtis

What travel documents to take along on a V.I. vacation

Do You Need a Passport for the U.S. Virgin Islands?

The U.S. Virgin Islands is an exotic destination that’s easy to visit, because it’s actually part of the United States. The currency is the U.S. dollar, the official language is English, flights from the mainland are considered domestic and a U.S. driver’s license is sufficient to drive on Virgin Island roads. Given its cozy relationship with the U.S., does a U.S. citizen need a passport to visit? The short answer is no, but it doesn’t hurt to carry one.

St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John

  • The islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. Purchased from Denmark in 1917, these islands share cultural aspects and history but are very different places.
  • St. Croix is the cultural center of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The history of the region is reflected in the culture of St. Croix, making it somewhat of a living history museum. It’s also a place rich in farmland, and organic farms are flourishing. That, combined with the array of recreational activities St. Croix has to offer, make it a premiere health and wellness destination.
  • St. Thomas is a cosmopolitan, bustling place, the busiest harbor for cruise ships in the West Indies, and a hot spot for shopping. The capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, is also located on St. Thomas. That doesn’t mean there’s no place to relax and enjoy St. Thomas – there’s plenty of beach and excellent snorkeling.
  • St. John is more of an unspoiled place, and 60 percent of the island is comprised of a national park. Looking to get away from it all? St. John is the perfect place. There’s no airport and no cruise ship harbor, but there’s hiking, water sports and what may be the best beaches in the islands.

Cruising to the islands

One popular way to get to the U.S Virgin Islands is on a cruise ship. Almost every cruise line offers the USVI as a destination. While a few offer itineraries departing from Miami, many require passengers to board the ship in Puerto Rico. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is another destination for which no U.S. passport is required.

Taking a flight down

Flights from the United States to the U.S. Virgin Islands are considered domestic. There’s an airport on St. Thomas and another on St. Croix, and the following carriers provide service to and from the mainland.

  • American Airlines
  • Continental Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways

Warning

Even if travel plans don’t make it necessary to carry a passport when traveling to the Virgin Islands, it’s not a bad idea to take it anyway. Reentering the mainland can sometimes be problematic, and U.S. citizens are advised to carry, if not their passports, at least two forms of official ID, like a driver’s license and an official birth certificate. This helps prevent confusion upon reentry, and makes traveling smoother.

Other things to consider

When planning a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, consider some of the special events that occur throughout the year. The area's rich history has resulted in a Caribbean culture that's heavily influenced by its French, Dutch, Spanish and African roots. Mardi Gras, for example, is a big party before Lent. Carnival happens at different times in the three different islands. St Thomas has the first Carnival of the year, and the pageantry lasts from mid April through the beginning of May. The Crucian Christmas Carnival in St. Croix runs from December through New Year's. Carnival in St, John starts in June and ends on July 4th, celebrating not only the 4th of July, but also July 3rd, the date on which USVI slaves were emancipated in 1848.