The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) – officially named the Virgin Islands of the United States – is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States. It consists of three main islands and several smaller ones, all located in the Lesser Antilles.
The three main islands are:
- Saint Croix, the largest of the islands. It has two towns: Frederiksted on the western side and Christiansted on the north-eastern side. Because of this, locals often call the island “Twin City”.
- Saint Thomas. This is where the capital Charlotte Amalie is located, and roughly half of the USVI population lives on Saint Thomas. Locals have nicknamed the island “Rock City”.
- Saint John. With its 50 km2, it the smallest of the three main US Virgin Islands. Since 1956, approximately 60% of the island has been protected as the Virgin Islands National Park. The island’s nickname is “Love City”.
The islands used to be a part of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway and known as the Danish West Indies. In 1916, they were sold to the USA for gold worth 25 million USD. As a part of the transaction, the USA also had to declare that they did “not object to the Danish Government extending their political and economic interests to the whole of Greenland.”
Where are the U.S. Virgin Islands?
They are located about 60 km east of Puerto Rico.
Immediately to the east of the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’ll find the British Virgin Islands.
Driving on the left!
Unlike the rest of the United States, the United States Virgin Islands is a place where we drive on the left side of the road. Despite this, almost all cars here have the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the car, since they are imported from the United States mainland.
What’s the official currency in the U.S. Virgin Islands?
The United States dollar (USD)
The official language here is English. American English is the language of government, media, education, etc.
A majority of the population (over 70%) speak English and/or Virgin Island Creole English. Many residents can effortlessly switch between American English and Creole.
Roughly 17% of the population speaks Spanish, and there is also an en even smaller minority that speaks French and/or French Creole.
The U.S. Virgin Islands have several white sand beaches, and Magens Bay and Trunk Bay are two examples of popular destinations for beach-loving tourists.
The highest point is Crown Moutain on St. Thomas island, where the peak reaches 474 meters above sea level. St. Thomas is of volcanic origin, while the island St. Croix is of coral origin and therefore flatter.
The climate is tropical. The sunniest period is May through October, and this period is considered summer, although the rest of the year is warm too. During the winter season, the average high temperature is just a few centigrades lower than in the summer. The winter season is dominated by the northeast trade winds.
There is a risk of hurricanes during the Caribbean hurricane season (June through November, peaking in August through October).
The Virgin Islands National Park
The Virgin Islands National Park includes about 60% of the island Saint John + over 5,500 acres of adjacent ocean + nearly all of Hassel Island.
The park is a popular tourist destination, both on land and in the water. There are miles of hiking trails through the tropical rainforest on Saint John, lovely beaches to explore, and the sea is great for scuba diving and snorkeling. After the hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, the park reopened for visitors in December when the roads and trails had been cleared.
From Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook on Saint Thomas, you can take the ferry to Cruz Bay on Saint John. Ferries are also available from the British Virgin Islands.
Casino gambling in U.S. Virgin Islands
Gambling is legal in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The legal age for gambling is 21.
Examples of casinos here:
- Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino in Christiansted on the island Saint Croix. This is the largest casino in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Among other things, it features 15+ table games and two poker tables, plus a lot of slots.
- Windward Passage Hotel & Casino on the southern coast of the island Saint Thomas. This is an upscale place located in the capital Charlotte Amalie.
- The Parrot Club Casino. A relaxed low-key casino on the western coast of Saint John. It sustained quite a lot of damage during Hurricane Irma, so check in advance to make sure that the type of games that you like are up and running again.
Good to know about U.S. Virgin Islands
Size: 346.36 km2 (133.73 sq mi)
Population: Circa 105,000 at the 2017 estimate
Capital: Charlotte Amalie
Most populous city: Charlotte Amalie
Official language: English
Official currency: United States dollar (USD)
Time zone: UTC +4 (Atlantic Standard Time), does not observe DST
Driving side: Left
Internet top-level domain: .vi
ISO 3166 code: VI