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Driving in Tortola #297660
03/17/2023 11:58 AM
03/17/2023 11:58 AM
Joined: Mar 2023
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Traveldreamer Offline OP
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Hello. We are considering spending a week in Tortola next March, and we'd like to spend a day at Smugglers beach, but we will have a rental car, and I’m reading it’s an unpaved road. Is this a problem with the rental car contract? They usually say no off-pavement? How tough is it to drive that road to Smugglers?

Also, how tough is it to drive around Tortola? I’m reading that can be pretty intimidating. Our first time driving on the left-hand side of the road will be in Antigua this year, other than that we have never done it. Will probably be staying mostly in the west, likely at Cane Gardens Bay though are still considering Long Bay Beach resort. We will have to drive to and from the airport unless we taxi and rent a car on the west side. We will also drive to the ferry locations for Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke and to Sage Mountain preserve one day. How will the driving be if those locations are our main focus? Are there any practical ways of avoiding the most intimidating roads? Also, I keep hearing about "the Elevator". What is this and do we have to drive it on any of our routes? Thanks so much again.

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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297662
03/17/2023 12:34 PM
03/17/2023 12:34 PM
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Zanshin Offline
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If you survive the potholes and bad drivers in Antigua, then you'll survive the speed-bumps and bad drivers on Tortola.

Taxis in the BVI are horrendously expensive, so renting a car if you plan on the trips you've listed is going to be far cheaper and give you more flexibility as well.

The "Elevator" is not for the faint at heart. It starts at sea level with a steep turn off the main road between Nanny Cay and Sea Cow Bay, you can tell which road it is by the skid marks at the intersection smile Then it does a bit of turning as it climbs, and gets even steeper. This is best enjoyed (without skidding) in a vehicle with good tires, preferably 4WD, and when the road is dry. Most small rental cars will need the A/C to be turned off in order to have enough power to get to the top, and going down one should make use of engine braking as much as possible. Fun to do, with some excellent vantage points.

The roads in the BVI generally are narrow. They have no sidewalks, but do have pedestrians. Sometimes I feel like oncoming traffic sees the "R" plates for rentals and decided to play a bit of chicken as they hog more and more of the road while approaching at speed. But I've driven with normal plates as well, and they do the same thing.

Driving on the left is a matter of practice. It goes well when there's other traffic around to remind you on which side of the road to drive. It can be intimidating when driving at night, alone, and tired - then you have to override your learned experience.


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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Zanshin] #297663
03/17/2023 12:44 PM
03/17/2023 12:44 PM
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Traveldreamer Offline OP
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Thank you very much. So can we avoid the elevator? Or do we need to encounter it going to and from the airport to the CGB, to Sage Mountain preserve or to the ferry ports for Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke or Anegada?
Any thoughts on the question of using a rental car to get to Smugglers Beach? Since it’s off-road and that usually invalidates rental contracts?
Thanks so much.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297667
03/17/2023 01:31 PM
03/17/2023 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Traveldreamer
Hello. We are considering spending a week in Tortola next March, and we'd like to spend a day at Smugglers beach, but we will have a rental car, and I’m reading it’s an unpaved road. Is this a problem with the rental car contract? They usually say no off-pavement? How tough is it to drive that road to Smugglers?


Hopefully someone with more recent experience can chime in, but we took a cab to Smuggler's Cove back in 2003 and while the picnic lunch and snorkeling are lovely memories, the cab ride was definitely unpleasant. The road was very bumpy and hot (since it was June and we had to go so slowly that there was no breeze). I felt very carsick by the time we got to Smuggler's, but after a walk on the beach and some snorkeling, I was able to enjoy our picnic lunch (lots of ants under the trees, though!) If you can't get a rental company to allow the trip, maybe you could take a cab just for that one drive? I don't know what the snorkeling is like now.....20 years ago there was supposed to be some kind of route marked underwater that you could follow to snorkel the reef, but most of the markings had faded or disappeared, so we took our own route and just had to be very aware of our surroundings so we didn't get into a shallow area and damage the coral or scratch ourselves. We saw a small octopus and a flounder on the snorkel and the beach was lovely!

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297668
03/17/2023 01:39 PM
03/17/2023 01:39 PM
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Our first time renting on Tortola the car had a sticker on the dash that said "keep left and blow horn frequently." I thought the horn blowing was for on coming traffic on the steep curving roads on the hills and mountains to let them know you were on the road too but coming and not going. Well, as it turned out the horn blowing was more useful for the free range goats and cows on the road...lol. So, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. And the one thing that still gets me is
that as an American citizen I am used to speed limits at miles per hour (MPH) which is what the BVI uses but most of the rentals we have had are cars tuned to kilometers. I have no clue what 35 mph is in kilometers. Plus the locals drive as fast as they want to. I have been passed regularly by locals driving way over the posted limit. Potholes do pop up, too. So, you might want to think of driving your rental as something similar to an amusement park roller coaster riide...lol. Have fun, enjoy, don't neglect the sunscreen and we will be down in May for three weeks....yaaaaayyyyyy!!!!!

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297669
03/17/2023 01:40 PM
03/17/2023 01:40 PM
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Posts: 254
South Louisiana
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We stay on Tortola once a year for 10 days. It only takes a day to get used to driving on the left side. We go to Smugglers in the rental. The rental companies are fine with this. They will only charge you extra if there is a lot of sand left in the vehicle. We have been up Sage mountain with no issues. We have covered the entire island over the years. Just make sure you get a 4WD vehicle. We will take a cab sometimes if we are planning on a late night out with some adult beverages. I don't find that the cabs are that expensive for one night. And everyone can enjoy a nice dinner with no worries about driving back to the villa.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297673
03/17/2023 02:19 PM
03/17/2023 02:19 PM
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If you're adventurous, and not expecting roads to be like they are in the States, driving on Tortola is not really that bad. Having said that, the driving is not for the faint of heart! All of the above is right talking about the hills (my phone once told me to follow the road up to someplace, and all I could think was that they forgot the word STRAIGHT to go with up the road - it was like a rollercoaster hill!), the speeds, the pedestrians, the goats, the cows, and anything else that could make the experience "sporty."

I would also add watch out for the "speed bumps" that they like to put in the roads. They really tend to be near churches and any sort of populated areas, but the bumps are meant to slow down locals and tourists alike, and really should be called "speed mounds" - small sharp hills designed to shake loose fillings out of your head - you'll only hit one of those at speed!

Really, the driving will add to the vacation experience, and you'll have more than a few stories to share with friends and family before you're done. And you'll save a ton on cab fare. Just take your time, downshift appropriately, and figure that you're not the first to drive these roads, and if they all survived (okay, maybe one or two didn't make it) so can you!

Have fun! Paradise is meant to be a savored adventure!

Last edited by Time Will Tell; 03/17/2023 02:19 PM.

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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: kajunlady61] #297674
03/17/2023 02:22 PM
03/17/2023 02:22 PM
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Traveldreamer Offline OP
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Thank you. Sure sounds like an adventure!. If we take a taxi to Smugglers, is it difficult to get a taxi from Smugglers when we are done? I thought I read that there aren’t taxis readily available at Smugglers and no way to call for one?
By the way, there isn’t an age limit for car rentals in BVI is there? I read St Lucia car rentals require a Dr note if you’re 65 or older? My husband is 66.

Last edited by Traveldreamer; 03/17/2023 02:23 PM.
Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297675
03/17/2023 02:25 PM
03/17/2023 02:25 PM
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18°44'42"N 64°24'09"W
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Originally Posted by Traveldreamer
Thank you very much. So can we avoid the elevator?

I don't think anyone has answered this. You will have absolutely no need to drive the elevator.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297676
03/17/2023 02:29 PM
03/17/2023 02:29 PM
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Southeast of Disorder
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Originally Posted by Traveldreamer
By the way, there isn’t an age limit for car rentals in BVI is there? I read St Lucia car rentals require a Dr note if you’re 65 or older? My husband is 66.


No idea, but the times I have rented cars, no one has ever asked me about my age - just my credit card. It might help that I haven't hit that milestone - yet! lmao

If you take a cab (I wouldn't - but I tend to be that way) to Smuggler's talk to the driver (preferably before) on the way there - let him know your plans. Might even set up a time for them to come get you. Otherwise get his/her card so you can call them to come get them. I'd also be willing to bet serious bucks that Patricia (or whoever is at the bar there) has a cousin/brother/friend who drives a cab who they'll call to come pick you up. Its incredible how easy it can be to find someone else to pay money to! lol

Enjoy!

Last edited by Time Will Tell; 03/17/2023 02:31 PM.

Peter
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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297678
03/17/2023 03:00 PM
03/17/2023 03:00 PM
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Antigua and St. Lucia require you to get a "local" temporary license. That's just a way to get tax dollars into the coffers. The BVI once had that, but hasn't had that for 20 years.


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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Zanshin] #297682
03/17/2023 03:59 PM
03/17/2023 03:59 PM
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Traveldreamer Offline OP
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Is that more than just the international drivers license? I rented a car in Antigua for next month and no one talked about needing to do that? Is it just part of the rental process when you pick up the car?

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297684
03/17/2023 04:16 PM
03/17/2023 04:16 PM
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@Traveldreamer - when you pick up your car you will have to get a temporary local license; it costs US$20 and will be valid for 3 months.


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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Zanshin] #297685
03/17/2023 04:18 PM
03/17/2023 04:18 PM
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Thank you.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297689
03/17/2023 04:43 PM
03/17/2023 04:43 PM
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Memphis, BVI, CT
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Ratman loves driving around Tortola because it's like a roller coaster. On the other hand, we have neighbors who've been here 40 years who always take a taxi. The roads are hilly, twisty and often have vertiginous drops with no guardrail. Today there were two large cows up by Enis Adams who had broken their tethers, along with innumerable cruise ship vans.

The elevator is just before Nanny Cay heading west and is identifiable (there are generally no road signs) by a hanging bar. This keeps cement trucks off, because their cargo spills out and ruins the road.

The coast road is relatively east to drive, as long as you go left around traffic circles. The uninitiated are better off avoiding the road over the top from the East End police station.

The roads on Virgin Gorda are easy to drive. That, combined with the great beaches and sites would put that island at the top of my list.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297715
03/18/2023 11:30 AM
03/18/2023 11:30 AM
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I suggested the OP pose this question here for the great feedback, as we’ve not driven the island in awhile. But I agree that it is not really intimidating if you keep to certain roads. We’ve driven over the hill from Road Town to CG and are fine with that. But for friends planning to visit who prefer the less steep roads - where possible - I told them there are alternative routes when driving between the north and south areas of the island. For example, from the airport or Road Town to CGB they can drive along the south shore (Sir Francis Drake if I recall), and take the Zion Hill Rd over to the north shore road. Then up over Windy Hill Rd past Heritage Inn and down into CGB. It’s mostly flat with nicer views to boot.
And yes it is a good idea to blow the horn before taking corners (for goats) and switchbacks (for oncoming traffic)…

Tortola is a gorgeous island to use as a base and worth getting accustomed to the driving…

Last edited by crmoores; 03/18/2023 11:31 AM. Reason: Typo

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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: crmoores] #297716
03/18/2023 12:30 PM
03/18/2023 12:30 PM
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Thank you! I was just reading about that easier road along the coast I was going to post a question here about it. You beat me to it! We would probably feel much more comfortable going to and from from the airport on that road, if I’m reading Google maps, correct it’s only about a 10 minutes longer drive? Now can we take that road to and from the ferry port in Road town as well?
This would solve a lot of problems. Thank you!

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297717
03/18/2023 12:32 PM
03/18/2023 12:32 PM
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Yes not alot longer, and it works for the RT ferry as well..


"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”
-Anthony Bourdain
Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: crmoores] #297722
03/18/2023 01:16 PM
03/18/2023 01:16 PM
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Yay! I think this is our solution. Thank you so much. I’m going to assume that this flat and easier highway is about similar to driving in Antigua?

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297724
03/18/2023 02:08 PM
03/18/2023 02:08 PM
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Zanshin Offline
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You'll have around 25 speed bumps on the coastal road smile


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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Zanshin] #297725
03/18/2023 02:31 PM
03/18/2023 02:31 PM
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Hi, I’m not sure if you’re saying that’s a good thing or bad thing. At the speed bumps a problem in some way?

Last edited by Traveldreamer; 03/18/2023 02:33 PM.
Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297737
03/18/2023 06:53 PM
03/18/2023 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Traveldreamer
Hi, I’m not sure if you’re saying that’s a good thing or bad thing. At the speed bumps a problem in some way?

As in other Caribbean nation speed bumps or topes are common and not a problem. You just don’t want to hit one at speed and damage a wheel…


"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”
-Anthony Bourdain
Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297741
03/18/2023 07:49 PM
03/18/2023 07:49 PM
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Zanshin Offline
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The speed bumps in the BVI are aggressive and many are not marked well, if you don't see the car in front of you brake and aren't prepared your shocks are going to get some exercise.


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Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Zanshin] #297742
03/18/2023 08:09 PM
03/18/2023 08:09 PM
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Traveldreamer Offline OP
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Got it! I guess another reason to rent a jeep. 😀
Is there any advantage to taking a taxi to and from the airport and renting the jeep at Cane Gardens Bay?

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297743
03/18/2023 08:41 PM
03/18/2023 08:41 PM
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Just an FYI - The coast road to Roadtown is not flat. Will be challenging. It may be best to take a taxi.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297744
03/18/2023 09:19 PM
03/18/2023 09:19 PM
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Take taxis everywhere? Is this possible? Do some people not drive at all on island?

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: FRANKIE2] #297745
03/18/2023 09:44 PM
03/18/2023 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by FRANKIE2
Just an FYI - The coast road to Roadtown is not flat. Will be challenging. It may be best to take a taxi.

It’s been some time since we drove from Trellis to Road Town. I don’t remember any challenging hills similar to crossing over the mountain. Am I just forgetting something there?
I guess much of this is very subjective and depends on the individual…


"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”
-Anthony Bourdain
Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: crmoores] #297748
03/18/2023 10:18 PM
03/18/2023 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by crmoores
Originally Posted by FRANKIE2
Just an FYI - The coast road to Roadtown is not flat. Will be challenging. It may be best to take a taxi.

It’s been some time since we drove from Trellis to Road Town. I don’t remember any challenging hills similar to crossing over the mountain. Am I just forgetting something there?
I guess much of this is very subjective and depends on the individual…


I agree - there really aren’t any challenging hills on the “seaside” route into RT. The challenge is the width of the road and “interesting” driving habits. We drive on St. John and St. Thomas often and really haven’t found Tortola more challenging.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297751
03/18/2023 10:34 PM
03/18/2023 10:34 PM
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Thank you all. We’ll see how we do driving in Antigua and can make a decision after that. If we’re unsure we can always play it safe and taxi to and from the airport and rent the car in Cane Gardens Bay. I appreciate all the advice.

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297777
03/19/2023 11:18 AM
03/19/2023 11:18 AM
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Tortola/ Sonoma, California
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No car rental right in CGB..check Jerry's at West End..they will probably deliver..

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297817
03/19/2023 10:39 PM
03/19/2023 10:39 PM
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driving in Antigua --- flat compared to Tortola -- LOL

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #297951
03/21/2023 01:13 PM
03/21/2023 01:13 PM
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Jerry does deliver to CGB. We used them last month. I wouldn’t call the north shore road flat! But you do get used to the switchbacks and climbing those hills. Just go slowly round corners and use lower gears when going back down the other side. I often wonder how long brake pads last in the BVI!

Re: Driving in Tortola [Re: Traveldreamer] #298218
03/25/2023 12:56 PM
03/25/2023 12:56 PM
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We are currently on Tortola on week 3 of 4 . Have a car for the month . Hubby is the driver and i try to navigate ! I say this loosely as there are very few road signs . Google maps has been somewhat helpful . We have been pretty much everywhere on Island i including Smugglers . Its a rough toad but doable . We don't have a 4 wheel drive . Yes you dodge goats , cows chickens etc and crazy locals on motorbikes but all an adventure. We try to limit
driving at night but have not always been successful! After happy hour and a beautiful sunset its hard to take yourself away . Its beautiful and so worth it to rent and be on your own schedule!


Kim


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