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Travel Cooler Advice Needed #300274
04/22/2023 12:11 PM
04/22/2023 12:11 PM
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Posts: 398
Pacific NW
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snmhanson Offline OP
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Hello,

I am heading down for a two week sailing trip with nine guys - actually Antigua but I thought this would be the best place to ask this question. I want to pack down quite a bit of meat and looking for advice on how large of a cooler I should buy - and brand/model recommendations would be useful as well. I have searched prior threads but couldn't find my answer. Right now I'm planning on bringing: 1 - ribeye roast, 2 - tenderloin roasts, 8 - pre-made single serve beef wellingtons, 2 - skirt steaks, frozen shrimp, 18 burger patties, 18 - brats. Also wouldn't mind throwing in some breakfast meats as well if there's room.

What size cooler should I be aiming for to accommodate all of that? I am hoping something like the Polar Bear 24 would fit it all. Does that seem about right or not enough room? Would it be better to divide an conquer and have two people each carry a cooler? Everything will be frozen solid so ice/gel packs are probably not necessary as long as everything gets packed in pretty tight. If there is any space left over we'll fill it with some more food. Total travel time door-to-boat will be about 24 hours and I definitely want to carry the food on - not check it.

Appreciate any input you experienced "cooler-carriers" can offer!

Thanks!

Last edited by snmhanson; 04/22/2023 12:40 PM.
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Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300275
04/22/2023 12:45 PM
04/22/2023 12:45 PM
Joined: Oct 2013
Posts: 528
Ohio
jagmansr Offline
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I'll be heading down to the BVI in 11 days. This is a 2 week sail with 5 guys. Just to give you an idea, size wise, I'm bring a Polar Bear 24 with a frozen salmon on a plank (ready to throw on the grill), 5 steaks, hamburger, 6 large chicken breasts, cold cuts, cheese slices and blocks, and a few other refrigerator cold items, plus room for a few other things. I use 2 frozen packs and everything has always stayed frozen the 12 hours it takes me to get there from the time I pack the cooler.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300276
04/22/2023 01:22 PM
04/22/2023 01:22 PM
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Second the Polar Bear 24 recommendation. We travel with both the 24 and 48 models. 48 would not work as a carry-on but has been perfect for us as a checked bag. Never had any issues on 30+ trips with either size. For refrigerated items or breakable stuff we have found that a Polar Bear 24 inside of a Pelican 1610 hard-sided case is pretty much indestructible but we have a decent amount of luggage storage on the boat which may not be the case for everyone.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300278
04/22/2023 02:12 PM
04/22/2023 02:12 PM
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Pacific NW
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snmhanson Offline OP
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Thanks for the replies. Sounds like the Polar Bear 24 is the right cooler for me - though not sure I'll be able to fit everything into one. I think I'll work with another crew member and have them carry on a cooler as well. Then we can pack some additional items like chicken breast, salmon, pork tenderloins, etc... I would check a larger single cooler but I am just worried about the freak chance it gets lost or held up. Would be pretty terrible to have all of that meat go bad.

I did notice that the Polar Bear website shows pretty much all of their soft cases as sold out. In the event I can't get a Polar Bear 24 are there any other comparable brands I should look at?

Thanks again for the advice! If anyone else has anything additional feel free to add.


Edit: I actually just found and ordered one on Amazon so no need to alternative brands.

Last edited by snmhanson; 04/22/2023 02:16 PM.
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300368
04/23/2023 03:42 PM
04/23/2023 03:42 PM
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No ice packs or dry ice needed. Ideally, when you vac-pack fresh meat, place all in cooler (on side works best for me) in a freezer and this will eliminate dead space/air, which will then allow more meat storage AND helps keep frozen longer (I have done trips more than 24 hours door to door with meat frozen solid upon arrival).


Wes
s/v Sea Tiger (2022 Lagoon 46)
www.BareBoatBVI.com

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: Deepcut] #300386
04/24/2023 12:24 AM
04/24/2023 12:24 AM
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Posts: 168
Chicago, IL, USA
vytis104 Offline
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I was going to say the same thing. We dont use any ice or ice packs in the cooler.

Check out this article: https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/soft-cooler/polar-bear-coolers-24-pack They mention the Engel as their pick. They use a vacuum system to pull air out and makes the freeze last even longer if you are worried about it.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300399
04/24/2023 10:00 AM
04/24/2023 10:00 AM
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Middleburg, VA
cwoody Offline
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Originally Posted by snmhanson

I did notice that the Polar Bear website shows pretty much all of their soft cases as sold out. .


Check out eBay. Quite a few Polar bear 24 soft coolers, new and used available.

I have used both the 12 pack backpack and 24 pack suite case as a carry-on.
Backpack easier to carry around, suite case holds more.

Plan to empty everything when you go thru TSA.

Last edited by cwoody; 04/24/2023 10:16 AM.

Chuck W.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300417
04/24/2023 01:01 PM
04/24/2023 01:01 PM
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Cleobeach Offline
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Our crew has taken cooler many, many, many times. Polar Bear brand coolers are worth the $ and will keep ice frozen for days.

As mentioned, proper packing will keep meat frozen for 36+ hours with no additional ice.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300420
04/24/2023 01:24 PM
04/24/2023 01:24 PM
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snmhanson Offline OP
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Thanks again for all of the help. Polar Bear 24 ordered and should arrive today. Packing is going to be the next challenge. The company I am going to order all/most of the meat from sends it already frozen and I don't think I want to thaw and re-freeze it. So, I will probably have to pack most everything into the cooler already frozen and there will likely be some air pockets. I might be able to fill the larger spaces with some of the looser items such as shrimp and maybe even throw in a couple of packs of frozen veggies. I guess it will be like a 3D jigsaw puzzle. My only worry is fitting everything packed back into the cooler if the TSA makes me empty it. Is it better to take two not completely full coolers or a single cooler with everything crammed in? Definitely first world problems...

Matt

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300423
04/24/2023 03:27 PM
04/24/2023 03:27 PM
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Middleburg, VA
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Humping a fully loaded PB 24 around was a pain even with the supplied shoulder strap.

If you can split the load between two, your arms, shoulder and back will thank you.


Chuck W.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300428
04/24/2023 06:13 PM
04/24/2023 06:13 PM
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Nibj Offline
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We always pre-freeze our AO-cooler as well as the contents. We also always check the cooler, and have never been asked by TSA or in the BVI (mostly arriving by ferry) to open the cooler.

I have always used a few freezer packs as well. But after reading this chain I will give thought to not using freezer packs.

Last edited by Nibj; 04/24/2023 09:34 PM.
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300429
04/24/2023 06:59 PM
04/24/2023 06:59 PM
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Ohio
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I’ve been very pleased with our polar bear coolers. I have always used freezer packs. On a trip last year and granted it was a fluke event but we were delayed a day getting on our boat. Not sure if it helped but our meats were still frozen. I was glad to have the added “cold” I’m all for playing it safe.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300430
04/24/2023 08:38 PM
04/24/2023 08:38 PM
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We fly out of Detroit and have to unpack our Polar Bear Solar Bear backpack cooler at TSA every. Single. Time.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300433
04/24/2023 09:21 PM
04/24/2023 09:21 PM
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Ohio
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You must be carry on. We check it and only once found a tad card inside the cooler

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300652
05/02/2023 01:02 PM
05/02/2023 01:02 PM
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Jacksonville, FL, USA
onlymedication Offline
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Question on this topic as it's been several years since I've been down at this point. For those who prefer to bring meat vs. provision in the BVI, what is the primary reason? Have you done the math to figure out how much you'll save and is it worth the effort of having to lug it all and risk of having it go bad if you get stuck in some kind of crazy delay?

I understand that there are some foodies that really like to season their meats and have them all prepped in advance for convenience when on the boat so that you can just pull it out of the fridge/freezer and toss it on the grill. If that's your jam, I totally get it.

For those that don't fall into that foodie category and are just bringing unprepped raw meats, is the quality your biggest reason for bringing food with you, or the cost?

For me, I'm not a big foodie. A burger or piece of chicken on the grill in any anchorage in the BVI is going to be awesome no matter what, and we like to eat out about half of our meals as well when on vacation. I say all of the preceding to ask, is meat really that much cheaper that it's worth considering bringing it along with you if the only reason to do so is to save a few bucks? And how much would you really save, say on a 4 person charter, once you throw in the cost of the cooler?

Thanks in advance!

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: onlymedication] #300657
05/02/2023 01:33 PM
05/02/2023 01:33 PM
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Woodstock, GA
RickinAtlanta Offline
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I don't bring meat to "save money". I bring specific items to cook dinner in our Villa for 3 nights out of our usual 10 day stay. Also do some lunches as we lounge by the pool. The rest of the time we go out and spend a lot of money. BTW the Polar Bear cooler is reusable!

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300658
05/02/2023 01:35 PM
05/02/2023 01:35 PM
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Tortola/ Sonoma, California
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Agree with onlymedication on this and now we even have a high end supplier in RT..Steakation.I cannot imagine lugging a coloer full of food down there...and I am a foodie and eat very well in the BVI's.But each to his own..

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300678
05/02/2023 05:50 PM
05/02/2023 05:50 PM
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Posts: 160
Pittsboro, NC, USA
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We bring 2 1/2" filets, chicken breasts, 90% hamburger, 1 1/2" pork loins, bacon, sausage, salmon, Mahi mahi, and Beyond Meat burgers for non-meat eaters. Best quality. Probably save $300-400 for a ten day charter. Been using same coolers for years, and use them on boat for beer, soft drinks and wine. Hard to find quality foods like these at reasonable prices in BVI. At least that is our experience. Still eat out 50% of time.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300801
05/04/2023 05:00 PM
05/04/2023 05:00 PM
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Posts: 660
Lutz, FL
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If I was going to do this I would be doing it to save money. What is wrong with that. I just looked at provisioning and they wanted $10 for a jar of mayonaise smile Unless grocery shopping in the actual stores is different than reading a provision sheet from e.g., bobbys or rite way. We might consider this as well. We will be on a land based trip for 10 days split between Virgin Gorda and CGB. Also isn't there a duty tax on any food brought into the BVI and if so what is the tax rate on it and isn't bringing in meat banned?


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Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: tangerine3] #300823
05/05/2023 07:37 AM
05/05/2023 07:37 AM
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Pittsboro, NC, USA
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We usually pay $20-30 per cooler. The duty rate is between 0 and 25%, with the majority between 5-10%. With our coolers of meat, fish, etc. They usually charge 10% of what is declared as the value. And yes, the prices of almost everything is 30-40% higher at BVI markets. Riteway seems very competitive.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: tangerine3] #300849
05/05/2023 12:34 PM
05/05/2023 12:34 PM
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Woodstock, GA
RickinAtlanta Offline
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Originally Posted by tangerine3
If I was going to do this I would be doing it to save money. What is wrong with that. I just looked at provisioning and they wanted $10 for a jar of mayonaise smile Unless grocery shopping in the actual stores is different than reading a provision sheet from e.g., bobbys or rite way. We might consider this as well. We will be on a land based trip for 10 days split between Virgin Gorda and CGB. Also isn't there a duty tax on any food brought into the BVI and if so what is the tax rate on it and isn't bringing in meat banned?


I've NEVER paid any duty/cost of any sort on the carryon Polar Bear cooler we bring. If I recall the number correctly you can bring up to 50 lbs of meat into the BVI. We don't do it to save money.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300877
05/05/2023 10:16 PM
05/05/2023 10:16 PM
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We take a cooler for meal planning and quality control. We buy our chicken, beef and pork from local farmers. Even the best meats I have seen in the VIs don’t compare to what I have at home.

When I plan meals for vacation, I don’t want to have the hassle of not being able to find x, y or z at the store. I hate grocery shopping at home and even more on vacation. We eat nearly all dinners out and plan only one or two at the villa, all breakfasts and a few lunches at home. I meal plan and have a provisioning service fill in the balance.

The few times we were questioned about a duty, we were waved off without a charge.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #300929
05/07/2023 10:17 AM
05/07/2023 10:17 AM
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We typically bring multiple coolers and a fair amount of shelf stable items. We do it for a combination of cost savings and the quality of the products we bring since we are definitely foodies . However, we have direct flights to St. Thomas from our home airport and elite status on the airline. If our travel route was more challenging or if we had to pay to check bags then I think we would cut down on the amount we bring.

We use the savings to fund private water taxis and over tipping during our trip.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: jagmansr] #301161
05/14/2023 02:47 AM
05/14/2023 02:47 AM
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Can you carry on the cooler or do you have to check it as baggage.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301165
05/14/2023 08:18 AM
05/14/2023 08:18 AM
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I think you can carry on frozen meats in a cooler, just no frozen liquid obviously. We have found that by taking our mid-sized Polar Bear and 5 or 6 paperback book-sized cooler packs, we only need ice for drinks. We just freeze the cooler packs at night on the trip and properly layer our beer in the Polar Bear when we go ashore. We do this enough over a two week trip that it’s nice to not have to worry about finding and buying so much ice. Clearly, this only makes sense if you go ashore a lot, but it works well for us.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: steve74] #301171
05/14/2023 09:55 AM
05/14/2023 09:55 AM
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Georgia & South Carolina
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You can carry cooler aboard or checked. (I usually put my Polar Bear -24 can, cooler in a duffle, along with some clothing, and check it as others in my party have checked bags). I also place air tag in each bag so I know it reaches the destination (I have had episode where agent said all bags were off, yet AirTag proved it was just on the other side of wall...). Sausa can go in carry on if frozen. Check TSA site for details.


Wes
s/v Sea Tiger (2022 Lagoon 46)
www.BareBoatBVI.com

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: Tarheelnani] #301175
05/14/2023 01:41 PM
05/14/2023 01:41 PM
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Woodstock, GA
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Originally Posted by Tarheelnani
Can you carry on the cooler or do you have to check it as baggage.


That question has been answered in several posts on this thread. The answer is yes. That's the only way I do it with a 24 pack Polar Bear. The big boy cooler may not meet size restrictions and need to be checked.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301192
05/14/2023 05:40 PM
05/14/2023 05:40 PM
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Gainesville, Fl
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Polar Bear Coolers are running a 50% off special right now with the code spring23

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301198
05/14/2023 09:37 PM
05/14/2023 09:37 PM
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Vail, CO/St. Thomas, USVI
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Just FYI, ice can go through TSA, just not melted ice. I drink a lot of water and travel with a hydroflask filled with ice. I empty any extra water right before I go through TSA. So you could freeze ziplocks of water (which we have done) and go through TSA with those.


Sue
s/v Ripple
Leopard 40

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Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301201
05/15/2023 07:16 AM
05/15/2023 07:16 AM
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GA/NC
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I think there is a bit of misinformation in this thread. To be clear you can’t legally bring any meat or meat products into the BVI without a 25 dollar meat import license and an arranged inspection. You legally are required to pay a 10% duty on any imports.
Having said the above is it enforced? The answer is rarely but on occasion it does happen and you never know when they might go to real enforcement witness the charter boat debacle and extra scrub bucket!

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301208
05/15/2023 08:10 AM
05/15/2023 08:10 AM
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GeorgeC1

I don't know anything about the "meat Import license", but when I bring in a cooler and describe contents (specifically meats), I am generally hit with a $10-20 duty. I have on occasion not been assessed a duty of my declared cooler contents, but that has been rare (less than 10% of my trips). I totally agree with the comment about enforcement and how much of a debacle there could be.


Wes
s/v Sea Tiger (2022 Lagoon 46)
www.BareBoatBVI.com

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: Deepcut] #301217
05/15/2023 10:59 AM
05/15/2023 10:59 AM
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Middleburg, VA
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My group brought 3 wine suitcases down. ( dozen bottles each)
The two that came over on the ferry got charged a tariff, the one that came through the airport did not.


Chuck W.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: Deepcut] #301222
05/15/2023 12:58 PM
05/15/2023 12:58 PM
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Woodstock, GA
RickinAtlanta Offline
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Originally Posted by Deepcut
GeorgeC1

I don't know anything about the "meat Import license", but when I bring in a cooler and describe contents (specifically meats), I am generally hit with a $10-20 duty. I have on occasion not been assessed a duty of my declared cooler contents, but that has been rare (less than 10% of my trips). I totally agree with the comment about enforcement and how much of a debacle there could be.


I have never had to pay any duty/tax on any frozen meat brought into the BVI on over a dozen occasions. I have read on several BVI govt. sites that a visitor can bring in up to 40 lbs of meat used for personal consumption.

Last edited by RickinAtlanta; 05/15/2023 01:01 PM.
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301225
05/15/2023 02:04 PM
05/15/2023 02:04 PM
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BVI Customs - Importation of food products
Yes, charter guests may bring food into the British Virgin Islands. For the time being and due to the resurgence of Hoof and Mouth and Mad Cow Disease in the not so distant past, a law is still in effect that bans the importation of any meat products unless an application is submitted to the Department of Agriculture for approval.

Permits cost $25.00. For more information, please call the Department of Agriculture at (284) 495-2532.

Good quality, fresh foods are available in the BVI from several grocery stores and provisioners on a year-round basis. All carry USDA grade meats as well. BVI import duties charged on food products range between 5% and 15% of the invoice value. Please be sure to have your invoices with you.

BVI Customs Department
Phone: (284) 494-3475
Open from 8:30am to 6:30pm

We are aware that people bring in USDA approved meats and packaged meats from the U.S. every day of the week (without any documentation other than receipts) and the folks at Customs don't say anything and they don't confiscate these products. I'm just saying ... this is the law and on any given day,

Here is the link to the government website: http://www.bvi.gov.vg/services/importation-meat

Last edited by GeorgeC1; 05/15/2023 02:06 PM.
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: GeorgeC1] #301233
05/15/2023 05:03 PM
05/15/2023 05:03 PM
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Posts: 1,901
Maine
"Persons bring less than 40lbs of meat into the territory do not require a permit to do so. However, if you want to import more than 40lbs of meat, you are required to obtain a Meat Importation Permit from the Department of Agriculture. For regulations governing meat importation, contact the Department of Agriculture, Paraquita Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Tel: (284) 468-6123/6124 or Fax: (284) 468-6102 and email: agriculturebvi@gov.vg."

from https://www.bvitourism.com/resources.

We go round and round and round about this every couple of years.
Contact info is there to protect yourself.

Arriving from North America is 1 key
Less than 40 lbs is another key.


Last edited by Breeze; 05/15/2023 05:08 PM.
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301243
05/15/2023 06:11 PM
05/15/2023 06:11 PM
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 850
C
Cleobeach Offline
Traveler
Cleobeach  Offline
Traveler
C
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 850
Twice we were questioned upon arrival at VG but were waved thru. They said the duty wasn’t the paper work

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: Deepcut] #301405
05/18/2023 09:51 PM
05/18/2023 09:51 PM
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 249
South Louisiana
kajunlady61 Offline
Traveler
kajunlady61  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 249
South Louisiana
Can I ask what size duffle you have that will hold the Polar Bear 24? I’ve tried this with our duffel and can’t get it to fit.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: snmhanson] #301407
05/19/2023 07:29 AM
05/19/2023 07:29 AM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 697
Portland, ME
M
maineskier69 Offline
Traveler
maineskier69  Offline
Traveler
M
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 697
Portland, ME
Back in the day when we traveled to the BVI regularly we always packed a soft cooler with meats from home.
The one time I got questioned by C&I on the frozen meats I had brought from home I suggested to the person that they should come over for a cook out. He laughed and just waved us through...
That was about 14 years ago so I know a lot has changed..


If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will...
Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: kajunlady61] #301410
05/19/2023 08:24 AM
05/19/2023 08:24 AM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 966
Middleburg, VA
cwoody Offline
Traveler
cwoody  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 966
Middleburg, VA
Originally Posted by kajunlady61
Can I ask what size duffle you have that will hold the Polar Bear 24?


No duffle.

Just use the bag as your carry-on.
Frozen food on the way down.
Portable cooler while you are there.
Gifts and souvenirs for your friends on the way home.


Chuck W.

Re: Travel Cooler Advice Needed [Re: cwoody] #301426
05/19/2023 01:12 PM
05/19/2023 01:12 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,610
Woodstock, GA
RickinAtlanta Offline
Traveler
RickinAtlanta  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 3,610
Woodstock, GA
Originally Posted by cwoody
Originally Posted by kajunlady61
Can I ask what size duffle you have that will hold the Polar Bear 24?


No duffle.

Just use the bag as your carry-on.
Frozen food on the way down.
Portable cooler while you are there.
Gifts and souvenirs for your friends on the way home.


You beat me to it. Exactly what I was going to reply.


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