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Know Before You Go: Virgin Islands Etiquette and Customs

Every culture has its own customs, and that’s what makes travel so rewarding. Experiencing a different way of living helps us see the world in an entirely new way. 


Here in the Virgin Islands, hundreds of years of history have shaped a unique set of traditions and expectations that may be different from what you’re used to on the mainland. We encourage you to learn about these during your St. Thomas trip. We’re confident that observing them will make your stay even more fun and enriching!


Island Time


Life moves a little slower here, but we think that’s a good thing! If you find yourself waiting a few minutes longer than normal for service, or if someone is running a bit late for a meeting, just take a deep breath. Think of it as your chance to savor the sound of birds chirping, the soft island breeze and the sun on your shoulders. You’ll be back in the hustle and bustle of regular life soon enough! 

View of Charlotte Amalie

Dressing Up


Despite the tropical setting, the “dress code” in the U.S. Virgin Islands is more formal than you might expect. By law, swimsuits and coverups are not welcome outside of the beach or a pool area. Men and women should wear regular clothes (think shorts and shirt or a dress) when shopping or dining. Shoes or sandals are a must unless you’re at the beach or pool. In the same vein, please save your dirty or ripped clothes for hiking or other outdoor activities. 

Virgin Islands ettiquette requires visitors to wear street clothes in town.

Greetings


A little politeness goes a long way, especially when you share an island with many other people. When engaging a Virgin Islander in conversation, start with a greeting like “good morning” or “good afternoon” and a bit of pleasant small talk. When leaving a store or restaurant, make sure to say a friendly goodbye. These small courtesies mean a lot here in the Virgin Islands, and you’ll find that they are greatly appreciated by the locals. 


Photos


The U.S. Virgin Islands are a photographer's dream - think vivid sunsets, unique architecture and stunning Carnival costumes. That said, please ask for permission before taking photos of people or private property. 

A Carnival dancer in St. Thomas

Conservation


We’re dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the Virgin Islands, but we need your help. Common-sense measures like properly disposing of trash help keep our islands clean. Remember to never disturb the wildlife and leave coral, rocks and plants where you find them. Last but not least, please help us preserve our colorful reefs by using only reef-safe sunscreen.

A beautiful beach on St. Thomas

Questions About Virgin Islands Etiquette?


We think you’ll find the folks here in the Virgin Islands are some of the friendliest, most easy-going people you’ll meet. By taking the time to follow these simple guidelines, your interactions will be even more pleasant. If you have any other questions about etiquette or Virgin Islands traditions, leave a comment below and we’ll try our best to answer them. Happy travels, and we hope to see you soon! 

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