What You Need To Know About Cell Phone Service in the VI

What You Need To Know About Cell Phone Service in the VI

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My Daughter went to St.John and all I got was this lousy $696.93 dollar cell phone bill!

Cell Phone Co:  There’s been no mistake, these are roaming charges from your trip to the BVI.

Me: But we didn’t travel to the BVI!  

Cell Phone Co:  Is it possible that someone on your plan did?

Me: My daughter? (Did she???)  

Cell Phone Co: Can I  put you on hold for a brief minute?

Forty -five minutes later, I have re-negotiated my cell phone bill down to $283.68.  I have purchased a international roaming package for $60 and vowed to put my daughter into a hard labor camp until she pays off her share of the cell phone bill.


Painkillers and Cell Service Hangovers

In all honesty my daughter didn’t go to the BVIs on her trip back to St.John. She didn’t drink too many Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar and forget to turn off her cellular and data roaming. BUT, this is the most common reason for excessive roaming charges after a trip to the VI. What my daughter did do was visit a North Shore beach on St.John in the US Virgin Islands. Her cell phone “accidently” picked up a cell tower from Tortola in the BVIs and voila…cha ching.

Doesn’t it (the phone) know any better? According to our cell phone provider it doesn’t matter how smart your phone is, the BVI’s have bigger and stronger towers than the USVI’s.  (I wonder if Trump knows about this?)  The truth is this could have just as easily happened taking the ferry between St.John and St.Thomas.  The competition for cell signal is to blame and you don’t want to play that game.  You won’t win, trust me.

Feeling inadequate, I decided to come up with the best cell phone practices for avoiding the financial hangover pains of a trip to the VI. Like any advice you’ll find in these pages and posts, the best vacations involve just a little bit of planning.

Expert TIPS:

1. Know what providers have regular service in the US Virgin Islands



AT&T and Sprint are the main cell phone carriers and generally honor rates and calling plans just like calling from state to state while in the USVI. Other cell phone providers most likely work, but will incur nasty roaming charges.  While you might be safe with AT&T or Sprint in the USVI, get too close to that invisible border with the BVI and you will be unceremoniously walloped with roaming charges.

2. Call your cell phone company before you leave home.

Just like you might call your credit card company to let them know you are traveling, call your cell phone company prior to travel.

3. If you must have access 24/7 buy an “add on plan”.

Buy an add on plan prior to your trip because you may not have the option of being “turning off and tuning out” while on the North Shore of St.John or on that boat trip to Jost. Look at your options for mitigating large unpredictable roaming charges in advance.

4. Turn off cellular and data roaming when not connected to wifi.

Tie a string around your finger if you’re likely to forget or better yet ask your kids to remind you!

5. Only use your phone if connected to wifi.

This also has the added benefit of reducing your and your kids’ screen time.

6. Buy a cheap “go phone” or “burner phone” to use while you’re on the island.

You can load these phones with set dollar amounts.  For $50 including phone and minutes you can have cell access without risking your credit rating. (I found mine at Best Buy)

7. Threaten all members on your plan that any roaming charges will be paid for out of their college fund.

Best advice:

8. Turn it off!

And if temptation to look is too great, leave your cell phone at the villa, hotel or guest house. Try disconnecting for a moment and experience what life was like before cell phones.  Om, Ah. Can I get an “amen”.

Tin Cans

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