St Thomas: No Passport Required
Effective January 2007, all travelers to Latin America and the Caribbean will need a U.S. passport for air travel. The change comes as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security attempts to alleviate travel concerns about border security under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Unlike previous years when passports were not required for travel to the Caribbean, this upcoming travel season may provide headaches for many. As plenty of tourists may have planned family vacations or scheduled weddings unaware of the new passport rules, many analysts foresee a rush on new passport applications at the beginning of the year. Also, because this program will be in its first tourism season, there exists a strong possibility for delays beyond the outlined timeframes for passport applications. However, if you want to travel to the Caribbean quickly or without a passport, there is still a destination for you.
If you are still hoping to plan a spur-of-the-moment Caribbean getaway, say hello to St. Thomas. Regarding the newly-effective Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the U.S. Government recently announced that the legislation will not affect travel to U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. As the heart of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas remains an excellent Caribbean destination, but also gains the honor of being one of the few destinations
As might be expected, the U.S. Virgin Islands are certainly pleased that American tourists will be able to visit anytime, without the formality of a passport. Pamela Richards, the Commissioner of Tourism for the islands, states that it is important to retain a “welcoming position as America’s Caribbean.” The welcome extends beyond St. Thomas, as well. The agreement allowing U.S. citizens to travel to St. Thomas, as if they were not leaving the country, also includes St. Thomas’ sister islands, St. Croix and St. John.
This news is certainly as important to business travelers as it is to tourists. The decision to treat the U.S. Virgin Islands as a domestic location under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will ensure that important business relationships aren’t hindered by the difficulties of international travel or the need to acquire passports.
When planning your quick getaway to St. Thomas, you will probably want to spend some time duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie. The capital of the island, Charlotte Amalie is a charming colonial town filled with exquisite restaurants and luxury stores. You will also find a number of museums and historic sites scattered throughout the capital, offering a glimpse into the island’s rich Caribbean past.
For the traveler hoping to interact with aquatic life, the Coral World Ocean Park has been a longtime favorite. With over five acres of aquariums featuring the Caribbean’s most vibrant sea life and plenty of interactive programs, the Coral World Ocean Park is a great destination for families or any adventurous tourist. Another great activity for a quick getaway to St. Thomas is a ride on the Atlantis XV, a submarine allowing you to view pristine underwater habitats up close. To catch an aerial view you will never experience at home, venture to either Bluebeard’s Castle – a colonial watchtower overlooking the Caribbean – or St. Peter Mountain, both the highest peak in St. Thomas and another great area for shopping and dining.
If you are looking to get away, especially during these harsh winter months, why not try something a little different? Because if you are looking to visit the Caribbean on short notice – whether for business or a spur-of-the-moment vacation – St. Thomas now promises all the exotic allure of the Caribbean without the hassle of international travel.