British, US, Canadian, and Australian citizens do not need a visa to travel to the British Overseas Territories. For all the other nationalities, there are specific visa requirements, which are catered to by the UK consulates in respective countries.
British Overseas Territories are parts of the former British empire scattered around the world, which fall under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. This means that they have not attained independence until now, and still accept the sovereignty of the British crown. However, they do not form a part of the United Kingdom. On the contrary, most of them have their own internal governments, but the common aspect that they all share is the supremacy of the British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II). At present, there are fourteen British Overseas Territories in all, which are:
1. Akrotiri and Dhekelia
4. British Antarctic Territory
5. British Indian Ocean Territory
6. British Virgin Islands
7. Cayman Islands
8. Falkland Islands
11. Pitcairn Islands
12. Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
13. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
14. Turks and Caicos Islands
Most of these territories have grown to become popular tourist destinations the world over. The reasons for this are obvious―these locations are extremely picturesque and beautiful, and offer numerous attractions for tourists, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and nature trails, alongside excellent nightlife and fabulous shopping options.
Tips for Traveling to the British Overseas Territories
If you are planning to head to one of these British Overseas Territories this vacation season, here are a few important tips, which will help you make the most of your holiday.
The official language in all the British Overseas Territories is obviously English. However, depending on the geographical location of the territory, the commonly spoken and understood languages tend to vary. For instance, if you are in Gibraltar, you will come across a large number of people speaking Spanish. On the other hand, if you are in Bermuda, Portuguese will be heard more commonly than English. Therefore, when you choose your location, do a bit of homework with respect to the local language. It is always better to know some friendly terms in the native tongue so that communication with the locals can be eased.
When you choose a British Overseas Territory to spend your holiday, it is vital to consider the time zone in which it falls. Owing to the fact that these territories are scattered all across the globe, it is needless to state that most of them fall under different time zones. So, when you select a territory to visit, ensure that you won't find it difficult to adjust with the time differences. To mention a few, Bermuda falls under the time zone UTC-4, Cayman Islands under UTC-5, Pitcairn Islands under UTC-8, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands under UTC-2. If you are traveling to a completely different time zone, make sure that you have enough time to accustom yourself to the time gap so that you can enjoy your stay to the fullest.
As with the time zone, there are also differences in the currencies of various British Overseas Territories. While some of them have accepted the US dollar, the British pound, and the euro as their currencies, there are also some, which have their own monetary units. So, make sure you exchange your currency in the right monetary unit. It is also worth noting that since these territories accept the sovereignty of the British crown, the British pound is accepted everywhere. However, be careful that you do not end up spending more than the actual cost, when you pay in pounds.
Each of these territories are well-equipped with telephone, cellular, and Internet communication systems. You can carry your laptops and/or cell phones to these locations, and make use of them. However, it is advisable to take your own converters and transformers along so that you can access the different electric plug points in these territories. For instance, the Turks and Caicos Islands use the North American plug at 110V/60Hz, whereas in Gibraltar, the UK three-pin plug is used at 230V/50Hz. You can get these converters in the British Overseas Territory that you are in; however, this might be difficult at times and even expensive.
Most of these territories have their own airports, which can be reached via some of the major air routes of the world. However, the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is virtually inaccessible by air, owing to the fact that they do not have an airport. An airport has been proposed at Saint Helena; however, it is still in its primary stages. So, if your plan is to visit these islands, your only way to get there is by ship. While a cruise can be exciting, it can also be tiring and time-consuming. So, choose a location depending on its accessibility and the time you have at your disposal.
While most of these islands have pretty up-to-date medical facilities, some of them are still not very well-equipped. Owing to this, no matter which territory you travel to, it is always a good idea to carry your own medicines along. This will save you the trouble of running all over the place in case of emergencies. If you are vacationing at places such as Ascension Island, a healthcare facility and/or pharmacy may be several kilometers away from you, and getting hold of the required medicines may be a tough job. In such cases, your own medical kit can prove to be of utmost importance. It is also advisable to carry your own first aid kit, just in case.
The British Overseas Territories have no known instances of epidemics. Owing to this, there are no specific vaccinations that the travelers to these locations are required to take. However, there are certain vaccines that the World Health Organization (WHO) has prescribed for all international travelers around the world. These include the ones for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella, polio, and Hepatitis B. Take these shots at least three weeks in advance, and if possible, get an International Certificate of Vaccination that is approved by the WHO. This will serve as a documented evidence of the shots that you have been given.
Traveling to the British Overseas Territories is generally safe; however, it is not a bad idea to be a little careful so that you do not fall prey to petty crimes and tourist traps. Do not carry too much cash in areas where ATMs are easily available. Use travelers' checks while shopping or eating out. Do not leave any baggage unattended, as this might invite trouble. If you are a lone visitor, avoid traveling at night as it might not be safe in some areas. Lastly, always keep the contact numbers of the local police at hand so that you can call for help in case of emergencies.
Some Additional Tips
► Travel as light as possible, but do not miss out on necessary items, such as medicines, warm clothing (if required), and so on.
► If you are planning a budget vacation, consider traveling in the off-season. The climate may be a little hostile; however, you will avoid heavy crowds and save a lot of money on airfares, accommodations, etc.
► Do your homework properly to eliminate all your doubts and avoid unwanted troubles. Consider traveling to a location, only and only if you are completely convinced.
► Use public transport options, instead of private car rentals or taxis. This will help you save some money. Also, try exploring the nearby places by foot. Walking around the place will give you a unique experience.
► Shop at duty-free outlets if you are a budget traveler. However, if budget is not a constraint, do not miss out on some of the high-end boutiques.
► Try local cuisine, and take some time out to appreciate local art and nature.
So, head to the British Overseas Territories of your choice, and get the most enriching experience of your life! However, don't forget to follow the tips mentioned above.