The best thing about shopping in the BVI—no sales tax! The worst? Most things are imported; therefore, you pay for the price of the item plus the price of shipping it over to the BVI, making the cost of goods quite expensive. That said, you’re also more likely to have fruit trees in your yard, so eat as many mangoes as you can and look for local produce at the grocery store.
RiteWay are the preferential grocery and provisioning stores. There are seven locations around Tortola, including Harbour Market in the West of the island, Fine Foods in the East, and the most modern super store in the centre (Road Town) with the largest selection of fresh foods, beer, wine, and liquor. They also have a hot take-away food and a salad bar – all at competitive prices. For bulk shopping, visit the Cash & Carry right next door, with no membership required. In addition, provisioning is made easy with their online ordering service – visit www.rtwbvi.com.
Other preferences include Bobby’s Supermarket, Supa Valu which is well-priced for buying meats, and One Mart which also has favourable pricing across the board.
Cereal: $5.-$9. per box
Coffee: $5.00/ten-ounce can
Butter: $3.00/8 oz stick
Tea: $5.25 for 50 sachets of Twinnings Earl Grey
Milk: $7.00/half gallon fresh
Flour: $3.00/five-pound bag
Beer: $.75-$5 depending on store/bar
Wine: $7 and up/bottle of decent wine
Rum: $6-$12 for a 750ml bottle
Timing Your Shopping
In most major cities or towns, the idea of scrutinising your time for shopping might appear a little extreme, but here in the BVI, we rely on importing goods and many residents gain a knack for days when items arrive in different stores. The following is not a proven science, but it certainly seems to warrant results: Monday afternoons Supa Valu, Tuesday mornings RiteWay and Friday afternoons One Mart. As said, this is not as accurate as gravity, but it does appear to work.
Some grocery stores have a section dedicated to the locally grown or caught. There are market stalls on Fridays in Road Town and often at the round-a-bout in town, you can find market sellers as well as trucks full of coconuts where you can have the top chopped off with a machete and a straw put in for a refreshing and healthy drink. There are also different roadside sellers of locally grown vegetables or fish throughout the island, including the much adored lobster when in season. Her Majesty’s Prison raises hens and gathers eggs, which can also find in the grocery stores – look for a yellow egg carton with the prison’s name.
There are wellness specialty food stores on island and many establishments are expanding their health food selections as well, which can aid with shopping around food allergies and sensitivities.
Why do so many newbies drink and smoke? Because it’s too cheap not to! Rum is cheaper than milk and often cheaper than mixers because of no sumptuary tax in the BVI. On this basis, expect bar drinks laced with rum and ice and little else—a big buzz in every glass. Ask for a weak one if you would prefer. Ask for a heavy pour if you’re feeling courageous.
Traditionally in ‘off season’ or ‘slow season’ as it is also known, you will find you are able to enjoy the tourist experience at discounted rates. Always ask. Some of the grocery and retail stores also offer discount cards which are worth the five minutes it takes to sign up because they usually result in at least a 5% discount at the register.