With nearly 30 million visitors annually, it’s not an overstatement to say that the Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Many tourists come from the United States given the island’s proximity and the number of daily direct flights.
When visiting here, it’s important to remember that Caribbean islands have completely different cultures and customs. It’s easy to overlook the subtle differences but we’ve put together this list of tips for your trip.
Leave the rat race behind. In the Caribbean, life moves a little slower. Consider it “island time.” In the United States you may be used to punctuality, but here, you’ll quickly find that no one is in a hurry to get anywhere. That’s one of the reasons this is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Everyone Doesn’t Speak English
While English is spoken widely in the Caribbean, the islands were colonized by various European countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and France. That means different islands have different official languages. Some islands, such as Haiti and Aruba have their own local languages, or English spoken in some places is hardly recognizable to an American.
We recommend researching your destination and finding out what the main languages. Learn how to say basic phrases such as, “hello,” “goodbye,” “please” and “thank you.” Locals appreciate even the smallest effort to understand their culture and a simple “please” in the native tongue goes a long way.
Every Island is Not the Same
Each island in the Caribbean has its own unique characteristics, including varying languages, local foods and culture. Depending on your destination, expect to see different landscapes and different vibes. Think about what you want to do in the Caribbean—party until the wee hours, lay on the beach, shop, hike, dive, surf—and then do your homework. Pick the island that not only has the activities and terrain you desire, but also the vibe.
While it may be true that carrying actual dollars in America is becoming passé, cash is still king in the Caribbean. While big resorts and hotels will more than likely accept most debit and credit cards, many local and island authentic spots will probably be more cash only. Before heading to your destination, exchange a few hundred dollars into the right currency. If you do plan to use your credit or debit card abroad, be sure to notify your bank of your travel plans beforehand to avoid any security restrictions.
Be Prepared to Disconnect
Let your friends and family know you’re traveling before taking your Caribbean vacation. In some areas, you will not receive phone service, so to avoid panicked friends and family at home, have a plan of action for any communication while away. Some resorts and restaurants have Wi-Fi, but don’t expect to be connected everywhere you go. As stressful as this sounds, it means you can kick back, enjoy that beachside daquiri and really relax. Don’t worry, you can post that snap once you’re back to reality.