Going to the Caribbean sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Lots of beautiful sandy beaches, clean ocean water, and relaxing afternoons spent lying in the sun. If you search the internet, you can usually get a real bargain, too. But there are some pitfalls people make when traveling there for the first time. Remember that just because the Caribbean might seem like a close and affordable destination, it’s still a foreign land. There are rules you need to abide by. The good news is that things aren’t too complicated. Learn the rules ahead of time and you can avoid making first-timer mistakes.
Here are the top six things you need to know when going to the Caribbean.
1. Caribbean people keep their own time. We’re not talking about time zones here, we mean the speed at which people move. Caribbean people like to saunter, to stroll, in other words, to take their time. Don’t expect your breakfast to come out five minutes after you’ve ordered it. Stopping for coffee? Great. That latte that might take five minutes in other countries could take fifteen here. Just be aware of this before arriving so that you don’t get angry. Rolling with things instead of getting frustrated by them will only help you have a better time in the end.
2. Be careful driving. Even better, don’t drive at all. Caribbean islands have driving laws people who aren’t from there won’t understand, like driving on the left side of the road. That’s not the sort of thing you can get used to in a few hours. Don’t risk crashing into someone just because you think you’ll get the hang of it. Even if you’re used to driving on the left side, are you used to taking traffic laws as mere suggestions? Because that’s the way things are on the islands. Many of them don’t even have stoplights. Better to be safe than sorry and take taxis, you’ll enjoy you’re time a whole lot more.
3. Wi-Fi and cell service may not exist. This depends mostly on the island where you’re staying. Sure, the Caribbean islands have Wi-Fi and cell towers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always get service in the area you’re staying in or driving through. Not all islands are the same. Some, like the Dominican Republic, are densely populated and you’ll probably have better luck getting service wherever you stop at so long as you’re in the main parts of town. But move outside those main parts, and good luck. And if you’re on one of the lesser populated islands with mountains and beaches and little else, you’ll have a much more difficult time finding reliable service anywhere.
4. Don’t depend on credit and debit cards. Like Wi-Fi and cell service, not every place you go in the Caribbean will accept your credit or debit card. Big resorts are generally a safe bet, but smaller places might look at your card with suspicion. And roadside stands? Forget about it. Always carry cash with you, just be mindful of where you keep it. Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket where pickpockets can easily snatch it away from you, keep it in your front or inside pockets, or leave the wallet in your hotel and put a few dollars inside your shoe for safe keeping. And make sure you exchange your cash for local money when you arrive, avoiding yet another mistake first-time tourists make.
5. Foreign languages and dialects vary from island to island. This is an easy one for people to forget. Many tourists assume that Caribbean islanders will all speak English, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dutch, French, Spanish, and English ancestry populate these islands, depending which one you’re visiting. And you’ll find all of these languages spoken throughout the islands. Even if the island you’re on does speak English, chances are the dialects are so heavy you’ll have a difficult time understanding what the people are saying. Just take a deep breath and try to listen closely. Islanders love talking to tourists. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to try and help you understand them.
6. Missing luggage is common. Well, not missing so much as delayed. This depends entirely on what airline you’re taking. Major airlines don’t pose many problems, but if you use a local airline, watch out. If you find the terms “LIAT” or “Seaborne” somewhere on your tickets or listed in your itinerary, those refer to local Caribbean planes and chances are high that your luggage will be a day or two behind you. The local planes can’t carry as much as the bigger airlines. At least not safely. You can always buy a new toothbrush or sunscreen, but finding a whole new wardrobe could be an issue. So take what you need on the plane with you, don’t leave it with anyone.
The Caribbean islands offer vacationers a relaxed atmosphere and good times, so long as you plan ahead. Knowing the most common mistakes people make when traveling there should go a long way with helping you make the most of your trip. When your vacation’s over and it’s time to get back to daily life, you can always look back on your trip with fond memories. Newverest’s scratch off map is a great way to keep your memories alive and help you plan future trips. Or you can write your memories down in a journal, or even start a scrapbook. Whatever you do, you won’t want to forget your island adventures, you’ll want to start planning new ones.