It’s always a good idea to do your homework before you travel anywhere– and the Caribbean is no exception. Here are 5 things to know about the Caribbean before you go for the first time, in order to make your first impression is a great one!
1. English is widely spoken…but not everywhere
English speakers are in luck– you can find English speakers almost everywhere in the Caribbean. In fact, it’s the official language (or one of the official languages of many Caribbean countries. (See which ones here.) But that doesn’t mean that you should expect everyone to speak English to you. One thing that everyone should know about the Caribbean is that there are six official languages and many dialects spoken there.
Keep in mind that French is preferred in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barth, St. Martin, and Haiti. In the Dutch Caribbean, which includes Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, you’ll hear a lot of Dutch and Papiamento. Spanish is the language of most locals in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Caribbean Mexico.
2. Cruises aren’t the only way to enjoy the Caribbean
Yes, cruises are great and all…but they have their limitations. Namely, waiting for hours and days at sea to reach the next port, sub-par food, and even worse entertainment. Also, if you’re not the type who likes every excursion to have a time limit, we suggest island hopping instead of cruising. It’s a surefire way to see a few islands and get in all the activities you’re looking forward to trying, without worrying about getting left behind on accident like these people.
Otherwise, you can pick just one island and enjoy everything it has to offer, with no wait time other than your flight to get there. Here’s our advice for choosing an island for first timers)
3. There’s more than just beaches
It may be tempting to spend your entire vacation relaxing on the beach– and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. However, there is MUCH more to do in the Caribbean besides sunbathing and swimming, if you’re up for it! For example…
- There are plenty of hiking trails through lush jungles that feature incredible scenic views.
- You can try many different kinds of water sports, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and water skiing.
- The Caribbean actually has some amazing (live!) volcanoes, some of which are safe enough to visit.
- History buffs will love the ruins of Spanish forts, Mayan temples, and other structures scattered throughout the region.
- There are quite a lot of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Caribbean, 23 to be exact.
4. US dollars will get you far
Although many Caribbean countries have their own currency, many also accept USD. However, if you pay in USD, people will almost always give you change in national currency. If your national currency isn’t USD, it may be convenient to exchange some cash for US dollars before you arrive in a Caribbean country. Otherwise, you might be hit with foreign transaction or ATM fees. Keep in mind that the French islands use euros, and Dutch islands use guilders or the florin, in Aruba’s case.
5. You don’t have to stay at a resort
If there’s one thing you should know about the Caribbean, it’s that you don’t have to stay at an ordinary hotel or resort. The reason why many people stay at resorts is because they are typically all inclusive. However, renting your own villa can be just as “inclusive” when it comes with concierge service, and your experience will be so much more individualized! (Not to mention cleaner, quieter, and much more private).
Main image: Playa Bonita, Dominican Republic. (Source: godominicanrepublic.com)