The Caribbean is an exciting place to be– until you make a dangerous mistake. Find out what things you should never do in the Caribbean.
You’ve booked your flights and packed your bags. You’ve found the perfect accommodations for you and your family, and it’s almost time to embark on your journey to paradise.
But paradise isn’t perfect. Even the Caribbean, with its crystal seas and white-sand beaches, can present dangers that you might not expect.
After all, the Caribbean is made up of many countries where millions of different people live. For them, the islands aren’t tourist destinations, but rather their homes. And they know very well that danger can lurk in the oceans, cities, and towns, just like it could in any country.
Here are 8 things you should never do in the Caribbean:
1. Ignore beach warning signs
If you see a sign on the beach warning visitors about jellyfish or sharks, it’s best to skip swimming in that area.
In addition, many countries use a color-coded method to warn of inclement weather and dangerous beach conditions. Usually, a yellow flag indicated medium-hazardous conditions, like moderate winds and currents. Weaker swimmers should not swim if a yellow flag is present.
Normally, a red flag indicates danger on a beach. It means that there are rough winds and strong currents. You should not enter the water under those conditions. A double red flag may mean that the beach is closed to the public.
A purple flag means that there are jellyfish, sea snakes, or other small marine pests in the water. If there are sharks, you will usually see a red flag, or the beach will be closed entirely.
2. Forget your bug spray at home
Mosquitoes thrive in the Caribbean’s humid climate. That doesn’t mean you’ll encounter them all the time, and everywhere you go. But if you plan on hiking through the jungle or spending a lot of time outdoors at night, you’ll definitely need bug spray. The last thing you want to do is end up with dengue or zika and have to spend the rest of your vacation in bed!
3. Get hopelessly drunk
Yeah, we get it–vacations are for having fun and partying. But don’t let your partying get to the point where it puts you in danger! Most accidents that occur with tourists in the Caribbean happened because of alcohol intoxication. In addition, keep in mind that criminals see tipsy-tourists as easy targets for pick pocketing, or worse.
4. Forgo the sunscreen
Need we mention that the Caribbean is a sunny, sunny place? As a general rule, if you’re human and you’re going to go outside, you need sunscreen in the Caribbean.
With skin cancer as a very real threat, there’s no reason why you should turn up your nose at sunblock. Trust us, the Caribbean is so sunny, you’ll get that sun-kissed look you’re hoping for, no matter how much sunscreen you slather on.
5. Touch coral, jellyfish, or other sea life
Leave those fishy friends alone! We know it’s tempting to reach out and touch the brightly-colored coral, but you must resist, for both your safety and the coral’s.
Perhaps you didn’t know that coral can be poisonous. Some coral cause rashes, others release a poison called palytoxin when they feel threatened. In addition, sharp coral can actually cause cuts that can take a while to heal.
Here are a few other poisonous or prickly Caribbean sea animals to watch out for:
- Jellyfish. Find out which Caribbean jellyfish are dangerous here.
- Sea urchins. These can cause painful puncture wounds with their prickly spines. Spines can break off and stay in the wound.
- Sea sponges. Touching them can irritate your skin and cause dermatitis.
- Bristle worms. These creatures have bristle-like structures on their backs that can get stuck in your skin and sting.
6. Get aggressive and rude
The locals aren’t there to serve you, mon. (Unless you’ve got an awesome concierge service, of course). But really, the citizens of the town you’re visit aren’t on vacation, and they want to be respected just like you would want to be respected if they visited your hometown. Treat them with kindness, and you’ll find that they are some of the kindest folks you’ve ever met.
If you do receive services, follow the Golden Rule (treat others as you would want to be treated). Don’t be rude when negotiating prices, or refuse to pay a fair price. In addition, you should know that many housekeepers and waiters rely on tips to make a reasonable income, just like they do in North America.
And please, don’t go around calling everyone “mon” or making fun of the “accent” you perceive them to have. Here’s a good article on Caribbean misconceptions, while we’re at it…
7. Accept or buy drugs
Although weed may seem plentiful (depending on where you’re staying), it’s illegal to use in the Caribbean. However, you may encounter folks who will want to sell it to you anyway.
Be aware that sometimes, these sellers are part of a set-up. They offer you weed, and then notify their police officer friend to come and “catch you in the act”. The officer might ask you for a bribe, knowing that you might prefer to pay it instead of getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country.
8. Bring your valuables
Unless you’re headed to a Caribbean wedding, there’s no reason to bring jewelry or fancy clothes. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can wear your bathing suit all the time either (most restaurants won’t allow it). It simply means you should leave your most valuable items at home. Don’t risk grabbing the attention of local thieves, and having your belongings snatched from you when you least expect it.
For the most part, you won’t need to worry about theft in the Caribbean, as long as you are aware of your surroundings while walking in the city, and avoid putting your wallet in your back pocket.
Main image source: JSTOR Daily