Traveling to the Caribbean soon? Don’t forget to check mundane details like passport/visa requirements, voltage and plugs, and a few other things before you go. Doing so will help you have the best experience possible while on vacation. In addition, you’ll be able to avoid ruining your hair dryer, or worse, not being allowed into the country at all!
There’s nothing worse than arriving in a foreign country, only to find out that you can’t plug your cell phone charger into the wall because it’s a different plug type. Not to mention the fact that the voltage might be different, too!
Don’t be one of those travelers who busts a hairdryer by using it with voltage it was never meant to handle. Here’s how to avoid that mishap, and 4 others, while traveling in the Caribbean.
1. Wrong voltage/plugs
Most Caribbean countries use A/B plugs and voltage ranging from 100 to 125 volts. That’s good news for travelers from the United States, since American-made electrical appliances work at 110 volts and use A/B plugs. However, you might need to buy a plug adaptor and/or a voltage converter if you’re from a different country.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is look up specific information for the country you’re traveling to, and find out whether you need to buy an adaptor and converter. Make sure you use a reliable, up-to-date website.
In many cases in the Caribbean, an adaptor won’t be necessary, so you can save money by not purchasing one. However, if you’re unsure as to whether your appliances will work, it’s best to play it safe and bring an adaptor/converter. (Worldwide adaptors will work in any country)
Here’s a great site that lists plug/voltage requirements by country, and is updated frequently. (Sometimes countries have been known to change their plug style over the years, and some countries use two or more plug types, depending on what city you stay in!)
One extra note: many appliances, like computers, can handle any voltage, so a voltage converter won’t be necessary. (In that case you may only need a plug adaptor). One appliance that almost always needs a converter is a hair dryer– but many hotels supply these, along with irons.
2. Incorrect traveling documents
Americans traveling to most Caribbean countries will only need a passport to enter. In some cases, US citizens may only need an official form of ID (that’s the case for Puerto Rico, as of 2019). Europeans may only need ID for countries that are territories of the UK or the Netherlands.
However, countries can change their policies year by year, so it’s important to check for up-to-date information before you buy your ticket. Remember, airlines will allow you to purchase a ticket without showing proof that you have the correct documentation to enter a foreign country. Just because you have a ticket, it doesn’t mean they’ll let you fly! In addition, you’ll have to show your visa/passport at immigration once you land in the foreign country. In some cases, you’ll also need to provide the address where you’ll be staying during your vacation to immigration officials.
Above all, be sure to use a reliable website for visa/passport information, like this one for United States citizens.
List of Caribbean countries U.S. citizens can visit without a visa (passport only):
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bahamas (technically located in the North Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea)
- Dominican Republic
- Mexico (has several states with Caribbean coastlines)
- St. Barths (St. Barthelemy)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos islands
3. Ignoring travel advisories/ health concerns
There are a few other things to check before traveling in the Caribbean, beside travel documents and electricity requirements. You’ll need to look for up to date information on travel advisories and health concerns for the country you’re traveling to. There’s nothing worse than spending your entire vacation in the bathroom, or worse, in the hospital!
Travel advisories can include warnings about political unrest, hurricanes, and other dangerous events. Travel advisories are constantly changing, so be sure to check travel warnings for the country you will travel to, issued by the country you’re from.
As for health concerns, most Caribbean countries are not considered to be “high risk”. However, you could be exposed to mosquitoes, dirty water, and bacteria during your visit.
Prepare yourself by making sure you have the following vaccines, as recommended by the CDC and WHO:
- hepatitis A
- hepatitis B
- yellow fever (only for certain countries)
In addition, be sure to speak with your primary physician for specific advice for your traveling needs.
4. Traveling with expensive items
While Caribbean countries are generally safe for tourists, there’s always a risk of losing items by accident or by theft. Here are a few general rules to help you avoid having to say an untimely goodbye to your prized possessions:
- Don’t bring any cash, jewelry, or electronics that you don’t need. Limit the amount of clothing you bring as well, to avoid losing items simply because you brought too many to keep track of.
- Don’t bring your passport and other essential items with you while kayaking/boating/participating in water sports. It’s not an easy task to replace your documents once they’re at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.
- Don’t wear a backpack on your back while in crowded places, or place your wallet in your back pocket. That makes you an easy target for pickpockets.
5. Forgetting about foreign languages/currency
Be prepared to have to use a dictionary or an app to learn essential phrases in a foreign language while in Caribbean– not everyone speaks English! So, unless you’re traveling to a mainly English-speaking country, brush up on your Spanish, Dutch, and French.
In addition, check to see whether you’ll have to exchange currency while in the Caribbean country of your choice. You may also need to check whether the type of credit card/debit card you hold can be used there. Beware of foreign transaction fees while taking out cash at foreign ATMs or while swiping your card.