Have you ever made some traveling mistakes that you really regretted? Maybe you forgot your favorite sweater at home, or got angry with a local for not speaking English. (Not everyone speaks English in the Caribbean!)
We all mess up sometimes, but some rookie traveling mistakes can be easily avoided when you have the right information. So before you go, take a look at our list of the top 10 traveling mistakes you should avoid when traveling to the Caribbean!
1. Not planning ahead
Not planning ahead is the mother of all traveling mistakes, no matter what your destination is. There are several reasons why it pays to plan:
- You’ll be able to book the best hotels and private villas before they sell out
- You can save on airfare
- You can plan your itinerary to pack in as many activities as possible in order to make the most of your trip
- You can find out what transportation is available where you’re going, and either rent a car or find out where public transportation hubs are so that you never get stranded
We recommend planning your trip at least 5 months in advance, or more if you need time to save up for your trip.
2. Not packing the right footwear
You might think that flip-flops are fine for your Caribbean trip, but beware! Once you land on a Caribbean island, you’ll see all kinds of tantalizing activities, from jungle hiking to ziplining to four-wheeler excursions. All of those pastimes will require close-toed footwear like sneakers. Not to mention the fact that fire ants are a thing. So, save your flip-flops for the beach, and make sure you pack different shoes for different activities.
3. Forgoing travel insurance
You might think that there’s no need for travel insurance, but you never know what could happen on your Caribbean vacation. And we’re not just talking about injuries or accidents. Travel insurance can also cover theft, property damage (like your phone or iPad), cancellations, and even unplanned costs due to emergencies.
4. Forgetting the bug spray
Please, please, don’t forget your bug spray at home when you head to the Caribbean! The mighty mosquito is out to prey upon hapless travelers, and pass along some pretty serious diseases. Tropical illnesses like Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya will give you flu-like symptoms or worse. Some stages of those diseases will even land you in the hospital, so don’t take your chances!
Above all, use bug spray when heading into wooded areas or when walking outside at night.
5. Carrying too much cash
Beware of pickpockets, especially when you find yourself in an area crowded with tourists. Unfortunately, criminals know the tourist hot-spots well, and they know exactly how to take advantage of foreigners. This is one reason why hanging out with a local guide can help. Your guide will be familiar with any “dangerous” areas and will help you steer clear of them.
Don’t carry too much cash in your pocket, and place your wallet in a front pocket instead of a back one. Wear purses or backpacks on your front instead of on your back. This will make it harder to thieves to steal without you noticing. Also, don’t get too distracted while talking on your cell phone or taking a picture.
However, you should know that most Caribbean countries are incredibly safe! So, taking the same precautions that you would anywhere in the world, you should have no problems.
6. Neglecting to get an international phone plan
Oops. You’ve just racked up a TON of roaming charges. You probably should have gotten an international phone plan!
Don’t leave for your Caribbean vacation assuming that your cell plan is already international. Check with your provider and make sure you’re covered.
In addition, don’t assume that you won’t need your phone while traveling. One rookie traveling mistake is to believe that you’ll be having way too much fun to want to check your cell phone. You’ll definitely be having fun, but your phone is a vital means of communication and can be incredibly helpful in case you need to phone family, friends, your hotel, a museum, or a tour company.
7. Exchanging money at the airport (unless you really have to)
In most Caribbean countries, you won’t get the best exchange rates at the airport. So, don’t exchange money there, unless it’s absolutely necessary. We suggest exchanging a small amount of currency at the airport just in case, and then using a credit or debit card to take money out in the local currency. This is especially great if you have a card from a bank that doesn’t charge you for international transactions.
8. Drinking the tap water (without asking first)
In some Caribbean countries, drinking the tap water is a big no-no for non-locals (or for everyone). Your digestive system won’t be used to what’s in the water there. Some countries have water treatment systems that are very different from the ones in your native country. This is the case for islands like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. However, some islands are exceptions, like Aruba and Barbados. Nevertheless, it’s always best to ASK if the tap water is drinkable before you drink it.
Same goes for throwing toilet paper in the toilet. Some Caribbean countries do not have sewage systems built to handle paper.
NOTE: Sometimes the water may not be drinkable in certain areas of a country. For example, you may not be able to drink the tap water and flush the paper at a public beach, but you can at your resort or hotel. It never hurts to ask!
9. Confusing beachwear with regular clothes (outside the beach)
In some Caribbean countries, locals will actually take offense to tourists entering a nice restaurant in nothing but a swimsuit and flip-flops. Make sure you pack clothes for all occasions, and follow any signs that you see on beaches or in businesses.
10. Treating locals poorly
When you visit a Caribbean destination, remember that you’re visiting someone else’s home country. Even if tourists outnumber the locals, make sure you treat them with respect. (Don’t be like these con artists, who took advantage of hardworking and honest Bahamian workers!) For more information about amazing Caribbean culture and hospitality, read 8 Misconceptions About Caribbean Islanders.
Main image credit: Shutterstock
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