This past May we were fortunate enough to take a nine day trip to the Cayman Islands. Although I still wouldn’t mind being a mega superstar financial executive for some fabulously wealthy offshore bank, alas I do not happen to live in that particular universe, so I cannot say that this trip was due to riches or business. Let me just say, we were blessed with a once in a lifetime opportunity that probably wont happen again, at least in the near term.
Being the unflinching urbanites that we are, we had no idea how to proceed in this island nation still governed by the United Kingdom. And although you may think that because this is still a British Commonwealth it is totally safe and everything is fine and dandy, you would be slightly mistaken. Although the islands are quite safe physically (no one was mugged and we weren’t afraid walking the streets at night), there are still some things to watch out for and from what I hear, this advice translates well when discussing many other Caribbean islands.
1. Exchange your money before you go – Try to either use plastic or stock up on the currency before you go. A lot of times when the exchange is being done at the register, the cashier tends to hold back a few cents (unless you notice, which you probably won’t , which adds up.
2. Beware of pickpockets – The night before we left we hit up a nightclub. We were dancing with people and everyone was having a good time. . . until two random people tried to steal our wallets right out our back pocket. We also encountered something similar at a gas station. BEWARE!
3. Barter, Haggle, Barter – Never except the listed price, they will drop it if you’re ready to head to their competitor next door.
4. Why buy when you can rent – We spent $140 on snorkeling gear only to realize we probably will not ever use it again. We also noticed – after the fact – that most hotels rent gear for $15 a day, you can’t beat that.
5. Rent a car – Taxis will almost literally steal your money, so rent a car, it will save you in the long run.
6. Make your own path – Why be the “usual” tourist. Ask the locals, look it up online, check reviews. The best restaurants are off the beaten path and the best sights are the least known.
7. Know the customs – The Cayman Islands is a VERY conservative place, much like many other Caribbean locales, such as Jamaica, Barbados, Anguila, etc. You don’t want to be caught doing something that will offend the locals.
8. Travel light – This way you can pack everything up before you leave your room. Remember, you cannot take large tubes of liquids or bottles with you on the plane anyhow. Also, I tended to notice that I pretty much wore swimming trunks every day and brought way more pants than I needed.
9. Bring lots of reading material – You’ll be waiting for quite some time in airports, so make sure you have something to do.
10. Have fun!
So, I hope this short list of to do’s and not to do’s has helped you or your next tropical vacation. The Caribbean islands are a true treat and very cost effective for Americans. A round trip flight to the Cayman’s was $380 round trip from Vegas (can you believe that??). So, check for the deals and plan in advance and you are destined to have a fabulous time!