What to Know Before You Visit the Caribbean

Where can you get turquoise waters, European charm, international flair, and fresh conch, all to the tune of a steel drum band? The Caribbean! So, pick an island. Any island! The Caribbean has plenty to choose from, so there’s something for everyone’s island taste. Here are the best things to know before you go! 

When is hurricane season?

Hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. It’s not bad to travel during this time (I took an 8-day Caribbean cruise in September 2009, and we had wonderful weather the whole time!), but you might want to consider travel insurance for your trip during this time. Keep an ear on the weather report and an eye in the sky, just to be safe!

Sometimes hurricane season looks like this!
More here: What Happens on a Cruise Ship During Hurricane Season?

Are any Caribbean islands protected from hurricanes?

Yes! If you’re looking to travel without fear of hurricanes, research traveling to Aruba, Bonaire, or Curacao, affectionately known as the “ABC’s.” These three islands are notoriously outside of the “hurricane belt.” They’re so far south that they don’t get the same weather patterns to which the other Caribbean islands are subject. 

Some islands are more prone to hurricanes than others.
Helpful info: How to Thrive in Rainy Day Travels

Do I need my passport to visit the Caribbean islands? 

Yes! There are many island nations in Caribbean, and many of those are also technically part of other countries around the world. For U.S. citizens, you won’t need your passport to visit Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. John, or St. Croix. If you plan to visit any other islands, however, you will need to bring your passport! 

You will definitely feel like you’re a world away!
Essential reading: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports

What language do people speak in the Caribbean?

Lots of languages! Because of the proximity and easy access to the United States, as well as British colonization of many islands in the past, most people in the Caribbean speak English as their second or third language. Many of the Caribbean islands also have their own native language, though, so you might pick up on a few local words while you’re down there. 

Some islands, however, are also owned or were historically colonized by European countries. That means their official languages also include the language of that country, such as Spanish, French, or Dutch. For instance, St. Martin belongs jointly to France and the Netherlands, meaning the people there speak French, Dutch, and the local language called Papiamento!

You’ll hear as many languages and accents as there are types of palm trees!
More to come: What to Know Before You Visit St. Martin/Sint Maarten

Can I use my phone in the Caribbean?

That depends! Your cell phone plan may or may not include an international policy, so check on that a few weeks before your trip in case you want to add that on for your trip. Steve and I have T-mobile, which automatically includes an international plan at no extra charge, so we were able to communicate throughout our trip. 

Other cell phone providers charge $10 per day, per phone, even on the same plan. For a 7-day trip for just two people, that’s $140 added to your regular phone bill! Know what you’re getting into before you go, and call your cell phone company with enough time to spare before your trip begins!

Check your international charges, but also try to put the phone down a little more often than usual!
Keep reading: How to Be Your Own Travel Advocate

Do I need to rent a car?

Most likely, yes. Islands don’t usually have great public transportation systems, and smaller islands in particular don’t usually have Uber or other ride share options. You will likely be able to get a cab, but that can get expensive over the course of a few days or a week! Do some research on your island of choice to see if renting a car is essential. Unless you’re planning to stay on a resort the whole time, you will probably want to have a car available to you for at least part of your trip! 

You may want to do some exploring while you’re here!
Also consider: The Best Places to Travel in the U.S. Without a Rental Car

What money can I use in the Caribbean?

Almost all the islands will accept U.S. dollars, but some islands also use the Euro, British pound, or local currency as well! Bring some U.S. dollars with you, but also be ready to learn a little about the Netherlands Antilles Guilder, Eastern Caribbean Dollar, Bahamian Dollar, Aruban Florin, Dominican Peso, and more!

Be sure to have some cash with you!
Also interesting: Can I Use the U.S. Dollar Abroad?

What do I need to bring?

Definitely plan to bring more than a bathing suit! Reef safe sunscreen is an absolute must (it’s much more expensive to buy it when you get there!), but you’ll also want a dry bag, sunglasses, and a hat, too! Check out my post about What to Pack for the Beach, and you will definitely be able to pack prepared!

Don’t forget your bikini!
Essential info: 9 Things You Forgot to Pack for the Caribbean

Want more? Get everything you need to plan your trip on my dedicated Caribbean Islands Page!

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