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14 Caribbean Travel Tips
Time for some fun in the sun!
Welcome to part two of my series about becoming a savvy Caribbean traveller!
In part one we talked about things to do before you leave home. If you'd like some extra pre-travel tips, mosey on over here and check out my tips! In part two I'm going to give you some Caribbean specific travel advice. If you've been anywhere in the Caribbean and have any extra ideas, don't be afraid to share! Please post them in the comments section below and share them with us all!
Already a seasoned Caribbean traveller? If you're in need of a great hotel idea, check out part three of my series for a detailed review of the Occidental Grand Flamenco in Punta, Cana, Dominican Republic.
During your trip
Tip #1: Meet your vacation guide
Most vacations booked through an online travel site or vacation company will have an informational meeting the first morning of your trip. I would advise to go to it. They can provide you with important information about the area you're staying in, give you any tips about the best places for food or shopping, and you'll have a contact who speaks your language in the event that anything goes wrong or isn't as you anticipated. Take advantage of their expertise. That's what they're there for, to make sure you have the best possible vacation you can.
Tip #2: Don't be afraid to leave your resort
It's always great to lay on the beach and do nothing but believe it or not, it can actually get a little boring after a while.Don't be afraid to wander from your resort. Yes, you are in a different country but don't let fear prevent your from seeing all you can. Talk to guest services at your hotel or contact your vacation representative.There are usually a ton of awesome day trips they can book for you.Planned outings with fellow tourists can be a great way to see the sights if you're too nervous about wandering out on your own.
Tip #3: Coconut milk is not your friend
Okay, it's not technically your enemy either, but it can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Ever hear of travellers diarrhea? Nobody wants to spend their trip locked in the washroom. One way to avoid that unpleasant outcome is to go easy on the tropical drinks. Those oh-so-yummy cocktails are made with coconut milk, which is a natural laxative. So pace yourself, or stick to beer.
Tip #4: Don't pay full price, be prepared to negotiate
When shopping in the souvenir shops, don't pay full price.They inflate the price expecting you to talk them down. If you pay full price, you're overpaying.Don't be afraid to ask for a better price, they expect it.
Tip #5: Sample a little
The food at the resorts is usually served buffet style so try a little bit of each thing, don't just fill your plate up with loads of everything. Mixing foods that you don't normally eat altogether back home (i.e, fish, with a side of steak with a side of lobster) is another enemy of the vacationer's digestive system. Plus, some things that look delicious might not end up being your cup of tea and there's nothing worse than wasting platefuls of food. Most Caribbean countries are some of the poorest nations, imagine working there and watching tourists waste platefuls of food. It's a slap in the face to the people who work there.
Tip #6: Drink lots of water
Lots of sun + lots of alcohol= dehydration. Be sure to drink lots of water to help prevent sickness and heat stroke.
Tip #8: Plan for a rainy day
Check The Weather Network's Website before you leave to get an idea of what to expect weather wise. The great thing about the Caribbean is it could be cloudy and raining and then five minutes later the sun comes out. Just in case you happen to hit a particularly rainy day, or you just need some time out of the sun, having some playing cards, travel scrabble or a favourite board game can help pass some of the 'inbetween' time.
Tip #9: Make your claim early
Even if your resort has lots of beach chairs set up along the beach or pool, don't take them for granted.. get up early and claim your spot or you'll probably be out of luck. Whether you want to lay by the pool for the day, or lounge on the beach, the lounge chairs fill up fast. Our plan of attack was to bring our beach towels with us and stake our claim on the way to the breakfast buffet in the morning. Vacation & Beach unwritten rules are that if there's a towel on the chair, it's taken, even if you don't see anyone using them.So find your perfect spot and claim it while you still have the chance.No need to leave anything valuable hanging around. We left a couple magazines we purchased at the airport for emphasis, but a towel should suffice.
Tip #10: Be good to the locals
If you plan to tour any local villages or schools, having a little treat for the kids is a great idea. It's not absolutely necessary, but it's a nice way to show your appreciation to them for hosting you. We toured a school, but didn't plan a head of time, so I didn't have anything to give to the teacher to pass on to the students. Next time we head anywhere like that, I'm going to make a note to hit up the dollar store before we go. Bringing little goodies like crayons, notepads or stickers for the kids would be greatly appreciated. These are third world countries and they don't have the luxuries that we take for granted everyday. Our tour operator asked us to not give anything directly to the students but rather to leave our goodies or donations with the teacher so they can be given out equally. Speak with your tour guide and they'll provide you with the best way to show your appreciation.
Tip #11: Take care of the staff & they'll take care of you
Leave a little something for the maid each day. It doesn't have to be a lot, a few dollars will do, but leave what you can. Our resort had a different person each day, so leaving one big tip at the end of the week wouldn't have been fair. Each resort has their own way of scheduling the housekeepers. Some places it's the same person taking care of you for your entire stay, others it's a different housekeeper each day. Talk to the front desk to find out how the housekeeping schedule works so you'll know how best to divvy up the tips.
Tip #12: Leave it as beautiful as it was when you got there
On our last morning, we were sitting by the pool enjoying our coffee, when I saw a fellow tourist do something that completely angered me; they littered. A couple walking past us had plastic drink cups in their hand, and the man chugged his drink then just threw the cup on the ground and walked away. Yes, there is staff on hand to keep the resorts clean, but that doesn't mean you have to make their job harder. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you have the right to be disrespectful.
Tip #13: Bring travel mugs
This goes along with the previous tip.I can't imagine the amount of plastic cups these resorts go through on a daily basis, let alone each year. All-inclusive bars and buffets equals a lot of plastic cups going in the garbage each day. Plus, if you go on any excursions and taste coffee, rum, etc, they use plastic cups there as well. Bringing your own travel mugs is a great way to help reduce the waste these resorts are producing just by trying to please tourists like us.
Tip #14: Research your excursions
Particularly in the Dominican Republic, the resorts allow outside vendors on the property. It was almost a daily occurrence of trying to avoid sales people on our way to the buffet or pool each day. There will be lots of possibilities to choose from. You can 'Swim with the dolphins, sharks, manatees, etc.' Not all of these tour operators are held to the same standards for animal safety. Please be selective. If swimming with dolphins is something you've always wanted to do, talk to your vacation representative. They can point you in the direction of tour operators who have been thoroughly inspected and comply with animal cruelty regulations, as well as being safe for you and your fellow travellers.
Tour ExcursionsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Have you ever been to the Caribbean?
Haven't picked a resort yet?
If you haven't quite decided on which resort to book with, check out part three of this series for a detailed review, including photos of the Occidental Grand Flamenco in beautiful Punta, Cana, Dominican Republic.