Top 12 Mistakes Tourists Make in the Caribbean and How to Avoid Them

The Caribbean is one of the world’s most beautiful places to visit. It offers travelers an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life in a tropical paradise jam-packed with white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, coral reefs teeming with marine life, and authentic Caribbean towns bursting with culture. However, as remarkable as the Caribbean is, it takes careful planning to plan the perfect trip. To start with, there are many things you should never do during your vacation. To learn more, here are 12 things tourists should never do when visiting the Caribbean. Avoid making these mistakes if you want to enjoy a relaxed, unforgettable, and trouble-free trip to the Caribbean.

1. Assume Every Island’s the Same

When planning a trip to this beautiful part of the world, you should never assume all the islands are the same. While it can be tempting to lump every island into one destination, the truth couldn’t be any different. There are approximately 700 islands in the Caribbean, almost all offering something unique. What you’ll experience in an expensive 5-star resort in Barbados is worlds apart from the vast rainforests you’ll encounter in Dominica. Discounting the islands’ distinctive aspects or assuming you’ve seen it all would be foolish because you’ll miss out on so much.

2. Never Leave the All-Inclusive Resort

Similarly, if you never leave your all-inclusive resort, you’ll miss out on rich cultures, unique traditions, fascinating attractions, and diverse people. The Caribbean has thousands of resorts that offer everything you need to enjoy a luxurious vacation in paradise. However, they can’t show you the authentic Caribbean. You have to find that yourself. Walk through the neighborhood, discover local eateries, visit famous landmarks, and shop in authentic Caribbean markets to experience the real Caribbean.

3. Only Book All-Inclusive Resorts

The Caribbean is famed for its luxurious, all-inclusive resorts, which are generally the best and easiest accommodation option, particularly for families and large groups of friends. However, they aren’t always the best choice. If you’re a solo traveler, a family with older kids, or a couple, you could stay in smaller boutique hotels, Airbnbs, and guesthouses run by local families. By not staying in an all-inclusive resort, you can stay in the heart of a Caribbean community, try somewhere new to eat every night, and potentially find a more affordable deal. Of course, you’ll also be supporting the local community.

4. Stick to One Island

Island hopping in the Caribbean is a great way to see and experience more. Better yet, you only need a day or two to do it. Often, you can catch a cheap ferry from one island to the next. For example, a ferry service runs daily between St. Kitts and neighboring Nevis. That means you can easily experience what both islands offer in one vacation. Airport links also connect many islands in the Caribbean.

5. Not Eat Local Food

One of the things we love most about traveling is experiencing the unique tastes and flavors of the new countries we visit. However, if you stay in an all-inclusive resort, it’s all too easy not to try local cuisine in the Caribbean. Try to eat away from your hotel and somewhere local at least twice during your trip. The Caribbean offers a wide range of food unique to each island’s culture and history, so it would be a shame not to try it. Eating locally is also essential to the local communities that rely heavily on tourism.

6. Never Visiting Outside of the High Season

Just because the high season is the best time to visit the Caribbean doesn’t mean it’s the only time worth visiting. It also doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most suitable time to visit. Visiting the Caribbean in the high season (January to March) has its perks – the best weather, more flights, and more going on – but it’s also the most expensive. Therefore, don’t be afraid to consider the off-season, too. Avoiding peak travel times and calendar holidays often means better flight and hotel deals and fewer crowds.

7. Take Things Too Fast

One of the most common mistakes first-time visitors to the Caribbean make is taking things too fast. Whether you like it or not, you’re on island time in the Caribbean. Life in the Caribbean moves much slower, so don’t expect to arrive and hurry around like you’re in New York because the islands won’t move with you. Relax, take it easy, and be more flexible with your itinerary. Leave plenty of time between activities and meals to enjoy your surroundings and the laid-back lifestyle the Caribbean permits.

8. Expect a Strong Phone Signal

Generally speaking, most Caribbean islands are well-modernized and have strong cell signals. However, a strong signal isn’t guaranteed everywhere, so make sure you aren’t entirely reliant on it. To make matters worse, Wi-Fi can be hit or miss depending on where you’re visiting and staying. If you need Wi-Fi or cell signal as much as possible, you should research the best place to stay first to avoid any disappointment. However, in our opinion, sometimes going without a cell signal and Wi-Fi is a positive because it forces you to unplug and enjoy your surroundings.

9. Drink Tap Water

Depending on where you travel, it’s safer to drink bottled water than straight from a tap. While the tap water in most Caribbean countries is deemed safe to drink, some have questionable water. For example, you should avoid drinking tap water in Mexico, Haiti, and remote areas of Jamaica. If you drink too much tap water containing bacteria, you could ruin your vacation by contracting a nasty stomach bug. The easiest solution is to buy plastic water bottles, but you could also save plastic by carrying a reusable bottle that you can fill up at a designated water station.

10. Not Using Sunscreen

It might sound super simple, but you’ll be surprised by the number of people who don’t wear sunscreen on vacation. This is a massive mistake in the Caribbean because you’ll quickly burn. In summer, temperatures across the Caribbean consistently reach 86°F (30°C) and clear skies leave you exposed to the sun all day. Therefore, applying sunscreen every few hours is crucial to avoid burning. You’ll even need sunscreen in the Caribbean in winter, as temperatures still hover above 68°F (20°C). However, it’s worth noting that you should use sunscreen that’s free from pollutants because many Caribbean islands have banned sunscreens containing certain ingredients to protect marine life.

11. Assume Everywhere Is Safe

Because the Caribbean is widely considered a luxury vacation destination, it’s easy to forget that most islands have the same problems as anywhere else, if not worse. At the end of the day, the Caribbean, like anywhere else, has its problems, so don’t assume everywhere you visit is safe. Always remain vigilant when venturing to new places, especially at night. Trust your gut instinct, don’t flash your valuables, and don’t walk in remote neighborhoods at night. Of course, some islands in the Caribbean don’t have any issues, but it’s always worth being careful. Some Caribbean countries with high crime rates include Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, and Belize.

12. Swim With Captive Dolphins

The thought of swimming with dolphins and having a photograph taken with Splashy the dolphin is fun and memorable. However, you’ll think otherwise when you learn the truth behind swimming with dolphins in captivity. The Humane Society of the United States strongly condemns swimming with marine mammals in captivity because it can harm both mammals and people. Dolphins’ very nature makes them unsuitable for confinement. In the wild, dolphins might swim for hundreds of miles without stopping. In captivity, they are restricted, controlled, and used for entertainment. Swimming with dolphins is very popular in Jamaica, so avoid it at all costs.

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