Caribbean Travel Tips & Safety Advice
Caribbean travel tips, safety advice, and useful information for the tropics, the Caribbean & Central America
We hope this Active Caribbean Travel Tips & Safety Advice section will be of use to you before and during your Caribbean adventure and Central America adventure vacation.
General travel tips and safety advice for the Caribbean and Central America countries bordering the Caribbean
…before you go read/buy travel books on the Caribbean island or Central America destination you are visiting (they’re worth their weight in gold). Check out the Active Caribbean Book Reviews section.
…pack lightweight clothing: cotton is best
…use adequate high factor sun protection, wear sunglasses and a sunhat – the sun will be stronger than you think it is
…take mosquito repellent for your skin, electric vapour plug for your room, and insect bite soothing cream (some beaches are home to irritating sand flies that love to bite feet and ankles). Mosquitos carry a number of diseases, including malaria, dengue and Zika fever. Non-essential travel by pregnant women should be postponed to regions in the Caribbean and Central America actively affected by the Zika virus. Women should also avoid becoming pregnant during their travels to affected regions.
AND DO NOT...
DO NOT go topless or nude, it’s illegal on most islands (except on designated beaches on some French Caribbean islands)
DO NOT wear swimwear around shops or in the streets, it is looked down upon
DO NOT wear camouflage-patterned clothing, it is an offence on many islands
DO NOT stand under Manchineel trees when it rains: the Manchineel, one of the most poisonous trees in the world, is found near and on coasts, contains strong toxins, and any drips from it will cause skin to blister. In tourist areas Manchineel trees are clearly marked with safety warnings
DO NOT touch or damage coral when you are snorkelling or diving, it is important to protect it. Be aware that fine green seaweed is home to sea lice: they can cause an allergic skin reaction. Watch out for aptly-named ‘fire coral’ – it will burn you if you touch it. If you step on a sea urchin you’ll certainly know it – the spines cause a lot of pain if you step on one: sea urchins lurk around rocks, and are occasionally found on the sea shoreline
DO NOT wear jewellery when diving or snorkelling – shiny objects look similar to silver fish so can attract unwanted attention from some Caribbean fish, especially barracudas
It is essential to check these Caribbean travel tips and advice
PASSPORT & VISAS: Ensure your passport has at least six months validity remaining, and check with your planned destination(s) well in advance whether you need to apply for a visa or visas before you visit
GOVERNMENT ADVICE: Check the latest foreign travel and safety advice given by your own Government. Check the very latest safety advice given by your Government on its website. As the majority of Active Caribbean readers are from the US and UK, the relevant websites are:
US Department of State
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
VACCINATIONS AND IMMUNISATIONS: Visit your doctor well in advance of your Caribbean or Central America vacation to check whether you need to have any vaccinations, or take malaria tablets or any other preventive measures. Be aware of any dangers in the country you are visiting and keep up to date on how to stay healthy when travelling in tropical climates and to different environments
WEIGHT & HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS: It is essential before you participate in any adventure travel or leisure activities that you check if there are any weight and/or height restrictions with the Caribbean adventure tour operator before your adventure experience, especially if children are participating
TRAVEL INSURANCE: You should check that your travel insurance covers all the adventure activities you and your family are planning to participate in, and only book a tour or excursion with a reputable company. Your Caribbean hotel, destination tourist office, travel agent, tour operator or Caribbean cruise ship excursion representative will advise you. It would be worth checking out TripAdvisor™ too
WHEN TRAVELLING DURING HURRICANE SEASON: Make sure you tune in to local radio stations if there is a threat of a hurricane in the region. Up-to-date information on the whereabouts of the hurricane as well as instructions on what to do before, during and after the hurricane hits will be broadcast frequently if the threat is imminent
Always be considerate…
Be considerate when and where you are taking photos, and always ask before you video or take photographs of people
Respect the natural environment and stick to designated trails
Support local conservation by visiting and paying entrance fees to national parks and protected sites of interest
Don’t ever buy souvenirs or crafts made from endangered or protected animals
Support the local economy and hire recommended local guides, they’re well worth it. Check that your guide is licensed
Central America travel tips and safety advice
Night travel is not advisable in Central America, it can be unsafe. Illegal drugs are common. Be careful who you trust. Public toilets are few and far between, take advantage of those in restaurants and museums. It is a good idea to carry your own stock of toilet paper, hand-wash gel, mosquito spray, malaria pills, and maybe even a mosquito net to sleep under if you are prone to bites. Consult your doctor, say, eight weeks in advance of your travel so they can advise you of particular health risks, whether you need anti-malarial tablets, and which vaccines you need.
Will you be island-hopping in the Caribbean?
book inter-island flights before you leave for the Caribbean – and online for a discount
ensure you have a printed inter-island itinerary: proof of return or onward travel is required at check-in
check small plane weight allowance if island-hopping in the Caribbean, it might be less than on international flights, and also whether a soft carry-on bag is mandatory rather than a rigid case as some of the inter-island planes are small
AND DO NOT…
DO NOT forget your passport when island-hopping – travel between islands, no matter how near, is considered international
DO NOT travel by indirect inter-island flights unless you have to, it’s far more expensive and takes considerably longer
Caribbean travel tips for amateur photographers in humid climates
Cameras can be affected by the humidity in the Caribbean so Active Caribbean suggests that, when going outside from an air-conditioned room (and vice versa), that you put your camera in a sealed polythene bag and leave it there until the camera acclimatises (5mts or so); your lens (and the inside of your camera) will then be free from condensation. Take sufficient memory cards (and spare batteries) with you too – they’ll probably cost more in the Caribbean and could prove difficult to find.
Weather in the Caribbean, and Central America countries bordering the Caribbean
The best time to visit the Caribbean is from December to April; July to November are generally the wettest months – it’s the rainy season – and during these months there is a chance of tropical storms or hurricanes. Temperatures are consistently hot all year, but never unbearable because of the trade winds which help dissipate humidity. The Bahamas experience some rain year-round but the wettest months tend to be from May to October. Winter temperatures in the northern islands can drop below 15°C (60°F); summers are hotter and more humid; hurricane months are July-November.
Central America is hot and humid all year, although on the coast humidity is often dissipated by Caribbean winds. Best time to visit is during the drier season – January to April. Mountainous areas can be considerably cooler so, if you are planning a mountain visit, take something warmer to wear. For more information about a specific Caribbean country, go to the Destination Adventure Guides section.
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