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Cruising along the Caribbean: How to Make Most of Your Stay

So many things to do, so little time.
by | May 26, 2016


If you fancy a trip to the fabulous Caribbean, you can do so on a budget.

It’s a misconception that having a vacation in this group of islands is expensive. In fact, if you choose wisely, you can get the absolute bang for your buck. Plan way ahead, do your own research and you’ll have the best vacation of your life.

Palm Trees, Island, Boat, Ocean, Beach, Coast, Paradise

SHOULD I ISLAND HOP?

Why not? That is, if you can afford it and if time allows. But it’s best to just stick to one island, since these are different countries after all, and plan for another some other time. Most travelers choose some of the most popular islands: The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Aruba—all of which have accommodations fit for your travel type.

Aruba, Caribbean, Shopping, Port, Vacation

Aruba.

HOTEL OR HOSTEL?

It depends on your needs, but usually hostels have great facilities and amenities that won’t empty your wallet. Some hostels cost $20-25 a night, compared to a $150/night stay at a place where you’ll hardly be in. Budget hotels are a little under $100 a night, and that’s during the off season.

If you don’t want to stay at a hotel, you can camp, go couchsurfing or find a room via Airbnb.  You can also find villas to rent (one villa can fit eight to 10 people, so group traveling is also great here).

Jamaica, Sun, Ocean, Sea, Caribbean, Boot, Tropics

Off the coast of Jamaica.

HOW’S THE WEATHER?

Typically, the best time to travel to the Caribbean is between December through April. Around this time, the islands have great weather with very little rain, temperature reaching up to the low 30s.

But with the recent changes in weather patterns across the globe, you’ll need a handy app for knowing the weather along the Caribbean. AccuWeather, Yahoo! Weather, and Weather Bug are great apps with more features (all three available on iOS and Android).

Cayman, Cayman Island, Island, Caribbean, British

Cayman Island life.

PIRATES’ WATERING HOLE?

You have to admit, drinking on the sands of any Caribbean island is the stuff dreams are made of. But it can become a reality if you buy the local alcohol: rum. Those big-time Grey Goose types can stay in the city; it’s time to taste prime Caribbean booze.

Care for Appleton Estate Rum from Jamaica or Tortuga Rum from the Cayman Islands? No one’s stopping you (unless you’re underage, of course).

Staniel Cay, Swimming Pig, Seagull, Fish, Exumas

Pig swimming in the Bahamas.

FOODIE PARADISE?

There are many places to eat in any Caribbean island, but if you’re on a budget, avoid going to eating establishments along port areas. Taste true Caribbean cuisine in local markets. The tip is to eat where the locals eat.

Stay alert for Saturday markets with ingredients that you can buy and cook yourself. What you should spend on with no regrets though, is water.

Havana, Street, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

HOW ELSE TO SPEND LESS?

Any sound mind would travel off-season, which is after April. If you’re good at looking for package deals that come with a cruise, take that.

Consider checking the exchange rate from time to time to see if you’re selling your dollars for the local currency.

Take tours at first, which are inexpensive. And when you’re ready to take the roads less taken, take public transportation. You’ll get the feel of the island that way.

As with many market-oriented places, haggling or bargaining is the language, and you have to be flexible. Think of it as a pirate’s version of The Price is Right.