An American Citizen’s Guide To Caribbean Vacations: What You Need To Know

If you’re like tens of millions of other American adults, you work full time. You probably have a job that gives you a certain amount of paid vacation every year, but most Americans don’t use all their downtime. They’re just not always sure where to go. That’s a shame, considering that some of the most idyllic destinations in the world are just south of the mainland United States, as the many islands of the Caribbean. If you’ve never thought about vacationing here before, or you’re not sure, have questions, or are curious about it, then keep reading for a brief guide to Caribbean vacations.

What Is The Caribbean?

Geographically speaking, the Caribbean is a sea of water east of Central America, south of Cuba and other islands, and north of South America. Approximately 40 million residents call this region of the world home. It’s comprised of over 700 islands, reefs, islets, and cays. There are over 30 territories in this area. Many are independent nations, but some are dependencies or overseas departments of nations from elsewhere. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands are among many countries to maintain official soil here.

The Caribbean islands are often broken up into the Greater Antilles to the north with the Lesser Antilles to the east and south, which is where you would also find the Leeward Antilles. Technically speaking, the Bahamas are in the Atlantic and not the Caribbean, but socially, culturally, and politically, they are considered a Caribbean state, as are the Turks and Caicos Islands. In a broader sense, even continental nations like French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Belize are considered members given their regional ties with the islands.

Why Do People Vacation There?

American citizens love vacationing there for several reasons. The first is often the climate. While some of the islands do have actual seasons, truly cold temperatures are rather rare, and the warm and sunny weather is common most of the year. Anyone living in the snow belt or a place that has long nights and cold winters is likely to enjoy getting a break from the miserable weather someplace tropical.

Proximity is another reason. Getting to these nations doesn’t take very long, as compared to more exotic locations like Australia or many Pacific Islands. Residents of Florida can actually board cruise ships for weekend trips to some destinations. Going most anywhere in the Caribbean means flying more north/south than anything, so time changes are minimal and jet lag does not occur much.

Currency is a consideration in some places. Some nations, like the Bahamas, have their currency pegged to the American dollar, so they are interchangeable without having to pay exchange rates or fees. Many places just accept American dollars willingly, and in places like Puerto Rico or the United States Virgin Islands, American currency is the legal currency given the fact that they are American soil in the first place.

Are There Linguistic Difference?

Several dozen languages are spoken across the Caribbean, and they vary based on the country. Some places are monolingual predominantly, such as English in the Bahamas or Spanish in Cuba. However, some places are multilingual, such as the many languages spoken in Aruba or English and Spanish being spoken in Puerto Rico.

Do I Need Travel Papers?

Most nations welcome tourists and visitors with an active passport without arranging paperwork or transit visas in advance. Tourism is a huge industry in the Caribbean, so getting to most countries is not a problem. Having said that, some nations, such as Cuba, might take a bit more work. Also, islands ravaged by recent hurricanes might not be open to international visitors as they pull themselves back together.

How Do I Get There?

The two primary ways of visiting the Caribbean are either by air or by cruise ship. Flights out of Miami or Gulf Coast cities such as Houston and New Orleans can take you to major islands and their capitals. From there, you can take local flights to smaller islands. Many folks just head to the Gulf Coast or Florida to board cruise ships that set sail all over the Caribbean.