Here is a quick post with about 50 or so Caribbean travel tips for the first-time Caribbean traveler. They are mostly common sense items, and are geared toward the all-inclusive destination travelers.
Booking The Vacation
- Make sure you book the room that you actually want If you are two singles traveling together, make sure you ask for two separate beds. If you are a couple, ask for a king size bed. (Yes, if you have a good travel agent, they should be able to accommodate you, and help you with this.)
- If you are a couple, and you are on your honeymoon or anniversary, you should definitely inquire at the front desk about a free upgrade when you check-in. Please remember that the resort receives emails about room requests all the time. Be understanding as this is only a request. (Note that it is much better to ask in person at the front desk, than to send an email about it.)
- Make sure you book at a time for your arrival that is convenient for you. If you have to check into your rooms after three in the afternoon and you have booked a morning flight that you arrive earlier, be prepared for that your room may not be ready. If you are arriving in the evening, it should be no problem. Understanding that rooms become available in the afternoon means that you understand people check out for their flights that day, and that rooms must be cleaned by the maid before you can check into yours. Check with your hotel for available check in times.
- Keep in mind that if you are taking an evening flight home, you will have to check out of your room around noon and will have to store your suitcases in a locked room for the day. This can be a pain as you cannot access showers or all your things to get ready after a day in the sun. Using communal washrooms all day and not having your hotel room available to rest in might be a problem for some people. That being said, some hotels will allow you to pay money to keep your room and offer a late check out. This will be subject to availability. If people are arriving that day and need to check into their room which was yours for the week they might not allow you to do this.
- Get your clothes together, then divide it in half and put that in your suitcase. It is so easy to over pack and you will always be surprised at how many clothes you did not wear.
- Anything like mouse for your hair, shampoo, creams etc that may explode in your suitcase on the plane should be packed in plastic bags or alternatively put in your carry on.
- Arrive three hours ahead of time (I know it sounds like a lot, but on flights where there is no pre-assigned seat, it helps as you can pick your seat and the closer to the exit on the plane means closer to the exit when you get off, closer to customs, and closer to get on the bus when you are going to your hotel).
- If you have food restrictions, inquire ahead of time.
- Please be thoughtful of the person behind you- that is, when you are eating, raise your seat back up from the reclined position so that your neighbor has room to eat as well.
- The movies are not always good. If you have a portable DVD player, ipod, or a PSP; bring it.
Hotel Arrival and Check-In
- Try to understand that check in may take some time and that depending on the time of arrival rooms may not be ready. Since check-out and maid service must happen before you can check into your room, this is sometimes the case.
- Ask for a map if you have to check in late and can’t find your room.
- Check the card that your receive on the bus or at the hotel at check in regarding orientation to the hotel. This is a VERY important meeting that talks about the hotel and things you should know (where certain restaurants are, where to get beach towels, what excursions suit you and when to book, etc.)
Things to Keep in Mind at Your Resort
- Remember that a rating of 3, 4, or 5 stars in your home country is not equivalent to a rating of 3, 4, or 5 stars at home. Cuba and the Dominican Republic are not equivalent to Mexico, or the Bahamas; which is why they are usually a lot cheaper. We see so many trip reports of people dissapointed with their resort. Set your expectations accordingly. If you got a great deal, enjoy it for what it is worth. You are on vacation.
- Make sure you check out all activities that your hotel has to offer. There may be day-time activities such as aqua fitness, dance lessons, and beach volleyball that you will be interested in.
- If you want a particular place at the beach or the pool, be prepared to get up early and reserve a spot. Also, please be courteous and do not leave your towel at the pool all day saving your spot if you plan on spending most of the day elsewhere. Reserve spots only if you are going to use them.
- Bring insulated travel mugs for drinks! You will understand this on once you get down there, especially if you hate drinking your alcohol from tiny plastic cups.
- Book your al la carte restraunt meals (specialty restaurants) early! The best ones will fill up fast. If you can, talk to someone who has been to each of them before so that you can get advice and plan early.
- Paying a deposit on the beach towel service is normal. Think about how much towels cost at home, and how you leave them everywhere and unattended wherever you go. You get your money back at the end of the week! J
- Try to make an effort to speak a few words in the native language down there. They appreciate it!!
- Make sure that you buy all sun block, meds, and necessities in your own country and that you have all that you will need. The hotels will charge 4 or 5 times more than what you are used to paying! This includes junk food too!
- Leaving tips for the maids or bartenders is nice. You can also leave things for their children that are hard to access down there like coloring books, crayons, pencils, calculators from the dollar store. Medication is hard to access for locals as well. Tylenol and baby Tylenol are also appreciated. (Be sure to communicate proper use to those you give them to. Ensure that you are only dispensing OTC medication!) Don’t forget the gardeners or security staff as well. They work long hard hours in the sun and rarely get to interact with guests or receive tips. Giving them a glass of water or juice is very much appreciated by them. I gave a man who was working outside my room some things for his family, and he started to cry he was so happy. Next thing I know he brought me fresh cut flowers and made a hat out of a palm tree leaves to say thank you.
- If your room is on a ground floor room, do not leave glasses that had sugary drinks in them around the room. They WILL attract ants and other bugs…. I speak from experience. Waking up to find all kinds of ants in my bed and all over the floor is not fun! Those little buggers went back and told all the other ant friends and even after getting the maid to spray, I think they still wanted in all week- and some managed to keep coming!
- The maids will leave fresh towels if yours are left in the tub or are obviously wet and dirty. If you leave towels around the room that are used but not dirty, they will probably not change them every day. Same thing goes for the bed sheets. If you do not change your bed sheets everyday at home, why do you expect your sheets to be changed everyday on vacation? You’re not that dirty are you? The maids will make your bed everyday but they will not change your sheets unless they really need to be changed. Be understanding about this.
Excursions, Activities, and things to do off the resort
- Browse some travel magazines for site and excursion recommendations.
- Do try to go on a few excursions off your resort. You will have so much fun and will really get to see much more of the culture of the country. Catamarans are very fun, as are jeep tours. Both are worth the money.
- Visiting the local markets is a must. Barter them down in price a bit. Also, you can sometimes trade a few of your own belongings for things you want at the market. This can be fun.
- Rent a moped if you get a chance. You can tour all over on your own and its very cheap on gas. These things go forever!
- Para sailing is also very fun. It is expensive though for a 15 minute ride. If you can go up attached with another person, this is a really great experience.
- Deep Sea Fishing- well all I have heard about it is that you may catch some fish, you may not, but a sure bet is that you will be VERY seasick. Most people end up puking over the side of the boat. So book this tour with caution. You have been warned!
- Going to local bars and discos is a great way to meet other people, and see how the locals dance and interact with each other. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it. In Varadero, the good ones are Havana Club, Pirates Cave, and Mambo Club. In Punta Cana, there is one called Mangu. In Guardalavaca, there are some local ones within walking distance from the resorts. Some are right on the beach, and another one is a huge dance bar that all the locals frequent regularly.
The Food, ahhh Yes, The Food
- Mayonnaise, sliced meats, cold fish, or eggs left out for hours at a buffet are not good choices. These harbor breeding grounds for bacteria.
- Make sure that your omelette is cooked well and not runny in the centre. Uncooked eggs can carry salmonella bacteria and make you very sick.
- Always take a clean plate to the buffet with you.
- Drinks made with milk (i.e. pina coladas) should not be consumed in high quantities. Drink these as treats and not as your only drink of choice. The milk acts as a diuretic and can also cause a lot of diarrhea.
- Avoid eating dishes that look foreign to you. They will probably seem foreign to your stomach as well.
- Make sure that all meat is cooked well. With the amount of people these large resorts must feed and the pressure to turn out food, it is possible that some dishes may have meat that is undercooked.
- Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands: frequently! Wash after the washroom especially and bring hand sanitizer with you everywhere! I use the sanitizer after visiting the buffet before and after I eat. You cannot trust that everyone who touched the serving utensils at the buffet washed their hands after the bathroom, or is not sick. Also, I bring it with me on excursions and for in the airport. I wash my hands in the washroom, and then use the sanitizer as well to be sure.
- If you are visiting a country where only bottled water is allowed, then make sure you brush your teeth with bottled water and use sanitizer after washing your hands in the washroom. When in the shower, keep your mouth closed at all times and try not to get water around your mouth or in your eyes.
- Bring Immodium extra strength with you to stop diarrhea. If you are one that gets very constipated on trips, bring some gentle laxatives such as natural Sennakot, or Dulcolex.
- When it comes to Caribbean food, Punta Cana pretty much takes the cake, having the best cuisine when compared with other Caribbean destinations. For more information about Caribbean food, including restaurant reviews in Punta Cana, and Caribbean recipes, be sure to check out the Punta Cana Information Guide.
Odds and Ends
- Sun block! Everyone wants a nice tan and wearing sun block with a high spf (at least 30) will still allow you to get a great one – you just won’t burn. A bad sunburn is very uncomfortable down there and will ruin your vacation.
- Remember that nightly entertainment is not a Vegas show. These people work long days and then have to perform at night. Its free entertainment, so have a few drinks, kick back and enjoy it.
- The lobby at night is a nice place to hang out and meet people in the evenings.
- Take the dance lessons they offer. Don’t be afraid about having two left feet or looking silly. That’s what its there for. You may surprise yourself that you have a little Caribbean rhythm after all! Meringue is very easy, salsa a little more difficult but still easy to learn. Have fun with them.
- Aqua fitness for an hour and then swimming over to the swim up bar to down three cubre libres kind of defeats the purpose of the work out ha-ha.
- Make sure that if you have to pay any departure taxes when you leave, that you set this money aside with your passport so that you do not accidentally spend it. I saw many people unable to get to a bank and having to beg other tourists for cash. – Not fun and very stressful!
- Do not buy cigars in Cuba that are not sealed or do not have a gold seal of authenticity sticker of approval. If there is no sticker and they are not sealed, then these are from the black market and are illegal. Customs will take these away from you. Spend the extra money and you’ll be fine- you can keep them and you know what you are buying are real.
- Be careful buying anything in the markets made of wood. Customs will ask you about this when returning as wooden things can have little bugs or mites in them and cannot enter your country. Unfortunately, many times they will confiscate it even though your items are totally fine. Just keep it in mind if you buy something expensive or try to find a way to get it home safely in your suitcase without losing it.
- If you buy a picture or a painting, it’s totally fine to roll it up and put it in your suitcase. Just put it on top or in between soft things. It will be in good condition to frame when you get home.
- And finally…some advice for the men: Try not to be obvious when checking out the topless women on the beach. Your wife/girlfriend does not appreciate your gawking. Be conspicuous-it will pay off later for you in the evening. (Sunglasses help! – Gary)
- Try to relax, and realize that you are on vacation. Yes there will be little mishaps or things that you didn’t expect to happen, but hey… its better than being at work. Enjoy yourself and realize that you are luckier than any of the locals who are working at your resort or many of your co-workers you left at your job the past week Happy Travels!
- Cuban SONGS:Havana Club, Ron de Cuba Tamayo y su Salsa AM 279kb 4931kb Havana Club, Sueño del Caribe Grupo Jelengue 178kb 4595kb Club S.A. Nuevo Proyecto Latino 307kb 3397kb Son Para el Havana Club Septeto Havana Club Son 193kb 5782kb Havana Club Trío TaiCuba 245kb 3361kb Havana Club es mi bebida
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