The 17 Things You Should Never Do When You Travel To The Caribbean, and Caribbean Travel Etiquette Warnings
The Caribbean is a grouping of countries and island south of the United States and North of South America. Each of these countries contains a diverse population of mixed cultures and races. Some of the cultures of the Caribbean were born in a time of slavery and indentured slavery, when the dutch and the British brought African, Indian and Chinese people to the Caribbean. Those are some of the main cultures in the Caribbean along with the native people that every country has. This blending cultures has created a lot of rules and faux pas within these cultures, as they have all adopted one anothers etiquettes. Before you travel to one of these locations, you should learn the rules of the Caribbean people.
Below is the ultimate list of what not to do in the Caribbean. Please let us know if you think we have missed anything by commenting below so that we can add it to the list. We want all of our fellow travellers to understand the ins and outs of their destination, so that they will have a great trip!
Here is a discount link for all of our readers on some of the travel products we love to use
19 Things You Should Never Do In The Caribbean
Talk Bad About Religion
The people of the Caribbean are extremely passionate about their religions, when you are in any one of these countries you will see people praying at all hours of the day. The reason for this is because Caribbean culture has had many outside influences that have played a role in their religious development. The other reason why is because most Caribbean people did not originate from those areas. That means many of them brought their religions with them from their home lands. Talking bad about any religion in the Caribbean is an invitation to an argument you cannot win.
One of the great things I know about the Caribbean is that the people there all respect each others religions, and will celebrate each others holidays together. My family is from Guyana and Trinidad and some of them are Hindu’s and others are Christians and they all love and respect each others religions! Maybe the rest of the world should take a play form their playbook. In the Caribbean there are 4 majority religions and other smaller groups. The majority religions are Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Athiest. After that there are other “different” religions that are also to be respected, those are voodoo, Rastafarianism, and Protestantism.
We have found after a lot of research that there are also other smaller religious groups with origins from Africa like Cuban Santeria, Shango or Chango from Trinidad and Kumina. Some of these religions are viewed by some as cults. If I was in any country other than my own that had such a diverse and passion for religion, I would be careful about religious conversation as it could very well lead to confrontation
Eat & Run
Growing up my family spoke often negatively about eating and running. I’m not sure if this is a Caribbean thing but it means that if someone invites you for a meal, it is rude to leave right after the meal. Coming from Canada or the US, some people may be used to that after your meal is done that you should head home. That is because we are programmed that way in a lot of highly developed countries. It is an anxiety reaction because we always feel like we have more to do and somewhere to be.
In the Caribbean the people are more about relaxing and enjoying slow times together. After a meal is done, there can be hours of conversation over drinks and even a party if you are so inclined. If a Caribbean person invites you over for a night, you can expect to be there for at least a couple of hours after your meal. Caribbean people can really teach us how to enjoy each others company!
Keep Saying “Yeah Mon”, “Feelin Irie” or “bloodclot”
The media and a lot of the people in the resorts think it is hilarious to constantly repeat these types of words to tourists, making it seem like it is normal conversation in these cultures. Some of these sayings are first of all only said on certain islands and can be offensive. Bloodclot for example is a very bad word like saying fuck or mother fucker. Some of the music coming out of Jamaica has this word in it a lot, making people think it is a normal part of Jamaican slang. It is not. Bloodclot is a very vulgar word and should not be spoken by foreigners. Other people sometimes over say “feelin irie” and “yeah mon”.
These are not bad words, however they can make people feel like they are being generalized or categorized as the actors on tv and videos that paint an image of the Caribbean as just a chilling place where people don’t have a care in the world. Doing this to local people can sometimes offend and this should be avoided at all costs. We are visitors to other peoples countries, and we have to respect them as we would our neighbours as we are just guests.
A few years ago I went to Jamaica with an asshole friend of mine, he kept repeating these words and screaming them to oncoming traffic. The result was multiple people stopping their cars beside him and yelling at him. I stayed far away and told him he was going to get his ass kicked. He didn’t and I say he was lucky for that, because he did deserve it.
Get verbally aggressive or rude when you negotiate
Many of us are taught zero tolerance when it comes to negotiation. We are also taught by our society that if we pay fair market value, we get exactly what we want. This has trained many of us to get angry or frustrated when we do not achieve our goal (which is buying X product). For some reason, when we leave and go to a poor country we want to grind the sellers down to minimal profit, and if we don’t get our way many people get angry about it. First of all, I don’t understand why you would grind them so hard and second, why get mad about it? People in other countries are not punching bags for the rest of the world, they are struggling people that need to feed their children like the rest of us.
Further to this, the vendors are usually all friends, and if a physical altercation happened you can bet that they are all going to help the vendor that is getting abused. The Caribbean is not a wealthy place, before you go change your mindset into thinking buying is a form of charity. By Changing your mindset, you will enjoy the experience of negotiation much better and so will the vendor. Who knows, you might make a friend!
Trying to sneak weed onto a plane or cruise ship
This is one of the dumbest things you can do when you go to the Caribbean. Marijuana grows all over the place here, and it is generally very easy to get. So easy that you will almost definitely be offered some on certain islands. What most people don’t know is that smoking weed or having it on you is highly illegal on these islands. Years ago I saw someone try to sneak marijuana onto a cruise ship. He was strip searched and immediately arrested, the cruise ship left him in the country to deal with the local law.
This mistake can be very costly as you would have to hire a lawyer from wherever you are from to represent you in the Caribbean, or hire a Caribbean lawyer. You risk prison in a third world country and huge money spent on flights, it’s not worth it.
Get Drunk and stupid
We all love to have fun, and if drinking is your thing you will probably over indulge when you vacation. It’s all good as long as you keep yourself in check and in control. I see so many people get annihilated when they go on vacation without thinking about the potential consequences of their actions. First and foremost, are you thinking about the people you have with you. Are you with a woman that you need to protect? Are you with children? Sometimes vacationers forget these simple things and opt for emediate entertainment.
This is the wrong thing to do in any country you visit. Local law enforcement in these countries are not as fast or the same as far as investigation as they are in the US, Canada or the UK. If you offend the wrong person, you might get assaulted. If you are a female, you might get raped. I recently read an article on USA today about the high rape rates by resort guests in Jamaica, avoid these types of situations at all costs. A big part of being a world traveller is respecting what you can and cannot do in another country.
Assume everyone sells weed
Not everyone in the Caribbean sells weed… You might find a few people that do on your vacation, and it is your prerogative if you want to buy or not. It can be really offensive to some people to talk to them about this, just as it is in your home country. Would you ask some old lady selling cologne at the local mall if she can get weed? Hell no. But I have seen this happen so many times while I am on vacation in the Caribbean. In my opinion, this is another one of those respect boundaries you do not cross.
If you really want to buy weed, go to a beach or bar area and you can be sure to have someone come up to you with 30 minutes to offer you some weed. Or you can tell a cab driver that you want to buy some. The cabbies are the key to anything you want to do in most countries.
Feed stray animals or wild animals
Feeding stray animals is a mistake that a lot of tourists make. It feels like a really nice thing to do, because they often look like they are starving and will give you the puppy eye look. Doing this can be dangerous for you in the moment and the animal after you do it. I’ll start with you, these animals do not have any shots and you have no idea what types of diseases they might have. They are not trained, and are opportunists by nature… they have to be this way! If you feed one once, they may expect this from you the rest of your trip.
What happens when you don’t provide? Will they bight you and potentially infect you with a disease? After you leave the country, who is going to feed this spoiled animal that you have fed so well while you were on vacation. The answer is no one. They may starve, depending on how long you have done this for.
I remember many years ago my sister and I were visiting Guyana, in the Caribbean. There were stray dogs in the area we were staying, and my sister fed on dog every day for over a month. This trained the animal that people were nice and approachable and that they have food. The dog ended up having a litter of puppies while we were there, and she fed them too. A few days later, we were sitting on the balcony of the house we were staying at and we heard loud yelps and screaming. One of the neighbours were kicking the new puppies around…it was horrible and we stopped it immediately. The dogs were too comfortable with humans, partly because of us.
Swim in the ocean if you see a red flag
Know what these mean before you go in the water, most public beaches will have them up. Green means low hazard (go ahead and swim), Yellow means medium hazard (swim with precaution, recommended for strong swimmers) and red means high hazard with strong undercurrents and crashing waves. Double red means do not enter the water at all as it is very dangerous. Most of the beaches in the Caribbean will not have a life guard, and most local cannot swim. This is a strange one as you would expect that in an Island surrounded by water that everyone would know how to swim. This is not the case, as from childhood most of the people on the Caribbean islands are taught fear of the water and never learn how to swim.
Start a fight
If you start a fight in the Caribbean, you could be making a fatal mistake. Caribbean people are very friendly to foreign people because tourism is the major industry on most islands. The government here frowns at any violence towards tourists. The caveat here is that most of these people are very close to each other and will not tolerate their friends getting verbally or physically abused. Most of the establishments or beaches you visit will be frequented by the people you might start a fight with and the shop owners will not support you. If you are attacked, most times no one will support you as a witness and there will be no justice.
Further to this, a lot of these countries have gangs and other criminal aspects, and you may get shot! Don’t waste your time with this type of behaviour, chill out and go to the beach. If someone really disrespects you, which is very unlikely tell the local tourist police. It will get dealt with swiftly as they want the tourists happy in these places.
Bring glass bottles to the beach
Not only for yourself, bu also for others going to the beach. Glass bottles can break, and in the white sand you will have a hard time finding all of the shattered pieces. It can cut you and your family, or it can cut a child later on that day. If you get open wounds on the beach you run the risk of infection either from the water or bacteria from something you step on.
Be too flashy or wear valuable jewelry
When you travel to any country, just don’t ask for it. If you are too flashy or are wearing expensive jewelry in really poor areas, you will always run the risk of being a target. The locals may be nice and polite, but if you are over the top like you are in LA or Vegas you will be attracting attention that you do not want from poor people. The way the media is nowadays depicts people being flashy as super rich, that chain or diamond ring you are wearing might mean the difference between you being left alone or lured and robbed.
When we travel to other countries, my wife and I do not even wear our wedding rings as to avoid negative attention. I want to fit in and be treated as much as we can like local people. That way we get to experience the country for all it is without the “rich tourist” over our heads.
Get into a vehicle that does not have a valid taxi sticker
Public transportation should always be researched before you go to any country. I always recommend taking a tour bus or taxi with a valid taxi license. When we travel anywhere we take the taxi license number down and the ID of the driver. By doing these things early in your conversation with a driver, you will command the respect of the driver. They will be less likely to mess with you because they can get into trouble if they do. Most of the countries in the Caribbean do not have Uber, they do have private drivers.
These are just people with cars, that know where to go. A lot of times you can get a driver around 20% cheaper than a taxi as they do not pay tax and are just making extra cash. This is a big risk, as you usually have no idea the direction you are travelling to. And you don’t know the people taking you there. You can run the risk of being kidnapped, raped, robbed or murdered. Who knows, it’s not worth the risk. If you can afford to go to the Caribbean, you should budget for safety.
Leave any establishment with a stranger
Either female or male this is not a good idea. Most of the Caribbean are third world countries, and the people here can be very poor. Young people in these countries often like to frequent tourist areas to try to take advantage of the tourists money. You can’t blame them if this is their means to feeding their families or supporting their lifestyles. While being in Caribbean countries I have been approached by both men and women to go and party off resort. The men usually will try to sway you by offering a place with better women and parties as well as drugs. The women will use their sexuality to try to lure you. When you leave you can be kidnapped, or robbed.
This is not always the case and it is not always the intentions of the people you meet, but you really have to watch out for it. You can spend an entire day with someone and they could be acting, when you leave you could be attacked. For women it can be even worse than that, as they can leave with someone and get sexually assaulted. More often than not they will never get justice because the they will leave the country and the country will not want negative publicity, so they will not advertise the assault anywhere.
Do not go to non tourist areas without knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into
When people are on vacation, they can sometimes be too trusting. This can be true in the Caribbean, as most of the people are very nice and caring in the tourist areas. The reason the people are being extra nice maybe not only because they are nice, it could be because you are their pay check! When I am away, I like to rent scooters or cars and explore around myself. I bring the entire family with me and it is a blast. I always make sure I know where I am going, as these countries always have a bad area that you should not ever go to. For example, if you go to Jamaica or Honduras, there are many very poor areas where gangs control the areas. You do not want to stop for directions in these areas as you may get robbed.
Complain too much about food
No one likes a person that complains too much. Caribbean people are chilled out and hate when someone takes them out of their chill mode. If you have a problem with the food, for example blood in your chicken. Politely ask them to put it back on and explain you prefer your chicken well done. This will avoid them feeling like you are personally attacking them or blaming them for the meal. They do not have the same minimum standards in many kitchens in the Caribbean that are expected in more developed countries. If the meal is still not up to your standards, pay for it and leave. Do not try to walk out without paying the bill no matter what. Chances are they will chase you or call the police on you. You don’t need a negative experience like that ruining your vacation.
Do Not be racist!
Caribbean people are a mix of cultures and races. There are white people, black people, Oriental people, aboriginal people, latino people and brown people. It doesn’t matter who you are speaking to, all of these people live together cohesively on the islands. Many families will be mixed with a mother from African origins and a father from Indian origins. Racism is not taken lightly in the Caribbean, and it has no place here or anywhere else in the world.