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10 tips for travelling the Caribbean on a budget

Caribbean getaways needn't cost you the earth. These tips and tricks for travelling the Caribbean on a budget mean you'll still be eating the best jerk chicken, having one rum punch a day and seeing some of the regions most beautiful beaches.

1. Pick one of the cheapest places to travel in the Caribbean

If we’re going by geographic area, Mexico, Colombia and other countries in Central America are still part of the Caribbean, as they border the Caribbean Sea. Statistically, these are also some of the most affordable places to travel in the Caribbean too.

Cheapest areas to travel in the Caribbean:

Top tip: By using Skyscanner Hotels and searching for ‘Caribbean Sea’ or ‘Caribbean Islands’, and setting the filter to display ‘Low to High (price)’ you can narrow down your search to include the most affordable places to stay.

2. Fly during the off-season

If you travel during December-March, you’re flying into peak season and peak prices. If you can wait until mid-April onwards, you’ll save on your accommodation as it becomes much less busy. Plus, visiting during the end of April will almost guarantee you the same weather, before the summer’s humidity kicks in.

3. Drink the local spirits

If you continue to drink Coronas, Heinekens or Budweisers, you’ll be paying a premium. Most of the islands produce their own beer and, of course, rum – so take advantage. If you’re in Jamaica, the local sup is Red Stripe, Barbados’ is Mount Gay Rum (it costs £7 for a local bottle, bargain), Carib comes from Trinidad and Tobago and Sol is a light Mexican beer that goes well with sun, food, or just about anything.

4. And eat the local food, too!

See the local stands on roadsides, in the beaches and in the cities? That’s where you’ll find dinner for a few bob. Chicharrones (deep fried pork rinds) are popular in Cuba and in the Dominican Republic. Oistin’s Friday night fish fry (Barbados) does legendary fish cakes, to be eaten off the foil tray with fingers and a cold beer. Our guide to Barbados on a budget is mostly comprised of eating at Oistin’s. Empanadas can be found almost everywhere, but Jamaica, Cuba and Colombia are particularly good at the beef-filled varieties. If you’re a fan of jerk chicken, you’re in luck. Scotchie’s serve up glistening hot smoked wings and legs street side at Ocho Rio in Jamaica, for less than a few Pounds a head.

5. Pack everything you need

Yes, we’re typically advocates of packing light. However, if you’re on a Caribbean island and you need medicine, sunscreen, shampoo, or anything else that won’t be manufactured there, they will have imported it. This means you might be forking out £20 for a bottle of SPF that might cost you £7 at home. Check out our essential packing list to make sure you’ve got everything.

6. Stick to ‘budget-friendly’ activities

Scuba diving and adventure sports aren’t the cheapest ways to spend your holiday, so instead, sink your teeth into local culture, national parks and beaches. One of the best parties in the Caribbean takes place on Shirley Heights in Antigua every Sunday, however, it’s $16USD to enter. Instead, try another day so you can watch the sun set over the English harbour and Galleon Beach. Viñales is a town in western Cuba with plenty of hikes and tobacco farms you can tour, and Trinidad, southern Cuba, is a colonial town that’s a treat to walk around for free. Willemstad (Curacao), Cartagena (Colombia) and Santo Domingo (Dominican) have equally pretty brightly coloured towns for getting lost in.

7. Island hop

The Caribbean is one of the most popular places to sail in the world, and thus the marinas are often lined with multi-million dollar yachts – that need deckhands. Whilst it might not be an ideal way to travel with young children, it’s definitely an interesting way to see the Caribbean, and go sailing for a fraction of the price. If you find a crew through this website, you might be cooking, cleaning or skippering, depending on where your skills lie, in return for a few weeks on board.

8. Go off the grid

The cheapest way to travel is always to live like a local. In Cuba, you can do so with casa particulares. Many of these you can’t book online, but if you wait till you arrive you can find bargains for $30USD (or Cuban Dollars) per night. There are also a number of camping spots around the Caribbean. At Ivan’s Stress Free Bar & White Bay Campground on the British Virgin Islands, camp sites start at $20USD a night – arguably the cheapest place to stay on the BVI.

9. Split expenses with other travellers

Whether you’re in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast or guest house, socialise with the other travellers. Not only will this mean new friends to share a bottle of rum with, but you’ll be able to split taxis and guides. These are the best ways of getting around most Caribbean islands (the buses are cheap, but unreliable). If you’re wanting to get from A to B on Barbados, Antigua, St Kitts or Jamaica, this is going to be one of the most cost friendly ways to do it.

Search for cheap flights to the Caribbean

10. Learn about the best currency for your island

The Caribbean Islands use a variety of different currencies. If you plan on travelling around a number of islands, it’s worth taking US Dollars as well as your credit card and local currency in case you need to exchange and an ATM is not available. Similarly, if you’re travelling to Cuba, it’s worth getting hold of the local currency (pesos) instead of the tourist currency (convertible pesos). Likewise, the French islands of St Barts, Martinique, Saint Martin, Guadeloupe and French Guiana all use the Euro.

Ready to book that Caribbean holiday? Check flights to the Caribbean, including Barbados, Jamaica and Cuba.

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*Sorted by the average hotel price for 2 adults found on Skyscanner.

*Published May 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.