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Since colonial times, the Caribbean has been a favorite place for foreign visitors. In the past 40 years, tourism to the area has swelled as never before, and today more then 6 million tourist visit the islands every year. Most visitors have a safe trip without difficulties. To help you have the same experience these tips have been prepared for you. Originally named the West Indies by explorers seeking a sea route to India, the Caribbean is the region of tropical islands in the Caribbean Sea situated between North and South America and east of Central America. The islands extend for nearly 1,700 miles from Cuba in the west to Barbados in the east.
If you plan to visit the most popular islands during high tourist season (from mid-December to mid-April), confirm your hotel reservations two to three months in advance. There are, however, lesser-known islands where you may be able to book first class accommodations on short notice. In addition, you can usually book reservations with ease during the off-season, but be aware of hurricane season which runs from June to November. Most of the islands in the Caribbean belong to one of 13 independent countries. In addition, several islands and groups of islands in the Caribbean are part of or dependent upon France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, or the United States. A directory of the major islands is follows later in this file.
CONSULAR INFORMATION SHEETS AND TRAVEL WARNINGS
Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings have replaced the old travel advisory system. There is a Consular Information Sheet for every country in the world. They cover entry regulations, health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, and drug penalties. A Travel Warning advises travelers not to go to a country because of dangerous conditions and/or because the ability to assist a U.S. citizen in distress there is severely limited. Consular Information Sheets for the Caribbean are available at the 13 regional U.S. passport agencies; from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad; or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818. On the envelope, write the name of the country or countries needed in the lower left corner.
In addition, there are three electronic methods to access Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings 24-hours a day. To listen to a recording of them, call 202-647-5225 from a touchtone phone. To receive them by fax, dial 202-647-3000 from a fax machine and follow the prompts from the machine's telephone receiver. To view or download the documents from a computer and modem, dial the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB) on 202-647-9225, setting your software to N-8-1. There is no charge to use these systems.
As you travel, keep abreast of local news coverage. If you are in an area experiencing civil unrest or a natural disaster, will be staying more than two weeks in an area, or if you are going to a place where communications are poor, you are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration takes only a few moments, and it may be invaluable in case of an emergency. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States.
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTSGoing: Every island in the Caribbean has entry requirements. Most countries allow you to visit for up to two or three months if you show proof of citizenship and a return or onward ticket. Haiti requires children under 18 to have a valid passport. If you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, many Caribbean countries require you to have a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. Some countries have an airport departure tax of up to $25. For authoritative information on a countrys entry and exit requirements and on its customs and currency regulations, contact its embassy, consulate, or tourist office in the United States. (A list of foreign embassies is available later in this document.)
Returning - Caution! Make certain that you can return to the United States with the proof of citizenship that you take with you. Although some Caribbean countries may allow you to enter with only a voter's registration card or a birth certificate to indicate citizenship, U.S. Immigration requires that you document both your U.S. citizenship and identity when you reenter the United States.
The best document to prove your U.S. citizenship is a valid U.S. passport.
Other documents of U.S. citizenship include an expired U.S. passport, a certified copy of your birth certificate, a Certificate of Naturalization, a Certificate of Citizenship, or a Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States. To prove your identity, either a valid driver's license or a government identification card that includes a photo or a physical description is acceptable.The loss or theft of a U.S. passport overseas should be reported to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. A lost or stolen birth certificate or driver's license cannot be replaced outside of the United States. There are several countries, most notably Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Jamaica, where airlines have refused to board American citizens with insufficient proof of U.S. citizenship. The resulting delays can be inconvenient as well as expensive.
BRINGING YOUR OWN BOAT OR PLANE
If you plan to arrive in the Caribbean in your own boat or plane, contact the embassy, consulate, or tourist office of each country you plan to visit to learn what is required for entry and exit. Besides title of ownership, most ports of entry will require proof of insurance coverage for the country you are entering. Some countries require a temporary import permit for your boat or plane.
Authorities in the Caribbean are familiar with U.S. regulations for documentation of air and sea craft. They will detain improperly documented craft that enter their territory. In some countries, authorities will confiscate firearms found on a boat or plane unless the owner or master can show proof that U.S. licensing and export procedures have been followed. In addition, some countries impose stiff prison terms for the importation of illegal firearms.
CUSTOMS, FIREARMS, AND CURRENCY REGULATIONS
Customs formalities are generally simple in the Caribbean. As a rule, one carton of cigarettes and one quart of liquor are permitted duty free into the islands. Most countries tax additional quantities at a high rate. In general, tourists are permitted to enter with other commodities required for personal use. If you wish to bring firearms into any country, inquire at the country's embassy or consulate about the permit required. As noted above, some countries in the Caribbean impose a stiff prison term for importing illegal firearms.
Currency regulations vary. Inquire about them when you check on entry requirements. In some countries, you must declare all currency and are not allowed to take out more money than you brought in. Other countries limit the amount of their own currency that can be brought in or taken out. Check with your travel agent about extra fees and taxes that may be overlooked in the tourist literature. Examples are hotel taxes, obligatory restaurant gratuities, and airport departure taxes.
When you convert your money to local currency, retain receipts. You will need to show them if you wish to reconvert money upon departure. It is usually advantageous to reconvert local currency before departure. Although U.S. currency is used along with local currency in some places, such as the Bahamas and Haiti, there may be an advantage to using local currency.
Information on health precautions for travelers can be obtained from local health departments, private doctors, or travel clinics. You may also call the Centers for Disease Control's 24-hour hotline on (404) 332-4559 for information on immunizations and health risks worldwide. Immunizations are recommended against diphtheria, hepatitis A, polio, and tetanus. Typhoid immunization is also recommended if you go to remote areas of Haiti or Jamaica. Polio is endemic in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic. Malaria is prevalent in Haiti and in the rural, non-tourist areas of the Dominican Republic that border Haiti. If you are going to a malaria area, take a weekly dose of chloroquine, beginning two weeks before your trip.
In addition, take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes because malaria can break through any preventative drug. Review your health insurance policy. U.S. medical insurance is often not valid outside the United States. Social Security Medicare does not provide payment for medical services obtained outside the U.S. In addition to medical insurance, consider obtaining insurance to cover evacuation in the event of an accident or serious illness. Air evacuation to the United States can easily cost $15,000 if you are not insured. There are short-term health and emergency assistance policies designed for travelers. Ask your travel agent about them or look for ads in travel publications. If you need medical attention during your trip, your hotel may be able to recommend the nearest clinic, hospital or doctor, or you can obtain a list of local medical services from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In a medical emergency, a U.S. consul can help you locate medical treatment.
The most prevalent health hazard in the Caribbean is one you can avoid -- overexposure to the sun. Use sunscreen and bring a shirt to wear over your bathing suit, especially if you plan to snorkel. Where the quality of drinking water is questionable, bottled water is recommended. Travelers to remote areas should boil or chemically treat drinking water.
Crime. The Caribbean has a somewhat slower pace than at home. However, thievery, purse snatching, and pick pocketing do happen, particularly in towns and at beaches. There has also been an increase in violent crimes such as rape and assault against tourists. In some places, U.S. passports and identity documents are especially attractive to thieves. Robbery of yachts is a problem in some marinas.Here are some precautions to keep in mind:
- Safety begins when you pack. Leave expensive jewelry, unnecessary credit cards, and anything you would hate to lose at home.
- Use a concealed money pouch or belt for passports, cash, and other valuables.
- To facilitate replacing a lost or stolen passport, carry two extra passport photos and a photocopy of your passport information page and other identity documents with you in a separate place from those items.
- Do not take valuables to the beach. When possible, use the hotel safe when you go to the beach or to town.
- When you enter a marina, register with the local government authorities.
Water Safety. Make certain that sports equipment, including scuba
equipment, that you rent or buy meets international safety standards.
If you use a pool or beach without a lifeguard, exercise extreme caution.
The surf on the Atlantic side of an island can be rough; the Caribbean side
is usually calmer. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for
Americans in the Caribbean.
Do not dive into unknown bodies of water because hidden rocks or shallow
depths can cause serious injury or death. In some places, you may need to
wear sneakers in the water for protection against sea urchins.
Most countries in the Caribbean have strict laws against the use,
possession, or sale of narcotics. Foreigners arrested for possession of
even small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or other illegal drugs are often
charged and tried as international traffickers. The penalty for carrying
narcotics into or out of the country can be 20 years imprisonment. There
are usually expensive fines as well. In some places, there is no bail and
there are long judicial delays where you can spend more than two years
awaiting trial. Conditions in most Caribbean prisons do not meet even
minimum U.S. standards.
If you carry prescription drugs, keep them in their original container,
clearly labeled with the doctor's name, pharmacy, and contents.
When you travel abroad, you are subject to the laws of the country you are
in. If you find yourself in serious difficulty while abroad, contact a
consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. consuls
cannot serve as attorneys or give legal assistance, and they cannot get you
out of jail. They can, however, provide lists of local attorneys and
advise you of your rights under local law. If you are detained, a consul
can monitor your case and make sure you are treated fairly under local law.
DRIVING IN THE CARIBBEAN
If you plan to rent a car, be aware that you drive on the right in Haiti,
You may wish to ride as a passenger for a while before trying to drive
Driving conditions and local driving patterns are different from the
U.S.and some other countries.
Many roads are narrow or winding, signs may not be in English, and in some
places, domestic animals roam freely. Defensive driving is a must.
SHOPPING: AVOID WILDLIFE PRODUCTS
Beware of purchasing a live animal or plant or an item made from one. Many
such items are prohibited from international traffic. You risk
confiscation and a possible fine by U.S. Customs if you attempt to import
certain wildlife or wildlife products. In particular, watch out for and
- All products made from sea turtles, including turtle leather boots,
tortoise-shell jewelry, and sea turtle oil cosmetics.
- Fur from spotted cats.
- Feathers and feather products from wild birds.
- Birds, stuffed or alive, such as parrots or parakeets.
- Crocodile and caiman leather.
"Country Data" "Passport and Visa requirements" "Electrical requirements" "Public Holidays in Haiti" "Points of Contact"
"Passport and Visa requirements"
"Public Holidays in Haiti"
"Points of Contact"