Cayman Islands Vacation Tips
What to Pack
Cayman is largely an outdoor and casual environment. The dress code is correspondingly casual – shorts, tees and polos, sandals and sundresses are all acceptable wear. Comfort is the keyword and light loose fabric is recommended. Evenings may cool off enough to warrant a light sweater, especially during our cool dry winter months. The essential accessories for your vacation are beach gear, including hat and sunglasses, swim wear and sunscreen. Water sports gear is easy to rent and widely available if you don’t have your own. If you happen to forget something, don’t worry – you can find anything you need right here on island at our well-stocked sports supply, grocery and clothing stores.
Where to Stay
Water sports is what Cayman has built its substantial tourism industry and reputation on, so it may well be worth it to you to budget for water front accommodations. Numerous sizes, types, styles and prices are available on Cayman’s beaches and shores – villas, condos, hotels, resorts, houses, apartments, guesthouses and cottages. There is similar variety on inland settings, where you can save by not being directly on the beach. Since you are never more than 2 miles from the water anywhere on any of the three Cayman Islands, enjoying our marine environment is easy no matter where you stay.
Seven Mile Beach has the largest number of accommodations and you will pay more here for the easy access not only to the beach, but to shopping and dining as well. Many Seven Mile Beach properties are within easy walking distance of duty free stores and a range of Grand Cayman’s best restaurants. Luxury properties are also springing up in George Town, South Sound and West Bay.
Rum Point and East End have attracted visitors for many years. Remote, quiet, and relaxed, these locations also have a range of accommodation types and prices. Though you will have to drive farther to find groceries, you will not lack for restaurants, water sports concessions and other vacation appeals.
Health and Safety
Sunburn is your biggest health worry. Although it may not feel much hotter than home to you, the sun is stronger here because we are closer to the equator. Don’t ruin your vacation with a sunburn. Water and food meet international standards and there are no prevalent diseases in the country.
Cayman has an extremely low crime rate and serious, violent crime is rare. Regulations keep vendors off the beach and away from other tourist hangouts, so you won’t be bothered by hawkers. Crimes of opportunity do occur, so keep an eye on your valuables.
The Government applies a room tax of 10% which will automatically be added to your room charge. Airport departure taxes used to be collected at the counter, but are now rolled into the cost of your airline ticket. There is also an environmental fee of $4.50 per day collected on car rentals. Beyond this, Cayman has no taxes, so you will not pay sales tax on any purchase or expenditure in the Cayman Islands.
From the beginning, Cayman has been a family friendly destination. The activities available on the island appeal to all ages and most are suitable for family groups. The water sports industry is well operated and regulated, so you can feel safe with children of any age. Many of the resorts operate educational programs for children. And baby-sitting services can also be arranged through your hotel concierge. There are no casinos nor any risqué entertainments, so the country appeals to a reputable tourist base.
The official currency is the Cayman Islands dollar – noted as CI$ or KYD. The colourful bills are issued in denominations of $100, $50, $25, $10, $5 and $1. Coins are issued in .25, .10. ,05 and .01 cents. US dollars are universally accepted throughout all three islands. Indeed some pricing, especially in duty free stores, is done in US dollars. However, change will be given in CI dollars.
The exchange rate is fixed at US$1.00 = .80 CI or CI$1.00 = US$1.25. This is the standard rate for retail transactions. This means that a US$20 bill equals CI$16.
American visitors take note – the CI note is $25, not $20 – so if you leave a $25 bill for a $17 meal you are leaving an $8 tip, not $3.
Credit and debit cards as well as travellers checks are also widely accepted and may be used at ATM machines which are located at each bank branch, most grocery stores, and in many shopping centers.
Canadian dollars and pounds sterling can be exchanged for CI dollars at local banks. If you work with any other currency, it is best to exchange it for US dollars before you come. Typical banking hours are 9:00 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 4:30 p.m. on Friday. A few bank branches are open on Saturday until early afternoon.
The Cayman Islands does not observe daylight savings time and operate year-round on Eastern Standard Time. The time zone is 5 hours behind (-5) Greenwich Mean Time.
The Cayman Islands are blessed with innumerable romantic spots for couples, whatever your shared or individual passions. Hold hands, take photos, savour the moment but do remember; this is a Christian country and heavy petting is not acceptable in public.
Unlike some islands in the Caribbean, women travellers are safe here. By dressing scantily away from the beach you may attract some unwanted male attention and comments; but if you tell someone to go away, they will. The dancing in clubs can be raunchy and you may have men trying to ‘bump and grind’. Again, if they are bothering you, tell them so. In the unlikely event they don’t respect your wishes, appeal to nearby people or bar staff if you think you need assistance. In general, the men in the Cayman Islands – wherever they originate from – are courteous to women. However, this is the modern world and you need to take the basic precautions and leave home armed with common sense. Never put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, and tell people where you are going.
Shorts and casual wear are appropriate at most restaurants, though shoes and shirts are required. Upscale restaurants may request long pants for dinner. Skimpy beach wear is not acceptable beyond the beach or pool. Out of courtesy to the residents of this traditional country, please cover up in public. Note that topless bathing is prohibited by law and there are no nude beaches.
The Cayman Islands use the same electrical standards as the US - 110 volts, 60 Hz. Any travel items such as hair dryers, electric razors, phone and camera chargers, and laptops from the US will work here.
The legal age for drinking alcohol in the Cayman Islands is 18 years. Bars and restaurants close at midnight on Saturday and Sunday nights in deference to Sunday being the national Sabbath.
Starting in 2009, smoking is banned in all public places, though an exception is made for cigar bars.
Tipping follows the American custom and is customarily 15%. Some restaurants will automatically add the service charge to your bill – check before you leave extra to avoid double tipping. Tips are shared among the wait staff and kitchen help.
Tipping is also customary at salons, dive and water sports operations, and for the young kids bagging groceries at the supermarket.
Hotels may add a housekeeping and resort charge to you room rate.
Cayman’s modern infrastructure delivers clean and safe water to all areas of the island. Tap water is safe to drink and cook with.
Public buses operate along Seven Mile Beach and throughout Grand Cayman’s five districts. They are mini vans identified by a colored number circle on the front of the bus. You can flag them down anywhere and be dropped off anywhere, as there are no official bus stops. One way fare of any distance is CI$2 or US$2.50 per person. Taxis can be arranged through your hotel.
The Cayman Islands are a traditional and somewhat conservative nation and proudly Christian. Hospitality and friendliness are key to personal interactions. Time-honoured courtesies such as saying “Ma’am” and “Sir” and greeting others with salutations before engaging in business are still engrained.
Narcotics are illegal and enforcement is strict. Do not bring drugs into the Cayman Islands.
When coming to the Cayman Islands keep your ‘gaydar’ on low, and if you are travelling as a couple you will need to be completely discreet. As a fundamentally Christian society, and not an overly progressive one, homosexuality here is illegal and not tolerated. There are no gay-friendly hotels, resorts, bars or clubs.