There’s plenty of information out there on what you should do when you are traveling to the Caribbean: what to see, where to go, what to eat, etc. But there also are some pitfalls to avoid -- cultural and otherwise -- if you want to make your vacation as pleasant and conflict-free as it can be:
One or two nice outfits for evening should be more than sufficient for more Caribbean vacations. The rest should consist mostly of light shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. Especially with checked-bag fees, you’ll want to err on the side of packing light. Plus, you’ll need to save some room for souvenirs, right?
Don't wear camouflage clothing.
Despite their Caribbean vibe, these Atlantic (yes, Atlantic) islands are subject to cooler temperatures in the summer, not to mention that the water can get chilly in the off-season. (Ditto for the Florida Keys.) Of course, the weather in Bermuda and the Bahamas is likely to be milder and more pleasant than up north in January or February, but you should at least have a “plan B” as an alternative to the beach if you visit these destinations in the winter, whether that’s playing golf or tennis, getting pampered at a spa, shopping, going on hikes or tours, or visiting local museums or historic sites.
From ackee and salt cod for breakfast to mofongo for lunch and conch ceviche at dinnertime (not to mention a bountiful selection of fresh, local tropical fruit), the Caribbean has a rich culinary heritage to explore. You can get plenty of scrambled eggs and bacon at home -- be adventurous!
Don't wear your bathing suit into town or, worse, to church.
Believe it or not, the Caribbean can a pretty conservative place, which you’ll see on Sunday mornings when local residents dress to the max to attend church services. It varies from island to island, but generally speaking it is frowned upon to wear revealing beach gear when you aren’t on the beach. At least throw on a cover-up or a t-shirt, and if you do plan to attend church, long pants (or skirts) plus a button-down shirt or modest top are most appropriate. Also, it should go without saying, but ... ditto for topless or bottomless!
Don't expect everyone to party with you.
Again, don’t mistake the party atmosphere at your resort or at the bar as the norm everywhere. Caribbean residents don’t all have a perpetual rum buzz, and not everyone is getting high and listening to reggae. Most are hard-working and -- while warm and fun-loving by nature -- save their partying for weekends or after work ... just like you do back home.
In some countries, yes, but even in popular destinations like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, a majority of locals speak only Spanish -- particularly outside tourist areas -- and in the French Caribbean (Martinique, Guadeloupe, etc.) it really helps to know at least a few words of French.
Don’t be shy about haggling with beach merchants and in local markets.
The initial price on those souvenir t-shirts and crafts at the Straw Market in Nassau and elsewhere is always set higher than vendors expect to receive, and frankly the tourist who pays full price is looked at as a bit of a rube. Look to pay at least 20 percent less than the asking price.