The important thing to remember when visiting tropical countries in the Caribbean is that their etiquette and rules of behaviour usually originates from their mother countries. As the Caribbean has influences from England and France it is always a good idea to check with your travel agent, hotel concierge or cruise staff (if you are cruising) what is considered acceptable behaviour

The following rules of etiquette, and some common sense, will assist travellers visiting the Caribbean to have a smooth and trouble free trip.

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Be patient

Island time in the Caribbean moves at a slower pace than what you may be used to. Be patient and well mannered – you will get what you want, it will just take a longer than what you may be used to at home. Don’t expect locals to be on time – punctuality is not their strong suit as they may be on “Island” time.

Don’t assume everyone speaks English

Popular tourist destinations such as Puerto Rico have many residents who only speak Spanish. Some areas in the French Caribbean would also appreciate if tourists learnt a few basic words in French.

Swimwear should only be worn at the beach and pool

Walking into supermarkets or malls only in swimwear and flip flops is frowned upon. Wearing shorts, short skirts or sleeveless tops in a church is considered inappropriate.

Respect the sea turtles

Be respectful of nature and the animals native to the Islands. Don’t touch the turtles!.

No fires on the beach

Bonfires on the beach are illegal in many parts of the Caribbean.

Don’t wear camouflage clothing

Several countries in the Caribbean (such as St Lucia, Jamaica and Barbados) ban the wearing of camouflage by people if they are not members of the military. So avoid fines – camouflage clothing in the tropics is never a good idea.

Haggle at the local markets or merchants at the beach

Expect to pay at least 20% less than the asking price. Therefore try and haggle for half the asking price and take it from there. Always remain calm and friendly with the vendor. Always remain polite and take your time with the situation – sometimes it’s a test of patience to see who gives in first.

You may be asked if you’d like to buy some “hash”

Marijuana can be readily available in some parts of the Caribbean and tourists have reported being approached by dealers asking if they’d wish to purchase some. Whilst it is available, doesn’t mean it’s legal. Penalties for possession, acquisition and trafficking of any kind of illicit drugs are severe and can lead to fines, imprisonment or deportation.

Greeting etiquette

A handshake and a warm smile are generally an acceptable greeting throughout the Caribbean. Maintain eye contact to show you are genuine. A hug or a kiss are generally reserved for family or close friends.

It is considered rude not to acknowledge people

Always say “Hello” and “Good day” to people such as bus drivers, cashiers at the supermarket, waiters, etc. Good manners are always welcome anywhere you go.

Gift giving is simple

Wine, flowers or chocolates are always welcomed. Something from your home country is always appreciated. Avoid giving expensive gifts.

Dining etiquette is generally relaxed

Meals are often served family style or buffet style. If you are invited to a home it’s best to dress smart and follow cues from your host as to when to sit and when to start eating.

Tipping is welcomed

Wages in the service industry are quite low in the Caribbean so if you get quality service it’s always good etiquette to tip.