The Caribbean is definitely a hot and appealing travel destination all year round and whilst the Caribbean may seem like an expensive vacation, some islands actually have a great variety of affordable activities, accommodation and car rentals that allow visitors to explore without breaking the bank.
The Bahamas are one of the more affordable of the Caribbean destinations simply because of the huge variety of hotels, resorts, restaurants and adventures these islands have to offer. For the frugal traveller, the Bahamas offers many affordable 2 and 3 star hotels, guesthouses and inns that are neat, clean and located close to the beautiful white sands and palms of the Western Esplanade and the capital of Nassau. The larger islands of Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama has the largest variety of accommodation whereas the smaller islands such as Bimini, Eleuthera and The Exumas have limited and basic accommodation, but is hugely affordable.
The Bahamas also has a huge number of boats, cruises and charters to explore the 3,000 islets and individual cays, so the competition is fierce and the prices can usually be negotiated down. Much of the Bahamas activities are cantered around the beaches with jet skiing, windsurfing, parasailing, snorkelling and scuba diving on offer, with each activity really quite affordable if you shop around for the best rental price or even take your own equipment to avoid rental costs. Shop around before settling on one and make sure you don’t scrimp on insurance or safety.
The Bahamas also has bit of history, with Columbus landing in 1492 and inhabitation by the Lucayans and of course the British, which makes this island nation all the more interesting for travellers. Visiting the capital Nassau is easy on the wallet as transport is cheap and plentiful, especially if you agree the price up front. Experience the stunning architecture, the change of guard and the tiny shops and cafes that line the streets. Snap away while exploring the beautiful Paradise Island and the popular Hog Island light house. It is a good idea to rent a little boat for yourself, quite an affordable feat if you head out early in the day; and head to Nassau so you can enjoy the journey and sights. The Atlantis is definitely worth a visit but quite expensive for those looking to enjoy the islands on a budget, unless you strike it rich of course!
The Bermuda islands are full of beautiful beaches and lots of history, such as Hamilton and St. George (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which are full of fascinating architecture that can be explored at leisure. Pay a visit to the St.Peter’s Church or head to the Maritime Museum for a historical recap of the region. Bermuda was discovered and claimed for the Spanish in 1505 and today remains a British colony, since taking control in 1707. The island retains a distinct English air about it and the culture is evident in the local architecture, buildings and of course traditional afternoon tea! Explore the Crystal and Fantasy Caves, Devil's Hole Aquarium and the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. History buffs can walk the Bermuda Railway Trail and explore some of the 100 forts on the island such as Fort St. Catherine, Whale Bay Battery and the Martello Tower.
The Bermudas are actually 181 islands in total and are especially great if you are traveling with children since the islands have their own aquarium, zoo and underwater exploration institute. If you want to skip spending at these destinations, roam the coast line to find interesting, old ship wrecks and affordable water sports. Just like the Bahamas, the Bermudas also have quite a number of affordable hotels. The island also has a large number of parks and gardens which are great for picnics and a lazy afternoon in the sun. The beaches have pink sand and are plentiful, spend a day snoozing and snorkelling at Horseshoe Bay Beach, check out Clearwater Beach for a family trip with lifeguards on duty and small children will enjoy the shallow waters of Shelly Bay.
The former British colony of Barbados has a lot to offer worldwide travellers. From water sports to historical relics to exciting cuisines and culture, Barbados has a museum, a prison and the Harrison caves. With beautiful botanical gardens and a happening night life, this traditionally rich island is always bustling with fun, local activities and events. Visit the Sunbury Great House and head to one of the local cafes to enjoy cheap and tasty food with lots of calypso and reggae.
Activity enthusiasts will be pleased to know that there are plenty of land-based activities on offer in Barbados such as tennis, golf, cricket, polo, horse racing and hiking. And of course with such a huge array of beaches there are plenty of watersports on offer such as scuba diving, sailing, surfing, windsurfing and parasailing. Families can explore the Botanical Gardens and try their hand at cricket and adults can try the local tipple at Mount Gay Rum Distillery Ltd (I’ve been, believe me its strong but so good!)
When heading to the Caribbean, pack light but bring all the basics to avoid unnecessary costs. A first aid box, sunblock, sunglasses, towels, shampoo and beach wear are a must have. The tap water is usually safe to drink but check with your hotel or guide. Visa processes are generally swift but apply a month in advance to avoid delays and check with your embassy for details on the process. Pack along a jacket for the chillier nights and bring along a few formal outfits for evenings out.
By Julie Bowman