Caribbean travel 101


To help you plan, here’s a little bit of information on the Caribbean that may be useful.

The history

The word "Caribbean" has multiple uses with the principal ones being geographical and political. The Caribbean can also be expanded to include territories with strong cultural and historical connections to salvery, European colonisation and the plantation system. Then we have the United Nation’s geoscheme for the Americas which presents the Caribbean as a distinct region within the Americas.


The Location

Physiographically, the Caribbean region is mainly a chain of islands surrounding the Caribbean Sea. To the north, the region is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, the Starits of Florida and the Northern Atlantic Oceann, which lies to the east and northeast. To the south lies the coastline of the continent of South America.


The weather

The climate of the area is tropical to subtropical and the region enjoys year-round sunshine, divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons. The latter six months of the year being wetter than the first half.


Hurricane season is from June to November, but they occur more frequently in August and September and are more common in the northern islands of the Caribbean. Hurricanes that sometimes batter the region usually strike northwards of Grenada and to the west of Barbados. The principal hurricane belt arcs to northwest of the island of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean.


Water temperatures vary from 31°C to 22°C all around the year. The air temperature is warm, in the 20s and 30s °C. The northern islands, like the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, may be influenced by continental masses during winter months, such as cold fronts.


The languages

The languages of the Caribbean reflect the region's diverse history and culture. There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean:


  • Spanish (official language of Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico)
  • French (official language of Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin)
  • English (official language of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • Dutch (official language of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, and Suriname)
  • Haitian Creole (official language of Haiti)
  • Papiamento (a Portuguese and Spanish-based Creole language) (official language of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)

    Dozens of the creole languages of the Caribbean are widely used informally among the general population and there are also a few additional smaller indigenous languages.


    The documents required?

    With a variety of entities making up the Caribbean, the visa requirements are not standard. Good news for South African passport holders is that neither the Dominican Republic, nor the Bahamas or the Turk and Caicos islands currently require visas. Some of the other areas allow you to get a visa at the airport and in some instances your multiple entry Schengen visa is suitable. Our advice is to check with your travel agent when you book as they are always up to speed with the latest requirements.


    Despite the Caribbean being around 6 hours behind South Africa, if you choose to holiday at an all-inclusive resort such as with Club Med (it’s advisable to opt for all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, where the quality to price ratio is good – meaning, the quality you get for the money you spend is good value), you don’t need to worry too much about jetlag! “Our resorts always have relaxing areas or fun activities on offer – so if you want to sleep into the new time zone, or ‘power through’ with activities and parties, we’ve got you covered! So search ‘Caribbean’ on our website and find out more about the individual resorts. Our G.Os cannot wait to share their Caribbean paradise with you!’ says Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa.

    We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
    In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
    Subscribe to News24