On a Bud­get

You don’t have to be a high roller to af­ford a Caribbean hol­i­day. Read our tips for bag­ging a bar­gain and you’ll soon be on your way

Your Guide to the Caribbean - - Contents -

Lofty as­pi­ra­tions don’t al­ways re­quire a ridicu­lously huge bud­get. With a lit­tle plan­ning, you could be feel­ing the Caribbean’s pow­dery sand be­tween your toes sooner than you think.

The Caribbean peo­ple love to party. So put on your danc­ing shoes and join them in their street pa­rades and car­ni­vals. Dance to reg­gae, soca and steel pan and soak up the Caribbean vibe – all for free. There’s a car­ni­val or fes­ti­val tak­ing place some­where in the Caribbean vir­tu­ally ev­ery month.

Trinidad’s car­ni­val (Fe­bru­ary) is one of the most fa­mous, but there’s also Junkanoo (De­cem­ber – Jan­uary and June – July) in The Ba­hamas, Bata­bano (May) and Pi­rates Week (Novem­ber) in the Cay­man Is­lands, plus plenty on other is­lands and coun­tries, in­clud­ing St. Kitts, St. Vin­cent and The Gre­nadines and Mar­tinique. Check the var­i­ous tourist of­fice web­sites for dates.

Bar­ba­dos’ Su­gar and Rum Sea­son, which runs un­til 15 April, fea­tures rum dis­tillery tours, cook­ery classes, and other events, some of which are free.

Street food

You don’t have to eat in a fine-din­ing restau­rant for it to taste good, though there are plenty of gourmet op­tions on is­lands such as Bar­ba­dos, An­guilla, Mar­tinique, Cu­raçao, the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and Saint-martin.

You’ll find cheap street food, beach shacks and fish fries ev­ery­where. Tuck into mouth-wa­ter­ing jerk chicken with rice and peas in Ja­maica, lechón aside (spit-roasted suck­ling pig) in Puerto Rico, callaloo stew in Trinidad and Tobago, cabrito (goat stew) in Montser­rat, and pep­per pot (meat, pep­per and cin­na­mon stew) in Guyana, its na­tional dish. And do head to one of the weekly fish fries that take place in Bar­ba­dos (Oistins), Saint Lu­cia (Anse La Raye), Turks and Caicos (The Bight Park) and Tobago (Sun­day School) to tuck into de­li­cious seafood fresh from the sea.

Stay lo­cal

What bet­ter way to get to know an is­land than through its peo­ple? When in Ja­maica, con­sider the is­land’s ‘Meet the Peo­ple’ pro­gramme which matches vis­i­tors to lo­cals with sim­i­lar in­ter­ests or pro­fes­sions – it is com­pletely free.

A stay with a fam­ily in a home­s­tay – a Caribbean-style B&B – is also a cost­ef­fec­tive way to meet lo­cal peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ence their life­style. You’ll also get the low­down on the best places to visit, away from the tourist trail. Homes­tays are also avail­able in Ja­maica, Gre­nada, Guyana, Cu­raçao, Puerto Rico and St. Eus­tatius. Cuba’s casa par­tic­u­lares pro­vide value-for-money ac­com­mo­da­tion in a di­verse range of prop­er­ties, such as a to­bacco farm or a colo­nial house by the sea.

All-in­clu­sive

All-for-one-price pack­ages that in­clude food, drinks and ac­tiv­i­ties can work out cheaper for fam­i­lies and sports en­thu­si­asts. Bud­get­ing up­front means there are no nasty sur­prises on check­out. How­ever, check what the pack­age in­cludes: premium spir­its and mo­torised wa­ter-sports can some­times cost ex­tra.

You will find all-in­clu­sive pack­ages to suit ev­ery bud­get in is­lands across the Caribbean, but the con­cept is

par­tic­u­larly well es­tab­lished in Ja­maica, An­tigua, The Ba­hamas, Cuba, Saint Lu­cia, St. Vin­cent and The Gre­nadines and Turks and Caicos.

Some lux­ury re­sorts now in­clude 24hour din­ing, gourmet meals, and din­earound op­tions (for ex­am­ple, San­dals in Saint Lu­cia and Am­re­sorts in Ja­maica). Also, keep your eye out for spe­cial deals such as free nights, kids eat free, and board up­grades.

Pig­gy­back your hol­i­day

Those on a bud­get can opt for the cheap­est ac­com­mo­da­tion at a large re­sort. For ex­am­ple, guests stay­ing at The Beach at At­lantis Par­adise Is­land Ba­hamas can en­joy all the fa­cil­i­ties and

en­ter­tain­ment of the mega re­sort.

Work for your keep

One of the cheap­est ways to is­land hop around the Caribbean is to work your pas­sage on a yacht. Va­can­cies are ad­ver­tised on the quay­side in sail­ing hotspots like An­tigua, Mar­tinique and the

Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands. Or hop on lo­cal pas­sen­ger fer­ries, a cheap way to get around and great for peo­ple watch­ing.

Spread­ing the cost

Book­ing a villa with friends and fam­ily helps spread the cost and it’s even bet­ter if the rental comes with a chef and house­keeper, as many prop­er­ties do in the Caribbean. As the party size goes up, the cost goes down, with some vil­las sleep­ing up to 20 peo­ple.

Is­lands with a good stock of vil­las in­clude An­guilla, Turks and Caicos, An­tigua, the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, Belize, The Ba­hamas, Bar­ba­dos, Ja­maica, the Cay­man Is­lands, Gre­nada, Puerto Rico, Mar­tinique, St. Maarten/ Saint-martin and St. Vin­cent and The Gre­nadines.

Good tim­ing

It is cheaper to hol­i­day out­side high sea­son (Novem­ber to March/mid-april). Prices are low­est in sum­mer – the so-called rainy sea­son – mak­ing the Caribbean a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the Mediter­ranean dur­ing these months. •

All-for-one pack­ages that in­clude food, drinks and ac­tiv­i­ties can work out cheaper for fam­i­lies and sports en­thu­si­asts. Bud­get­ing up­front means there are no nasty sur­prises at check-out

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