A vacation in the Cayman Islands is a priceless experience. But wise travelers anticipate the cost of their trip before leaving home to ensure that they spend their time enjoying the gorgeous weather, picturesque scenery, and colorful culture - not worrying about money. A little advance planning can go a long way toward making your vacation relaxing and carefree.
Lodging, transportation, and dining are obvious expenses, but smaller costs such as shopping for souvenirs, hospitality taxes, and gratuities should not be forgotten when planning the financial aspect of a vacation.
The peak tourist season runs from mid-November to May, and prices during this time reflect the increased demand for lodging. Because there are so many different types of accommodations available in the Cayman Islands, you should have no problem finding something to fit both your travel needs and your budget. Since all hotels and resorts in the Caymans are regulated by the government, all lodgings are held to very high standards. This tends to make things pricey, however, and even the least expensive rentals run about $100(USD) per night in the peak season. A nightly rate at a posh, all-inclusive resort may go as high as $450(USD) per night. Travelers should note that these estimates do not include taxes and service fees.
Also remember that the room rate generally reflects the services and amenities offered by a hotel. More expensive, all-inclusive resorts will accommodate guests with meals, activities, and a knowledgeable concierge staff, while more moderately priced lodgings may provide only a standard room. Vacationers should always be mindful of the amenities a specific hotel offers before reserving a room.
Money-conscious travelers should consider traveling during the off-season from June through October. Visitors often find great deals on accommodations during these months. Lodging rates are considerably lower, and many of the most popular tourist areas are free of their peak-season congestion.
Dining usually represents one of the largest expenses in any budget, although a wide range of prices makes accurate budgeting difficult. In the Cayman Islands, the exchange rate makes dining costs unusually high, and even the least expensive meals will cost around $15(USD) per person. Tabs at upscale restaurants may start at $50(USD) per person for dinner. Also remember to include drinks and between-meal snacks in your budget.
The safest financial bet is to determine how many meals you plan to eat at the more expensive establishments and budget accordingly. Breakfast and lunch generally cost less than dinner. If you'd like to try a high-class establishment but can't afford to go there for dinner, go for lunch instead.
Tipping the wait staff is very important at all restaurants. In the Cayman Islands, most restaurants include a service charge of 15 to 20 percent of the bill; additional tipping is unnecessary. However, if you feel you have received exemplary service, it is acceptable to leave more. Note that the service charge will be split and your server will not receive it all. As always, travelers should feel free to tip more or less based on the quality of service.
A well-planned budget will also include transportation costs. Most travelers do not limit themselves to just one mode of transport, so an accurate budget should allow for several options.
Taxis, which are only available on Grand Cayman, operate on fixed rates and can be quite expensive, particularly if additional charges apply. Buses are likewise only found on the largest of the Cayman Islands, but they are very inexpensive. A color-coded route system makes the service easy to use. Rental cars are available on each island and the rates tend to be reasonable. Visitors should factor in costs such as gasoline, parking fees, and the price of obtaining a drivers permit when budgeting to rent a vehicle. Inter-island ferry service is not offered in the Cayman Islands, but private boats are often available for island-hopping. Of course, a good budget should also leave room for leisure transportation such as bikes and mopeds. These can be rented on all three islands, oftentimes at car rental agencies and hotels.
Vacationers hoping to take advantage of the area's shops, museums, and nightspots should incorporate souvenir costs, admission prices, and cover charges into their financial planning.
Visitors should also bear in mind that their daily spending might fluctuate greatly, and that a day or two of shopping will probably comprise a higher percentage of their budget than the inevitable time spent soaking up the sun and scenery on the beautiful beaches.
The Cayman Islands are world-famous for their duty-free shopping and the unique items that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. Some of the most sought after local treasures include shell jewelry, woodcarvings, and flavorful island food. International travelers will also find great bargains on foreign luxury goods such as watches, perfume, and china. The lack of import and sales taxes means that many items are priced are up to 30 percent lower in the Caymans than elsewhere.
Shoppers should be aware that leaving the country with some of these items may require paying extra when going through customs. Americans are permitted to return with $800(USD) worth of untaxed goods and one liter of alcohol per person. A tax of four percent is added to the value of all items exceeding the duty-free limit. Canadian citizens are allowed to return with $300(USD) in merchandise and 40 ounces of liquor as long as they have been traveling outside the country for more than seven days. Holidaymakers from Britain will find themselves able to return with about $260(USD) worth of merchandise and one liter of alcohol per person. All other international visitors are advised to contact their own travel commissions or embassies to determine the regulations applicable to them.
Visitors over the age of 12 must pay a $25(USD) departure tax when leaving the Cayman Islands. This charge is often included in the price of plane or cruise ship tickets; otherwise, it must be paid in cash at the airport or exit marina. Check with your travel agent before leaving to find out if this charge has already been paid.
While the Cayman Islands have no sales tax, they do have a hospitality tax of 10 percent. This figure refers to the percentage of the total bill and will be assessed upon check-out. Another service charge of 5 to 10 percent - to take the place of tipping maids, bellhops, and wait staff - could also appear on the bill. Not all hotel bills will include the service fee, however, so travelers should review the bill carefully to determine whether additional tipping is necessary.
Travelers who anticipate their financial needs before leaving home enjoy the assurance of accounting for every aspect of their vacation. Smart budgeting allows visitors to plan their activities without worrying about running out of money.
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