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The Caribbean is a tropical paradise, but there are a few things you need to know before your next sun vacation so that everything goes smoothly.

Palm trees, sandy beaches, turquoise water, great music … you can find all this and much more all over the Caribbean. Most of the islands are easy to get to and easy to travel to, but still there are a few things every traveler needs to know before heading to the Caribbean. These helpful tips will help you decide when and where to go, what to expect and what to do.

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Bring your passport … and US dollars

You will need a valid passport to enter any of the Caribbean islands – and to re-enter the United States – with the exception of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Most non-US islands also require a round-trip ticket or a rolling plane ticket. But don’t worry about the local currency. US dollars – but not coins – are accepted everywhere. Bring small bills, however, as you will almost always change in local money – even at an ATM. In fact, there are 13 different currencies in the Caribbean: The Bahamas, Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean Islands, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago all have their own dollars; Cuba and the Dominican Republic have pesos; the French islands use the euro; the Dutch islands have florins, though Aruba uses florin; and then there is the Haitian pumpkin.

PHOTO: Fokke Baarssen / Shutterstock

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English is widely spoken

English is widely understood, spoken, and written throughout the Caribbean, although French is the preferred language in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barth, St. Martin, and Haiti. You’ll also hear a French Creole patois spoken in Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Haiti. Both Dutch and English are spoken in the Dutch islands, while Papiamento (which adds Spanish, Portuguese, French, African and Arawakan elements to the Dutch / English mix) is the local patois in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Spanish is of course the most widely spoken language in the Dominican Republic and Cuba; but in Puerto Rico, a US territory, Spanish and English are both official languages. All in all, English speakers in the Caribbean should have no problem understanding them or being understood.

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