ATM machines are available throughout the island and may be found at banks, supermarkets and service stations. Fees will vary and you may want to check with your credit card company and the local bank that owns the machine to ask about their charges.
Unless you're Canadian, you probably won't see many familiar banks as there are no US retail banks represented. Retail banks include:
Typical bank hours are Monday to Thursday 9:00am - 4:00pm and on Friday 9:00am - 4:30pm. Some banks offer extended closing hours (up to 6:00pm) through the week at select branch locations. Cayman National Bank has limited Saturday banking services at some of its locations.
If you are visiting during the rainy season which runs from May thru November it is advisable to bring some kind of bug spray or a skin lotion containing an insect repellant such as DEET. Mosquitoes are the more prevalent pest and usually feed at dusk and dawn. Visitors are more likely to be "bitten" at sun-down and should consider staying indoors during that first hour or two after the sun has set, especially if they have sensitive skin or an allergy to insect bites. Seemingly microscopic flying bugs known as sand flies come out at sunset and seem particularly drawn to the scalp. They are able to penetrate patio screens and you might consider using the time immediately after sunset to dine inside in order to avoid them. The same repellant used for mosquitoes will also be effective against sand flies. A lot more information on mosquitoes can be found here.
The major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted at most local tourist related businesses, as well as at many others, including supermarkets. You may be asked to show a picture ID when using your credit card.
Crime and Safety
You may have been told that the Cayman Islands are crime free, but unfortunately that is not the case. We have our share of crime in all categories and you should not assume any different. Secure your valuables at all times, and in particular, don't leave them laying around on the beach. Don't go to sleep with your windows or doors open or unlocked, especially if you are on the ground floor. Avoid walking alone after 11:00pm and don't accept rides from strangers. Be safe by being smart!
The Cayman Islands has its own currency, the Cayman Islands dollar. At the local exchange rate, which does not fluctuate, US$100 is worth $80 in Cayman currency. US currency is accepted everywhere so there is no need to exchange your US cash for Cayman dollars. Please note that most retailers do not give US change when you make purchases using US dollars.
Effective January 1st, 2013 the international departure tax for visitors traveling by air is US$37.50 and this tax should already be included in the price of your ticket. Children under the age of 12 are exempt.
The Dialysis Unit at the government-run hospital in George Town serves locals and visitors, including cruise ship passengers. It is open Monday to Saturday and accommodates up to ten (10) dialysis patients at a time. To book dialysis treatment while visiting, please contact the dialysis unit at (345) 244-2624 or (345) 244-2769.
The legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages in the Cayman Islands is 18 years. Please don't drive a vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages as there is no "slap on the wrist" for visitors when it comes to DUI in the Cayman Islands.
The water supplied to your guest accommodations is completely safe to drink, right out of the tap. It is produced by reverse osmosis with the water having been taken from the sea.
We drive on the left and you'll need a visitor's permit to drive here. Click on the car rental link at the top of this page for more detailed information. Seat belts are required by law for those seated in the front of a vehicle.
The Cayman Islands operates on 110/120 volts at 60 cycles, the same as in the US. All electrical items from the US will work in the Cayman Islands including laptops, hairdryers, cell phone chargers, etc. The wall outlets are the same configuration as in the US.
You should call 911 for all emergencies. The number for non-emergency calls to the police is: 949-4222.
Gas prices will seem very high to our US visitors, but not so to our UK and European visitors. The local pumps dispense gasoline and diesel in Imperial gallons which is the equivalent of 1.2 US gallons. The current price (December 2013) is approximately US$6.00 per US gallon. The higher price is the result of shipping costs and government duty/tax.
Gay and Lesbian Visitors
The Cayman Islands welcomes all visitors regardless of their sexual orientation/preference. Gay and lesbian couples should expect to enjoy their vacation free of discrimination.
Gratuities & Tipping
Most restaurants will automatically add a 15% service charge to your bill. Smaller establishments may leave it to your discretion. In many instances a space will be left on the bill for you to add a tip, in addition to the standard gratuity. However, you should not feel pressured to go beyond the 15% service charge. If your server has provided you with exceptional service, you may, completely at your discretion, opt to give them a separate tip.
There are several large grocery stores where you are likely to find most of the items that you would purchase in the US. There are also many specialty items from the UK and Asian countries. Most grocery stores open from 7:00am until 11:00pm and are usually closed on Sundays, but, may open on most public holidays. There are 3 major grocery stores along the Seven Mile Beach corridor, one at each end, and one in the middle.
Most rental accommodations provide free high-speed wired and/or wireless internet service to their guests. With the recent introduction of fibre optic service, speeds up to 104Mbps (megabits per second) are possible in some locations. A few locations do charge for internet access so you should check before making your reservation is this is an important question for you.
English is the official language of the Cayman Islands although you will probably hear it spoken in unfamiliar accents by locals. And, on such a small island, a surprising variety of dialects exist. For example, a person from West Bay may speak with a distinctly different accent than someone from East End. A common twist of letters is the use of the letter "W" in place of the letter "V" when speaking. "Very" becomes "Wary" and "Vehicle" becomes "Wehicle", etc. Listen closely and you'll probably understand what they're saying.
You may use metal detectors on beaches in the Cayman Islands although you should expect to find mostly modern coins and soda can tabs.
There are no nude or topless beaches in the Cayman Islands. While you may occasionally see a female suntanning topless, this is not allowed by law and is strictly discouraged.
Hotels and condos do not charge guests for on-site parking while staying at their properties. However, some properties may include parking charges as part of a daily resort fee. Some condo developments have parking below the main building with elevator access to the rooms. There is limited public parking in downtown George Town, especially on days when cruise ships are in port.
Dogs and cats must be at least ten (10) months old to be allowed entry into the Cayman Islands. An Import Permit application for dogs and cats must be completed and submitted with an official health certificate of the pet(s), a rabies laboratory titre report and the processing fee for the import permit. Please visit this link for more information. Please note that some properties will charge fee for your pet to stay on the property with you. Ask when making your reservation.
Be sure to check with your cell service provider to understand your roaming charges. Some rental accommodations will have Vonage or a similar service at no additional charge. It might however be a good idea to get a MagicJack to bring with you. Most rental accommodations won't charge you for local calls, with hotels and guest homes being the possible exception. The area code for the Cayman Islands is 345, and we have the same numbering system as the US, Canada and the rest of the Caribbean.
All of the cruise ship companies will encourage you to pre-book your snorkel trip or island tour (excursion) ahead of your arrival. Please be aware that you will probably get a better deal if you do some research ahead of time and book it yourself. The cruise lines keep the majority of the cost of the excursion and pay the tour operator a fraction, usually about a third. Similarly, stores recommended by cruise lines are simply those that pay a hefty marketing fee to the cruise line to promote them and their product is usually no better than those sold at stores that are not recommended and do not pay the marketing fee.
The Cayman Islands usually have 10-12 days per year that are designated as public holidays and they include:
Here is a list of the 12 public holidays for 2013:
If Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Day fall on Saturday or Sunday, then the next regular weekday is designated as a public holiday. If Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, then the following Monday and Tuesday are public holidays, resulting in a 4-day weekend. In such a case, grocery stores usually open on the Monday and Tuesday with limited hours. Retail banks are always closed on public holidays.
Some properties charge resort fees which are fees of up to US$50.00 per day covering internet access, parking, beach towels, etc. Ask when making your reservation.
There is a mandatory 13% room tax added to published rates for accommodations in the Cayman Islands. This tax is collected when you pay for your room/condo and is passed on to the Cayman Islands Government. Most hotels and condos will also charge a gratuity of between 5% and 10%.
Smoking in public places is prohibited by the Tobacco Law 2008 and Regulations 2010. Indoor bars and restaurants, office buildings, businesses and other enclosed areas are smoke-free inside as well as up to 10 feet from any entry, exit or other opening. For outdoor bars and restaurants, a no smoking area must be designated. A public place means any place, including a workplace or public conveyance to which members of the public have access, whether or not a fee is charged for entry. The law describes an “enclosed place” as a place which has a full or partial roof with at least 50 per cent of its sides covered with walls, windows, blinds or curtains. Anyone who smokes in a public place is liable for summary conviction to a fine of $2,000 for their first offence and up to $10,000 for the second offence.
You are advised to bring sunscreen with you. The SPF will depend on your individual skin tone and desired level of tan. Please note that if unprotected your skin may burn, even on cloudy days. The maximum protected time that you will have in the sun with any level of SPF is two hours, because that’s how long the sunscreen ingredients hold up. SPF 30 protects against about 97 percent of UVB rays and anything higher than 30 increases that protection only marginally.
For US visitors, most rental accommodations will have the TV channels that you are familiar with including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, HGTV, Disney, HBO, ESPN, etc.
The Cayman Islands are UTC -5 which is the same as Eastern Standard Time in the US. However, as we do not observe Daylight Saving Time, in the summer months we are one hour behind EST which effectively makes us the same as Central Standard Time during that period.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises all travellers to the Cayman Islands to be up to date on all routine vaccinations. The local health authorities would also make the same recommendation as we are free of diseases such as measles and would like to keep it that way.
If there is something that you'd like to know that we have not covered in this section, please fill in the form below and submit it to us. We will answer you directly, and may also post the information on this page.