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Cayman Islands


The Cayman Islands are an island group in the Caribbean Sea, ninety miles south of Cuba. The outstanding coral reefs and outstandingly clear waters have made this island group a favorite destination of divers. Great beaches and fine restaurants and resorts make it an excellent tourist destination as well.

Regions

Cities

Other destinations

  • Hell- Small island community that is known for its eerie, red rock formations around back of the store that markets wares playing up its namesake, such as Hell t-shirts, postcards from Hell, etc. All island tours stop here.
  • Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman - a public beach in which many of the islands hotels and resorts overlook.
  • Pedro St. James national historic site in the eastern district of Savannah on Grand Cayman
  • Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park off of Frank Sound Road on the North Side of Grand Cayman
  • Rum Point on the North Side of Grand Cayman
  • Boatswain's Beach - Home of the Cayman Turtle Farm on Grand Cayman
  • Stingray City in the waters off Grand Cayman - A shallow dive that allows visitors to swim and pet hundreds of friendly stingrays, available since the mid 80's.

Understand

The Cayman Islands were colonized from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries. Administered by Jamaica from 1863, they remained a British dependency after 1962 when the former became independent. Although tourism is a major part of the economy (see below) it is a relatively recent development. Prior to the 1960s, mosquitoes made the island unattractive to visitors. A major effort in this area (including the creation of a research unit) allowed the development of the tourism industry.

In addition to banking (the islands have no direct taxation, making them a popular tax haven), tourism is a mainstay, aimed at the luxury market and catering mainly to visitors from North America. Total tourist arrivals exceeded 2.19 million in 2006, although the vast majority of visitors arrive for single day cruise ship visits (1.93 million). About 90% of the islands' food and consumer goods must be imported. The Caymanians enjoy one of the highest outputs per capita and one of the highest standards of living in the world. The Cayman Islands are one of the richest islands not only in the Caribbean but in the world.

In 2004, hurricane Ivan damaged or destroyed 95% of the buildings on the island. The island has completely rebuilt, and new developments are held to very strict building requirements.

Climate

Tropical marine. Warm, rainy summers (May to October) and cool, Great vacation spot, relatively dry winters (November to April). In 2004 the Cayman Islands, and especially Grand Cayman, were hit hard by Hurricane Ivan.

Landscape

Low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. Highest point: The Bluff on Cayman Brac, at 43 meters (141 ft).

Get in

Visitors from any of the countries listed below do NOT require a visa to enter the Cayman Islands, as noted here:

By plane

  • Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) is near George Town on Grand Cayman and is the main airport. It is about a 70 minute flight from Miami, Florida. It is served by a number of international airlines, flying to destinations in the Caribbean, North America, Central America & Europe. [1]
    • Air Canada provides North American service to Toronto
    • American Airlines provides North American service to Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Miami, and seasonal service to Philadelphia
    • British Airways provides Caribbean Service to Nassau, The Bahamas and European Service to London (Heathrow)
    • Cayman Airways provides domestic service to Cayman Brac & Little Cayman, Caribbean Service to Havana, Kingston, and Montego Bay, year round North American service to Miami, Tampa Bay, Washington, New York (JFK) and seasonal North American service to Chicago & Orlando.
    • Delta Airlines provides North American service to Atlanta.
    • Islena Airlines / Atlantic Airlines provide a Central American service to the cities of La Ceiba, Roatan, Tegucigalpa, and San Pedro Sula in Honduras
    • Spirit Airlines provides North American service to Fort Lauderdale.
    • United Airlines provides North American service to Houston, Newark & Washington D.C.
  • Gerrard-Smith International Airport (CYB) is located at the western end of Cayman Brac.
  • Edward Bodden Airfield (LYB) is a small grass strip located on the southwestern coast of Little Cayman.
  • Providing air service between the three islands' airports is:
    • Cayman Airways, Phone: 345-949-2311,
  • Owen Roberts Airport has plenty of taxi availability. Neither of the smaller islands have airport taxi services, however hotels pick travelers up.
  • There's no ferry service from Grand Cayman to either of the sister islands, but private boat operators will shuttle you between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for about US$20 (20 minutes).

By boat

George Town on Grand Cayman is a popular port for cruise ships.

Get around

  • Car rentals are readily available. You must be 21 years old to rent a car. Driving is on the left hand side of the road and seatbelt use is mandatory. Visitors must get a temporary driver's license from the police station or car rental agency. This is obtained by showing a valid drivers license from their home state, county or parish and paying a US $8.00 fee.
  • Mopeds and scooter rentals are available on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Helmet use is required. Usual daily rate is US $25 for helmet and permit.
  • Providing air service between the three islands' airports is:
    • Cayman Airways, Phone: 345-949-2311,

Talk

English is the official language and is spoken by virtually everyone. Native Caymanians have a pleasant and unique accent with many charming turns of phrase. For example, in Cayman rumours are not heard "through the grapevine", instead they're heard "along the marl road". Locals pronounce Cayman as Kay-MAN, and not KAY-min.

See

The main attraction in Cayman is the water. Snorkeling and diving draw many visitors each year. However, there are several attractions on land worth visiting. Most attractions can be reached by bus, however, a car is significantly more convenient.

Beach access is guaranteed by the Cayman constitution, so walking along the beach is permitted everywhere (all beaches are public), although getting to the beach is only allowed in certain areas.

Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is approximately five miles of tourist hotels, with white sand beaches. It is a public beach and visitors can walk the entire stretch, no matter which hotel they are staying at.

On Seven Mile Beach, The Ritz has a walkway over the main road containing local artists' work. Finding it can be challenging, however, the staff are happy to point you in the right direction.

Pedro St. James national historic site is an attractive old house and grounds on the ocean. There is a multimedia show telling the history of the house, and an exhibit center with more Cayman historical displays.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is a large botanical garden which includes color gardens with plants arranged by color, a large orchid garden, a gazebo on a lake, and many Iguanas, including the rare blue iguanas.

The Cayman Turtle Farm is a turtle farm where you can swim and pet turtles. A recent review of the farm indicated concerns for the animals, so this may be something some people want to research before visiting.

Stingray City in the waters off Grand Cayman is reached by several tour companies by boat. In the shallow water many stingrays gather, and you can interact with them. If you book on a sailing vessel, you then get to sail back to port. The stingrays have been gathering here since the mid 1980s when boaters would clean their fish near the port.

Do

Several activities are available for children and adults alike:

  • The Cayman Turtle farm is a fun place for kids to learn about wildlife preservation
  • Be sure to visit the Stingrays at the sandbars in the Cayman Islands. This is a popular tourist destination, and unlike swimming with dolphins in places such as Florida and the Bahamas, these stingrays are willfully living in the wild and can choose to leave at anytime. Several guided tours are available, in addition to packages that include this as well as snorkeling
  • Several beautiful reefs are a fantastic place for beginner snorkelers. More experienced venturers can visit the two smaller Islands, which are world renowned for their waters and reefs
  • On the East side of the Island lies the Queen's Botanical gardens, a beautiful place to get away from the crowds and beaches
  • The Tortuga rum factory shows how rum/rum cakes are made, and also provides opportunities to purchase Tortuga Rum and Rum Cakes
  • The Seven Mile Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and most of the beach is public.

Buy

Money

The country's currency is the Caymanian dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" or "CI$" (ISO currency code: KYD) It is subdivided into 100 cents. Banknotes are issued in denominations of CI$1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100, and coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents.

US currency is accepted everywhere. Be careful and always know if you're paying in CI or US. The basic conversion is US $1.25 to CI$1 ($1=CI $0.80).

Costs

Almost everything must be imported and is subject to a 20% import tax (some time higher depending on the product). Food and other items are relatively expensive.

Shopping

Most shopping is in George Town and Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman.

  • Caymanite is the Cayman Islands' own semi-precious stone.
  • Black Coral is often used in jewelry here.
  • Rum cake from Tortuga Rum Company is very popular with visitors to Grand Cayman.
  • There are many tourist shops where you can buy t-shirts, hats, postcards, and much more. Don't buy any seashells though; beachcombing is much more fun, and cheaper too.
  • Grand Cayman features duty free shopping, enabling visitors to buy many luxury items, duty free - including fine china, jewelry, electronics, and more shopping

Eat

The culinary influences of many regions are reflected in Cayman cuisine. Local specialties such as fish, turtle and conch are delicious and often less expensive as they don't need to be imported. With more than 150 restaurants, unwinding with a good meal in the Cayman Islands can include chic five-star dining as well as a more casual venue under the stars, or even a themed event. From traditional Caymanian seafood to Caribbean and Thai to Italian and New World cuisine, discerning diners are sure to find something to fit their taste. Other exciting options include dinner cruises on luxury catamarans and even an authentic tall ship. Meal prices range from $10 to well over $30 per person at high-end restaurants.

While in Cayman ask your taxi driver for their favourite local Jerk Stand (a MUST try) and also ask them the tourist spot they suggest.

Drink

Alcohol is very expensive on the islands, even from the liquor stores. You can expect to pay approximately twice as much in the liquor stores as you would at stores in the United States, however it is still the cheapest way to purchase alcohol.

Typical drink prices in bars and clubs range from CI$4–7.

Liquor stores typically close at 6PM or 7PM, all though some are open until 9PM or 10PM. All liquor stores are closed on Sundays.

Visitors flying into the Cayman Islands are able to bring either 1 bottle of duty free spirits, 4 bottles of wine or champagne, or one 12-pack of beer per person 18 years of age or older. Exceeding this duty allowance will result in substantial taxation to the excess items.

You will of course want to check out some of the local drinking establishments.

Sleep

Accommodations are ample but tend to be relatively expensive, even on the two smaller islands. There are several luxury resorts with all amenities, as well as other less expensive options. In addition, the cost of food and drink is high in Cayman, but many visitors stay in condominiums with kitchen facilities and take advantage of the first class supermarkets and cook and barbecue on the beach.

Cayman is not known for all inclusive resorts, but there are two smaller Caribbean style properties that do offer this option.

The majority of hotels and resorts are in Grand Cayman, where the main hotel "strip" is Seven Mile Beach, home to several major chain hotels and numerous condominiums.

Off Seven Mile Beach are several dive resorts and, in the Eastern Districts, numerous private homes and villas, as well as several resorts and attractions for those preferring a more tranquil vacation.

Little Cayman focuses on dive vacations and has a unique charm, as well as some of the best diving anywhere.

Camping is illegal on all three islands at all times. There are no campsites on any of the islands.

Work

Grand Cayman has growing offshore banking and tourism sectors. Tourism represents about 60% of the economy. About 30% of residents are expatriates working on "work permits" and unemployment is very low.

Stay safe

  • Hurricanes are possible from June through November.
  • Despite being more liberal than other Caribbean islanders, Caymanians are still relatively conservative. Public displays of affection (both Gay and Straight) are not usually acceptable. Acceptance of homosexual tourists is relatively new and visitors should refrain from any sort of public displays of affection. In past years Gay cruise ships have been barred from calling in the Cayman Islands, but recent policy is to remain non-discriminatory. Gay visitors can expect the same levels of hospitality and service as any other visitor, but should expect some hesitation from older Caymanians. Young Caymanians are very liberal and for the most part, won't care either way.
  • The Cayman Islands is a "relatively low-crime area, especially compared to other vacation destinations in the Caribbean".

"However, that being said, crime is on the rise on Grand Cayman. Walking or riding a bicycle at night along dark roads (for example, along Courts Road) puts one at risk for assault and/or robbery. Pedestrians also need to worry about being hit by cars along soft shouldered roads. Drunk driving/Hit and Run accidents have been a problem. The RCIPS regularly conducts roadblocks to deter and detect drunk driving, making numerous arrests most weekends. DWI/DUI is a serious offense in Cayman.

The capital city of George Town is generally safe. Tourists should avoid certain areas (Rock Hole, Swamp, Jamaica Town/ Windsor Park, Courts Road, and Eastern Avenue) and this shouldn't be a problem as these areas are all well out of the way for most activities. In addition, George Town is virtually deserted at night as there are few centrally located restaurants, bars, or nightclubs.

One need not be overly concerned about miscellaneous belongings. While at the beach, no one will be stealing your lunch, towel or sneakers. Cayman thieves are not desperate individuals, and have no interest in normal personal effects or used snorkeling gear. Very likely the thieves are just local teens looking for items that they can sell to other local teens. Example: An average pair of sunglasses will not "grow legs"; But a flashy pair of Chanel knock-offs just might!

Special note to women: Women traveling alone should be especially careful at night, as sexual assaults do occasionally occur. Carry a cell phone capable of emergency calls to local 911. If you feel you are being followed or inappropriately watched, you should immediately call the police. The RCIPS is a very responsive and extremely professional organization. They will take your complaint seriously.

You can enjoy a relaxing and "incident-free" holiday if you take care to be aware of your surroundings and lock doors and windows when possible.

Stay healthy

  • Many locals won't eat barracuda because it is likely that it is poisonous. Be aware of that. Other reef fish (groupers, amberjack, red snappers, eel, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel) are not likely to cause ciguatera (fish-borne nerve poisoning).
  • No natural fresh water resources; drinking water supplies are met by desalination plants and rainwater catchments.
  • Make sure you have sunscreen on if you plan on walking around town. It is sunny all year.

Respect

Caymanians are very respectful. Greetings and pleasantries are common and expected, even to shopkeepers when entering their stores. Most islanders use titles of respect, such as Mr. and Miss, followed with the given or first name, when addressing other islanders.

Connect


Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Incidents of robbery and assault, including sexual assault, occasionally occur. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Do not bring personal belongings to the beach. Avoid solo trips to deserted beaches or poorly lit areas after dark.

Spiked foods and drinks

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Road travel

Road conditions may be poor.

Safe public minibuses run on the main roads.

Taxis, mopeds, scooters and rental cars are widely available. Some rental agencies’ insurance may not cover drivers under the age of 25.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 911 to reach police, fire fighters and medical assistance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities and services are generally good. Severe conditions may require medical evacuation to the United States. Some clinics and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for medical services.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Canada and United Kingdom are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in United Kingdom to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and British authorities.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Driving laws

Traffic drives on the left.

You must be over 21 years of age to drive in the Cayman Islands, and possess either an International Driving Permit or a visitor’s driving permit. You can obtain a visitor’s driving permit from the driver’s licence department in Cayman, located beside the central police station. You will need to present a valid Canadian passport and a valid Canadian driver’s licence.

Imports and exports

Local customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, spear guns, medications, agricultural products, and animals (including sea turtle products). Note that anything delivering a projectile is considered a firearm; special permits may be required prior to arrival. Contact the British High Commission in Ottawa for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Marriages

If you are planning to marry in the Cayman Islands, ensure that you meet all requirements and have all necessary documents before leaving Canada. Most countries require a certificate stating that there are no Canadian impediments to your marriage.

Money

The currency is the Cayman Islands dollar (KYD). U.S. dollars and traveller’s cheques are widely accepted.

Investments

If you are interested in purchasing property or making other investments in the Cayman Islands, seek legal advice from appropriate professionals in Canada and in the Cayman Islands before making commitments. Disputes arising from such activities could be prolonged and costly to resolve.

Climate

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

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