In Grand Cayman most hotels and resorts provide Internet access—either free or for a small fee—for their guests; wireless is increasingly prevalent, including at the airport in Grand Cayman. You’ll also find Internet cafés in George Town. Rates range from $2.50 for 15 minutes to $10 per hour. Several restaurants also advertise free Wi-Fi hot spots. Although there are no cybercafés on the Sister Islands, most of the small hotels have high-speed access in rooms and/or public spaces. Those lacking Wi-Fi or high-speed Internet connections in rooms usually have a public computer or permit use of the office facilities. A few individual villas offer Wi-Fi.
The area code for the Cayman Islands is 345.
Calling Within the Cayman Islands
In the Cayman Islands local calls are free from private phones; some hotels charge a small fee. For directory assistance, dial 411; international directory assistance is 010. Calls from pay phones cost CI¢25 for five minutes. Prepaid phone cards, which can be used throughout Cayman and other Caribbean islands, are sold at shops, attractions, transportation centers, and other convenient outlets.
Calling Outside the Cayman Islands
From the Cayman Islands, direct dialing to the United States and other countries is efficient and reasonable, but always check with your hotel to see if a surcharge is added. Some toll-free numbers cannot be accessed, especially on the Sister Islands. To charge your overseas call on a major credit card or U.S. calling card without incurring a surcharge, dial 800/225–5872 (1–800/CALL–USA) from any phone.
The country code for the United States is 1.
Information…AT&T.800/872–2881. …LIME.345/949–7800 in Grand Cayman.
If you’re bringing your own mobile phone and it’s compatible with 850/1900 Mhz GSM network or TDMA digital network, you should be able to make and receive calls during your stay, especially from Grand Cayman. Be sure, however, to check with your home provider that you have roaming service enabled, and note that charges can be astronomical depending on your calling plan. Renting a cell phone if you’re planning an extended vacation or expect to make a lot of local calls may be a less expensive alternative than using your own. Mobile-phone rental is available from LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless) and Digicel; you can stay connected for as little as CI$5 per day plus the cost of a calling card (denominations range from CI$10 to CI$100). International per-minute rates usually range from CI¢35 to CI¢60. You can rent phones for use on-island from either LIME or Digicel.
Mobile Phone Companies…LIME.Anderson Square Bldg., Shedden Rd.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–7800www.time4lime.comGalleria Plaza, West Bay Rd.,Seven Mile Beach,Grand Caymanwww.time4lime.com/ky. …Digicel.Leeward One, Regatta Office Park,1158A West Bay Rd.,Seven Mile Beach,Grand Cayman345/623–3444www.digicelcayman.com.
Customs and Duties
Contacts…Cayman Islands Customs.345/949–4579customs.gov.ky.
Electric current on the Cayman Islands is 110 volts–60 cycles, U.S. standard. Hotels generally have plug adapters and transformers available for guests who bring appliances from countries that operate on 220-volt current.
Emergency Services…Ambulance.911. …Fire.911. …Police.911.
Foreign Consulates…U.S. Consular Agency.Cayman Centre, Unit B1,118 Dorcy Dr.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/945–8173travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1084.html.
Hospitals…George Town Hospital.1 Hospital Rd.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–8600. …The Brac Clinic.Tibbetts Sq.,West End,Cayman Brac345/949–1777. …Cayman Clinic.Grand Cayman345/949–4234. …Faith Hospital.Stake Bay,West End,Cayman Brac345/948–2243.
Pharmacies…Cayman Drug.Kirk Freeport Centre,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–2597. …Foster’s Pharmacy.Foster’s Food Fair, Airport Rd.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–0505www.fosters-iga.com. …Health Care Pharmacy.Photo-Pharm Centre, Walkers Rd.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–0442. …Kirk Pharmacy.Kirk Supermarket, Eastern Ave.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–7180.
Diving Emergencies…Cayman Hyperbaric.Hospital Rd.,George Town,Grand Cayman345/949–2989.
Health concerns are minimal in the Cayman Islands, and Grand Cayman offers some of the Caribbean’s finest medical facilities. Though there have been isolated cases of dengue fever (one or two annually, contracted elsewhere), the last on-island outbreak was in 2005. Airlift to Miami for serious emergencies is available. Physicians are highly qualified and speak English. Be sure to pack prescription medications; consider wearing a MedicAlert ID tag if you suffer from such chronic conditions as diabetes, epilepsy, or heart disease. Though many hospitals offer reciprocity with U.S. insurers, you can also purchase medical-only insurance. Tap water is perfectly safe to drink throughout all three islands. Be sure to wash fruit thoroughly or, better yet, peel it before eating. The subtropic sun can be fierce, especially at midday. Be sure to wear sunglasses and a hat, and use high-SPF sunscreen (most U.S. brands are available). Beware of dehydration and heat stroke; take it easy the first couple of days. Insects can be a real nuisance during the wet season (July–November); bring along repellent to ward off mosquitoes and sand flies. Shops also stock numerous name brands.
Hours of Operation
Banks in the Cayman Islands are generally open Monday through Friday from 9 to 3. Post offices are open weekdays from 8:30 to 4 and Saturday from 9 to 1. Shops are usually open weekdays from 9 to 5; in outer shopping plazas they are open from 10 to 5. Shops are usually closed Sunday except in hotels or when cruise ships are visiting. Pharmacy hours vary, most opening between 7 and 9 am, closing between 6 and 10 pm.
In the Cayman Islands public holidays include New Year’s Day, Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter), Good Friday (Friday before Easter), Easter Sunday (usually March or April), Discovery Day (May 19), Queen’s Birthday (June 16), Constitution Day (July 7), Remembrance Day (November 17), Christmas, and Boxing Day (December 26). The last refers to boxing extra presents for charity, not prizefighting!
Sending a postcard to the United States, Canada, other parts of the Caribbean, or Central America costs CI25¢. An airmail letter is CI75¢ per half ounce. To Europe and South America, rates are CI25¢ for a postcard and CI80¢ per half ounce for airmail letters. When addressing letters to the Cayman Islands, be sure to include the new postal codes that have been introduced. You can find them at www.caymanpost.gov.ky or on leaflets at any of the islands’ post offices. The main post office lies at the intersection of Edward Street and Cardinal Avenue in downtown George Town. There is no home delivery; instead, all mail is delivered to numbered post-office boxes. For faster and reliable service to the United States, Federal Express, UPS, and DHL all have locations in the downtown area. Airmail can take two weeks to be delivered to farther-flung areas, including Australia and New Zealand.
You should not need to change money in Grand Cayman, since U.S. dollars are readily accepted, though you may get some change in Cayman dollars. ATMs accepting MasterCard and Visa with Cirrus affiliation are readily available in George Town; you usually have the option of U.S. or Cayman dollars. The Cayman dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of approximately CI$1.25 to $1, and divided into a hundred cents, with coins of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, and 25¢ and notes of $1, $5, $10, $25, $50, and $100. There’s no $20 bill. Traveler’s checks and major credit cards are widely accepted. Be sure you know which currency is being quoted when making a purchase.
Prices throughout this guide are given for adults and unless otherwise indicated are in U.S. currency. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
Passports and Visas
All visitors to the Cayman Islands must have a valid passport and a return or ongoing ticket to enter the Cayman Islands. A birth certificate and photo ID are not sufficient proof of citizenship.
Though crime isn’t a major problem in the Cayman Islands, take normal precautions. Lock your room, and don’t leave valuables—particularly passports, tickets, and wallets—in plain sight or unattended on the beach. Use your hotel safe. Don’t carry too much money or flaunt expensive jewelry on the street. For personal safety, avoid walking on the beach or on unlighted streets at night. Lock your rental car, and don’t pick up hitchhikers. Using or trafficking in illegal drugs is strictly prohibited in the Cayman Islands. Any offense is punishable by a hefty fine, imprisonment, or both.
Taxes and Service Charges
At the airport, each adult passenger leaving Grand Cayman must pay a departure tax of $25 (CI$20), payable in either Caymanian or U.S. currency. It may be included in cruise packages as a component of port charges; it isn’t usually added to airfare—check with your carrier—and must be paid in cash by each traveler prior to entering the secure area of the airport.
A 10% government tax is added to all hotel bills. A 10% service charge is often added to hotel bills and restaurant checks in lieu of a tip. There is no VAT or comparable tariff on goods and services.
U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST), five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-0500), is in effect year-round on all three islands; daylight saving time is not observed.
At large hotels a service charge is generally included and can be anywhere from 6% to 10%; smaller establishments and some villas and condos leave tipping up to you. Although tipping is customary at restaurants, note that some automatically include 10%–15% on the bill—so check the tab carefully. At your discretion, tip another 5% or more to recognize extraordinary service. Taxi drivers expect a 10%–15% tip. Bellmen and porters expect $1 per bag, more in luxury hotels (especially if you bring lots of luggage). Tip the concierge (if your resort has one) anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on services rendered and length of stay. Tips are not expected simply for handing out maps and making the occasional dinner reservation. Spa personnel should receive 15%–20% of the treatment price (but verify that a service fee wasn’t already added).
A sightseeing tour is a good way to get your bearings and to experience Caymanian culture. Taxi drivers will give you a personalized tour of Grand Cayman for about $25 per hour for up to three people. Or you can choose a fascinating helicopter ride, a horseback or mountain-bike journey, a 4×4 safari expedition, or a full-day bus excursion. The prices vary according to the mode of travel and the number and kind of attractions included. Ask your hotel to help you make arrangements.
Costs and itineraries for island tours are about the same regardless of the tour operator. Half-day tours average $40–$50 a person and generally include a visit to Hell and the Turtle Farm at Boatswain’s Beach in West Bay, as well as shopping downtown. Full-day tours ($60–$80 per person) add lunch, a visit to Bodden Town (the first settlement), and the East End, where you stop at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, blowholes (if the waves are high) on the ironshore, and the site of the wreck of the Ten Sails (not the wreck itself—just the site). The pirate graves in Bodden Town were destroyed during Hurricane Ivan, and the blowholes were partially filled. As you can tell, land tours here are low-key. Children under 12 often receive discounts.
Contacts…A.A. Transportation Services.345/949–6598, 345/926–8294, 345/949–7222www.burtons.ky.…Majestic Tours.345/949–7773www.majestic-tours.com.…McCurley Tours.345/947–9626, 345/916–firstname.lastname@example.org.…Tropicana Tours.345/949–0944www.tropicana-tours.com.
Comprehensive trip insurance is valuable if you’re booking a very expensive or complicated trip (particularly to an isolated region) or if you’re booking far in advance. Comprehensive policies typically cover trip cancellation and interruption, letting you cancel or cut your trip short because of illness or, in some cases, acts of terrorism in your destination. Such policies might also cover evacuation and medical care. (For trips abroad you should have at least medical-only coverage. Some also cover you for trip delays because of bad weather or mechanical problems as well as for lost or delayed luggage.
Another type of coverage to consider is financial default—that is, when your trip is disrupted because a tour operator, airline, or cruise line goes out of business. Generally you must buy this when you book your trip or shortly thereafter, and it’s available to you only if your operator isn’t on a list of excluded companies.
Always read the fine print of your policy to make sure that you’re covered for the risks that most concern you. Compare several policies to be sure you’re getting the best price and range of coverage available.
Travel Insurers…Access America.800/284–8300www.accessamerica.com.…AIG Travel Guard.800/826–4919www.travelguard.com.…CSA Travel Protection.800/711–1197www.csatravelprotection.com.…Travelex Insurance.800/228–9792www.travelex-insurance.com.…Travel Insured International.800/243–3174www.travelinsured.com.
The Cayman Islands has tourist offices in the United States, where you can get brochures and maps in advance of your trip. There are also tourism offices on the islands for on-site help.
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.…305/599–9033 in Miami, 847/678–6446 in Chicago, 212/889–9009 in New York City, 713/461–1317 in Houston, 877/422–9626, 345/949–0623www.caymanislands.ky.
Department of Tourism.…Regatta Office Park Windward 3, West Bay Rd.,Seven Mile Beach,Grand Cayman345/949–0623West End Rd., North Side,Cayman Brac345/948–1649Owen Roberts Airport,Grand Cayman345/949–3603.