Cayman Islands

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Introduction to Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are dotted with deal-cutting characters with briefcases and cellphones, scuba divers in electric wetsuits and English folk checking the cricket scores over a tipple. The islands vibrate with colour: coral reefs, bright orange frogfish, sociable stingrays and reggae beats on the street.

As a result of the island's mellow charms, resorts and condos have sprung up all over, and you can count on air-con, cold beer and ESPN. But if you want to get away from it all there are lots of places to escape satellite dishes and slickness, not least of them underwater.

For anyone wanting to find out something about what it really means to be Caymanian, it's a simple matter to leave the condos and high-rise hotels behind and discover another side to island life. There's an infectious, easygoing way of life here and, if you scratch below the surface, you'll discover a distinct culture founded centuries ago upon and inextricably bound with the sea. Towering underwater walls, shipwrecks and reefs have made the Caymans legendary among divers and snorkellers, and mile upon mile of pristine beaches poll well with extreme relaxation enthusiasts.

Full country name: Cayman Islands

Area: 100 sq km

Population: 39,335

Capital City: George Town

People: Mixed African and European descent

Language: English

Religion: United Church, Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic

Government: dependent territory of the United Kingdom

Head of State: Governor Bruce Dinwiddy (representing Queen Elizabeth II)

Head of Government: Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbets

GDP: US$930 million

GDP per capita: US$24,500

Inflation: 2.7%

Major Industries: Tourism, banking, insurance, finance

Major Trading Partners: USA, UK, Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan

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Traveler Facts

Visas: US and Canadian citizens don't need visas or passports, only proof of citizenship. Citizens of the EU, the UK or the Commonwealth, Israel and Japan need passports but not visas. Travellers from elsewhere may need visas as well as passports.

Health risks: sunburn (In the tropics, the desert or at high altitude you can get sunburned quickly and seriously, even through clouds. Use a strong sunscreen, hat and barrier cream for your nose and lips. Calamine lotion and aloe vera are good for mild sunburn. Protect your eyes with good-quality sunglasses, particularly if you will be near water, sand or snow)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -5 (Eastern Standard Time)

Dialling Code: 345

Electricity: 120V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial

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Grand Cayman's answer to Carnival is Batabano, a weekend of costumed hedonism and hangovers held around Easter. The local equivalent on Cayman Brac is known as Brachanal, held a week after Batabano. Pirate's Week, which features fireworks, mock battles and assorted skulduggery, gives bankers, barworkers and locals the chance to break out the gold earrings, eye patches and stuffed parrots during the last week of October. There's a month-long fishing tournament every June where locals and visitors test their skills against one another and the fruits of the sea. Hefty cash prizes are doled out for record breakers.

Public Holidays

January 1 - New Year's Day

Easter Holidays - Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday

Second Monday in April - Queen's Birthday

May 18 - Discovery Day

July 6 - Constitution Day

November 9 - Remembrance Day

December 25 - Christmas Day

December 26 - Boxing Day

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Best time to Visit

Given that mid-December to mid-April (winter) is the peak tourist season, when rates are substantially higher and beaches and lodgings more crowded, it's best to go in the summer. There is more rain in summer, but it tends to come in downpours that clear as quickly as they arrive. Nervous Nellies will tell you that this is hurricane season, but the chances that you'll get swept up in the big one are slim. Even so, it's best to keep an eye on the weather reports in the days before your arrival.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Cayman Islands Dollar


Budget: CI$8-16

Mid-range: CI$16-24

High: CI$24-40

Deluxe: CI$40+


Budget: CI$60-100

Mid-range: CI$100-160

High: CI$160-500

Deluxe: CI$500+

The Caymans offer many options for comfortable travel, including full-service resorts and five-star dining. Those on a top-end budget will be shelling out USD300 or more a day, depending on their proclivity for duty-free perfume or chartered boats. Moderate costs can run to USD200 a day or more. Budget travelers will be able to keep costs under USD100 a day by sharing self-catering accommodations and doing more lounging on the beach than diving. Note that accommodation is much cheaper in the quieter summer months and that organizing your own diving excursions is more expensive than taking the dive packages offered by many hotels and resorts.

US dollars and traveler's checks are widely accepted, as are credit and debit cards. Banks offer the best exchange rates. There are ATMs in George Town from which you can withdraw cash, either in US dollars or Cayman dollars. It's not a bad idea to take the cash you will need to the sister islands as banking facilities are few and far between.

Many hotels add a service charge of 5-10% to your bill; restaurants usually add 15%. If no service charge is added, a tip of 15% is expected. Most businesses will happily calculate a straight conversion from CI$ to US$ at a 1:1.25 ratio - you'll need the colorful Cayman dollars for market stalls and kiosks but not much else. Bargaining is not a common practice.

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George Town

Bursting with condos and bejewelled with satellite dishes, the capital could easily resemble a generic North American, mini-malled, urban area were it not for its undeniably Caribbean seaside setting.

Attractions include a modest historical walking tour which takes in the remains of the late-18th-century Fort George and the Cayman Islands National Museum, situated in the town's oldest building. The museum features changing exhibits on the islands' human and natural history.


The jagged black rock formations in Grand Cayman's northwest once inspired a local official to exclaim, 'This is what Hell must look like.' Since then, the local post office has been painted fire-engine red and contains a resident 'devil' who asks 'How the hell are you?' as he dispenses souvenirs.

Nearby is the government-run Cayman Turtle Farm, the only one of its kind in the world. This operation raises green turtles for purposes benign - increasing their population in the wild - and slightly more base - selling their meat and shells.

Pedro St. James Castle

This imposing Caribbean great house dates from 1780, making it the oldest building in the Caymans, and it's been everything from a jail to a court house to parliament before recent refurbishments turned it into a museum. The Castle is touted as the islands' 'birthplace of democracy': in 1831 the decision was made here to vote for elected representatives.

Just as momentously, this is the place that the Slavery Abolition Act was read in 1835. The spic-and-span grounds showcase native flora, and there's a traditional wattle and daub house to look at and wonder where they fitted the pool table.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

Grand Cayman's botanic park is hard to beat. A well-marked mile-long trail winds through lush, easy terrain, featuring about 300 native species. The park is home to orchids (in bloom late May through June), iguanas (elusive), parrots and other birds. The nearby Mastic Trail meanders through the old-growth forest that once supplied early settlers with timber.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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