Cheap Caribbean vacations: the ultimate guide for budget travelers
Find out how to do a low budget trip to the Caribbean: cheap ways to visit these amazing islands, according to a traveler who's been there many times.
Have you ever dreamed of beautiful turquoise beaches, white and yellow sand softly getting stuck between your toes, endless piñas coladas, and an endless Summer? If you’ve answered yes, then it's time for you to travel to the Caribbean! And you can do that even if you're not rich. Cheap Caribbean travel is possible, and I'll tell you how.
How to travel cheap in the Caribbean islands
What people typically think of this part of the globe, is that it's very expensive. The truth is, the islands can be expensive indeed, but you can also have a cheap Caribbean trip if you go to the right country and follow some budgeting tips.
Based on my own personal experience, I'll talk about the best and most affordable Caribbean destinations and budget hacks to have the absolute best vacation without breaking the bank.
A few things we’re going to go over in this article:
- The most affordable Caribbean countries to explore
- Free accommodation via work exchange with Worldpackers
- Fun things to do for free at the islands
- Finding cheap flights to the Caribbean
Caribbean cheap tip: travel with Worldpackers
There are so many great destinations to hit up as a backpacker with only a few dollars in the bank account. An excellent way to experience all of these lovely places paying very little is through a work exchange with Worldpackers.
You may be asking about what work exchange is, or if it's even safe. Don’t worry, volunteering with Worldpackers is very safe. As a matter of fact, I took my first ever solo international trip with the Worldpackers program to the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
I stayed at a hostel in the beautiful beach city of Ocho Rios and it was one of the best months of my life. Starting off my risings with a walk to the beach, enjoying the free tropical waterfall located only a 20 minute walk away, and getting crazy cheap organic fruit from the local market. How could life get any better?
Would you believe me if I told you I spent zero dollars on accommodation? Well you better believe it!
When I turned 19, I decided to take off for full time travel as an aspiring digital nomad. I only had a few dollars in my bank account and had the entire world to see with limited funds. I had to make it work.
By exchanging my skills a few hours of the week in exchange of accommodation, I was able to save literally thousands of dollars. And you can do that too!
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in the Caribbean islands that I'll mention below, and in many other part of the world, that can suit different talents and personalities.
You can choose to help out an eco retreat center in the Eastern Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, or even help to build a website. Don't miss out our St. Lucia travel guide before heading there!
If you like parties and drinks, consider becoming a bartender in the beautiful Saint Kitts and Nevis. And if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting The Bahamas for longer than a few hours on a cruise, help out with the night shift at this hostel.
All of these opportunities are absolutely free as long as you exchange your skills! And besides from saving money, you'll be able to live a deep immersion in the local culture.
What to do in the Caribbean: cheap destinations
Now that we’ve dipped our feet into the aspect of free accomodationin the Caribbean by volunteering with Worldpackers, let's take a full on dive into some of the most affordable Caribbean destinations to have an unforgettable budget vacation.
You might also want to read: Which are the safest Caribbean islands? A guide for a safe tropical vacation
Visit Puerto Rico
This beautiful, Spanish speaking US territory has so much to offer as it lies in the beautiful Caribbean sea and is home to tropical weather and rainforests.
This culture-filled island has the most Worldpackers volunteer opportunities out of all the Caribbean region, so let's get into them! You can choose to be in the city, by the mountains, or at a hostel by the beach.
Need a place to stay for a week or two once you arrive at the airport? Volunteer at the reception desk to receive accommodation at this lovely hostel located in San Juan, the capital of the rich coast.
If you are skilled in web design, consider hitting up Aguadilla, a town located in the western part of the island. And if that's not your thing, the same hostel also has cleaning and reception positions available.
Looking for a more off grid experience? Enjoy the rural side of Puerto Rico while volunteering at this beautiful farm located in Buena Vista. You will also get the chance to learn about how to make coffee and chocolate by hand, isn’t that the coolest thing ever?
Don't miss out The best guide to backpacking Puerto Rico and our article that answers the question: Do I need a passport to go to Puerto Rico?
Chill at the rythm of reggae in Jamaica
Although this beautiful destination no longer has any Worldpackers opportunities available at the moment, it is imperative I write a little about it as I am Jamaican-American (and the island is just so darn beautiful).
Sitting at one of the larger islands, Jamaica is known for its reggae culture, jerk sauce, Bob Marley, and good vibes.
Negril is a top tourist destination for a reason. The hot sun, good food, and crystal clear water are all the more reasons why to visit. You can stay at hostels for about USD9 per night.
If you’re interested in seeing the Jamaican city life and want to check out the Bob Marley Museum, be sure to swing by Kingston. The capital city has a lot of history, being the most populated city of the country. Stay at the Raggamuffin Hostel in the city center to meet people from all over the world!
Know more about Jamaica and the best islands in the Caribbean to visit.
Belize can also be cheap
Technically not an island, this country is geographically located in Central America but identifies as a part of the Caribbean.
It's an insanely stunning destination that many people rave about. The country is known to be very pricey as it's a major tourist hotspot, but backpackers are able to find a way around the high prices.
Do you like kids? If so, consider work-trading for this family in the jungle! You get a free place to stay (your own private room), breakfast, lunch, and dinner included, and two days off per week.
Travel to the stunning Dominican Republic
República Dominicana, or the Dominican Republic, is another island tourists love to head to when they’re on a budget. It shares a border with its neighbor Haiti and is home to clean beaches, rainforests, and mountains.
The official language is Spanish so brush up on your español skills before heading here.
This island is rather affordable compared to its many counterparts making it a great destination for budget backpackers.
If you like pets, consider volunteering at this cat sanctuary located only a few minutes walk away from the beach. You get two days off per week and free hiking tours.
Cheap Caribbean: fun things to do for FREE
Believe it or not, there are endless possibilities of free fun in the Caribbean islands! It's not necessary to do a two hundred dollar yacht ride when you can find a local to do the same thing for a few dollars.
Having traveled to the Caribbean before on a one way ticket and an extremely tight budget, I learned how to stretch my funds by looking for amazing ways to pass the time that were completely free.
Have a beach day
The Caribbean region has some of the best beaches in the entire world. Although some may have a small entrance fee, most are completely free.
Just do your research and ask hosts and locals to find nice beaches with no entrance fees. Bring some water and pack a meal so you can spend the entire day swimming and floating in the perfect sea.
Take yourself out on a self-guided city walking tour
All the islands have unique culture and history that is especially seen in the older cities. Ask at your hostel about good spots to hit up in the city, download a digital map or pick up a physical copy and get lost in the culture!
Go on partnered nature hikes
Where’s a better place to go hiking than in the tropics? One of my favorite ways to enjoy free fun, hiking can replenish the soul while we take in new scenery and enjoy fresh air away from the city.
Put on your hiking boots, grab your camera, fill up your water bottle, and hike for as long and as far as you can.
Enjoy a tropical fruit picnic at a park
Maybe I’m just a simpleton, but a good picnic at a park (or even a beach) is a perfect day to me.
The Caribbean has delicious tropical fruit that is commonly not found in other regions of the world. If you negotiate some good prices, it's amazing what 10 US dollars can get you!
Take a trip to the local food market and try street food
Although not technically free, you’ll only be spending a few dollars here. And the money spent will not amount to the rich cultural experience.
Food is the way many cultures tell a story without saying any words, and the Caribbean has some of the best tropical foods out there.
Don’t leave without trying some of the many delicious street food that are sold cheaply by sidewalk vendors.
Host tours for hostels and get into places for free
If you’re in the islands volunteering for a hostel, ask the host if you’re able to hold or lead tours. The leader of the group is usually allowed to get into places for free.
Helping out the hostel you’re volunteering for while you get a free tour is such a win win!
Budget Caribbean travel: finding cheap flights
In order to get to the Caribbean, you’ll most likely need to fly over there. Don’t worry, I’ve got some unique tips that will help you snag great priced flights to the Caribbean island of your desire.
Cheap flight search engines
Two websites I love to use to find my flights are Skyscanner and kiwi.com. By using them, you’ll be sure to save money as opposed to booking on Expedia or other search engines.
Kiwi.com can piece together connection flights from different agencies and airlines whereas Skyscanner will find the most affordably priced tickets.
Flying on off days
I know we all love to start our travel journeys on Friday or Saturday, but flying on those days typically costs more money.
Instead of traveling on the weekend, consider a Tuesday or Wednesday. Flying on off days not only saves a few bucks, but they also are less busy - so you may luck out and get an entire row to yourself, woohoo!
Traveling during the off season
If you want to save money while traveling the Caribbean, it is not advised to do it during high seasons, which include North-American summertime and Christmas time.
Travel during months where tourists are usually not traveling; not only may you find a steal on a great flight, but activities in the area may also be listed at lower prices. Just be aware of the climate: it's not worth it going to the Caribbean during hurricane season, for instance.
To wrap it all up, the Caribbean is a must see destination, even if you’re a little bit low on funds. Using all the tips mentioned above, you'll be able to enjoy a cheap Caribbean vacation. See ya there!
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