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Stingrays ©Fevi Yu
Renowned for beautiful beaches, excellent diving, and offshore banking, the Cayman Islands is made up of three islands situated between Cuba and Jamaica, only a 90-minute flight from Miami. Grand Cayman is the largest and most developed of the islands and the location of the capital, George Town. It is hard to believe that among the buildings that line George Town's harbour are more than 500 banks making up one of the world's largest offshore financial centres.
Discovered by Columbus in 1503 and explored by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, it was not until 1670 that the islands came under British rule. They remain a British territory, and the Queen's picture is still displayed proudly, but the US exerts a lot of influence over what it considers its backyard. For years the islands were a base for pirates who delighted in the remoteness of Grand Cayman. A bonus was the island's absolutely flat topography, which ensures that its profile is practically invisible against the horizon, making it the perfect hide-away for nefarious characters.
While some people are still looking for a safe place to hide their treasure, these days most visitors to the Cayman Islands are after a relaxing getaway. The Islands are a beach paradise with great swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and other watersports.
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are 70 miles (113km) northeast of Grand Cayman and are much smaller and even more relaxed than the main island. Visitors don't come to these islands in suits; the little business that goes on revolves around diving and catering for the world's best bone-fishing.
The international access code for the Cayman Islands is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 345. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). International direct dialling is available. Mobile phone coverage is good and operates on a GSM 900/1800 network; phones can be rented. Internet cafes are widely available.
English is the official language. Spanish is also widely spoken.
Travellers entering the Cayman Islands may take 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, as well as one litre of alcohol, without paying duty on these.
Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. American style two-pin plugs are standard.
In general the weather in the Cayman Islands is good all year and the trade winds ensure it doesn't get too hot. The peak tourist season in the Cayman Islands runs between December and April. The rainy season runs from May to November and visitors are advised to keep an eye on the weather reports in the days before arrival, as this is also hurricane season. Many regard the wet season as the best time to visit the Cayman Islands as room rates are cheaper, the beaches are less crowded and the rain comes in short, sharp bursts that don't usually impact too much on holiday fun.
All visitors are required to hold sufficient funds for intended period of stay in the Cayman Islands, as well as a return or onward ticket and documents required for further travel. Entry may be refused if not complying with general appearance, behaviour and clothing requirements. Although originally granted for 60 days, tourist visas can generally be extended for stays of up to six months. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities. We recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended period of travel.
United States passport holders must have a valid passport or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as an original or certified birth certificate. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists, or 10 days for business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
UK nationals require a valid passport or proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalisation certificate, accompanied by an official photo ID (e.g. driver's licence), for travel to the Cayman Islands. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists, or 10 days for business travellers. However, the length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
Canadian nationals do not require a passport for travel to the Cayman Islands providing they hold a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Canadian citizens can stay in the Cayman Islands visa-free for 60 days as tourists and 10 days as business travellers.
Australian nationals must have a valid passport beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
South African nationals require a passport valid beyond the period of intended stay in the Cayman Islands. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists or 10 days for business travellers.
Irish nationals require a passport valid at least beyond the intended period of stay. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for stays of 60 days for tourists or 10 days for business travellers. The length of visa-free allowance varies depending on the endorsement on the passport.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel to the Cayman Islands and food and water are generally considered safe. No vaccinations are required, but vaccination for hepatitis A is recommended and travellers should always be up to date on vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Dengue fever has been reported in the Caribbean region and insect protection measures should be taken. Medical facilities are relatively good in the Cayman Islands, with two good hospitals, but serious illness or injury may still require evacuation. Visitors should take out adequate travel and medical insurance to cover the possible need for an air ambulance. There is a decompression chamber available in the Cayman Islands.
The Cayman Islands has a relatively low crime rate. Nevertheless, visitors are advised to take the usual sensible precautions they would anywhere else in the world to prevent being the victims of petty crime. Do not leave valuables lying about: keep them in a hotel or other safety deposit box. Visitors should be aware of the risk of flooding during hurricane season (June to November) and follow local advice with regards to leaving the island in the event of an approaching hurricane.
Emergency Phone Number
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The Cayman Islands Dollar (KYD) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. It is fixed to the US dollar at US$1.20. Currency can be exchanged at the banks, bureaux de change and many hotels. Banks are open Monday to Saturday. US Dollars are accepted as payment in most establishments and are the preferred currency for exchange as both cash and as travellers cheques. ATMs are widely available and major credit and debit cards are accepted.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Cayman Islands
British Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also represents Cayman Islands): +1 202 588 6500.
British High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also represents Cayman Islands): +1 613 237 1530.
British High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also represents Cayman Islands): +61 2 6270 6666.
British High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also represents Cayman Islands): +27 12 421 7500.
British Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also represents Cayman Islands): +353 1 205 3700.
British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also represents Cayman Islands): +64 4 924 2888.
Foreign Embassies in Cayman Islands
United States Consular Agent, George Town: +1 345 945 8173.
Canadian High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for Cayman Islands): +1 876 926 1500.
Australian High Commission, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for Cayman Islands): +1 868 822 5450.
The culture of the Cayman Islands is a blend of American, British, and West Indian traditions. The churchgoing Caymanians appreciate politeness and modesty - topless bathing and nudity is illegal and beachwear in not acceptable off the beach.
The Cayman Islands are one of the principal financial centres in the world. The hub of business and banking is in George Town on Grand Cayman. Business dress within the financial industry is formal, but other businesses may have a more relaxed protocol. After hours meetings are usually fairly casual. Handshakes on introduction are followed by the exchange of business cards. General business hours are 8am to 5pm, while banks open at 9am and close at 4pm Monday to Friday.
Most restaurants and hotels automatically add a 10 to 15 percent service charge to the bill, otherwise a gratuity of the same amount is expected. At hotels, a 10 percent government tax is also usually added to the cost of your room. Taxi drivers expect a 10 to 15 percent tip as well.
Public Holidays in Cayman Islands
The most popular things to do in the Cayman Islands revolve around the three islands' attractions of sun, sand, and blue water. Unsurprisingly, the Cayman Islands are a watersports paradise. Around Grand Cayman alone there are more than 150 scuba diving sites and the coral reefs of the Cayman Islands are celebrated for their health, despite the overall degradation of coral in the Caribbean. The islands are also a prime destination for fishing and the resorts offer all the usual fun recreational sports. Lounging on the beautiful beaches is also a legitimate use of time! Seven Mile Beach, on Grand Cayman, is said by many to be the best beach in the Caribbean.
Colourful and rare wildlife is found in abundance in the Cayman Islands, both in the water and on land. Little Cayman, the least visited of the islands by tourists, thrives with visiting red-footed boobies. Dive sites like the aptly names Stingray City are home to surprisingly friendly stingrays that are a delight to snorkel with. Boatswain's Beach, on Grand Cayman, is home to the famous Cayman Turtle Farm.
Landlubbers will do well inland visiting the historic sites of George Town and Pedro St James Castle or walking through Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
The rainy season, from May to November, staves off tourist crowds and is a good time to soak in the Cayman attractions despite a bit of rain.
Map of Cayman Islands
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