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Millions of American vacationers will make their way to the Caribbean during the next few months. With dozens of independent nations, protectorates, and colonies, the Caribbean offers a crazy quilt of options. Apart from wide differences in attractions and accommodations, the islands present a confusion of local customs and bureaucratic regulations. These differences can make a journey to each new island both a joy and an adventure, even for travelers who are well acquainted with other Caribbean destinations.
There is, for example, no one rule that applies to all Caribbean islands when it comes to entry and exit requirements, even for short-term vacationers.
All of the islands try to make themselves accessible for spur-of-the-moment travel. In fact, Cuba is the only island for which American tourists must obtain advance documentation, and that restriction comes from our government, not theirs. Most islands simply check tourists through brief customs formalities, although several, such as the Dominican Republic, require travelers to register upon entry. All the islands require advance documentation for any traveler whose visit is for purposes other than tourism, such as business or education.
That's why Caribbean travelers should always make sure to pack proper papers in addition to their beachwear. Proper papers usually mean two forms of identification, usually a government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license and proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a voter's registration or certified birth certificate. While not mandatory anywhere, a passport is always the best form of proof to have along with you.
Several islands also require incoming travelers to prove their intent to eventually depart, such as presenting an onward air ticket. Islands in the sun also often charge each departing traveler an exit fee of $15 to $20, which must be paid in cash at the airport. Some islands also tack on an airport tax.
Here are some Caribbean Islands with exit fees that make saying goodbye just a little bit harder:
Antigua and Barbuda: $20.
Bahamas: $18 from Freeport; $15 Nassau and Out Islands.
Bermuda: $20 air; $60 ship.
British Virgin Islands: $20 air; $15 ship.
Cayman Islands: $20.
Cozumel (Mexico): $18-$25.
Dominican Republic: $20 on entry.
St. Kitts and Nevis: $20.
St. Lucia: $26.
St. Maarten (Dutch): $30.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines: $15.
Trinidad and Tobago: $17.
Turks and Caicos: $30.
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