Harried mainlanders with packed itineraries will find that island life marches to a different drummer. Trying to fight this slower, hang-loose pace won’t make islanders go faster. As you exit the aircraft, take a deep breath, smile and remember you’re on vacation. Slowing down is the point of the whole exercise.
Aloha & Merci
Many islands use English as their official language, and most locals in tourist locations speak some English. But key phrases will go a long way in soliciting appreciation from your hosts. Try and learn these basics in the local language:
- Thank you
- Excuse me
- Do you speak English?
Keep It Low-Key
In addition to a more modest dress code, other cultures may have a more conservative idea of acceptable public behavior. Direct comments, angry words and the let-it-all-hang-out approach are not appreciated in more nuanced cultures. In Muslim and Asian countries, for example, displays of affection between couples should be avoided or kept very low-key in public areas.
Keep Your Money Current
It’s always a good idea to have some local currency on hand when arriving at your destination. Buses, cabs and rickshaws may not accept credit cards. Carry small change and lower-denomination currency for tips and other purchases. Larger notes often cannot be exchanged for change at small retail shops, restaurants and markets.
Fruit & Seafood Bonanza
Your trip will be much more memorable if you indulge in the local cuisine. Most islands have marvelous tropical fruit and fresh seafood to sample, as well as delicious combinations of native herbs and spices. Our favorite island fare includes conch fritters, guava sorbet and coconut curry swordfish. Ask the locals to show you what’s good. Local markets and fruit stands are a great way to sample island flavor.
Do you know the legend of El Chupacabra? Have you ever encountered the dire evil eye? Island dwellers often have fascinating age-old folklore and superstitions. Spice up your travels and find out about these intriguing stories by asking locals or researching before your trip. Doing so may also help you avoid offending local customs.
Get Your Shots
To find out whether you need any kind of immunization for your destination, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which lists vaccination requirements by country, along with health news and travel notices.
Casual, Natural & Neutral
Consider casual clothing the norm on your island getaway. Cotton, linen and silk are the coolest fabrics, and light-colored clothes don’t absorb the sun’s rays as much as darker colors. Khaki pants and shorts are ideal for mixing and matching with colors and prints, whether you’re jungle trekking or shopping.
Islands can be blissfully warm and tropical, but remember, your body temperature adjusts to the heat. You’ll definitely want summer tops and shorts, but after one or two days of frolicking in the sun, you may need pants, a sweater or a wrap for cooler evenings you would consider warm at home.
Piña coladas in Hawaii, mojitos in Cuba, wine in Greece and arak in Bali—many islands have a beverage distilled, concocted or served with local pride. The Caribbean offers beer unique to each island, while places like Thailand serve marvelous tropical fruit shakes. Imbibe with care and make sure to have a hammock waiting.
Seeing the Whole, Not Just the Parts
Some islands are small enough to walk around, while others require a day trip or more. Any which way, it’s worth taking a walk, ride or drive to experience life outside the tourist spots. Hire a reputable local guide if necessary. Hidden splendors await.