Know Before You Go

ENVIRONMENT

DRESS CODE

Many West Indians are fairly conservative, and though you might see some teens wearing short-short or tight-tight clothing, there is usually an adult nearby shaking his or her head. Kids in public schools wear uniforms (which they hate), that follow a strict dress code.

Visitors should wear serviceable, not flashy clothing. What does that mean?

Underwear should not show.

Wear shoes when not on the beach.

Don't wear beach clothes in town.

Shorts and skirts should hit mid-thigh or longer.

If an item of clothing is tight enough to show the outline of your underwear, it is too tight.

For boys, opt for a t-shirt instead of a muscle shirt.

In many Caribbean countries it is illegal to wear camouflage. So, leave that G.I. Joe stuff at home.

Bugs are attracted to dark colors. Wear light blue, white, and yellow to help fend off mosquitos.



CARIBBEAN CULTURE

The Caribbean is a friendly place where a smile gets you a long way. Just be prepared to "chill," meaning don't get impatient if things happen at a much slower pace than back home. Edison, Charlotte, and Jonathan have these tips for young adventurers heading to the Caribbean:

Smile at people and don't be afraid to look them in the eye.

Give everyone respect. When taking to adults use "Mr." or "Miz" before their names, like "Miz Becky."

When entering a store, hotel, or other place where people are gathered, you get to initiate the greeting. Don't wait for the proprietor to speak first. This is just opposite of mainland etiquette, so it takes a little effort to remember.

For greetings say "Good morning" if it is before noon. Say "Good afternoon" if it is between 12:00 and 6:00. Say "Good night" if it is after dark. Good night doesn't mean that you're going to sleep, it just means have a good evening.

People in the Caribbean have many accents. Some accents might be a bit difficult to understand. Don't worry about saying "Can you please say that again?" Even West Indians sometimes have to ask  each other to repeat.

You'll see many Rastafarians who have dreadlocks that are sometimes covered with a big hat. Rastafarian culture is family oriented and many of its members are farmers, artists and tradespeople.

Drugs and alcohol are plentiful in the Caribbean. Kids need to stay away from both.

Some places in the Caribbean are not safe because of gangs and drugs. Kids should not wander off alone on trails or isolated beaches.

When referring to Caribbean people, you can call them West Indians.

The islands are very modern, so don't expect little villages with thatch-roofed huts. Most islands have cell phone and Internet service, traffic jams, and fast-food.

Stay alert, be happy, and soak up the culture along with the sun.

The weather is humid. Daytime temperatures are 85-90 degrees all year round. Nighttime temperatures are in the high 70s.

The sun is hot and sunburn sets in quickly without protective UV clothing and sunscreen.

There can be rain every day. It might be just a sprinkle, or it could be a gully-washer.

September, October, and November have the most rain, but there can be a fair amount of rain in April and May, too.

Hurricane season is June 1 through November 30. The highest chance of hurricanes is in September.

There are mosquitos and they sometimes carry Dengue fever. Light colored clothing and bug spray can keep these pests away.

At about 4:30 in the afternoon, little sand gnats become active on the beaches. If you plan to stay on the beach when the gnats are active, arm yourself with bug spray and break out the long pants.

Most houses are designed to capture tropical breezes. Hotels are usually air conditioned.