Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/currency/converter to check up-to-the-minute rates.
On many islands in the Caribbean, the Eastern Caribbean dollar is the legal tender. Other islands count the euro as their official currency; the Antilles use the Netherlands Antillean florin; still others use a host of local moneys (the Barbados dollar, the Jamaican dollar, the Cayman Islands dollar, and so on) as their official currency. But most widely accepted throughout the Caribbean is the U.S. dollar. It is the legal currency of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and will be recognized just about anywhere you go. As such, throughout this guide, prices are listed in U.S. dollars. The only exception occurs in cases where the euro is the official currency of the realm.
You may find certain restaurants and shops present their prices in local currency, but they will still accept U.S. dollars -- just make sure that when you inquire about a price, you know the type of dollars quoted. Also be aware that you may receive your change in local currency rather than in U.S. dollars. Finally, keep in mind that you may save some money by converting to the local currency rather than paying in U.S. dollars.
In the Caribbean, ATMs (automated teller machines), sometimes referred to as "cash machines" or "cashpoints," will most likely offer the best exchange rates. Avoid exchanging money at commercial exchange bureaus and hotels, which often have the highest transaction fees.
Credit cards are widely accepted at hotels and many restaurants throughout the Caribbean. They are another safe way to carry money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make them a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).
It's highly recommended that you travel with at least one major credit card. You must have a credit card to rent a car, and hotels and airlines usually require a credit card imprint as a deposit against expenses.
Beware of hidden credit card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country -- even if those charges were made in U.S. dollars. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.
For help with currency conversions, tip calculations, and more, download Frommer's convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.