The Cayman Islands dollar is the official currency of the Cayman Islands, although U.S. dollars are readily accepted everywhere. Although some international banks abbreviate it as KYD, the country's currency is usually identified within the Cayman Islands as CI$.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the U.S. Dollar: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = US$1.22. Inversely stated, US$1 is worth approximately CI82¢.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the British Pound: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = 74p. Inversely stated, £1 is worth approximately CI$1.34.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the Canadian Dollar: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = C$1.19. Inversely stated, C$1 is worth approximately CI83¢.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the Euro: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = €0.85. Inversely stated, €1 is worth approximately CI$1.17.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the Australian Dollar: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = A$1.15. Inversely stated, A$1 is worth approximately CI87¢.
The Cayman Islands Dollar & the New Zealand Dollar: At the time of this writing, CI$1 = NZ$1.50. Inversely stated, NZ$1 is worth approximately CI66¢.
Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency; however, hotel rates are quoted in US$ in this guide. The currency conversions quoted above were correct at press time. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing, consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com to check up-to-the-minute rates. Although the rate between the CI$ and the US$ is permanently fixed as part of an international banking agreement, the ratios between the CI$ and other currencies fluctuate, based on frequently changing financial and political factors.
Warning: Be alert about which currency is being quoted at any given time. Hotels tend to quote their rates in U.S. dollars, while restaurants, nightclubs, and gift shops tend to quote their prices in Cayman Islands dollars. We do the same when quoting prices in this guide. Misunderstanding the currency quoted for any given transaction can be embarrassing and expensive.
It's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms when traveling: a mix of cash, credit cards, and traveler's checks. You should also exchange enough cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.
In many international destinations, ATMs offer the best exchange rates. Avoid exchanging money at commercial exchange bureaus and hotels, which often have the highest transaction fees.
The Cayman Islands are one of the most upmarket destinations in the Caribbean, although prices aren't as sky-high as on the French island of St. Barts or the British-affiliated island of Anguilla. Nevertheless, a frugal traveler will do better in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. The cost of living is about 20% higher in the Cayman Islands than it is in the United States.
Brace yourself for the high prices that resorts charge. There is almost nothing in the budget category. To give you an idea of the price structure, an "inexpensive" room in Grand Cayman is one charging US$150 a night for a double, a price that might buy you a first-class hotel in many parts of America.
Most of the big hotels along Seven Mile Beach don't offer meal plans such as the MAP (the Modified American Plan, which includes breakfast and either lunch or dinner). You'll often have to pay for your food a la carte. Food prices are high since almost everything is imported, but they're not nearly as exorbitant as hotel prices; US$20 to US$35 will get you a main course at a typical restaurant. "Budget" would refer to any restaurant serving main courses for US$18 and under.
The easiest and most economical way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine," or a "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (www.visa.com) networks span the globe. Go to your bank card's website to find ATM locations in the Cayman Islands. Be sure you know your Personal Identification Number (PIN) and your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. It's a good idea to also notify your bank of your travel plans, as international withdrawals may be interpreted as fraud, causing your account to be blocked. Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to US$5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than US$2). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.
Note: Banks that are members of the Global ATM Alliance charge no transaction fees for cash withdrawals at other Alliance member ATMs; these include Bank of America, Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico), Barclays (U.K. and parts of Africa), Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Spain, and Italy), and BNP Paribas (France).
Although ATMs are hard to come by on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, banks with ATMs are easy to find in George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman. You can request U.S. dollars or Cayman dollars at most banks and ATMs.
Credit cards 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 credit card cash advances 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).
You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. They are offered in denominations of US$20, US$50, US$100, US$500, and sometimes US$1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.
The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/807-6233 or 800/221-7282 for cardholders -- this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the 1% fee); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322 -- AAA members can obtain Visa checks for free for checks up to US$1,500 at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378); and MasterCard (tel. 800/223-9920).
Be sure to keep a record of the traveler's checks' serial numbers separate from your checks in case they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.
American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, and MasterCard offer foreign currency traveler's checks, useful if you're traveling to one country or to the Euro zone; they're accepted at locations where dollar checks may not be.
Another option is prepaid traveler's check cards, reloadable cards that work much like debit cards but aren't linked to your checking account. The American Express Travelers Cheque Card, for example, requires a minimum deposit, sets a maximum balance, and has a one-time issuance fee of US$14.95. You can withdraw money from an ATM (for a fee of US$2.50 per transaction, not including bank fees), and the funds can be purchased in dollars, euros, or pounds. If you lose the card, your available funds will be refunded within 24 hours.
What Things Cost in Grand Cayman CI$
Taxi from airport to Seven Mile Beach 12.00
Average bus fare 2.00
Lunch for one at Chicken! Chicken! (inexpensive) 7.00
Dinner for one, without wine, at Grand Old House (expensive) 40.00
Dinner for one, without wine, at Bacchus (moderate) 24.00
Dinner for one, without wine, at Al la Kebab (inexpensive) 8.00
Double room, high season, at Ritz-Carlton (very expensive) 590.00
Studio, high season, at Comfort Suites (moderate) 210.00
Double room, high season, at Eldemire's Guest House (inexpensive) 100.00
Half a liter of beer 5.00
Coca-Cola or Pepsi in a restaurant 2.25
Cup of coffee 2.50
Glass of wine 9.00
Movie ticket 12.50
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.