Photo: Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock

Get the Most Out of Your Travel Dollar, Pt. 1. the Caribbean

Cuba Dominican Republic Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago Insider Guides
by Jacob Bielanski Sep 9, 2007


exchange rate: 1 to 69.775

When one hears the words “Sandals Resort”, we immediately think of over-priced and undercultured. This is unfortunate, as Jamaica offers not only one of the most fascinating islands in the Caribbean, but can be traversed for very little–provided you stay away from the resorts! Jamaicans have a rich history, excellent food, and a demeanor that can’t be beat.

Dominican Republic

1 to 47.28

Another of the Caribbean islands that does not rely too strongly on Tourism and “services,” the Dominican Republic boasts a stable democracy (30 years) and a weak peso (DOP). Within very uneven wealth distribution, even those of moderate means in the states can live like–er–royalty. An old friend of my wife and I purchased an apartment there.


1 to 6.25

Populated on one end (Trinidad – lots of manufacturing for goods throughout the Americas), heavily wooded on the other. Primary language is English making it relatively comfortable. While tourism is growing, however, T&T is not nearly as dependent on tourism as other Caribbean islands–making it a paradise for those looking to go off the beaten path.


1 to 0.92 or 26.5

The taboo island. Bay of Pigs aside, the Cuban flavor has long-heralded a island rich with excitement. As a communist nation, foreign currency becomes relative icing on the cake. There’s a strange caveat though–Cuba maintains two “parallel” currencies whose values vary depending on who you are. Foodstuff and other essentials operate under the traditional peso (1:26.5), while luxury goods operate on the higher-conversion rate “covertible” peso. US dollars used to be accepted currency, but now carry a 10% commission. The lesson? Untangle the socio-politico-economic mess that is the currency and your exchange rate changes significantly.

Mystery Island

1 to ?

I can’t give away all of my secrets, can I? Turks & Caicos is being billed as a “Last Chance to See” kind of place–due to simply turn into another Bahamian resort site soon. The islands have remained relatively unspoiled for many years which have kept its costs down. This is good, because savings will not be as a result of currency conversion–they are on the U.S. Dollar. The Netherlands Antilles, with a diverse history resulting in half-dutch, half-French colonization and an economy based heavily on drug traffic and money laundering, would probably make the bottom of a 5-point list (1:1.79).


A regular contributor to Matador, Jacob Bielanksi is currently working on a project uncovering how the US government obtains data on travelers.

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