The Caribbean may be more associated with glitzy hotels and five-star luxury, but it has much to tempt backpackers looking for an authentic taste of this tropical melting pot. Discover the other face of the Caribbean as you travel throughout the region and stay at family-run guest-houses and tiny hotels off the beaten tourist track in the likes of Belize, Guyana and St. Eustatius.
There are plenty of islands that offer a more personalised stay, and some countries, including the British Virgin Islands, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Lucia, and Anguilla have their own online directories listing local lodgings.
Curaçao has a smattering of guest-houses offering inexpensive accommodation.
Martinique also boast gîtes, located mainly in rural areas, offering a more local-orientated, less expensive alternative.
Even on islands such as Barbados, Nassau (The Bahamas) and Puerto Rico, known for their big-name hotels, have a good range of less expensive properties.
Getting around is part of the experience too with a network of inter-island flights and ferry services that offer a cost-effective and scenic way to explore clusters of islands together. Some islands also have good local bus services.
The beautiful tropical scenery makes backpacking a joy and many of the beaches are public so you don’t need to worry about where to spend the days chilling out. Bustling markets, fish-fry evenings and street parties also serve up an intoxicating flavour of local life at low cost.
And on the dual nationality island of Saint-Martin/St. Maarten, you can enjoy two cultures in one with the distinctly different French and Dutch communities.
But one of the most rewarding aspects of backpacking around this region is the people, who are naturally warm and friendly. Jamaica and The Bahamas run special programmes free of charge that put visitors in touch with local families who will socialise with them during their stay; while Grenada runs a Homestay programme enabling visitors to stay with families in their own homes.
For visitors wanting to get involved in community activities, there are various voluntourism projects, some of which are run by local hotels. These can include reading projects at schools and beach clean-ups.
Street food is a Caribbean staple with patties, rotis, peas ‘n’ rice and jerk meats offering a delicious
on-the-go alternative to restaurant fare. Away from tourist areas, prices are more competitive, so it’s worth seeing where the locals go for their food. It could be a roadside van selling hot takeaways or a jerk pit with spiced meats, but it promises to be good value as well as tasty