A lot of cruisers ask about what kind of money to use at some of the most popular ports in the Bahamas and Caribbean, so this post will address that. Keep in mind that cruises that take place in Europe, Asia, and other places around the world will be different, so this will focus mainly on spending money at the island ports of the Caribbean.
Usually, you are better off just bringing cash with you. Some credit card companies will charge a fee for using them in the Caribbean, so if you plan on just using your card make sure you call your credit card company first just to verify. Most travel credit cards will waive this fee.
Most vendors in Caribbean ports will accept U.S. currency, but be careful to bring small bills. If you give the guy behind the counter a $50 dollar bill for a $5 item, you will most likely get $45 back in another currency (happened to me once).
In fact, I once made the mistake of using an ATM in Nassau, Bahamas and unknowingly ended up with $60 in Bahamian dollars. So, I had to spend all I could at the island because that money would only be good as a souvenir back in the US (which I still have somewhere).
If you are going to make a large purchase you may want to use a credit card just for security purposes. You may have to pay a small fee, but at least you have some extra coverage if things don’t work out.
When it comes to debit cards, under no circumstances should you use a debit card in a foreign country. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster than having your debit card compromised and your bank account drained while you are on a cruise. I’ve heard too many horror stories of this happening.
In Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and other U.S. Virgin Islands the currency is in U.S. dollars since they are in fact U.S. territories.
Most other Caribbean ports all have their own currency, but you usually won’t have a problem using U.S. currency unless you venture away from the port area. Just about all taxis will accept U.S. dollars.
At many of the ports there are street vendors all over the place, and it’s actually hard to avoid them. If you want to buy anything from them you will most likely have to have cash on hand, as most do not have credit card machines.
So should you choose cash or credit card? It really depends on where you are going and what you are buying, but most experienced cruisers recommend just using cash in small bills. Some of these other places are known for credit card fraud, so you might want to put that plastic away unless you really need it.
Tip- If you plan on using a credit card on your cruise, be sure to tell your credit card company so as not to trigger a fraud alert on your account.