If you’re visiting this part of the world for the first time and don’t know anything about the local currencies or what you need to change your Sterling into, then you’ve come to the right place. For the uninitiated, Caribbean currency can seem confusing, as it varies between the countries. To get great exchange rates and make sure you’re packing pesos when you need to, or dollars when they’re desirable, read on!
Which currency should you use?
There are 13 currencies in use across the Caribbean, such as the Mexican Peso, the Barbadian Dollar and even the US Dollar! Check our individual destination guides for the best currency for your Caribbean holiday. A number of destinations use the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (also called East Caribbean Dollar), so we’ve covered that in more detail here.
Which countries use the Eastern Caribbean Dollar?
The Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD) is the official currency in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica (note, this is not the Dominican Republic!), Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Eastern Caribbean Dollars: the coins
Once you’ve changed your pounds to Eastern Caribbean Dollars (or EC), you’ll find they’re very easy to use. The coins are divided into denominations of 5, 10 and 25 cents, and 1 dollar ($). If you have any 1 or 2 cent coins hanging around from past holidays, bad news - these stopped being legal tender in 2020.
The smaller coins are 5 cents, which are made from aluminium and, to help the partially-sighted, have smooth edges. You can also pick them out by their design, with two branches forming a wreath around the number 5.
The larger coins (10 and 25 cents) are made from nickel-plated steel and have ribbed edges. These have a picture of an old sailing galleon (Sir Francis Drake’s The Golden Hind), along with the coin’s worth.
The 1 dollar coin is also embellished with the picture of the ship but, to set it apart from the smaller denominations, its edges are both ribbed and smooth. Keep a stash of these to one side for tipping.
East Caribbean Dollars: the notes
Banknotes are divided into 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 East Caribbean Dollars, each bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the front. On the reverse, in addition to the note’s value, you’ll find depictions of something from Caribbean culture, such as the Government House in Montserrat, Les Pitons twin volcanoes in St Lucia, and Nobel-prize-winning economist, Sir William Arthur Lewis. Most note denominations have now been switched from paper to polymer, with a mixture in circulation.
ATMs, credit cards and traveller’s cheques
There are plenty of ATMs in the Caribbean, so you can withdraw the local currency if you need to. Though, it's best to exchange your money before you go as the rate at cashpoints isn't great, and the vast majority will charge interest.
Credit cards are widely accepted in larger towns and cities. Just check with your card company to see what their international exchange rate fee is before you travel.
Traveller’s cheques aren’t as widely used as they once were, thanks to credit cards and currency cards. You can still use them in the Caribbean, but there are only a few banks that will cash them and these, too, incur a hefty charge for the transaction. So, these might be a handy back-up for emergency use but check how practical they’ll be for your destination before you buy.
Travel money cards
As US Dollars are so widely used across the Caribbean, a secure currency card can be really handy for your holiday spends. Simply load it with dollars before you go and you can top up while you’re travelling, withdraw money from cash machines and make contactless payments. So it’s like using a debit card, but with competitive exchange rates. Win-win!