Jamaica Travel Tips

Jamaica Travel Tips 2014-10-16T11:03:50+00:00

Jamaica is where the laid back Caribbean lifestyle was invented… or so it seems. Beach, sand, weed and hair braiding are the first things that come into mind about Jamaica (please don’t think buying weed in Jamaica is legal). Jamaica is actually one of the biggest Caribbean countries and has been a holiday destination for ages. Like the Bahamas, Jamaica is part of the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth as the head of state. The allure of Jamaica is no doubt its wonderful landscape. Up in the mountains you can go zip-lining or trek through the rain forest. Down by the shores there are resorts for all kinds of budgets filled with drunken nights and sun-kissed bodies! But surely the people of Jamaica is what makes Jamaica what it is. Laid back and friendly (sometimes you get a few sketch people) and with accents that easily amuse. Be safe through! Jamaica has a very high crime rate (5th highest in the world), and certain minorities are always a target (homosexuals included).

(click on a topic to skip to that section)

Noteworthy Places
Getting to/around Jamaica
Breakdown of Costs
Jamaican People
Jamaican Language
Definitely Do’s and Don’ts
From Splurging to Saving
Good for Gay Lifestyle?
Random Advice

Noteworthy Places I’ve Been To

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Montego Bay – Montego Bay is an excellent port city known for being the touristy city of Jamaica. Many cruise ships and flights come in because of the nearby resorts, the beaches, and the duty-free shopping. From here you can do some excursions… like ride horses on the beaches, tubing or zip-lining in the rainforest. Come here to stay in near-by resorts on the beach.

Ocho Rios – The main attraction of Ocho Rios is known for Dunn River Falls, a beautiful natural waterfall that many tourist climb up. Also nearby are private beaches, Dolphine Cove (swim with dolphins), as well as a cable car ride through the rain-forest.

Surrounding mountains – If you’re looking to escape the beaches and resorts, the mountains of Jamaica are a great escape. Most of what you can do is golfing, zip-ling, tubing, and atv-ing. It is recommended that you take a tour guide with you as Jamaica can be dangerous.

Getting to/around Jamaica

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By Plane – Getting to Jamaica by plane is relatively easy (from the United States at least). Flight arrive to Kingston and Montego Bay from destinations like Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, New York, Frankfurt, Brussels, Ft. Lauderdale, Montreal, and London to name a few. Prices range depending on when you travel but because Jamaica is a tourist destination prices are higher during the holidays. Flights from the United States could range from about $400-600 dollars.

By  Cruise – Much of the people will come from a cruise and dock at either Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Either way you can still have time to usually do one excursion of your choice. Usually, on the boat, you can sign up for different excursions or, if you’re interested, you can hire a taxi in the city for much cheaper (local taxis can cost as little as 1 dollar for 20 miles).

Getting around Jamaica is pretty easy to do. Renting a car is always an option but be aware that the roads in Jamaica are sometimes dangerous and filled with potholes (especially in rainy and stormy weather). You can do the above option and rent or car or hire a taxi to get across the island (make sure to look out for route taxis. They are cheap and efficient and most Jamaicans use this to get where they need to go). There is always the option of going by bus. Many of these buses are offered by the resorts and go to destinations that serve tourist (like beaches, mountains, Bob Marley’s house, and coffee factories). Planes are always an option if money is not an object.

Breakdown of Costs

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Hotels – Every-time I’ve come to Jamaica I’ve come on a cruise but Jamaica is also known for its resorts. Jamaica’s resorts are not exactly cheap and it’s easy to spend upwards to $400 a night for an all-inclusive upscale resorts. If you’re looking for a lower budget there are options for that as well especially in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. As a whole Jamaica does have hotels for every price range.

Food – Jamaican food is a mix between Caribbean with local food. The national dish of Jamaica is Ackee and Saltfish and is uniquely available only in Jamaica. Jamaica is also known for spicy dishes, bammy, jerk seasoning, sugar cane, jerk chicken, and curry. Average prices for food in Jamaica are usually lower than American prices for food (this is for everyday normal food). If you’re eating in a restaurant expect to pay about the same in US dollars or even more.

Other Activities – In general you could actually end up spending a lot of money while in Jamaica. Even know the island is poorer than the United States usually most tourists stay at all-inclusive resorts and the resorts jack up the prices. If you do end up venturing outside of your resort than you can expect prices to be lower. If you’re coming on a cruise ship to Jamaica you might already be booking an excursion through the cruise ship. These are usually expensive (from 50 dollars to 200 dollars a person… maybe even more depending on the activity) but they do offer all food, transportation and the entertainment. If you’re brave enough than you could always hire a taxi when you get off the ship and get to the destination on your own (usually the price will be cheaper for entrance tickets, etc).

Jamaican People

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Jamaican people are usually friendly, down to earth, and relaxed. It is a joy to always hear the Jamaican accent and sometimes you will have no idea what the people are saying.  Keep in mind though that crime is rampant through Jamaica as Jamaica has one of the worst crime rates in the world. Jamaicans will try to sell weed to you but you must firmly say you’re not interested. They will try to engage in conversation and it’s alright to engage with them but just firmly say no (buying weed is illegal in Jamaica and you do not want to spend your time in a Jamaican prison). Homosexuality is also something to be careful about. If you’re gay it would not be advisable to say you were as Jamaica is one of the most homophobic nations in the world.

Jamaican Language

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The official languages of Jamaica are English and Jamaican Creole or Patois. Most Jamaicans speak English but because the accents are so strong many English speakers have a hard time understanding Jamaicans. It is not uncommon for Jamaicans signage to be written in how they say the word instead of what it is actually in English.

Definitely Do’s and Don’ts

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Do try some original Jamaican food which can be found from street vendors or in the markets.

Don’t buy weed. It’s illegal.. nuff said (unless you like dirty Jamaican prisons).

Do go to the mountains but don’t rent your own car. Instead take a group tour and experience activities like zip-lining and tubing.

Don’t venture off by yourself, especially if you’re a single woman, crime is a problem in Jamaican and is not advisable to ever be alone especially at night.

Do go to Dunn River Falls. It’s really one of the highlights of Jamaica.

Don’t forget to have Jamaican Rum… it comes with sugar cane!

Do drink plenty of water if you’re doing anything in the sun and it’s strenuous. Jamaica is a tropical country and people can get dehydrated quickly.

From Splurging to Saving

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It’s actually quite easy to spend money in Jamaica, especially on a resort. Food will be comparable to what it is in the states if you’re staying in a nice resort and expect to pay high hotel prices… anywhere from $100 – $400 a night. Now if you’re coming on a cruise then you might have already paid for an excursion on the ship. There is always the option of paying a taxi less money to take you where you need to go but that is at your own risk.

If you’re on a budget then it’s actually not that hard either to find a cheap hotel or hostel. In general the prices at local restaurants are about the same as American prices or a bit less. If you can take local taxis, eat at local restaurants instead of the resorts, and find a hostel then Jamaica can actually pretty cheap. Regardless though if you still want to to do some of the excursions those can be pricey ranging usually from $4o – $200 US dollars.

If you’re in a port city (Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Kingston, etc…) you can save some money because by going to  the markets that are usually duty free (meaning no tax).

Good for Gay Lifestyle?

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No way. Jamaica is one of the most homophobic countries in the world. Now I’ve been several times to Jamaica but I went I was younger and not fully out. Nor was I traveling by myself or with a boyfriend to Jamaica. If you would like to go to Jamaica was a couple then it’s recommended you act the part as a non gay couple. Of course I hate people to not be themselves but there has been serious hate crimes towards gays.

If you hear the term battymen, then they are harassing you and calling you gay. In Jamaica anal sex can be punished for up to 10 years (even though straights are having anal sex more these days). It is better to not display any affection if you’re two men. Lesbians may have it easier but as a whole Jamaica is best to be avoided if you would like to have a gay vacation and be affectionately public towards each-other.

Random Advice

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If you’re getting married in Jamaica; make sure you bring the proper documents depending on which country you’re coming from. Check with your hotel or whomever you’re planning with.

Aids runs higher in Jamaica than the  United States and Europe but in general lower than other developing nations.

Water is generally safe to drink in Jamaica. It’s treated to international standards.

There is a slight chance to catch Malaria mostly near Kingston (only recently has it popped up again).

Good manners are always appreciated.

 

 

 

images by: greta, shawnvoyage