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Jamaica Travel Tips

Jamaica Photo info
Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock

Keep in Mind...

  • It's the home of reggae From ska, rock steady and dancehall to anything by Bob Marley, you'll hear a lot of great music wafting through the hotel lobbies and vibrating poolside.
  • It's the home of jerk seasoning This spicy-smoky rub tastes good on many types of meat, fish and even tofu. Try it for yourself and then take a few jars home.
  • It's the home of James Bond Author Ian Fleming wrote many novels and short stories about the secret agent from his home on the north coast.

To many, Jamaica is the heart of the Caribbean. The birthplace of reggae music, the Rastafari movement and all-inclusive resorts, Jamaica symbolizes many of the things most loved and, perhaps, most misunderstood about the region. A simple remedy to clear the confusion? Come to the land of sugar cane, coffee and limestone, and form your own opinion. Your new ideas are bound to be swathed in cream-colored beaches, bordered by rugged Blue Mountains, anchored in foamy waterfalls and set to a dancehall soundtrack.

Most who travel here don't leave the comforts of their all-inclusive resort; those who do typically don't venture too far outside their immediate area. As the third-largest island of the Caribbean, Jamaica is hard to cover in one trip. Rather, it's best to choose your activities and vacation priorities, then make your hotel plans accordingly. Of the three main tourist pockets on the island, westernmost Negril is popular for its beaches and upscale accommodations; northwestern Montego Bay is well-liked by golfers; and Ocho Rios in the northeast appeals most to adventurous types. Some (but not many) visitors choose the eastern area of Port Antonio to try the top-notch surfing at Boston Bay Beach, the hiking along the Blue Mountains and the river rafting along the Rio Grande.

How To Save Money in Jamaica

  • Learn to haggle Bargaining for a better price is expected and encouraged in many souvenir shops. When visiting the craft vendors or taking a cab ride, don't accept the first amount quoted to you.
  • Pay for it all upfront Jamaica is the nerve center of the all-inclusive. Many of the resorts include more than just food and drinks in their packages. 
  • Eat on the go The tastiest food is sold by street vendors, and often costs far less than restaurant cuisine.

Jamaica Culture & Customs

Jamaican culture has often been misrepresented as Caribbean culture as a whole — though it is true that the music, food and phrases from Jamaican culture have pervaded other nearby islands. But more so than other Caribbean islands, Jamaica's strong ties to its African history play a large role in its modern culture.

Jamaicans speak English, but use a number of idioms that may not easily translate for tourists. In fact, many have been adopted from the Rastafarian religion and culture. For example, when a Jamaican says "all fruit's ripe" it indicates that all is well.

Jamaica's currency is the Jamaican dollar; roughly $1 USD is equal to $109 JMD. You can pay in U.S. dollars at most of the island's resorts, especially those that are all-inclusive. When dining out, servers in restaurants usually expect a tip equal to 10 to 15 percent of the bill; if the service charge is already included, travelers can add an additional 3 to 5 percent based on good service. Note that at most all-inclusive resorts, tipping is included in the cost. Don't worry about carrying cash with you at all times; most hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. 

Jamaica Dining

Jamaica is known for unique cuisine that fuses flavors and ingredients from different cultures. Seafood is a staple, and no Jamaican vacation is complete without sampling some of the island's fresh produce or main courses enhanced with some zesty jerk seasoning. Where to dine largely depends on where you're staying, but many area restaurants serve traditional dishes like ackee and saltfish, callaloo (a stew-like soup commonly made with okra and spinach) or fried plantains. To try some spicy jerk seasoning, look for the nearest roadside stand and order a jerk chicken skewer or jerk pork with rice and peas.

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