Jamaica Travel Tips
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 pool-side.
- 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 his secret agent from his home on the north coast.
To many, Jamaica is the literal and figurative 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. Travel writers and recent visitors offer 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; those who do 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 even taking a cab ride, you should never accept the first amount quoted to you. Keep tabs on the exchange rate and be respectful while you negotiate.
- Pay for it all upfront Jamaica is the nerve-center of the all-inclusive, and many of the resorts include more than just food and drinks in their packages. If you do some digging, you can find an affordable deal that covers airport transportation and/or island tours.
- Eat on the go The tastiest food is sold by the street vendors, and it costs far less than the restaurants.
Jamaica Culture & Customs
Jamaican culture has often been misrepresented as Caribbean culture as a whole, but it is true that the music, food and some idioms of Jamaican culture have pervaded into other islands, as well.
Jamaicans speak English but use a number of idioms that don't easily translate for tourists. In fact, many have been adopted from the Rastafarian religion and culture. A person without dreadlocks is baldhead while natty dread is someone sporting their locks proudly. Babylon, or policemen, deserve article, or respect. Saying all fruits ripe indicates that all's well, while saying salt indicates that nothing is going right.
Tipping expectations are much easier to understand. Servers in restaurants usually expect 10 to 15 percent; if the service charge is already included, travelers can add an additional three to five percent based on good service. Note that at all-inclusive resorts, tipping is included in the cost.
Jamaica is known for its unique cuisine. Seafood is a staple, and no Jamaican vacation is complete without sampling some of the island's fresh produce or some 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 road-side stand.