Tips For Visiting Jamaica

Introduction To Jamaica

Before going to Jamaica, you need to realize that it is unlike any other country. It has a humorous, flavorful people who enjoy dry humor and capitalism. It is a bizarre place of blue waters, bleak architecture and a colony that got it's independence too soon.

I have been to Jamaica twice and I simply loved the Island. There is simply a place for everyone there. It is a world of extremes.  Please continue reading so that I may introduce the Island, it's characteristics, it's wonderful people and insider information so that you may better enjoy your stay.

Map of Jamaica

Photo Courtesy of www.popvision.com
Photo Courtesy of www.popvision.com

Pick a Spot, Any Spot

First, you need to find out where you want to spend your time in Jamaica. This matters greatly. Different parts of the island are geared towards different types of tourists.

Kingston is the capital of the nation, the largest city, and of course is the host of the Bob Marley festival every August. It is a fun place to go during that time, but I do not recommend visiting during any other time. Political demonstrations are common, poverty is grinding, and the beaches are off-limits to tourists (unless you want to get mugged). You can fly into Kingston directly from their international airport.

Montego Bay, or otherwise known as Mo' Bay is the primary tourist hub and where most flights arrive from the United States and Europe. It is referred to as Mo' Bay by locals and should not be called Montego Bay. Trust me on this. There are few all inclusive resorts here, but the shopping is good. After landing, you will probably board a bus that will drive you to your resort.

Falmouth is about a three hour bus ride, easy, from Montego Bay. You will see resorts everywhere. They are walled in, off-limits to locals (except the employees) and have security. You will often see hustlers outside the gates or outside the beach premises wanting to sell you pot, prostitutes, whatever. Anything you need, they will get you. These merchants will not venture onto resort grounds--so don't worry if they are bugging you, just walk away. Keep in mind that people in Jamaica do not have regard for a "personal bubble", merchants will often grab your arm or otherwise touch you in order to compell you to buy their stuff. Do not be alarmed, they won't hurt you. This is just their method of sale. Simply say "not interested" over and over as you walk away, they may follow a few feet and blurt a few words (such as begging phrases), but will not harm you or chase you down. Nudist beaches are common but are usually sealed off, they can be found on resort grounds. People or merchants will not bother you if you decide to utilize the area.

Negril is mostly a place for college students on spring break, singles, or honeymooners. It is a nice, newer resorted area of the island. It is about 3 hours away from Mo' Bay International Airport. Negril is not really recommended for families.

Ochos Rios is an excellent spot for shopping, and exploring some of the natural wonders of the island. If you are staying in the area (within an hour's drive), I recommend that you go to The Blue Lagoon--especially if you are a drinker. They will load you up with as much Red Stripe Beer (their primary and often only sold beer) and Fruit Punch & Rum. You will be on a boat with 18 other people or so, then you will be introduced to the Blue Lagoon: a 4 foot lagoon with ancient bacteria in it--when you irritate the bacteria by moving your arms or feet, the water will glow bright blue.  The water is perfectly safe.  It is a fabulous time and is worth the $30 (USD) or so bucks. You will be taken at nighttime.

Runaway Bay is simular to Falmouth in it's tourist infrastructure. If you choose to go to Jamaica, you will see many resorts available here. Nearby there is a shallow yet long (about a mile) waterfall that you can navigate. You will be issued watershoes, will travel with about 60 people or so, will have several guides and everyone will be holding hands. A man with a video camera will record your expierence, and you may purchase a copy for around $20 USD.

A Typically Beautiful Beach in Jamaica

Photo Courtesy of www.lonelyplanet.com
Photo Courtesy of www.lonelyplanet.com

Other Information

Bring US Dollars - I recommend bringing US dollars as they are widely accepted. There is no need for the Jamaican dollar.

Buy All-Inclusive - Most resorts on the Island are all inclusive. At about $1000 USD per person, we purchased a 7 night stay and plane tickets (to Mo' Bay and back to San Francisco). The stay includes free alcoholic beverages around the clock, free food & buffet (breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, and often hamburger bars are open till 2am). Free golf was apart of our package as well. The deal was outstanding.

Theft Alert on Buses & Taxis! - Watch your belongings on buses and taxis. Often drivers are in involved with their friends in order to pickpocket, steal baggages or even large luggage. The driver will usually pick a friend up (since the buses and taxis make multiple stops), the friend will sneak his way into getting a belonging, signal the driver, the driver shall stop, and the man will bolt out of the bus with the belonging(s). Just keep a firm grip on your belongings and be sure to alert a fellow passenger if their item is about to be stolen. This happened to us once and we saved a British man's bag from being stolen. In taxis, often the driver will pick up an accomplace and a robbery may insue. Never ride in taxis that are unmarked or where the driver has no documentation.

Stay Away From Political Demonstrations - Although Jamaica is quite a stable country (relatively), demonstrations do occur often. Usually violence does not break out, but the small police force is usually dispatched. All policemen are armed with assault rifles.

Kingston Beaches Are OFF LIMITS AT NIGHT! - I know I said this before, but if you are on a beach in kingston late at night, you are bound to get mugged. Just don't do it.

Do Not Rent A Car - Driving deaths are very common in Jamaica (up to 600 a year by some estimates). Local drivers are often erratic and will make their own roads on the sides of hills if there is traffic. Highway patrol or traffic police are non existent in Jamaica, for the most part. Also, rental cars are often broken into, especially in Kingston.

Marijuana is Illegal in Jamaica - Despite the myth, Mary-Jane is indeed illegal in Jamaica. Generally you can smoke with locals (if you so desire) or on your patio at your resort peacefully, but try to at least be somewhat discrete. Generally resorts do not want their customers to be arrested, but may have to call security or even the police if things get out of hand (such as doing a line of cocaine on the bar). Remember, things are flexible, but are not outrageous. You don't want to spend time in a Jamaican prison.

Have fun! - Jamaica is a great place to be, and the chances of something bad happening are low. Just follow common sense and you will do fine, enjoy!

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Comments 14 comments

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

I would enjoy visiting Jamaica one day. Reading about your experiences was helpful too.


English Teacher profile image

English Teacher 7 years ago from Midwestern United States

Hey, Direxmd: Are you trying to get me to spend money? The other day I'm drooling over the interior of $45,000 cars you posted, and now you're tempting me to travel... :-)


Direxmd profile image

Direxmd 7 years ago from Sonoma County, California Author

hahaha english teacher! If we only had the spare cash to spend these days :P

Heads up, I think i'm going to publish the last one of the top ten series today or tomarrow :)


shelly 7 years ago

i like this website


Mina131 profile image

Mina131 7 years ago from United States

i love jamaica as well! great, accurate hub...however, kingston is safe if you take the right precautions! don't be afraid to go there, they have some great stuff. i was there for 2 weeks with no problems. i def agree with your safety tips though. one love!


filthyscoundral profile image

filthyscoundral 7 years ago

Just got back from jamaica it was a great trip!


karirosepink profile image

karirosepink 6 years ago from Oregon

Thanks for sharing! I just wrote a blog about our amazing Jamaican honeymoon. We had a great time, and will definitely be returning to Jamaica in the future. Here is my blog:

http://hubpages.com/travel/Jamaica-honeymoon


s.aguilar1980 profile image

s.aguilar1980 6 years ago from Aspen, Colorado

Thanks for the tips!


Direxmd profile image

Direxmd 6 years ago from Sonoma County, California Author

One love everyone :)

I hope you all have been safe in your travels, and continue to do so.

Cheers,

-Direxmd


Ms. Teri 6 years ago

Hi Direxmd...I just returned from a trip to Jamaica the first week in July and I must say that I had a BALL!!! We only stayed for the 4th of July weekend and that was not long enough. I am going back in Feb and staying for 7 days. I miss Jamaica and all it have to offer.


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nancypolaska 5 years ago from Oxford Road

very attractive and creative.. thanks for your effort...


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jay 3 years ago

I doubt that you have been to Jamaica. Negril is suitable for all tourist. Negril is about an hour twenty. Falmouth is about an hour at most from Mobay. A rather silly account of Jamaica. Tourist should have no real worries about trying a little ganga. Robberies of tourist are rare in Jamaica other than the taking of just about anything left laying around. Leave your valuables out in the room and they may be taken. I know of no "tourist" beaches in Kingston. Tourist usually do not go to the Kingston area and there are few resorts near there.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 11 months ago from New Jersey

I've been to Negril 4 times, and there are family friendly resorts there. It is not "newer", it's been a popular tourist destination since the 1960s. One year when I was there with my husband and son, a Norwegian couple with 3 yr. old twins got married at the resort, then called Negril Gardens. Everyone got into the spirit with them.

The Northwest tip of the island is beautiful, especially if you are a nature lover like I am. I saw so many varieties of plants and flowers I never saw before. It's about an hour and a half from the airport at Montego Bay. It is hard to get used to driving on the other side of the road, if you are visiting from the U.S., but there are tourist buses at the airport. I have traveled a lot, and Jamaica is the most lush and beautiful island I have ever seen.

It's easy to get pot if you want to, but not the only reason to visit Jamaica. It's got lovely people, and in Negril, you are about an hour away from the mountains too. I've never been robbed or involved in any political issues, and openly walked down streets alone. I never met anyone who remotely scared me. Yes, the people are poor, but will not hassle you if you politely say "no."

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