Before packing your bags and setting foot on the island, there are some important things about traveling to Jamaica.
Your vacation will be more fulfilling, and you will appreciate the time spend here.
- Things to know before booking your flight to Jamaica
- Travel Tips for getting around the island.
- Travel tips for driving in Jamaica
- Tips for money & banking.
- How to shop in Jamaica
- Smoking cannabis and cigarettes in Jamaica
- Travel tips for tipping in Jamaica
- Tips for buying road food
- Travel tips for Jamaica_ what to take on your vacation.
- How to navigate Jamaica’s culture
- How to stay safe in Jamaica
Things to know before booking your flight to Jamaica
You might need to do a Covid test and prove you don’t have the virus. However, vaccination is going on, so things might change soon. Here is what to expect when traveling to Jamaica during the pandemic.
A passport is required to fly to Jamaica, possibly a visa. If you are traveling from the USA or Canada on a cruise, the original copy of your birth certificate and an id will do. However, you would be bothered if there is an emergency and you must board a flight. Therefore it is best always to use a passport.
Check out this post for more details on the requirements for travel to Jamaica.
Most of Jamaica’s commercial flights go through Norman Manley Internation Airport in Kingston and Sangster in Montego Bay. Travelers to the North and South Coast usually use Montego Bay. Most people dont realize Kingston is less than three hours from Montego bay, so if your preferred flight to the North Coast is unavailable, Kingston will do it instead of traveling at an inconvenient time. Click here to learn about airports in Jamaica.
If you are going to Ochi Rio, Boscobel, or Portland, the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston is closer and will take a little over an hour to reach your destination via the toll road.
Transfer from Kingston to the North Coast on the Knutsford Express, hire a Juta taxi or rent a car.
Get Travel Insurance. If there is a medical emergency, you can easily get treated at the best hospital without racking up a hefty bill. Jamaica is vulnerable to hurricanes and other natural disasters; civil unrest is not common, but your insurance will cover evacuation costs.
Travel Tips for getting around the island.
These are the option for travel in Jamaica.
- Public transport – route taxi, coaster bus, government bus, minivans
- Luxury Bus – Knostford Express
- Hired transport- Juta or another licensed company
If you are traveling from Kingston to the North, South, or West Coast, the Knostford express is perfect. It’s a luxury bus company that offers excellent service. But, of course, you have to book your seat in advance; it costs less than US$30 from Kingston to Negril.
Hiring a taxi is best if you want to tour and visit some attractions; it can cost from US$100 to a few hundred bucks.
Renting a car is best if you stay for a few weeks and plan to explore the island. It is cheaper and more convenient. US$ 35 will get you a vehicle for the day. Use a licensed company. You can rent in advance or at the airport when you arrive on the island.
Jump on a route taxi or coaster if you want to travel like a local it’s cheap; however, vehicles are cramped. It is not the safest or most convenient way to get around.
Here is how to travel on Public transport in Jamaica.
Travel tips for driving in Jamaica
We drive on the right; it may seem weird if you come from North America.
Google map works in towns and cities, but things might get tricking in the mountains.
Look out for animals on the windy and bumping country roads. It’s common to see cows and goats eating grass on the roadside. No, they are not strays, they will find their way back home before it gets dark, or the owners will collect them.
An incoming vehicle’s headlights during the day mean a speed trap ahead. During the night, it simply means you are to dim your light.
A slight tooth of a horn from behind means you are about to be overtaken. Loud honking means you are driving like a tourist and holding up traffic. Dont be bothered; they will zip past when it’s possible to overtake.
Jamaican drivers are aggressive; they tailgate, blow horns, and overtake on narrow streets. Don’t get upset and lose your cool; focus on the road.
Be careful when getting directions, especially in rural areas; just around the corner could be ten miles away.
If you plan to drive while in Jamaica, check out to post.
Tips for money & banking.
Before leaving home, inform your bank or credit card provider about going to Jamaica. If not, your transaction might be seen as suspicious and get blocked. Also, ensure your card limit is enough to cover the trip’s spending. Contacting your financial provider from Jamaica to make adjustments can be frustrating.
Your international credit card or debit card should work. However, travel with cash, some merchants in jamaica dont accept certain foreign cards.
You can withdraw cash from ATMs in jamaica, but not all issue US currency. However, Scotia is the largest bank on the island that gives US and Jamaican notes.
US dollars are accepted everywhere. However, use only in tourist areas where prices are in US dollar equivalent because the exchange rate someplace can be unfair.
Don’t buy or exchange money at the airport; use the bank or Cambio to get better rates.
How to shop in Jamaica
Some resorts offer duty-free shopping; at the airports, you can buy jewelry, tobacco, rum, and souvenirs.
When buying things to take home a piece of Jamaica, check the tag; it might be a piece of China. There are a lot of cheap knock-offs on the island. If you want to get authentic Jamaica Items, shop at the craft village, it might cost a bit more, but it is worth it.
Jamaican vendors might come off as pushy; if you are not interested in what they are selling, politely say no and keep moving. No one will go out of their way to make you uncomfortable they are only trying to make a sale.
Get Jamaican dollars if you shop outside the resorts or tourist areas. It is much easier; you don’t have to negotiate the conversation and get a meager exchange rate. Unfortunately, some merchants disadvantage tourists by not knowing the exchange rate for the local currency.
There is a local price when buying on the street, and tourists price dont be afraid to negotiate. So please don’t feel too bad that they are trying to overcharge you. Even locals who they think are rich get the same treatment. Some sellers believe tourists are wealthy, don’t know the actual price, and will accept any price they tell them.
The easiest way to negotiate is to show interest in the item, ask for the price, then walk away if it’s too expensive. Most times, they will drop the price if they are overcharging you.
Smoking cannabis and cigarettes in Jamaica
Jamaica is one of the biggest promotors of cannabis use through reggae music. You would think that most people on the island smoke but surprisingly, thats not the case.
Most Jamaicans view smoking Ganja negatively. It was illegal, but the laws changed in 2015. They decriminalized it, so citizens caught with up to two ounces will get arrested. However, you might pay a fine of JA $500.
You cannot take it on fight out of the country; you will be arrested and charged for exporting drugs.
Only members of the Rastafarian community are free to plant and pose as much as they like. It is a sacrament used as part of their religious practice.
Even though it is illegal to sell on the street, locals will offer it. If you don’t want cannabis, say no and go about your business. Some Jamaicans think tourists come to the island to chill on the beach, relax and smoke weed.
Lighting up with a random stranger you meet on the street is unsafe. Instead, tour a Rasta village or go to an Herb house if you want to experience that part of the culture.
Cigarettes are legal in Jamaica and available at the most convenient stores; Matheran and Craven A are the most popular brands. However, it might be hard to find _or take your own if you smoke a different brand.
Smoking in public spaces is illegal, and some restaurants /bars have smoking areas.
Some properties do not allow smoking or have designated spaces to do so. Check to make sure.
Travel tips for tipping in Jamaica
Jamaicans are helpful; they will help strangers without asking for anything. Some will accept if you offer them a tip, while others might refuse, depending on the person or situation.
At some restaurants, workers are not allowed to accept gratuity _ it’s added to your bill. All_inclusive resort policy varies; some allow others don’t. Check out this post on tipping at all-inclusive resorts.
It’s ok to tip your tour guide, driver, or the workers who help you at the supermarket if you think their service is exceptional. However, you are not obligated to give anybody money, so it is at your discretion.
How much to tip depends on you and how long the person has been helping you out. Anywhere from US$5, they will appreciate it—that’s about JA$740. Workers at the lower end of the industry are now well paid, using tips to supplement their salary.
Tips for buying road food
It would be unsafe to buy street food in some countries, but it is acceptable and safe in Jamaica.
Most small food shacks have to pass the minimum requirement to operate; a required food handler permit. The island has a tradition of maintaining a high standard of cleanliness. Jamaica’s life expectancy rate was on par with developed nations despite being a developing country when diseases ravaged the world in the early 20th century. We were not getting sick from germs_ proper hygiene was a part of the culture.
You will get some of the best-tasting foods on the street, even better than at the resorts. The most popular foods are Jerk pork, Manish water(ram goat soup), Conch soup, roast yam, roast breadfruit, and fish (stew, fried roast). Conch is seasonal, so it might not be in season at your travel time.
Travel tips for Jamaica_ what to take on your vacation.
Jamaica has a tropical climax, so it is warm all year round. So, shorts, tee shirts, and light clothing will do. But, if you spend time in the mountains, take a jacket, it can get cold up there. Well, by Jamaican standards.
Water shoes are a must to explore the rivers and climb the waterfalls. If you are going snorkeling, take your gear. Although they are available at resorts, you might have to pay a fee to use them at a hotel or Airbnb.
You can get sunburn, so sunscreen is necessary regardless of race. It is available here at the hotel or pharmacy.
An unlocked phone is necessary; you can use a sim card from one of the two telecom providers. Chargers are also essential; bring two.
Although you are unlikely to be in danger, take a doorstop and a simple door or window alarm, especially if staying at an Airbnb.
How to navigate Jamaica’s culture
Jamaicans are some of the warmest and most welcoming people you will find on the planet but are often misunderstood. In island culture, it isn’t polite to enter a room with people without greeting them. So if random strangers welcome you on the streets, don’t be alarmed; acknowledge them and move on.
It is usual for someone on the street to strike a conversion. If you are a female, men will compliment you. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are hitting on you or want anything; be polite.
Jamaican men are straightforward; they will tell you or ask for your contact if they are interested in you.
If a female travels solo, you don’t have to fear men attacking her on the streets. However, if there are unwelcome advances, let them know you are not interested.
Don’t be too uptight with time. It’s a laid-back culture so expect most things to be late. Set extra time if going on a tour, airport, or waiting at a restaurant. An extra half hour or an hour to be safe. Soon come could mean five minutes, one hour, or the next; you never know.
There are many music festivals and events where you can enjoy the authentic culture. Get a trusted tour guide to take you around.
Track Field is big on the island; if you are interested in attending one of these meets, they usually start in January, with Boys and Girls in March. Other International meets take place in June. Check this post to learn more about Jamaica’s track and field culture.
How to stay safe in Jamaica
I am sure you heard that Jamaica is unsafe and have people looking at you crazing when you tell them you are going to Jamaica. Although the island has a crime problem, things are not as bad as they might have been, you believe. Tourists are safe. Most crime is among locals in some communities.
Check out this post on crime and Jamaica and how it affect tourist.
Crime is not a significant problem in tourist areas, but you must be aware. You cannot leave valuables unattended in public in any country. You are likely to lose them.
Kingston, the cultural capital of the Caribbean, is labeled a no-go for some people, but it’s not all that bad once you exercise caution. Get a better understanding of safety in Kingston here.
Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril are the recommended tourist areas, but they are not perfect.
Use common sense and take safety precautions, and you will enjoy your vacation in Jamaica safely.