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Jamaica travel guide - Travel S helper


travel guide

Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation comprised of the Greater Antilles’ third-largest island. The island, which has an area of 10,990 square kilometers (4,240 square miles), is located about 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and 191 kilometers (119 miles) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the nation-states of Haitiand the Dominican Republic). Jamaica is the Caribbean’s fourth-largest island nation in terms of land area.

The indigenous Arawak and Tano peoples inhabited the island, which fell under Spanish control after Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1494. Numerous indigenous people perished of illness, and the Spanish brought African slaves to work on their fields. The island, originally called Santiago, remained a Spanish property until 1655, when it was captured by England (later Great Britain) and renamed Jamaica. Jamaica became a major sugar exporter under British colonial control, with its plantation economy heavily reliant on imported slaves from Africa. In 1838, the British abolished slavery completely, and many freedmen opted to establish subsistence farms rather than labor on plantations. The British began importing Chinese and Indian indentured labor to work on plantations in the 1840s. On 6 August 1962, the island declared independence from the United Kingdom.

Jamaica is the third-most populated Anglophone nation in the Americas (after the United States and Canada) and the fourth-most populous in the Caribbean, with 2.8 million inhabitants. Kingston, with a population of 937,700, is the country’s capital and biggest city. Jamaicans are mostly of African origin, with sizable minority of European, Chinese, Hakka, Indian, and mixed ancestry. Jamaica has a sizable diaspora worldwide, especially in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, owing to a high rate of emigration for employment since the 1960s.

Jamaica is a Commonwealth country ruled by Queen Elizabeth II. Her designated representative in the nation is Sir Patrick Allen, the Governor-General of Jamaica, a position he has held since 2009. Since March 2016, Andrew Holness has served as Jamaica’s head of government and Prime Minister. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative authority devolved to the bicameral Jamaican Parliament, which is composed of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.

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Jamaica - Info Card




Jamaican dollar (JMD)

Time zone



10,991 km2 (4,244 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

Jamaican English

Jamaica | Introduction

Weather & Climate in Jamaica

Jamaica’s climate is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although the higher regions inland are more temperate. Some areas on the south coast are relatively dry rain shadow areas. Jamaica is located in the Atlantic Ocean hurricane belt; therefore, the island sometimes experiences significant storm damage.

Geography and environment of Jamaica

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It lies between latitudes 17° and 19°N and longitudes 76° and 79°W. Mountains, including the Blue Mountains, dominate the interior. They are surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. Major cities include the capital Kingston on the south coast, Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio, Negril and Montego Bay on the north coast.

Kingston harbour is the seventh largest natural harbour in the world, which contributed to the city’s designation as capital in 1872.

Tourist attractions include Dunn’s River Falls in St Ann, YS Falls in St Elizabeth and the Blue Lagoon in Portland, which is believed to be the crater of an extinct volcano. Port Royal was the site of a major earthquake in 1692, which contributed to the formation of the island’s Palisades.

Jamaica’s climate is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although the higher regions inland are more temperate. Some areas on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plains and the Pedro Plains, are relatively dry rain-shadow areas.

Jamaica lies in the Atlantic Ocean hurricane belt and as a result the island sometimes suffers significant storm damage. Hurricanes Charlie and Gilbert directly hit Jamaica in 1951 and 1988 respectively, causing extensive damage and many deaths. In the 2000s (decade), Hurricanes Ivan, Dean and Gustav also brought severe storms to the island.

The diversity of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems includes dry and wet limestone forests, rainforests, riparian forests, wetlands, caves, rivers, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The authorities have recognised the significant importance and potential of the environment and have designated some of the more ‘fertile’ areas as ‘protected’. Protected areas on the island include the Cockpit Country, Hellshire Hills and Litchfield Forest reserves. In 1992, Jamaica’s first marine park was established in Montego Bay, covering almost 15 square kilometres (5.8 square miles). The Portland Bight Conservation Area was designated in 1999.

The following year, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was established on about 780 km2 of wilderness, home to thousands of species of trees and ferns as well as rare animals.

Flora and fauna in Jamaica

Jamaica’s climate is tropical, which favours the diversity of ecosystems and the abundance of plants and animals.

The flora of Jamaica has changed greatly over the centuries. When the Spanish arrived in 1494, the land was heavily forested except for small agricultural clearings. European settlers cut down the large trees for shipbuilding and supplies and cleared the plains, savannas and mountain slopes for intensive agriculture. Many new crops were introduced, including sugar cane, bananas and citrus fruits.

Bamboo, fern, ebony, mahogany and rosewood grow in the high rainfall areas. Cacti and similar dryland plants are found along the southern and southwestern coastal zone. Parts of the west and southwest consist of large grasslands with scattered stands of trees.

Jamaica’s wildlife, typical of the Caribbean, includes a very diverse fauna with many endemic species found nowhere else on earth. As in other oceanic islands, the terrestrial mammals are mainly bats. The only native mammal in Jamaica that is not a bat is the Jamaican hutia, also known as coney. Introduced mammals, such as the wild boar and the small Asian mongoose, are also common. Jamaica is also home to about 50 species of reptiles, the largest of which is the American crocodile; however, it is only found in the Black River and some other areas. Lizards such as anoles, iguanas and snakes such as runners and the Jamaica boa (the largest snake on the island) are common in areas such as Cockpit Country. None of the eight native snake species in Jamaica are venomous.

One species of freshwater turtle is native to Jamaica, the Jamaican leatherback turtle. It is found only on Jamaica, on Cat Island and on some other islands in the Bahamas. In addition, many species of frogs are common on the island, including tree frogs. Birds are abundant and make up the majority of the endemic and native vertebrate species. Among them are many beautiful and exotic birds, such as the Jamaica todi and the doctor bird (the national bird).

Jamaican waters contain considerable freshwater and saltwater fish stocks. The main species of saltwater fish are king mackerel, jacks, mackerel, whiting, bonito and tuna. Fish occasionally found in freshwater and estuaries include snook, jewfish, mangrove snapper and mullet. Fish that spend most of their lives in Jamaica’s freshwater include many species of viviparous fish, killer fish, freshwater gobies, mountain barbels and American eels. Tilapia were introduced from Africa for aquaculture and are very common.

Insects and other invertebrates are abundant, including the world’s largest centipede, the Amazon Giant Centipede, and the Homerus Swallowtail, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere.

Demographics of Jamaica

Ethnic descent

According to the last census conducted in 2011, the majority of Jamaicans identify as black.

A large proportion of Jamaica’s black population is of African or part-African descent, with many having their origins in West Africa, but also in Europe and Asia. As in many other English-speaking countries in the Caribbean, many Jamaicans of mixed ancestry identify as black.

Asians are the second largest group and include Indo-Jamaicans, East Indians and Jamaican Chinese. Most are descended from indentured labourers brought in by the British colonial government to fill labour shortages after the abolition of slavery in 1838.

Immigration has increased in recent years, mainly from China, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia and Latin America; 20,000 Latin Americans live in Jamaica. About 7,000 Americans also live in Jamaica, as do many first-generation Americans, Britons and Canadians of Jamaican origin.

One study found that the average mix on the island is 78.3% for sub-Saharan Africa, 16.0% for Europe and 5.7% for East Asia.


Many Jamaicans have emigrated to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. In the case of the United States, about 20,000 Jamaicans per year obtain permanent residency. The large number of Jamaicans living abroad is referred to as the Jamaican diaspora. There has also been emigration of Jamaicans to Cuba. The scale of emigration has been significant and similar to other Caribbean entities such as Puerto Rico, Guyana and the Bahamas. In 2004, it was estimated that up to 2.5 million Jamaicans and descendants of Jamaicans were living abroad.

The concentration of Jamaican expatriates is quite large in many cities in the United States, including New York, Buffalo, the Miami metropolitan area, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, Tampa, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Hartford, Providence and Los Angeles. In the UK, Jamaicans are estimated to number 800,000, making them by far the largest Afro-Caribbean group in the country. Large-scale migration from Jamaica to Britain took place mainly in the 1950s and 1960s (when the country was still under British rule). Jamaican communities exist in most major British cities. In Canada, the Jamaican population is concentrated in Toronto, with smaller communities in cities such as Hamilton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Ottawa.


Christianity is the largest religion practised in Jamaica. Protestants are in the majority in the country, while Roman Catholics are in the minority (2 per cent of the population). According to the 2001 census, the main Protestant denominations in the country are the Church of God (24 per cent), the Seventh-day Adventist Church (11 per cent), the Pentecostal Church (10 per cent), the Baptist Church (7 per cent), the Anglican Church (4 per cent), the United Church (2 per cent), the Methodist Church (2 per cent), the Moravian Church (1 per cent) and the Plymouth Brethren (1 per cent). The Christian faith was adopted when British Christian abolitionists and Baptist missionaries joined educated former slaves in the fight against slavery.

The Rastafarian movement has 29,026 adherents, including 25,325 male and 3,701 female Rastafarians, according to the 2011 census. Other religions represented in Jamaica are Jehovah’s Witnesses (2% of the population), the Baha’i Faith, which has perhaps 8,000 adherents and 21 local spiritual assemblies, Buddhism and Hinduism. There is a small group of Jews, about 200, who describe themselves as liberal-conservative. Jamaica’s first Jews date back to the early 15th century in Spain and Portugal. Other small groups are Muslims, who claim 5,000 followers, and Mormons.

Language In Jamaica

Jamaicans speak native Jamaican Creole, also known as Patois (pronounced “patwa”). Its pronunciation and vocabulary are quite different from English, although it is based on English. Although it is not official, a large part of the population uses slang such as “Everyting is irie”, which means “Everything is good”.

Although all Jamaicans can speak English, which is also the official language, they often have a very strong accent and foreigners may therefore have difficulty understanding them. Some Jamaicans speak a little of other popular languages, such as Spanish.

You will usually hear Jamaicans say “Waah gwan?”, “Waah appen?” or “what tah gwan”, the Creole variant of “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?”. More formal greetings are usually “good morning” or “good evening”.

Economy of Jamaica

Jamaica is a mixed economy consisting of state-owned and private sector enterprises. The main sectors of the Jamaican economy are agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the main foreign exchange earners. Half of Jamaica’s economy is service-based, with half of its income coming from services such as tourism. An estimated 1.3 million foreign tourists visit Jamaica every year.

Supported by the multilateral financial institutions, Jamaica has since the early 1980s attempted to implement structural reforms aimed at promoting private sector activity and strengthening the role of market forces in resource allocation. Since 1991, the government has pursued a programme of economic liberalisation and stabilisation by lifting exchange controls, floating the exchange rate, lowering tariffs, stabilising the Jamaican currency, reducing inflation and lifting restrictions on foreign investment. The emphasis was on maintaining strict fiscal discipline, greater openness to trade and financial flows, liberalising markets and reducing the size of government. During this period, much of the economy was returned to the private sector through disinvestment and privatisation programmes.

The macroeconomic stabilisation programme introduced in 1991, which focused on tight fiscal and monetary policies, contributed to a controlled reduction in the inflation rate. The annual inflation rate fell from a peak of 80.2% in 1991 to 7.9% in 1998. Inflation for the 1998-1999 financial year was 6.2%, compared to 7.2% for the corresponding period in the 1997-1998 financial year. The Government of Jamaica remains committed to reducing inflation, with the long-term objective of bringing it in line with inflation in its major trading partners.

After a period of steady growth from 1985 to 1995, real GDP declined by 1.8% and 2.4% in 1996 and 1997 respectively. The decline in GDP in 1996 and 1997 was largely due to significant problems in the financial sector and in 1997 to a severe island-wide drought (the worst in 70 years) which significantly reduced agricultural production. In 1997, nominal GDP was approximately J$220,556.2 million (US$6,198.9 million at the average annual exchange rate for the period).

The economy in 1997 was characterised by low import growth, high private capital inflows and relative stability in the foreign exchange market.

Recent economic developments show that the Jamaican economy is recovering. Agricultural production, a major engine of growth, increased by 15.3% in the third quarter of 1998 over the corresponding period in 1997, signalling the first positive growth rate in the sector since January 1997. Bauxite and alumina production increased by 5.5% from January to December 1998 over the same period in 1997. January bauxite production was 7.1% higher than in January 1998 and Alcoa expects further expansion in alumina production by 2009. Jamaica is the world’s fifth largest exporter of bauxite, after Australia, China, Brazil and Guinea. Tourism, the main source of foreign exchange, has also improved. In the third quarter of 1998, growth in tourist arrivals accelerated, resulting in an overall 8.5% increase in tourism receipts in 1998 over the corresponding period in 1997. Jamaica’s agricultural exports are sugar, bananas, coffee, rum and sweet potatoes.

Jamaica has a wide variety of industrial and commercial activities. The aviation industry is capable of performing most routine maintenance on aircraft, with the exception of heavy structural repairs. There is a considerable amount of technical support for transport and agricultural aviation. Jamaica has a significant amount of industrial engineering, light manufacturing, including metal fabrication, metal roofing and furniture manufacturing. Food and beverage processing, glassware manufacturing, software and data processing, printing and publishing, insurance, music and recording industries, and higher education are found in the larger urban areas. The Jamaican construction industry is fully self-sufficient and has professional technical standards and advice.

Since the first quarter of 2006, the Jamaican economy has experienced a period of sustained growth. With an inflation rate of 6 per cent for the 2006 calendar year and an unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent, nominal GDP growth was an unprecedented 2.9 per cent. A programme of investment in the island’s transport and utilities infrastructure, as well as increases in tourism, mining and services, contributed to this figure. All forecasts for 2007 show even higher potential for economic growth, with all estimates above 3.0 per cent, hampered only by urban crime and government policies.

In 2006, Jamaica joined the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as a pioneer member.

The global economic downturn had a significant impact on the Jamaican economy between 2007 and 2009, resulting in negative economic growth. The government introduced a new debt management initiative, the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX), on 14 January 2010. Under this initiative, holders of Government of Jamaica (GOJ) bonds were to exchange these high-yielding instruments for lower-yielding bonds with longer maturities. The offer was accepted by over 95% of local financial institutions and was deemed a success by the government. Due to the success of the JDX programme, the Bruce Golding-led government was able to conclude a loan agreement with the IMF for US$ 1.27 billion on 4 February 2010. The loan agreement has a term of three years.

In April 2014, the governments of Jamaica and China signed the preliminary agreements for the first phase of the Jamaican Logistics Hub (JLH) – the initiative that will position Kingston as the fourth hub in the global supply chain, alongside Rotterdam, Dubai and Singapore, serving the Americas. When completed, the project is expected to create numerous jobs for Jamaicans, economic zones for multinational companies and much needed economic growth to reduce the country’s high debt to GDP ratio. Strict adherence to the IMF refinancing programme and preparations for the project have had a positive impact on Jamaica’s credit rating and outlook with the three major rating agencies.

Entry Requirements For Jamaica

Visa & Passport for Jamaica

With the exception of Canada, citizens of Commonwealth countries need a passport valid for at least six months, a return ticket and sufficient funds. Canadian citizens need a passport or birth certificate and an identity card.

No visa is required except for citizens of Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

US citizens, including those arriving by cruise ship, need a passport, but a visa is not required for stays of up to six months. Passports may be expired if they have been for less than one year.

German citizens can stay for 90 days without a visa. Similar conditions probably apply to other Schengen countries.

Japanese citizens can stay for 30 days without a visa.

Since 27 May 2014, Chinese citizens can also stay for 30 days without a visa. However, this only applies for tourist purposes; to travel to Jamaica for any other reason, they still need a visa.

Most other nationalities require a visa.

How To Travel To Jamaica

Get In - By air

  • Norman Manley International Airport (IATA: KIN) in Kingston.
  • Donald Sangster International Airport (IATA: MBJ) in Montego Bay.

These two airports receive a large number of international flights daily. There are smaller airports in Negril and Ocho Rios, as well as a smaller one in Kingston that can be served by small private planes.

How To Travel Around Jamaica

Get Around - By train

Jamaica has about 250 miles of railway track, 77 of which are currently operated by Windalco to carry privately run bauxite (aluminium ore) trains. Public passenger and freight services were discontinued in 1992, but increasing congestion and poor road conditions have prompted the government to re-examine the economic feasibility of operating the railway.

  • Clarendon Express. A tourist railway in Clarendon, on Windalco tracks, with Jamaica Railway Corporation cars, with American-built diesel-electric locomotives as motive power.

Get Around - By car

Driving as a tourist in Jamaica is an adventure in itself.

Jamaican roads are not known for their maintenance or for the care taken by drivers. Roads in and around larger cities and towns are usually congested, and rural roads tend to be narrow and somewhat dangerous, especially in bad weather. Attentive and considerate driving is advised at all times. There are also very few north-south roads, so travelling from north to south can mean trekking on mountain roads. These journeys can cause nausea in the weakest stomachs, so people who suffer from motion sickness are advised to carry Dramamine or a similar medication. The roads can be very narrow, so be extra careful when turning. Jamaican drivers do not slow down because of these turns, so be careful.

Jamaica, as a former British colony, drives on the left-hand side. Be aware of this when driving, especially when turning, crossing the road and swerving.

Outside the city centres, there are relatively few traffic lights; they are mostly located in the larger city centres, such as Montego Bay, Falmouth, Kingston, Mandeville, Spanish Town and Ocho Rios. In towns where traffic lights are not installed, roundabouts are used.

Renting a car is easy and it is advisable to go through a large, established car rental company, such as Island Car Rental, Hertz or Avis. Do your research before you rent and drive.

Avis rents GPS units for JMD 12 per day with a JMD 200 deposit.

Get Around - With the boat

Travelling by boat is not advisable unless the service is operated by a hotel or tourism company. It is not a fast means of transport unless you want to take a tour along the coast. Many fishermen offer this service to willing tourists, but may charge exorbitant prices.

Get Around - By bus

Don’t be afraid to take the local Jamaican buses – they are cheap and save you from having to negotiate with tourist taxis. Be prepared to tip the porters who load your luggage onto the bus. The ride is very different from what you are probably used to. Many resorts offer bus tours. Contact the resort office responsible for planning day trips for more information. Bus tours from Ocho Rios to Kingston and Blue Mountain, can be a long bus ride without many stops. A visit to Kingston can consist of a stop at a mall for lunch, a visit to Bob Marley’s house and a 2-minute stop at Jamaica’s Beverly Hills. A guided tour of the Blue Mountain coffee factory can be interesting and informative.

Get Around - By taxi

Local taxis (called “regular taxis”) are an interesting way to get around and are much cheaper than tourist taxis. For example, it can cost 50 JMD (less than a dollar) to drive 20 miles. It will just look like a local’s car, and that’s exactly what it is. Those who have a licence usually have taxi signs sprayed on their front wings, although there seems to be little enforcement of things like business licences in Jamaica. It is rare that you will find one with a taxi plate on the roof as few do. The colour of the number plate is telling. A red number plate indicates that it is a transport vehicle, while a white number plate indicates that it is a private vehicle. The yellow plate indicates a government vehicle (e.g. a police car or ambulance) and the list goes on. Although regular taxis usually go from the centre of one city to the centre of the next, you can hail a taxi anywhere along the highway. Walk or stand on the side of the road and flag down passing cars and you will be surprised how quickly you can get one.

The regular taxis are often crowded, but they are friendly and happy to have you along. Regular taxis are the primary means of transport for Jamaicans and have the same function as a bus system in a large metropolis. It’s how people get to work, children to school, etc.

Regular taxis usually serve specific locations, but if you are in a city’s taxi centre, you can find taxis going in any direction you want. Regular taxis don’t go very far, so if you want to cross half the island, you’ll have to do it in stages. Worst case scenario, repeat your final destination to anyone who asks you where you want to go, and they will put you in the right car and send you on your way. You may have to wait until the taxi has enough passengers to make the journey worthwhile for the driver, and many regular taxis run with far more people on board than a Westerner might think. If you have luggage, you may have to pay extra for your luggage as you are taking up space that would otherwise be sold to another passenger.

Get Around - By air

If money is no object, you can travel between the island’s small airports by small charter plane. There are some companies that offer this service and you need to make an appointment at least one day in advance. A flight across the island (e.g. from Negril to Port Antonio) costs about 600 USD.

Destinations in Jamaica

Regions in Jamaica

  • County of Cornwall
    The western region includes the parishes of Hanover, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Trelawny and Westmoreland.
  • Middlesex County
    The central region includes the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine and Saint Mary.
  • County of Surrey
    The Eastern Region includes the municipalities of Kingston, Portland, Saint Andrew and Saint Thomas.

Cities in Jamaica

Other destinations in Jamaica

  • Black River
  • Blue Mountains
  • Valley of the Caves
  • Nassau Valley
  • Manchester

Things To See in Jamaica

Visit Nine Mile, where Bob Marley was born and is now buried. The drive into the mountains takes you to the heart of the country. Spend a day on Negril’s 7-mile beach and end it at Rick’s Cafe for a spectacular sunset and more fantastic cliff jumping.

Jamaica has more than 50 beaches.

Things To Do in Jamaica

Hiking, camping, snorkelling, zip-lining, horse riding, backpacking, swimming, jet skiing, sleeping, scuba diving, kite surfing, visiting the Giddy House, drinking and swimming with dolphins.

Dunn’s River Falls is a must when you visit Jamaica. They are located in Ocho Rios. The 600-foot high cascade falls are beautiful. You can even climb right over the falls. It is an incredible experience! Try it out if you fancy a breathtaking challenge.

Mystic Mountain has a bobsleigh track combined with zip line options, a water slide and a zip line. The zip line is a slower way to explore the rainforest canopy.

Ziplining in the Jamaican jungle is incredibly exhilarating. Most tour operators and cruise ships work with companies on a regular basis.

In recent decades, with the rapid growth of the tourism industry, “hotel weddings” have become an important part of the total number of weddings conducted on the island. Hotel weddings are weddings performed on the island by a certified island wedding officiant.

Here is what you need to know or plan for your wedding in Jamaica:

  1. proof of citizenship – certified copy of birth certificate containing father’s name.
  2. parental consent (in writing) if you are under 18 years old.
  3. proof of divorce (if applicable) – original divorce certificate.

Food & Drinks in Jamaica

Food in Jamaica

Jamaican food is a mix of Caribbean and local dishes. Although Jamaican food has a reputation for being very spicy, local trends tend towards a variety of more versatile dishes. Some of the Caribbean dishes you will see in other countries in the region are rice and peas (cooked with coconut milk) and dumplings (called empanadas in Spanish-speaking countries). The national dish is ackee and salted fish, and it MUST be tasted by everyone who visits the island. It consists of a local fruit called ackee, which looks like scrambled eggs but has a unique taste, and dried cod mixed with onions and tomatoes. You probably won’t get the chance to try this food anywhere else, and if you really want to say you’ve done something unique in Jamaica, this is your chance. Freshly picked and prepared ackee is a hundred times better than canned ackee, but it should only be harvested when the ackee fruits are ripe and their pods have opened naturally on the large evergreen tree on which they grow: Unripe ackee contains a potent toxin (hypoglycin A) that causes vomiting and low blood sugar. Don’t worry, the locals are experts in preparing ackee and will know how to pick it safely.

Another local food is called bammy, which was actually invented by the Arawak (Taino) Indians. It is a flat, floury cassava pancake that is usually eaten for breakfast and tastes a bit like cornbread. There is also the hard bread (locally called hard bread), which comes in sliced and unsliced versions. Try toasting it, because when it is toasted it tastes better than most breads you will ever eat. If you are looking for dishes with more meat, you can try jerk dishes. Jerk chicken is the most popular, but jerk pork and jerk mussels are also widely available. Jerk seasoning is a condiment that is spread on the meat on the grill like a barbecue sauce. Remember that most Jamaicans eat their food well cooked, so expect it to be a little drier than you are used to. There are also curries, such as chicken and goat curry, which are very popular in Jamaica. The best goat curry is made with male goats and if you see a menu with fish curry, try it.

You can even take a piece of sugar cane, cut off a few pieces and suck on them.

Jamaica has fruit and vegetables in abundance, especially between April and September when most local fruits are in season. The many varieties of mango are a “must” if you visit during the summer months. If you haven’t tried the ripe fruit on the tree, you are missing out. Green picked fruits exported to other countries do not compare. Try drinking “coconut water” directly from the coconut. It is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is clear and refreshing, not to mention that it has many health benefits. Papayas, star apples, guineas, pineapples, jackfruit, oranges, mandarins, ugli fruits, ortanics are just some of the wonderful fruits available here.

Locally grown fruit and vegetables are cheap. Visitors will find that imported products such as American apples, strawberries, plums, etc. are generally more expensive than in their country of origin. Grapes in particular are very expensive on the island.

Chinese food is available in many places in Chinese takeaway shops and has a distinct Jamaican flavour.

It is recommended to try local fruits and vegetables. If you are not familiar with a particular fruit, it may be helpful to ask a local which parts are safe to eat. Both local and imported fruits are available from street vendors. If the fruit is to be eaten immediately, the vendors can usually wash it for you if you wish.

Finally, there is the “ital” category, the domain of practising Rastafarians who adhere to strict dietary guidelines. This type of food is prepared without meat, oil or salt, but can still be tasty through the creative use of other spices. Italian food is not usually on the printed menus of upmarket tourist restaurants and can only be found in speciality restaurants. You may have to ask around to find a place that serves Italian food, as it is not very common.

Drinks in Jamaica

There are many drinks in Jamaica. There are standards like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, but if you want to drink local soda, you can try Bigga Cola, Champagne Cola or the grapefruit soda called “Ting” and also Ginger Beer. Also try any Desnoes & Geddes soda, usually labelled “D&G”. “Cola Champagne” and “Pineapple” are popular flavours that you won’t find anywhere else. Since the turn of the century, most soft drinks have been bottled in plastic rather than glass. You can try the local lager called Red Stripe (which is exported to many western countries, so you’ve probably already tried it) and Dragon Stout.

Most beers are available in Jamaican pubs and hotels. Jamaican rum, made from sugar cane, is an indigenous hard drink. It is usually too strong and drunk with cola or fruit juice. Drink with caution! It is not meant for someone who is drinking it for the first time. It is not uncommon to find Jamaican rum with 75% alcohol. Because Jamaica was colonised by Britain, the law on drinking alcohol applies to people over 18, but it is generally not enforced as strictly as in the United States. Guinness is popular and the exported beer, which has an alcohol content of 7%, has it all.

Money & Shopping in Jamaica

The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar ($, J$, JA$), whose unique ISO 4217 currency code is JMD. There are notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 JMD. There are 20, 10 and 5 JMD coins in circulation (smaller coins are practically worthless).

The Jamaican economy has not been well managed and the Jamaican dollar has steadily depreciated from the rate of USD 1 = JMD 0.77 reached when the peg to the pound sterling was abandoned at decimalisation in 1968.

In September 2013, the exchange rate was in the range of 1 USD = 100 JMD (which is quite convenient for mental arithmetic).

The US dollar is widely accepted in the places most tourists visit. In fact, all hotels, most restaurants, most shops and almost all attractions in major cities accept US dollars. Be aware, however, that some places accept US dollars at a reduced rate (although this is still a better rate than changing money in advance). While it is possible for someone visiting only tourist sites or for a few hours to see no Jamaican currency at all, be aware that US dollars are not accepted in many ‘local’ shops on the outskirts of towns and in rural areas.

Always check the exchange rate and carry a calculator. Some places will try to charge you ten times more if you pay in US dollars. The cost of living in Jamaica is comparable to that in the United States.

US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds and euros are easily converted into Jamaican dollars at cambios forex and commercial banks on the island.

Buy products made on the island because they are cheap and you support the local economy.

In tourist areas like Negril and Ocho Rios, prices are generally higher. Shops in the “tourist traps” usually have higher prices than the local shops, and you will find the same items there.

Credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard and to a lesser extent American Express and Discover are accepted in many commercial establishments such as supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants in Kingston, Montego Bay, Portmore, Ocho Rios and Negril and most other major towns. A curious exception is petrol stations, which usually require cash. A few petrol stations in central Kingston accept credit cards, but most do not.

Cash advances on your MasterCard, VISA, Discover or American Express credit card are available at commercial banks, credit unions or building societies during normal business hours. To obtain a cash advance on a MasterCard or VISA card issued by a non-Jamaican bank, or on an American Express or Discover card, you must be prepared to present your passport or foreign driver’s licence.

One piece of advice: If you are paying for an all-inclusive package on arrival or for other expensive items such as excursions, take USD travellers’ cheques with you. There is a surcharge of about 4% for a Visa or MasterCard transaction. Hotels and resorts usually charge the highest exchange rates.

ATMs are called ATMs in Jamaica and are widely available in all parishes. Almost all ATMs in Jamaica are connected to at least one foreign network such as Cirrus or Plus and sometimes both. In fact, the safest way for a visitor to do business in Jamaica is to use an ATM to withdraw their daily cash needs directly from their foreign account in local currency, as brandishing foreign currency, foreign credit cards or large amounts of cash could attract unwanted attention and will almost certainly be detrimental when it comes to negotiating the best price.

Don’t worry if you go to an ATM and find an armed guard, because they are there to protect you.

Traditions & Customs in Jamaica

Many Jamaicans are very generous and warm. Returning this warmth and kindness is a good way to show them that you appreciate their country.

It is likely that you will be asked for money at some point during your trip to Jamaica. Do not feel pressured to give money. The best advice in such situations is to say “I’m fine” and walk away. This also applies to the famous straw markets. The European method of walking away does not work well. You usually have to get involved with someone to get away from them.

That said, if you want to befriend or meet one of the many wonderful Jamaicans and give them a friendly gift, that is perfectly acceptable and welcome. Just use your common sense when it comes to money.

Cultural respect is much more important. You are guests on their island. Also note that you should address older people with “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir”.

Culture Of Jamaica


Although it is a small nation, Jamaican culture has a strong presence around the world. The musical genres of reggae, ska, mento, rocksteady, dub and more recently dancehall and ragga have all emerged from the island’s vibrant and popular urban record industry. Jamaica also played an important role in the development of punk rock through reggae and ska. Reggae has also influenced American rap, as both styles of music have African rhythmic roots. Some rappers, such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Heavy D, have Jamaican roots. The world-famous reggae musician Bob Marley was also Jamaican.

Many other internationally known artists were born in Jamaica, including Millie Small, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Gregory Isaacs, Half Pint, Protoje, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Big Youth, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Desmond Dekker, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, I Wayne, Bounty Killer, and many others. Bands from Jamaica include Black Uhuru, Third World Band, Inner Circle, Chalice Reggae Band, Culture, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage. The jungle genre emerged from the Jamaican diaspora in London. The birth of hip-hop in New York owes much to the city’s Jamaican community.


Ian Fleming, who lived in Jamaica, used the island as a setting several times in his James Bond novels, including Live and Let Die, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden GunOctopussy and The Living Daylights. In addition, James Bond uses a cover in Jamaica in Casino Royale. The only James Bond film adaptation set in Jamaica to date is Doctor No. The filming of the fictional San Monica Island in Live and Let Die took place in Jamaica.

The journalist and writer H. G. de Lisser (1878-1944) used his home country as the setting for his numerous novels. Born in Falmouth, Jamaica, de Lisser worked as a reporter for the Jamaica Times from a young age and began publishing Planters’ Punch magazine in 1920. The White Witch of Rosehall is one of his best-known novels. He was made honorary president of the Jamaica Press Association and worked throughout his career to promote the Jamaican sugar industry.

Marlon James (1970), Romanautor, hat drei Romane veröffentlicht: The Devil of John Crow (2005), The Book of Night Women (2009) und A Brief History of Seven Murders (2014), Gewinner des Man Booker Prize 2015.


Film actor Errol Flynn lived in Port Antonio in the 1950s with his third wife Patrice Wymore. He helped develop tourism in the area and popularised river rafting on bamboo rafts.

Jamaica has a long history in the film industry, dating back to the early 1960s. An insight into Jamaica’s criminal youth is provided by the 1970s musical crime film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff as a frustrated (and psychopathic) reggae musician who embarks on a murderous crime spree. The American film Cocktail (1988), starring Tom Cruise, is one of the most famous films depicting Jamaica. Another popular film based on Jamaica is the Disney comedy Cool Runnings (1993), loosely based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsleigh team to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

National symbols

  • National bird: Red-billed Stripe-tail (also called Doctor Bird) (a hummingbird, Trochilus polytmus)
  • National Flower – Lignum vitae (Guiacum officinale)
  • National tree: Blue Maho (Hibiscus talipariti elatum)
  • National fruit: Ackee (Blighia sapida)
  • National motto: “Out of many, one people”.


Sport is an integral part of national life in Jamaica and the island’s athletes tend to perform far better than one would normally expect from such a small country. While the most popular local sport is cricket, Jamaicans are particularly strong in athletics on the international stage.

Jamaica has produced some of the world’s most famous cricketers, including George Headley, Courtney Walsh and Michael Holding. The country was one of the venues for the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the West Indies cricket team is one of 10 full members of the ICC participating in international cricket Tests. The Jamaican national cricket team participates in regional competitions and also provides players for the West Indies team. Sabina Park is the only Test venue on the island, but Greenfield Stadium is also used for cricket. Chris Gayle is Jamaica’s most famous batsman and currently represents the West Indies cricket team.

Since independence, Jamaica has consistently produced world-class track and field athletes. In Jamaica, athletics begins at an early age and most high schools have rigorous track and field programmes whose top athletes compete in national (including the VMBS Track and Field Championships for Girls and Boys) and international (including the Penn Relays) competitions. In Jamaica, it is not uncommon for young athletes to receive media coverage and national recognition long before they reach the international track and field scene.

Over the past six decades, Jamaica has produced dozens of world-class sprinters, including Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt, the world record holder in the men’s 100m (9.58s) and men’s 200m (19.19s). Other notable Jamaican sprinters include Arthur Wint, Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medallist; Donald Quarrie, Olympic champion and former 200m world record holder; Roy Anthony Bridge, International Olympic Committee member; Merlene Ottey; Delloreen Ennis-London; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, current world and Olympic 100m champion; Kerron Stewart; Aleen Bailey; Juliet Cuthbert; Veronica Campbell-Brown; Sherone Simpson; Brigitte Foster-Hylton; Yohan Blake; Herb McKenley; Olympic champion George Rhoden; Olympic champion Deon Hemmings; and Asafa Powell, former world 100m record holder, Olympic 2 x 100m finalist and 2008 Olympic 4 x 100m champion.

Jamaica has also produced several world-class amateur and professional boxers, including Trevor Berbick and Mike McCallum. First-generation Jamaican athletes continue to have a significant impact on international sport, particularly in the UK, where the list of top British boxers who were born in Jamaica or have Jamaican parents includes Lloyd Honeyghan, Chris Eubank, Audley Harrison, David Haye, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno.

Club football and horse racing are other popular sports in Jamaica. The national football team qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Jamaica’s national bobsleigh team was once a serious contender at the Winter Olympics, beating many established teams. Chess and basketball are widely played in Jamaica and are supported by the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF) and the Jamaica Basketball Federation (JBF) respectively. Netball is also popular on the island, and Jamaica’s national netball team, the Sunshine Girls, regularly ranks among the top five teams in the world.

The Jamaican national rugby team is made up of players who play in Jamaica and British players from professional and semi-professional teams in the UK. Their first international match was a 37-22 loss to the United States national rugby team in November 2009. Rugby league in Jamaica is growing with universities and high schools taking up the sport. The JRLA Championship is the country’s premier rugby league competition. The Hurricanes Rugby League is a professional rugby team that hopes to compete in the USA Rugby League or AMNRL by 2013. During this time they will train young players aged 14 to 19 who will be part of the Hurricanes RL Academy with the hope of becoming full-time professional players.

According to ESPN, the highest paid Jamaican professional athlete in 2011 was Justin Masterson, starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Jamaica

Stay Safe in Jamaica

Jamaica has the fifth highest homicide rate in the world. As in any other country, in an emergency, after calling 119 for the police or 110 for the fire brigade or ambulance, you should contact your government’s embassy or consulate. Governments generally advise travellers who will be in Jamaica for an extended period of time to notify their embassy or consulate so that they can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

If you are approached by a Jamaican who wants to sell you drugs or something else you don’t want to buy, the conversation will most likely go like this: “Is this your first time on the island?” Reply, “No, I’ve been here many times” (even if it’s not true or he thinks you’re gullible). Next, he will ask you, “Where do you live?” Respond with a vague answer: for example, if you are asked about Seven Mile Beach, respond with “Down the street”. If you are asked, “Which resort? “, reply with another vague answer. You will see that you are neither stupid nor fooled. You will give the appearance of having a friendly conversation but as soon as you are labelled a fool (e.g. “I am here for the first time” “I am staying at Negril Gardens”) you will be harassed. If they continue to push you to buy drugs or anything else, calmly tell them “I have been to this island many times: don’t waste your time trying to sell me something. I am not interested. They should leave you alone, they may even say “respect” and clench their fists.

The cultural and legal aversion to homosexuals (battymen) in Jamaica is far-reaching, and not only from a legal perspective, as anal sex carries a penalty of up to 10 years. Heterosexual anal sex, however, is becoming increasingly popular and, although technically illegal, has never been prosecuted by the state. It is advisable to avoid showing affection to persons of the same sex in public, especially between two men. Jamaica is a nation notorious for its persistent intolerance of homosexual behaviour. “Gay bashing” is not uncommon (especially in Jamaica’s popular reggae and dancehall music) and victims are reportedly treated with indifference by the authorities. Lesbians are more accepted by young Jamaicans and it is not uncommon to see lesbians openly enjoying the show from the front row of one of Kingston’s strip clubs. Simply put, Jamaica is not a suitable destination for LGBT tourism.

Marijuana (known locally as ganja), although cheap, abundant and potent, is illegal on the island. Foreigners can be arrested and jailed for drug use. Jamaican prisons are very basic and are places you want to avoid at all costs.

If you need the police, call 119 but do not expect them to come immediately.

Drugs and alcohol are common. Armed men can pose a threat to women in some areas. Central areas of the island, such as Spanish Town and some areas of Kingston (Trench Town, etc.), should also be avoided during the day. However, those wishing to visit the Culture Yard in Trench Town should be safe if they go in daylight and with a local guide, which should not be very expensive. Seek advice from the locals before visiting and avoid travelling during the pre-election period when violence breaks out.

The months of September, October and November are less popular with tourists because of the hurricane season. Therefore, police are encouraged to take their leave during this time. This reduction in the police force can make areas like the trendy Montego Bay area less safe than they normally are.

Stay Healthy in Jamaica

Medical facilities on the island do not always meet European or American standards of health care. If you fall ill, this can sometimes lead to considerable medical costs. Therefore, take out travel insurance to give you peace of mind in case of emergency.

Tap water is generally good and safe to drink. All tap water in Jamaica is treated to international standards and is of the same quality as you would expect in North America or Europe. In rural areas, the water supply can sometimes be interrupted for several hours at a time. People in rural areas have their own water tanks that collect water when it rains, so be prepared to draw from a tank rather than turn a hose. Water from these sources must be boiled before consumption. Bottled water such as Wata (a local brand), Aquafina and Deer Park are available everywhere.

Pay attention to the water quality at public beaches, such as the “Walter Fletcher Beach” in Montego Bay, which is called “Dump-up Beach” by some locals and is located near the northern gorge. During storms, large amounts of solid and human waste flow into the gorge. The water flowing from Dunn’s River Falls is also said to contain high levels of coliform bacteria, a sign of faecal contamination.

HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults in the country is almost 1.6%. This is >2.5 times higher than in the US and 16 times higher than in the UK. So although Jamaica has a relatively low infection rate compared to other developing countries, it would be advisable to abstain or practice safe sex and avoid risky injection drug use.

A malaria outbreak in Kingston in 2006 was identified and contained, and Jamaica regained the malaria-free status it had enjoyed for decades before this localised and isolated incident.

As in most parts of the Caribbean, dengue fever is an increasing risk. It usually manifests as a flu-like illness with severe joint and muscle pain, vomiting and a rash that can be complicated by haemorrhagic shock. It is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day and prefer densely populated areas such as Kingston, although they also inhabit rural settings. There is no vaccine or other prophylaxis available. So use insect repellent if you can’t bear to be covered from head to toe in the humid tropical heat.



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