- For other places with the same name, see Jamaica (disambiguation).
Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean that attracts sunseekers for its laid-back beach culture, and music fans on the trail of Jamaica's most famous son, reggae legend Bob Marley. Tourists flock to the island's northern coast, including the communities of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Port Antonio, and in Negril on the island's western tip.
|Currency||Jamaican dollar (JMD)|
|Population||2.6 million (2011)|
|Electricity||116 volt / 50 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15)|
|Time zone||UTC−05:00, America/Jamaica|
|Emergencies||110 (emergency medical services, fire department, police), 112 (police), 911 (police), 119 (police)|
|edit on Wikidata|
With 2.8 million people, Jamaica is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth realm and is an independent and sovereign nation.
Jamaica exports coffee, papaya, bauxite, gypsum, limestone and sugar cane.
Its motto and nickname for the country is "Out of Many, One People".
The Arawak and Taino indigenous people originating from South America settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC.
Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. Columbus' probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. St. Ann's Bay was the "Saint Gloria" of Columbus who first sighted Jamaica at this point. The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the British at Ocho Rios in St. Ann and in 1655 the British took over the last Spanish fort in Jamaica. The Spanish colonists fled leaving a large number of African slaves. Rather than be re-enslaved by the English, they escaped into the hilly, mountainous regions of the island, joining those who had previously escaped from the Spanish to live with the Taínos. These runaway slaves, who became known as the Jamaican Maroons, fought the British during the 18th century. During the long years of slavery Maroons established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica, maintaining their freedom and independence for generations.
During its first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became one of the world's leading sugar-exporting, slave-dependent nations. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the British imported Indian and Chinese workers as indentured servants to supplement the labour pool. Descendants of indentured servants of Indian and Chinese origin continue to reside in Jamaica.
By the beginning of the 19th century, Jamaica's heavy reliance on slavery resulted in blacks (Africans) outnumbering whites (Europeans) by a ratio of almost 20 to 1. Even though the United Kingdom had outlawed the importation of slaves, some were still smuggled into the colonies.
In the 1800s, the British established a number of botanical gardens. These included the Castleton Garden, set up in 1862 to replace the Bath Garden (created in 1779) which was subject to flooding. Bath Garden was the site for planting breadfruit brought to Jamaica from the Pacific by Captain William Bligh. Other gardens were the Cinchona Plantation founded in 1868 and the Hope Garden founded in 1874. In 1872, Kingston became the island's capital.
Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom and in 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies before attaining full independence by leaving the federation in 1962. However, the British monarch, King Charles III, remains the nominal head of state, with an appointed Governor-General representing the King in Jamaica in his absence. Since fellow Caribbean nation Barbados forwent the British monarch as their head of state and became a republic in 2021, there is talk of Jamaica following in their footsteps. While both major parties in principle agree on transitioning to republicanism, disagreements remain as to whether Jamaica should become a parliamentary republic or a presidential republic.
The majority of Jamaicans are descended at least partially from the many Africans who were enslaved and transported to the island. Jamaica also has sizeable numbers of Whites and Coloureds, persons of Syrian/Lebanese descent, and a large population of Chinese and East Indians, many of whom have intermixed throughout the generations. Mixed-race Jamaicans are the second largest racial group after Black Jamaicans.
Christianity is the majority religion on the island, and the Rasta community, which Jamaica is known for internationally, has also featured prominently in its history. As in other Caribbean areas, West African religion and folk beliefs (locally called Obeah among other terms) are sometimes practised by some while being completely taboo for others. There are communities of Muslims and Hindus, together with a small but quite ancient Jewish community.
The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although higher inland regions are more temperate. Some regions on the south coast are relatively dry rain-shadow areas. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean; as a result, the island sometimes experiences significant storm damage.
Jamaica supports diverse ecosystems with a wealth of plants and animals.
Jamaica's plant life has changed considerably over the centuries. When the Spanish came here in 1494, except for small agricultural clearings, the country was deeply forested, but the European settlers cut down the great timber trees for building purposes and cleared the plains, savannahs, and mountain slopes for cultivation. Many new plants were introduced including sugar cane, bananas and citrus trees.
In the areas of heavy rainfall are stands of bamboo, ferns, ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. Cactus and similar dry-area plants are found along the south and southwest coastal area. Parts of the west and southwest consist of large grasslands, with scattered stands of trees.
Jamaican animal life is diverse and includes many endemic species found nowhere else on earth. As with other islands, non-human land mammals are made up almost entirely of bats. The only non-bat native mammal extant in Jamaica is the Jamaican hutia, locally known as the coney. Introduced mammals such as wild boar and the small Asian mongoose are also common. Jamaica is also home to many reptiles, the largest of which is the American crocodile (although it is found only in the Black River and a few other areas). Lizards from the colourful Anolis genus, iguanas and snakes such as racers and the Jamaica boa (the largest snake on the island) are common. None of Jamaica's native snakes is dangerously venomous. Beautiful and exotic birds such as the Jamaican tody and the doctor bird (the national bird) can be found, among a large number of others. Insects and other invertebrates are abundant, including the world's largest centipede, the Amazonian giant centipede and the homerus swallowtail, the Western Hemisphere's largest butterfly.
Jamaican waters contain considerable resources of fresh- and saltwater fish. The chief varieties of saltwater fish are kingfish, jack, mackerel, whiting, bonito, and tuna. Fish that occasionally enter freshwater include snook, jewfish, grey and black snapper, and mullet. Fish that spend the majority of their lives in Jamaica's fresh waters include many species of live-bearers, killifish, freshwater gobies, the mountain mullet, and the American eel. Tilapia have been introduced from Africa for aquaculture, and are very common.
There are coral reefs offshore in some areas.
The authorities have designated some of the more fertile areas as 'protected', including the Cockpit Country, Hellshire Hills, and Litchfield forest reserves. In 1992, Jamaica's first marine park, covering nearly 6 square miles (about 1 km²), was established in Montego Bay. The following year Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was created on roughly 300 square miles (780 km²) of wilderness that supports thousands of tree and fern species and rare animals.
- 1 January: New Year's Day
- Easter (moveable)
- 23 May: Labour Day
- 6 August: Independence Day
- 17 October: Heroes Day
- 25 December: Christmas
- 26 December: Boxing Day
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. A dark novel about social issues in contemporary Jamaica, including a grim look at the exploitation and displacement – and opportunities – brought about by the resort industry.
|Cornwall County |
The western region consisting of the parishes of Hanover, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Trelawny and Westmoreland.
|Middlesex County |
The central region consisting of the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine and Saint Mary.
|Surrey County |
The eastern region consisting of the parishes of Kingston, Portland, Saint Andrew and Saint Thomas
Cities and towns
- 1 Kingston— the capital and largest city in Jamaica.
- 2 Montego Bay— filled with historical sites and monuments, Montego Bay is the second city of Jamaica.
- 3 Negril— white sandy beaches, countless resorts; Negril is a town located in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica.
- 4 Portmore
- 5 Ocho Rios
- 6 Port Antonio
- 7 Morant Bay
- 8 Falmouth
- 9 Mandeville
- 1 Black River
- 2 Blue Mountains
- 3 Cave Valley
- 4 Nassau Valley
- 5 Manchester
- 6 Great Goat Island
- 7 Treasure Beach
Except for Canada, citizens of Commonwealth countries require a passport valid for at least 6 months, a return ticket, and sufficient funds. Canadian citizens require a passport or a birth certificate and ID card. No visa is required except for citizens of Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone.
Citizens of the USA, including those visiting by cruise ship, require a passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to six months. Passports can have expired, as long as they expired less than a year ago.
German citizens can stay for 90 days without a visa. Similar terms probably apply to other countries in the Schengen area.
Japanese citizens can stay for 30 days without a visa.
Since 27 May 2014, Chinese citizens (including Macau) can also stay for 30 days without a visa. However, it's for tourist purposes only; to travel to Jamaica for any other reason, they still need a visa.
Most other nationalities need visas.
- Norman Manley International Airport (KIN IATA) in Kingston.
- Donald Sangster International Airport (MBJ IATA) in Montego Bay.
Both airports receive vast numbers of international flights daily. There are smaller airports in Negril and Ocho Rios as well as another smaller one in Kingston, which can be accessed by smaller, private aircraft.
There are cruises to Jamaica from the United States and other locations in the Caribbean.
Jamaica has about 250 route miles of railways, of which 77 are in service to Windalco to handle privately operated bauxite (aluminium ore) trains. Passenger and public freight service ceased in 1992, but increasing road congestion and poor highway conditions have caused the government to re-examine the commercial feasibility of rail operations. A passenger train was designed for citizens (mostly for children on the Government's Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education Progamme) in 2022.
- Clarendon Express. A tourist railway in Clarendon, on Windalco railway tracks using Jamaica Railway corporation coaches, with American-built diesel-electric locomotives for motive power.
Driving as a tourist in Jamaica is an adventure in and of itself.
Jamaican roads are not renowned for their upkeep nor are their drivers renowned for their caution. Roads in and around major cities and towns are generally congested, and rural roads tend to be narrow and somewhat dangerous, especially in inclement weather. Alert and courteous driving is advised at all times. There are very few north-south routes as well, so travel from the north to the south can involve treks on mountain roads. These trips can induce nausea in the more weak of stomach, so it is advisable that if you suffer from motion sickness to bring Dramamine or similar medication. Roads can be very narrow, and be especially alert when going around bends. Jamaican drivers do not slow down because of these twists and turns, so beware.
Jamaica, as a former British colony, drives on the left. Make note of this when driving, especially when turning, crossing the street, and yielding right of way.
There are relatively few traffic lights outside of urban centres; they are generally found in major city centres, such as Montego Bay, Falmouth, Kingston, Mandeville, Spanish Town and Ocho Rios. For towns where traffic lights are not installed, roundabouts are used.
Renting a car is easily done, and it is advised to go through an established major car rental company such as Island Car Rental, Hertz or Avis. Do your research before renting and driving.
Avis rents GPS units for J$12 per day with a J$200 deposit.
It is not advised to travel by boat unless the service is operated by a hotel or tourism company. It is not a quick way to get around unless you want to tour the coastline. Many fishermen may offer this service to willing tourists but they may overcharge.
Don't be afraid to take Jamaican local buses—they're cheap and they'll save you the headache of negotiating with tourist taxis. Be prepared to offer a tip to the luggage handlers that load your luggage into the bus. The ride is very different from what you are probably used to. Many resorts offer excursions by bus. Check with the resort's office that is in charge of planning day trips for more information. Excursions by bus from Ocho Rios to Kingston and Blue mountain, can turn into a long bus ride without many stops. A visit to Kingston might consist of a stop at a shopping centre for lunch, a visit to Bob Marley's home and a 2 minute stop in the Beverly Hills of Jamaica. The guided tour at the Blue Mountain coffee factory can be interesting and informative.
Local taxis (called "route taxis") are an interesting way to get around and far cheaper than tourist taxis. For instance, it may cost J$50 to travel 20 miles (32 km). It will just look like a local's car, which is precisely what it is. The licensed ones usually have the taxi signs spray painted on their front fenders, although there seems to be little enforcement of things like business licenses in Jamaica. Seldom you will find one with a taxi sign on the top, because not many do this. The colour of the license plate will tell you. A red plate will tell you that it is for transportation, while a white plate will tell you it is a private vehicle. The yellow plate indicates a government vehicle (like a police car or ambulance) and the list continues. Although the route taxis generally run from the centre of one town to the centre of the next town, you can flag a taxi anywhere along the highway. Walk or stand on the side of the road and wave at passing cars and you'll be surprised how quickly you get one.
Route taxis are often packed with people, but they are friendly folk and glad to have you with them. Route taxis are the primary mode of transportation for Jamaicans and serve the purpose that a bus system would in a large metropolitan city. This is how people get to work, children get to school, etc.
Route taxis generally run between specific places, but if you're in the central taxi hub for a town you'll be able to find taxis going in any of the directions you need to go. Route taxis don't run very far, so if you need to get half way across the island you'll need to take it in stages. If worst comes to worst, just keep repeating your final destination to all the people who ask where you're going and they'll 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 trip worthwhile for the driver, and many route taxis travel with far more people in them than a Westerner would ever guess was possible. If you have luggage with you, you may have to pay an extra fare for your luggage since you're taking up space that would otherwise be sold to another passenger.
If money is no object, you can fly between the minor airports on the island on a small charter plane. There are a couple of companies that provide this service and you need to make an appointment at least a day in advance. A flight across the entire island (from Negril to Port Antonio, for instance) costs about USD600.
Main Article : Jamaican patois phrasebook
Jamaicans mainly speak Jamaican Creole, also known locally as Patois (pronounced "patwa"). Its pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different from English, despite it being based on English. Despite not being official, much of the population uses slang such as "Everyting is irie" to mean "Everything is all right."
Although most Jamaicans can also speak standard English, which is also the official language, they often have a very thick accent and foreigners may have trouble understanding them because of this.
You will usually hear Jamaicans say "Waah gwaan?", "Waah appn'?", or "What a gwaan?", the Creole variation of "What's up?" or "What's going on?" More formal greetings are usually "Good morning" or "Good evening."
- Nine Mile - where Bob Marley was born and now buried. The journey up into the mountains lets you experience the heart of the country.
Spend a day at Negril 7-Mile Beach and finish off at Rick's Cafe for a spectacular sunset and watch even more fantastic cliff diving.
There are more than 50 beaches around Jamaica.
- Dunn's River Falls
- Rose Hall Great House
- Turtle River Park
- Devon House
- Blue Mountains
Hiking, camping, snorkelling, zip-lining, horse back 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 see and do if visiting Jamaica. It is located in Ocho Rios. The 600 ft (180 m) cascading falls are gorgeous. You can actually climb right up the falls. It’s an amazing experience! Give it a try if you're up for a breathtaking challenge.
Mystic Mountain has a bob-sledding ride combined with options for ziplining, a water slide and an aerial tram. The aerial tram is slower method to learn about the rainforest canopy.
Going zip-lining in the Jamaican jungle is incredibly exhilarating. Most touring companies as well as cruise liners will have companies that they work with regularly.
Over the past several decades, with the rapid growth of the tourism industry, "hotel marriages" have become a significant contributor to the total number of marriages occurring in the island.
The following is what you need to know or provide for your marriage in Jamaica:
- Proof of citizenship – certified copy of Birth Certificate, which includes father’s name.
- Parental consent (written) if under 18 years of age.
- Proof of divorce (if applicable) – original Certificate of Divorce.
- Certified copy of Death Certificate for widow or widower.
- French Canadians need a notarised, translated English copy of all documents and a photocopy of the original French documents. The same may be true of most people with documents in other languages than English.
- Italian nationals celebrating their marriage in Jamaica must notify their embassy for legalization and translation.
The most popular spectator sports in Jamaica are football (soccer) and cricket. Jamaica is also one of the top performers in the sprint events in athletics at the Olympics. Netball is the most popular women's sport, and Jamaica is one of powerhouses in international netball.
Exchange rates for Jamaican dollar
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" (or J$, JA$) (ISO code: JMD). It comes in notes of J$50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000. Coins in circulation are J$20, 10, and 5 (with smaller coins being almost worthless). Two series of banknotes are in circulation in Jamaica, the paper issues and the new polymer issues that includes the $2000 note.
Jamaica's economy has not been well run and the Jamaican dollar has steadily depreciated from the rate of USD1 = J$0.77 in 1968.
The US dollar is widely accepted in places most tourists visit. Indeed, all hotels, most restaurants, most shops, and almost all attractions in major cities will accept the US dollar. However, be aware that some places accept US dollars at a reduced rate (although it still may be a better rate than exchanging money beforehand). While it is possible for someone visiting only touristy places or for a few hours to not see the Jamaican currency at all, US dollars won't be accepted at a lot of "local" shops on the outskirts of cities and in rural areas.
Always stay up-to-date on the exchange rate and carry a calculator. Some places might try to make you pay ten times as much if you pay in US dollars. The cost of living in Jamaica is comparable to the United States.
US dollars, Canadian dollars, UK pounds, and euros are easily converted to Jamaican dollars at forex cambios and commercial banks island wide.
Buy products made on the island as they are cheap and you are supporting the local economy.
Prices are usually higher in tourist areas like Negril and Ocho Rios. Shops in "tourist traps" usually have higher prices than native ones, and you'll see the same items on offer in them.
Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and to a lesser extent American Express and Discover are accepted in many business 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 mostly require cash. There are a few petrol stations in uptown Kingston that will accept a credit card, but most will not
Cash advances from your MasterCard, Visa, Discover or American Express credit card will be quickly available at commercial banks, credit unions or building societies during normal banking hours. For cash advances on a non-Jamaican bank issued MasterCard or Visa cards or any American Express or Discover card, be prepared to show your foreign issued passport or overseas drivers license.
A bit of advice if you are paying for "fully inclusive" when you arrive or any other big ticket item such as tours, when you are there, take travellers cheques in US dollars. There is something like a 4% additional charge on a Visa or MasterCard transaction. Hotels and resorts usually charge the highest exchange rates.
ATMs are called ABMs in Jamaica and are widely available in every parish and almost all ABMs in Jamaica are linked to at least one overseas network such as Cirrus or Plus and sometimes both. Indeed, the safest way for a visitor to transact business in Jamaica is to use an ABM to withdraw your daily cash requirement directly from your overseas account in local currency, as flashing foreign currency, foreign credit cards or large quantities of cash might draw unwanted attention, and will almost certainly be disadvantageous when bargaining for the best price.
Don't be alarmed if you go to an ATM and you find an armed guard as he is there to protect you.
Jamaican food is a mixture of Caribbean dishes with local dishes. Although Jamaican food gets a reputation for being spicy, local trends lean towards more versatile food variety. Some of the Caribbean dishes that you'll see in other countries around the region are rice and peas (which is cooked with coconut milk) and patties (which are called empanadas in Spanish speaking countries). The national dish is Ackee and saltfish, and must be tried by anyone visiting the island. It is made with the local fruit called Ackee, which looks like scrambled eggs, but has a unique taste of its own and dried codfish mixed with onions and tomatoes. You probably won't get a chance to try this food anywhere else, and if you really want to say that you did something uniquely Jamaican, then this is your chance. Freshly picked and prepared ackee is 100 times better than tinned ackee, but must be harvested only when the ackee fruits have ripened and their pods opened naturally on the large evergreen tree on which they grow: unripe ackee contains a potent toxin (hypoglycin A) which causes vomiting and hypoglycemia. Don't worry, locals are expert at preparing ackee and will know how to pick it safely.
Another local food is called bammy, which was actually invented by the Arawak (Taino) Indigenous peoples. It is a flat floury cassava pancake normally eaten during breakfast hours that kind of tastes like corn bread. There is also hard-dough bread (locally called hard dough bread), which comes in both sliced and unsliced varieties. Try toasting it, for when it is toasted, it tastes better than most bread you'll ever eat. If you are looking for dishes with more meat in them, you can try the jerk flavoured foods. The most popular is jerk chicken, although jerk pork and jerk conch are also common. The jerk seasoning is a spice that is spread on the meat on the grill like barbecue sauce. Keep in mind that most Jamaicans eat their food well done, so expect the food to be a bit drier than you are accustomed to. There are also curries such as curried chicken and curried goat which are very popular in Jamaica. The best curried goat is made with male goats and if you see a menu with curried fish, try it.
You may even want to pick up a piece of sugar cane, slice off some pieces and suck on them.
Fruit and vegetables in Jamaica are plentiful, particularly between April and September, when most local fruits are in season. The many mango varieties are a 'must have' if you are visiting during the summer months. If you have not tasted the fruit ripened on the tree, then you are missing out. Fruit picked green and exported to other countries does not compare. Try drinking 'coconut water' straight out of the coconut. This is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is clear and refreshing, not to mention the fact that it has numerous health benefits. Pawpaws, star apples, guineps, pineapples, jackfruit, oranges, tangerines, ugli fruit, ortaniques are just some of the wonderful varieties of fruit available here.
Locally grown fruits and vegetables are inexpensive. Visitors may well find that imported produce such as American apples, strawberries, plums, etc., tend to be more expensive than in their home country. Grapes in particular tend to be very expensive on the island.
Chinese food is available in many places from Chinese takeaway stores and has a distinct Jamaican taste.
It is recommended to sample the local fruit and vegetables. If unfamiliar with a particular fruit it can pay to ask a local about which parts can be eaten. Local and imported fruits are available from road-side vendors. If the fruit is to be eaten immediately the vendors can generally wash the fruit for you on request.
Finally, there is the category of "ital" food, the domain of practising Rastafarians, who abide by strict dietary guidelines. This type of food is prepared without the use of meat, oil or salt, but can still be tasty due to the creative use of other spices. Ital food is not generally on the printed menus in the upmarket tourist restaurants and can only be found by going to speciality restaurants. You may have to ask around to find an establishment that serves Ital food as it is not very common.
There are many drinks in Jamaica. Standards such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola can be found, but if you want to drink local soda, you can try Bigga Cola, Champagne cola or grapefruit soda called "Ting" and also Ginger beer. Also, try any soda by Desnoes & Geddes, typically labelled as "D&G." "Cola champagne" and "pineapple" are popular flavours. Since the turn of the century, the majority of soft drinks are bottled in plastic instead of glass.
You can try the local lager called Red Stripe (which is exported to many countries in the west, so there is a good chance you have already tasted it) and Dragon Stout. Many types of beers are sold in Jamaican pubs and hotels. Guinness is popular and the export 7% has a kick.
Jamaican rum, which is made from sugar cane, is common and is normally drunk with cola or fruit juice. Drink with caution! Most countries have a legal limit for the strength of liquor, usually around 40% alcohol (80 proof). In Jamaica, rum with 50 to 60% alcohol is common and 75% is not unheard of. If you are not used to it and/or misjudge the dosage, this can quickly lead to problems.
Since Jamaica was colonised by Britain, the drinking laws are 18 and over, but they don't generally enforce it as strictly as it would be in the US.
When you speak about accommodation, Jamaica is the right place for great hospitality, staff and a well kept environment. There are many hotels or small inns that can accommodate our tourists and visitors.
Employment in Jamaica varies, depending on one's level of qualification, experience and workmanship. The legal working age in Jamaica is 16 years old (provided that you are a possessor of a valid Tax Registration Number (TRN)); unfortunately, very few businesses accept applicants less than 18, with requirements varying from proof of High School tenure to qualifications gained while attending high school. Most call centres accept 18 and over, with pardon for those acquiring 18 years of age. Lengthy periods of experience and at least a Master's or Bachelor's degree are the requirements for landing a job that pays at working class standard. Menial tasks, such as factory packaging, require less tardy application requirements, and there is a high probability of 16-year-olds being employed. Jamaica's hotel industry is calling for individuals with standard requirements, notably a TRN, NIS (National Insurance Number; provided by the government for working age people acquiring 18 years old), proof of Secondary/tertiary school attendance and a little experience.
There is limited chance of volunteer work, and, in some rare cases, conditions of living may not be of standard.
Employment in Jamaica hasn't reached its prime, but is a work in progress. Also, having a sponsor in the country or having permanent residence status grants one the ability to work in Jamaica.
Beware of rapists at resorts, as advised by travel advisories. Jamaica has the 2nd highest murder rate in the world. As in any other country, should any emergency situation arise, after calling 119 for the police or 110 for the fire brigade or ambulance, you might want to contact your government's embassy or consulate. Governments usually advise travellers staying in Jamaica for an extended period of time to notify their embassy or consulate so they can be contacted in the case of emergency.
If you are approached by a Jamaican looking to sell you drugs or anything else that you are not interested in buying, the conversation will most likely go like this: "Is this your first time on the island?" Respond: "No, I've been here many times before" (even if it is not true or as he will less likely think you are gullible). Next, they will ask "Where are you staying?" Respond with a vague answer: for instance, if you are approached on Seven Mile Beach, respond by saying "Down the street". If asked "Which resort?", respond with another vague answer. They will see that you are not stupid nor ready to be taken advantage of. They will appear to be engaging in friendly conversation, but once you are marked a sucker (like "It's my first time here" "I'm staying at Negril Gardens"), you will be harassed. If you are further pushed to buy drugs or something else, calmly tell them: "I've been to this island many times before: please don't waste your time trying to sell me something. I'm not interested." They should leave you alone, they may even say "Respect," and pound your fist.
The cultural and legal abhorrence against homosexuals (battymen) in Jamaica is far-reaching, and not only from a legal perspective, from which anal sex may be punished with up to 10 years. However, heterosexual anal sex is gaining in popularity, and while illegal, it has never been prosecuted by the state. It is advisable to avoid displaying affection to people of the same sex in public, especially between two men - Jamaica is a nation notorious for its persistent intolerance of homosexual behaviour, gay bashings are not uncommon (particularly in popular reggae and dancehall music in Jamaica) and victims would be met with indifference by the authorities. Lesbians are more widely accepted by younger Jamaicans, and it is not unusual to see lesbians openly enjoying the 'sights' from the front row at one of Kingston's strip clubs. Hotels and resorts have a somewhat tolerant attitude towards openly homosexual behaviour, due to partially enforced anti-discrimination laws. But simply put, Jamaica is not a suitable destination for LGBT tourism.
Marijuana, (locally known as ganja) although cheap, plentiful and powerful, is illegal on the island. Foreigners can be arrested and jailed for drug use. Jamaican prisons are very basic and places you would want to avoid at all costs.
If in need of police, dial 119, just don't expect them to show up on the spot.
Drugs and alcohol are prevalent. Armed men may pose a threat to women in some areas. Inner-city parts of the island such as Spanish Town and some neighbourhoods in Kingston (Trench Town, etc.) should be avoided even during the day. However, those who are interested in visiting the Culture Yard in Trench Town should be safe if they go during daylight hours and with a hired local guide, which should not be terribly expensive. Be sure to ask for advice from locals before going, and avoid going there around elections, when violence flares up.
September, October, and November have fewer tourists as this is hurricane season. As a result, the police are encouraged to take their vacation during this time. This reduction in the police force can cause areas like Montego Bay's hip strip to be less safe than they normally are.
Medical facilities on the island are not always up to par with European or American health care standards. Falling ill can sometimes result in major medical fees. Therefore, buy travel insurance, as this will ensure peace of mind in emergency situations.
The tap water is generally good and safe to drink. All piped water in Jamaica is treated to international standards, and will be of the same quality you could expect to find in North America or Europe. Water service in rural areas can sometimes go out for several hours at a time. People in rural areas have their own water tanks, which catch water when it rains, so be ready to draw from a tank instead of turning a pipe. Water from these sources should be boiled before being consumed. Bottled water such as Wata (a local brand), Aquafina and Deer Park are widely available.
Be cautious of the water quality at public swimming beaches, such as "Walter Fletcher Beach" in Montego Bay, which some locals call "dump-up beach", situated near the north gully. Large amounts of solid and human waste flush down the gully during storm events. The water flowing down Dunn's River Falls has also been said to contain high amounts of coliform bacteria, indicating faecal contamination.
The country's adult HIV/AIDS prevalence is nearly at 1.6%. This is more than 2½ times that of the USA and 16 times higher than the UK. So while Jamaica has a relatively low infection rate compared to some other developing nations, you would be wise to abstain or practice safe sex and avoid risky intravenous drug use.
A 2006 malaria outbreak in Kingston was identified and controlled and Jamaica has now returned to the malaria-free status it had for decades before this localised and isolated incident.
As in much of the Caribbean, dengue fever is an increasing risk. This normally manifests as a flu-like illness with severe joint and muscle pain, vomiting and a rash which may be complicated by haemorrhagic shock. It's transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite in the daytime and love densely populated areas like Kingston, though they also inhabit rural environments. No vaccine or other prophylactics are available so use insect repellent if you can not stand to be covered head to toe in the tropical humid heat.
Many Jamaican people are very generous and warm. Returning this warmth and friendliness is a great way to show them you appreciate their country.
Jamaican greetings are mostly informal on the part, and passing even a total stranger will call for a greeting. An upwards nod of the head, or raising the hand to shoulder length will do. Being invited to the homes of locals is largely uncommon. When entering the home of a friend, always remember to remove footwear. Table manners and etiquette are quite lax, however, so practising these will give you no extra points.
Religion is a huge deal to many Jamaicans. A church can be found in every nook and corner of the country. Criticising religion or speaking about it from an agnostic point of view might be met with total incomprehension.
It must also be noted that any person of East Asian descent will almost always be called "Missa/Miss Chin"; this is a common stereotype based on prominent locals bearing the surname. This should not be taken seriously, as it is a form of endearment existing among locals. Caucasians will also be met by stares from numerous people in the less touristy areas. But don't worry. Just smile!
Although most (90-92%) Jamaicans are Afro-Jamaicans, Jamaica is a diverse country and there are long-established communities of Europeans, Chinese, and Indians. Try not to be surprised or fazed by this.
Show respect to people older than you. Use the terms "sir" and "ma'am" with people you don't know.
Attempting to speak the local dialect will earn you favour and high regards in any social setting.
Jamaica has two mobile network operators, Digicel and Flow (formerly Lime). Jamaican numbers are based off the North American Numbering Plan and consist of an area code followed by 7 digits. The calling code is +1 (876) then follows the numbers, e.g +1 (876) ***-****.
In almost every area you go in Jamaica there are Wi-Fi hotspots to connect to the net. Data plans, which most Jamaicans call 'service', offer a certain amount of bytes which can easily be accessed on your mobile phone without worrying about Wi-Fi (this is the variation of Wi-Fi for most people in local areas).