|3 Jun 2018||Rockhouse Hotel||Negril||14 nights|
|17 Jun 2018||Overnight Travel||1 night|
Dubbed the 'capital of casual' due to its laid back island vibe, this sunny resort town lies on Jamaica’s exquisite western coast and is known for sandy beaches on shallow bays with calm, azure waters. The town’s famous Seven Mile Beach, particularly the portion overlooking Long Bay, features lively bars, excellent restaurants and and some world class international resorts. Long Bay boasts a magnificent lagoon protected by coral reefs which makes an ideal environment for a range of watersports including some of Jamaica’s best snorkeling and scuba-diving. Negril is also renowned as a musical hotspot with a vibrant reggae scene and daily live music events providing visitors with a taste of Jamaican culture. Travelers in search of casual sun soaking on magnificent beaches, upscale boutique hotels and colorful reggae joints need look no further than the hedonistic haven of Negril.
Idyllically located to the south of Cuba in the warm Caribbean sea, rests the lush tropical island nation of Jamaica. The island has more to offer than just the rastas, reggae and rum for which it is internationally known. It boasts a fusion of various African, Spanish, British, Indian and Chinese influences, which is expressed in the national motto, 'out of many, one people'. This exotic hybrid culture offers some wildly adventurous cuisine and some of the world’s most friendly and laidback locals. Blessed with golden sand beaches, year-round sunshine, verdant rainforests and misty mountains, Jamaica has long been a jewel in the crown of the Caribbean. From Negril’s glorious Seven-Mile Beach with the majestic Blue Mountain as its backdrop to the boisterous party scene and grand colonial architecture at Montego Bay and the vibrant and edgy capital Kingston, Jamaica is a strikingly diverse and beautiful country which is likely to enchant you at every turn.
Jamaican Dollar (JMD; symbol J$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of J$1,000, 500, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of J$20, 10, 5 and 1, and 25, 10 and 1 cents.
Jamaican law requires that local currency be used when paying for all goods and services, though that law is followed very loosely and the US Dollar is accepted almost universally. To avoid confusion determine which dollar unit is being quoted in the price prior to any transaction being made.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding US$10,000 or equivalent must be declared.
Exchange bureaux are located in airports, hotels, cruise ports and commercial banks. Hold onto receipts when changing money as black market exchange is illegal.
Banking hours: Monday-Thursday 09h00-14h00; Friday 09h00-12h00 and 14h30-17h00, with 24-hour ATMs in major cities and resort areas.
Credit cards are invaluable when travelling in Jamaica. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit are all widely accepted as are other cards bearing the Cirrus or Plus logo. Most Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards and many banks give credit card cash advances.
Most Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards and can be found at the airports, in larger towns and in major hotels and resorts. However the island’s ATMs still have a reputation for unreliability and shouldn’t be relied on exclusively. Bank cards supported by Visa and Mastercard will work in most situations and the island’s Scotia Bank cashpoints are generally considered the most reliable. As a precaution it’s recommended that you use ATMs during business hours, and avoid visiting them after dark. If a bank is open but the ATM isn’t functioning, many banks will give cash advances on a credit card.
Although the concept of traveller's cheques has become antiquated in recent years, thanks to Jamaica’s erratic ATMs, traveller’s cheques in US Dollars are widely accepted throughout Jamaica.
Jamaica Air Shuttle has several daily flights between Kingston Tinson Pen (closer to downtown than the main airport) and Montego Bay for around US$70. There are additional flights at weekends.
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) runs about US$600.
Jamaica has about 250 route miles of railroad, of which 77 are currently active to handle privately operated bauxite (aluminum 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.
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 $12 per day with a $200 deposit. 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.
There are relatively few stoplights outside of urban centers; they are generally found in major city centers, such as Montego Bay, Falmouth, Kingston, Mandeville, Spanish Town and Ocho Rios. For towns where stoplights are not installed, roundabouts are used.
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 center 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 50J (less than a dollar) to travel 20 miles. 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 color 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. Although the route taxis generally run from the center of one town to the center 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, kids 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.
Pricing can be a little foggy, but between two nearby towns (e.g. Montego Bay and Lucea) it shouldn't likely be more than $100-200JMD. If you get "cheated" in a route taxi, it'll likely be for only tens of jamaican dollars (like, the driver will just keep the coins he owes you). If you want to be a stickler, just pay close attention to what the locals pay. Really though, no sense in arguing over $0.25USD.
Act like a local. It's proper to give an appropriate greeting when entering a taxi (e.g. Good Morning) and to reply similarly when a greeting is given to you. Stop the taxi by saying "One Stop, Driver!"
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.
Pack lightweight cottons and casual linens. Light woollens are advised for evenings when mosquitoes can make long sleeves more appealing than skimpy beachwear. Sunhats and waterproofs are handy all year round. Buy sunscreen before you arrive as sunscreen is expensive in Jamaica. Sunglasses and a sunhat are also essential. If you plan to explore the island, take some lightweight comfy shoes for walking. Also be aware that it is illegal to have army/combat type clothing or print. Pack light as it's very easy to get clothes laundered.
Mains water in key tourist areas is normally chlorinated and is considered safe to drink. However, elsewhere water quality remains poor and should be avoided. Bottled water is widely available. Make sure food is thoroughly cooked, avoid purchasing food from street vendors and check that dairy products have been pasteurized before consumption.
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. This is 100 times better than the tinned ackee. Another local food is called bammy, which was actually invented by the Arawak (Taino) Indians. 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 do 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.
Finally, there is the category of "ital" food. Ital food is completely vegetarian and generally consists of a vegetable stew. Ital food is not generally on the printed menus in the upscale tourist restaurants and can only be found by going to smaller places (often just somebody's house.) Rastafarians are often vegetarians and eat (and serve) ital food.
Hotels and restaurants tend to add a 10% stabdard service charge; otherwise 10 to 15% is expected. Tipping is banned in many all-inclusive resorts.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Jamaica are very similar to the electrical outlets found in the United States and Canada, and if your appliance has a North American plug, it's possible that you won't need any adapter at all in order to plug in there. However, there are two potentially very important physical differences that may need to be addressed with an adapter: grounding and/or polarization. If your plug has one or both, and the socket doesn't, then the plug may not physically be able to fit into the socket without an adapter.
In the case of a North American appliance plug, grounding is accomplished by the third, round pin beneath and below the two vertical blades on the plug. Polarization is accomplished by the left vertical blade being taller than the right, so that the plug can't be inserted upside down. U.S. and Canadian sockets are required to be both grounded and polarized. But in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Japan and other areas which use U.S. style sockets, grounding and polarization often are not required, and in fact, the majority of sockets in many of these areas do not accept the taller blade and/or the third grounding pin. This will prevent a North American appliance plug from being able to plug into these sockets, if the plug is either grounded or polarized.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Jamaica usually supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts AC. If you're plugging in a U.S. or Canadian 120 volt appliance, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with110-120 electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.
Jamaica's climate is tropical with constant warm to hot temperatures all year round, though cooler in the higher, central areas. On the coast temperatures range from 72°F (22°C) and 88°F (31°C). Mornings and evenings are slightly chillier in the winter months but Jamaica is hot year-round. The wettest months are between May and November, when short sharp showers can be expected. The heaviest rains occur in September and October and the hurricane season runs from June to November; however, despite the powerful Hurricane Ivan of September 2004, relatively few hurricanes touch Jamaica. The country is also in the earthquake zone. There are variations in climate according to region; for instance, the east coast receives substantially more rain than the rest of the country, and the south coast far less.