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Jamaica

Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean, located to the south of Cuba and to the west of the island of Hispaniola.

Understand

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 a completely independent and sovereign nation.

Jamaica exports coffee, papaya, bauxite, gypsum, limestone and sugar cane.

Its motto and nickname for the country is called "Out of Many, One People".

History

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 BaySt. 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 today.

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 England 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.

People

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 Coloreds, 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 major religion in 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.

Climate

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.

Flora

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.

Fauna

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, gray 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.

Protected 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 15 square km), 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.

Holidays

  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • Easter (moveable)
  • May 23: Labor Day
  • August 6: Independence Day
  • October 17: Heroes Day
  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 26: Boxing Day

Regions

Cities

  • Kingston
  • Montego Bay
  • Negril
  • Ocho Rios
  • Port Antonio
  • Morant Bay
  • Black River
  • Falmouth
  • Port Maria
  • Mandeville

Other destinations

  • Black River
  • Blue Mountains
  • Cave Valley
  • Nassau Valley
  • Manchester

Get in

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 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.

By plane

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

By boat

There are cruises to Jamaica from the United States and other locations in the Caribbean.

Get around

By train

Jamaica has about 250 route miles of railways, of which 77 are currently active by 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.

  • 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.

By car

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 BayFalmouthKingstonMandevilleSpanish 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 JMD12 per day with a JMD200 deposit.

By boat

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.

By bus

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.

By taxi

Local taxis (called "route taxis") are an interesting way to get around and far cheaper than tourist taxis. For instance, it may cost JMD50 (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 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, 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.

By plane

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 USD600.

Talk

Jamaicans speak Jamaican Creole natively, 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 all Jamaicans can speak English, which is also the official language, they often have a very thick accent and foreigners may have trouble understanding them because of this. Some Jamaicans speak a little bit of the other popular languages, like Spanish.

You will usually hear Jamaicans say "Waah gwan?", "Waah appen?", 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."

See

Visit 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.

Beaches

There are more than 50 beaches located across Jamaica.

Do

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 feet 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.

Marriage

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. Hotel marriages are any marriage occurring in the island, performed by a certified marriage officer of the island.

The following is what you need to know or provide for your marriage in Jamaica:

1. Proof of citizenship - certified copy of Birth Certificate, which includes father’s name.

2. Parental consent (written) if under 18 years of age.

3. Proof of divorce (if applicable) - original Certificate of Divorce.

4. Certified copy of Death Certificate for widow or widower.

5. French Canadians need a notarised, translated English copy of all documents and a photocopy of the original French documents.

6. Italian nationals celebrating their marriage in Jamaica must notify their embassy for legalization and translation.

Buy

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 and 5,000. Coins in circulation are J$20, 10, and 5 (with smaller coins being almost worthless).

Jamaica's economy has not been well run and the Jamaican dollar has steadily depreciated from the rate of USD1 = J$0.77when it dropped the connection to the pound sterling upon decimalisation 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, be advised that 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 KingstonMontego BayPortmoreOcho 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.

Eat

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) 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 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.

Drink

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 that you won't find anywhere else. 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. Most beers can be found in Jamaican pubs and hotels. A local hard drink is Jamaican Rum, which is made from sugar cane. It normally tends to be overproof and drunk with cola or fruit juice. Drink with caution! It's not designed for someone who is drinking it for the first time. It is not unheard of to have 75% proof Jamaican Rum. Since Jamaica was colonized 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. Guinness is popular and the export 7% proof has a kick.

Sleep

Work

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. Since recently, lengthy periods of experience and at least a Masters or Bachelor 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. Rise in Jamaica's hotel industry recently has called 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. Note: Volunteers, be advised, there is limited chance of volunteer work, and, in some rare case(s), conditions of living may not be of standard. With that said, 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.

Stay safe

Jamaica has the 5th 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 technically 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. 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 a lower number of tourists due to being 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.

Stay healthy

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 >2.5 times higher than 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.

Respect

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. When entering the home of a friendly, always remember to remove footwear.

Cultural respect is far more important. You are guests on their island. Please know also that when speaking to the elderly you should say, "Yes ma'am." or "Yes, sir".

Connect

Vibrant colours, friendly people, classic cars rattling down potholed streets, interesting geology, amazing beaches. Rum. Cigars. Music. Cuba is spectacular.

The country’s turbulent history has left it stranded in time in some regards: there are only 21 cars per thousand residents, pay phones are still a major form of communication, the Internet is almost completely absent. A visit to Cuba means cutting yourself off from the world a little (or a lot) — it’s a full immersion experience.

Pinterest pinPin me on Pinterest!Tourists are a major source of income for the country in general and for local people in particular; sometimes we felt like walking wallets as everyone wanted a share of our money. We were constantly saying no to offers of taxis, meals in restaurants, drinks in bars, erotic services. It’s understandable though: while the socialist government makes sure everyone has the bare minimum to survive, locals don’t have a lot of luxury. The tourist dollar is a way to supplement the average salary of less than US$20 a month.

Despite this, we found Cuba to be very reasonably priced: we stayed in casas particulares (local houses that rent out rooms) rather than hotels, and picked up snacks from street vendors rather than always eating out. Transport was the big expense, but didn’t break the bank, tours weren’t too expensive either, and a mojito in a bar could cost as little as US$2.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 312 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Where is Cuba?

Cuba an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. The main island is the largest in the Caribbean, and the country also includes thousands of smaller islands as well. The US and the Bahamas are to the north, Mexico is to the west (Cancun is a 45-minute flight from Cuba’s capital, Havana) and Jamaica is to the south. A chain of Caribbean islands stretches off to the east, starting with Hispaniola, the island which houses both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

A tiny bit of Cuban history

Cuba was inhabited by various mesoamerican tribes until 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed and claimed it for Spain. After 400 years of Spanish rule, it was briefly ruled by the US after the American-Spanish war, and gained independence in 1902. The twentieth century was a turbulent one, most notable for the Mafia invasion during American Prohibition followed by the 1959 revolution which overthrew a dictator and brought in Fidel Castro as leader of a now-communist society.

This revolution saw all land holdings over 400 hectares appropriated by the government, with no compensation given to the landowners. Since a huge proportion of the land seized belonged to US citizens, the USA was understandably angry and not only stopped all trade with Cuba, but also prohibited its citizens from visiting the country. President Obama has recently overturned the embargo, so Americans will be able to legally visit very soon. This, along with the loosening of restrictions for Cubans to start small businesses means that change is on its way to Cuba — visit now if you want to see a society on the brink of change.

Cayo Jutia beach CubaCuba is pretty great for beaches.

Get to Cuba

Some cruise ships stop at Cuba, but there aren’t any ferries at present to other countries. This will be changing soon when US Americans have free movement to Cuba; we found several websites advertising ferry services from Florida, which will start operations as soon as it’s permitted.

This means that you’ll almost certainly arrive by air, and probably into Havana. The easiest way to get into the city is by taxi, which costs 20-25 CUC. Until recently, passenger flying out of Cuba were charged a 25 CUC departure tax: this was abolished on May 1, 2015.

A car in Trinidad, a href=The best way to get around Cuba is by taxi… and that might mean a car like this one.

A word about money in Cuba

We read a lot about Cuba before heading there, and most of the articles dwelt heavily on the country’s dual currency system. It’s nowhere near as hard to grasp as these articles will make you think — don’t worry about it!

The currency you’ll be using the most is the convertible peso, or the CUC. It’s pegged 1:1 to the US dollar, so one CUC is the same as a US dollar — easy, right?

The other currency is the moneda nacional (MN or CUP). One CUC is worth 24 MN, and it’s definitely worth carrying some of these, in a separate wallet if possible. You can use them to buy street food like pizza, pastries and sandwiches, as well as drinks and ice cream from vendors or fruit from street carts. If you don’t have any MN on you, many vendors will accept CUC and give change in MN — just make sure to give the smallest denomination possible as they won’t have change for 20 CUC.

Many government-run shops will now accept both currencies and display prices in both CUC and MN. Apparently the dual-currency system is on its way out, but this might take some time!

A typical Havana street. A typical Havana street.

Getting money in Cuba

It can be a challenge to get your hands on Cuban cash. It’s not transferable outside of the country, so you’ll have to wait until you’re there to get it, and that often means standing in ridiculously long lines. The information below was correct as of mid-December 2015.

We decided to rely on plastic, and had no problems withdrawing cash from the ATM at the airport using a Visa debit card. There are ATMs on the departures floor and at the exchange office outside Arrivals. (Turn right out of the door, and — if no-one is using the ATM — talk to the security guard to skip the queue.)

Our Visa Debit worked everywhere, however, most regular debit or MasterCard debit cards don’t work at all, and US cards won’t work either. You can also withdraw from a Visa credit card, but you’ll get charged interest immediately on the amount you take out so it’s not an economical option.

There’s a 3% fee on all ATM withdrawals and currency exchanges, so when we withdrew 800 CUC at the airport, it cost us US$824 plus our normal bank charges.

The other way is to bring cash and change it at a bank or cadeca exchange office. Don’t bring US dollars as there’s an extra 10% tax on them: pounds, euros and Canadian dollars are your best bet. Be prepared to wait in line, usually outside the office: a security guard allows one person to enter at a time.

Trinidad CubaGoing to Cuba can feel like going back in time.

Where to go in Cuba

Havana

Havana seemed to be crumbling around us, with many buildings in a bad state of repair and piles of rubbish decorating the streets. It’s an interesting place to wander around; though — we used an app to explore the main sights but didn’t go into any of the museums. Make sure to see the Capitol building, the pleasantly asymmetrical cathedral, the Castillo de Real Fuerza fortress, and the Partagas tobacco factory. Walk along the malecón (seawall) and buy snacks from the peso shops of street vendors using moneda nacional. We did a tour of one of the tobacco factories, which was very interesting, though quite short. Tickets cost 10 CUC and you have to buy them from any one of the big hotels in the city centre, not from the factory itself.

Viñales

Viñales has boomed in recent years to become a tourist hub. Almost all of the houses are casas particulares and budget street food is hard to come by. It’s worth a visit though: do a tour of the national park on foot or by horse to see tobacco and coffee plantations, visit a cave and swim in a small lake. It’s also a good base for heading to one of the beaches on the northern coast: Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias are both around 60km and 90 minutes drive away. Going to Cayo Levisa means hopping on a day tour as going independently is a lot more expensive; we chose Cayo Jutias as it was a little cheaper to get there and seemed less commercial and more laid back.

Viñales, CubaViñales, Cuba

Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara

Just an hour or two away from each other, these three colonial cities are all worth a visit. We spent two days each in Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and just visited Santa Clara for the Che Guevara memorial. Trinidad was great for the nightly outdoor concerts at the Casa de la Musica, and Cienfuegos charmed us with its beautiful colonial buildings and seaside location.

Other destinations in Cuba

Twelve days isn’t enough to scratch Cuba’s surface. We limited ourselves to the western side of the island due to time constraints, but there’s plenty to see on the other side as well. We’ve heard that Santiago de Cuba and Guardadlavaca are interesting cities, and there’s snorkelling, scuba diving and hiking opportunities all over the place. There’s no overnight hiking possible: everything we found out about required a guide, a park fee and only comprised 4-15km loops (1-4 hours, maximum hiking time).

Eating in Cuba

Rumours of terrible food in Cuba didn’t match our experience there. Perhaps because new private restaurants have a financial incentive to ensure customers enjoy their food and come back for more, we found the food to be pretty good, on the whole. There was certainly a lot of rice and beans, but in almost every restaurant we could choose from chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or lobster, and side dishes of vegetables were also available. For variety, we had the occasional hamburger or pasta dish, and bought snacks from street stalls in moneda nacional.

As well as eating in restaurants, we also had dinner in our casa particular at least once during each stay. We found the food to be excellent in each case, and the price (7 or 8CUC per person) to be fair. If you’re travelling solo, prices may be a little higher to offset the labour-to-income ratio.

Drink and smoke

Cuba is famous for rum, and for good reason — it’s fantastic. We stuck to Havana Club, the best quality of the brands available, and also the brand you’re most likely to find in bars. Choose from white rum (3 year old) or barrel-aged darker varieties, such as our favourite, the Añejo 7 años. Our cocktail of choice was the mojito, but the daiquiri was also created in Cuba if you want to try it out.

We don’t smoke as a rule, but a few puffs on a Cuban cigar is an experience worth having. Buy your cigars from a temperature-controlled store if at all possible, and never buy on the street. You can tour the cigar factory that produces Partagas, Romeo y Juliet and Cohiba in Havana and see the more casual way cigars are rolled in the tobacco plantations near Viñales.

A tobacco farm in Viñales, a href=Visit a tobacco farm while you’re in Viñales, Cuba.

Get around

The Viazul buses provide a comfortable journey between Cuba’s main cities, but places are limited in high season and you’ll need to buy your tickets (in person) a day or two in advance. Your other option is to hire a car and driver, which we found to be the most convenient way to travel as we were a group of four. Prices are similar to what you’ll pay for the bus, though you might be able to negotiate a small discount if you’re lucky.

Solo travellers can book a seat in a car travelling in the direction they’re heading, though drivers might try to cram four people in the backseat to earn more money. You can ask for advice at the Infotur office in each city, or your casa particular host might have a contact for you.

Classic car in a href=Cuba is full of awesome classic cars.

Warnings

Most Cubans earn less than US$20 per month, which isn’t really enough to live on. Tourists represent a chance to earn more, and while many people have legitimate businesses, others make a living through scams. Jineteros (touts) are a constant issue: they get a commission if they take you to a casa particular or restaurant, so you’ll end up paying more than you should if you show up somewhere with one in tow. Some restaurants seemed to charge different prices depending on the day, and Craig was once charged three times as much as he should have been for a lemonade by a waitress who wanted to line her pockets. It’s hard to avoid all the scams all the time, even for experienced travellers, so be prepared to be ripped off at least once during your trip.

Final thoughts

Cuba is a fascinating country that’s slowly incorporating capitalist values into its socialist system. You’ll undoubtably be frustrated by its contradictions, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

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Hello, 2017. You’re a sight for sore eyes.

You’re also, so far, a bit of a mystery. Since I started this blog, I’ve never kicked off a year with less travel on my plate. In a way, it’s thrilling — anything can happen! — and in another it’s a little scary. Can I really let a year pass by without ticking one of my dream trips off my list? For someone who often can’t fall asleep at night because they are so consumed by all the places in the world they still have yet to see, it’s kinda of a panic-inducing thought.

Travel Plans 2017

And yet I find myself quite content, settled back in Koh Tao with a bright and cheery little apartment, a faithful little motorbike and unpacked bag nestled in the corner of my closet. As I do weigh up options for the year, I’m torn as always between revisiting old favorites (oh hello, island I’ve been returning to for seven years and currently living on again) and big bucket list dream trips (oh hey there, diving in Mozambique, which I daydream about constantly yet have no plans to actually make a reality).

Anyway, last year’s post outlining my 2016 travels was fairly accurate — it will be fun to see how this one fares!

January-May // Asia

I state this with a pretty inordinate amount of pride for someone who makes a living as a travel blogger, but at the moment literally only like 14 out of the first 120 days of 2017 will be spent not in my bed here on Koh Tao. I need this for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being I am so backlogged on content here on Alex in Wanderland. I just need to lock myself away and furiously type until I’m caught up writing on all my trips! I’ve already nixed two opportunities to travel to new countries in the first quarter of this year, with this being one of my primary reasons.

So what will I be getting up to?

In January, I will spend just three nights off Koh Tao — a quick trip to Bangkok to see my sister off. (In fact, I’ve already come and gone!) I actually wasn’t planning to leave the island at all as I really just got here in December, but alas, I can’t say no to Olivia — nor can I turn down a weekend in one of my favorite cities in the world. In fact, what started as a fun fantasy over the years solidified on this quick jaunt into a very strong determination to rent an apartment in Bangkok for a month or two someday, and see what it’s like to experience one of my favorite places for longer than just a few days at a time. Maybe in the fall that will come to fruition.

Bangkok

I have some pretty exciting plans at home for the rest of the month, though, like a week-long aerial silks workshop with Flying Trapeze Adventures and all my favorite shows re-starting after their winter hiatuses (don’t judge).

In February, I’ll be taking my “big trip” of this Southeast Asia stretch. First, I’m cobbling together a big crew to take to Wonderfruit, a festival in the Pattaya countryside that I couldn’t be more excited about attending. Between the fanciful stages hosting musicians from around the world, the wonderfeasts by some of Thailand’s top chefs, and the workshops on everything from yoga to living a plastic-free life, I’m not even sure which aspect I’m looking forward to the most.

Wonderfruit(source)

After the festival, Ian and I are off to Penang, Malaysia — Ian has to go to process his Thai work permit, and I’m tagging along for fun (and to reactivate my own visa.) I’ve never been to Penang other than in transit and look forward to exploring the city of Georgetown and hiking in Penang National Park. I’m still fairly bitter that the direct flight to Penang from Koh Samui has been discontinued, but alas, I still want to go. Who knows, we might even tack on a few days in Bangkok in-between!

Penang(source 12, and 3)

In March, I currently have no plans to leave Koh Tao. Gasp! Now that you all convinced me to get PRK surgery I am considering blocking off a week to go to Bangkok and do it then, but I also might also put it off until the fall. Back on Koh Tao, there’s going to be a big new festival that I’m pretty excited about (if you haven’t sensed a theme for the year yet, you will soon!)

In April, I’ll pop over to Koh Samui for a few days to meet a friend and possibly attend Paradise Island Festival. Otherwise I’ll be on Koh Tao enjoying Songkran, Easter, and my last long stretch of stillness for a while.

In May, I have a one last little trip in the works before catching my flight to the US for the summer. It’s all in pencil now but it involves a river cruise, showing Ian around one of my favorite Thai cities, and (duh) more Bangkok. Fingers crossed it all works out!

Ayutthaya(source 12, and 3)

May-August // USA

I’ve fallen into a pattern of spending more and more time back in the US every year, however I have to be frank — our current political climate makes me want to spend less time there than ever before. I’m not being defiant or trying to make a statement. It’s just that my heart literally sinks out of my chest every time I think about home, and unless that starts to fade I don’t know how many consecutive months I can walk around with that heaviness. I’ve never felt more disconnected from the place that made me. I’m adrift. Here’s hoping some peace and clarity find me in this department in 2017.

That said, I have three confirmed weddings and one other up in the air, one confirmed festival and a few others on the back burner (wink wink, fellow playa fans!), and lots of family and friends I love dearly and need to catch up with, regardless of what else is happening around us. Here’s a peek:

In May, I’m flying to Florida for the wedding of one of one of my closest high school crew in Sarasota. I’ll also be visiting my girl Angie in Jacksonville, heading to Orlando for a bachelorette weekend I’m planning at Universal Orlando, and hanging with my two favorite aunts in Tampa. I’m obsessed with Florida and would be thrilled if time allowed for me to dip over to Miami to see my cousin Eric, do some diving, or maybe even take that road trip down to Key West I’ve been dreaming of… but allegedly there are only thirty days in this particular month, so we will have to see how flexible the time space continuum ends up being.

Florida(source 12, and 3)

In June, I’m going back to Bonnaroo. Even better? I’m bringing my mom and her boyfriend Miller! The two of them hit it off big time with blogger bestie Kristin this past summer, and we all vowed this would be our year for fulfilling Miller’s dream of making it to ‘Roo. A festival as a family affair? I can’t wait to try it.

In July, I’m going to Maine! This is actually the only new state and/or country I currently have on the docket for the year, which is kind of crazy pants. Another one of my dearest friends from high school is getting hitched in Harpswell, and I’m pining to turn it into an excuse for a full-blown road trip. At an absolute minimum I want to spend a few days in Portland and check out Kennebunkport — and if the calendar shakes out enough days for me, I’ll venture north to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, too!

Maine(source 1, 2, and 3)

In August, I’ll head to Chicago for my cousin Kirsten’s wedding (congratulations to the beautiful bride-to-be!).

Aside from those anchors, the summer is still fuzzy. Here are some maybes: I might be sticking around post-Bonnaroo for a bachelorette party in Nashville. I will most likely be in Martha’s Vineyard the first week of July for family time — and I’m also considering popping over to Nantucket for the Nantucket Yoga Festival! I may have another family wedding in Illinois before the year is out.

And then there’s Nevada. I may return to the playa — Burning Man is still very much on my radar. I may put into action the Nevada road trip I’ve had percolating for the last year or two (I need to see Britney’s revamped show, visit the Seven Magic Mountains art installation and camp in Valley of Fire National Park, stat) so if those came together it would be pretty perfect.

Nevada(source 12, and 3)

Also, some big changes are heading my way and while I’m not ready to discuss them publicly just yet, I might be popping down to Central America for a bit over the summer to let them percolate in private first. More details coming your way soon.

September-December // And beyond…

Nine months down the line is simply too far to predict with too much accuracy where I’ll be. This time last year, I could have never guessed I’d spend these months in the United Kingdom, Hawaii and Jamaica (content coming soon!)

In the last month, as I started to feel the pressure of writing this post and having basically nothing on the horizon — a lot of the above has come together in the last thirty days! — I started to think more about really prioritizing my dream trips rather than just waiting and seeing what the universe throws at me or what’s convenient, as I have fallen into a habit of doing. In fact, I recently started working on actually putting pen to paper and writing a comprehensive travel bucket list, which I may turn into a blog post soon.

So in that spirit, here is a sampling of some of my dream trips that feel feasible for 2017, which I may work on slotting in somewhere from June onward, en route back to my winter basecamp of Thailand.

• Uruguay: I just really want to go here. I don’t know why. I feel like Uruguay is usually an afterthought tacked on to trips to Argentina or Brazil but I’m completely captivated by this little country. Maybe it’s my obsession with tiny nations, maybe it’s my love for their famously humble ex-president, maybe I just like beaches and wine and yoga. Bonus! This would be a new country for me. However, Uruguay’s beach cities and towns have a fairly tiny window of action in December-March, and since I’m in Asia through May this would have to be a December trip.

Uruguay(source 12, and 3)

• Burma, Borneo and/or Brunei: It’s now been eight years since I first began traveling to Southeast Asia, and I regularly marvel that there is still so much I have yet to see. Including both the countries of Burma and Brunei (I still have Timor Leste still to visit as well, but I’m shelving that one for the moment) and the Malaysian state of Borneo. Eventually visiting every country in this region is important to me, and so I hope that either a trip to Burma or a joint trip to Borneo and Brunei is in order for late 2017.

• Jamaica:  I’ve had a Jamaica road trip on the noggin for a while now. My surprise trip here at the end of 2016 (more on that coming soon!) only made taking a big one feel more urgent. I want to rent a car, hit the open road, and explore the raw, soulful side of this island nation in a way that few get the opportunity to do. Unlike Uruguay, Jamaica is a place I’d be thrilled to travel in the low season, and so summer or fall might be the perfect fit.

Jamaica(source 12, and 3)

• Mexico: There’s a glaring un-scratched swath on my scratch-off travel map, and it’s Mexico. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to wait and really do justice to, but I’m starting to think I just need to start somewhere and dive in there and get hooked so I can keep coming back over and over again. It’s hardly unchartered territory, but The Yucatan Peninsula is calling me pretty loudly. Whale sharks of Holbox… here I come! And yup, this would be another new country to add to the list.

3-devide-lines

I have a lot of other dream trips rambling around in my mind — CONTINENT OF AFRICA HI I WANT TO BE IN YOU — but these are the ones that I feel I could realistically tackle right now given my current energy levels and priorities and desires, though clearly, a lot can happen in a year. I think I kind of need a lower-key year in order to get my house in order — lol JK I don’t have a house but it’s a thing people say right? — and get really whipped up into a travel frenzy again for some wild adventures in the future.

When I first began this post I fretted that you all might think it a bit boring. Now that I’ve put it together, I couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead! Festivals, weddings, and so many favorite old places to fall even further in love with.

Love 2017

Okay so now that I’ve dished… what are your travel plans for 2017? Which of these trips are you most excited to virtually come along on?

Looking forward to talking all things travel in the comments!

At first glance, Kingston may seem like a mere shipping port and capital city for visitors en route to sandy beaches and rainforest treks; however, as was proven during a brief tour of the city, Kingston on its own merit is a beacon for Jamaicans and visitors from around the world who want to see Jamaican arts and culture in full swing. 1

Deep artistic traditions at the National Gallery of Jamaica

With paintings, sculptures, and woodwork from all across the island, the National Gallery showcases the creative wealth of Jamaica. One can get an all-encompassing view of Jamaica’s artistic movements and trends, from indigenous Taino artifacts, to British colonial era paintings and material culture, to contemporary works from Jamaica's most prolific artists.

2

Jamaican artist Sean Henry

Upon meeting Sean at the last day of his exhibition, it was clear that he had a deep respect for the tradition of watercolor painting. He is most well known for his depictions of rickshaw drivers, an iconic sight in the streets of Kingston.

3

Ballroom of Devon House

Founded by Jamaican millionaire George Stiebel, Devon House offers visitors a glimpse at late 19th-century Jamaica through restored living spaces and material culture. Expect a tour of the grounds by a guide who is dressed in garments and carrying a Patois accent fitting with the style of the time.

Intermission 445

10 volunteer opportunities for free travel

by Matt Scott
1K+

20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world

by Jason Wire
77

How to get upgraded to first class like a boss

by Kate Siobhan Mulligan
4

Bob Marley Museum

A walk-through of Marley's childhood residence, the museum is also home to live performances by local luminaries of the reggae and rocksteady scenes. For reggae fans around the world, to be in the presence of this statue is akin to completing a spiritual pilgrimage.

5

Contemporary dancer at Smile Jamaica’s 40-year anniversary

Contemporary dance, as performed by this dancer at Smile Jamaica, is an amalgam of dance styles and identities that extend across Jamaica and beyond.

6

Singer Blvck H3ro at Smile Jamaica’s 40-year anniversary

Luminaries of the reggae and rasta scenes of Jamaica paid tribute to their forebears - namely, Bob Marley himself - during the Smile Jamaica anniversary concert. The performance was truly an education on the veterans of reggae, as well as a discovery of brave new voices in Jamaica.

7

Liguanea Art Festival

The Liguanea Art Festival has more than 110 local and international artists, and showcases art, music, and food from all over the island. It is best to arrive at the festival with open eyes and ears, empty stomachs, and a healthy curiosity for island culture.

8

Artist Paul Blackwood at Liguanea Art Festival

The perk of the Ligueanea Art Festival is being able to meet the artists themselves. Each artist contributes their own unique perspectives and creative sensibilities to what it means to be Jamaican.

9

Afro-Caribbean throughlines with artist Gene Pearson

Caribbean art lends much of its influences on its deep cultural roots to Africa. Jamaican artist Gene Pearson and his depictions of Nubian mask sculptures are a testament to that historical thread.

Intermission 1K+

20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world

by Jason Wire
97

23 awesome travel jobs and how to get them

by Michelle Schusterman
1

Scotland’s Secret

by Matador Media House
10

Dancers at the Kingston Waterfront Music Celebration

Visitors of Kingston are treated year round to local festivals on the waterfront. Expect medleys of mento, ska, rocksteady, dub, reggae, and dancehall performances that capture the vast depth of musical tradition in Kingston.

11

Pastel-colored walls of Port Royal

Even without festivities arranged in Kingston to observe the arts and culture, the city itself shows a vibrancy of color and form, reflective of the island’s clement weather and warm-hearted hospitality.

12

Pelicans look across Port Royal

It’s easy to see that the artists and performers of Kingston draw inspiration from their daily lives, and the bliss of their natural surroundings. The neighborhood of Port Royal in particular - although it has certainly seen better days - is nonetheless a charming slice of life in Kingston.

All photos by the author

“We are surviving to death.”

This was what one sharp-witted 26-year old girl from Guantanamo tells me over beers in a cafe on Calle Obispo, a lively street near Habana Vieja.

No one’s starving to death on the streets. If you have a bad leg or a bad heart, the doctor’ll fix you right up at zero cost to you. There are beggars, but it’s not uncommon to spot the same person a few blocks away in a suit, clicking away on his smartphone or ordering a coffee at a hotel cafe. Many pull in more money per day than the doctor who treats him, so the girl tells me.

“I think my stork got lazy and dropped me off in the wrong country,” she continues, ordering another Bucanero. “I shouldn’t have been born here.” She’d moved to Havana a year earlier when her heavy metal rocker boyfriend offered to pay for her travels (though he was still married to his wife). Despite speaking near-fluent English, she can’t work without a proper Havana residence permit, so she spends most of her days in their apartment. They rely on the income her boyfriend pulls in from selling tourist trap trinkets in a marketplace a few blocks away. He is one of the lucky ones. With an average income of $5–10 per day, he makes more than the vast majority of people who survived on ~$20 a month at a government job. This includes doctors, lawyers, and bankers — the people who usually pull in the biggest salaries in most other countries.

“In America, workers are like this,” one casa particular owner said, making a triangle with his hands. “The people who use their brains are at the top while the people who use their muscles are at the bottom. But here it’s the opposite.” He flipped the triangle upside down so that the apex was now on the bottom. “Here in Cuba, the smartest people make the least money and work the longest hours.” His daughter works as a obstetrician and delivered more than 15 babies the night before. This was a regular day. She makes less than 600pesos per month (~24 USD). Yet he said that “doctor” is still one of the most desired jobs among students. “You save lives. Everyone knows you and everyone respects you,” he said, explaining the conflict between wanting a fulfilling job and longing for a more comfortable life. He had worked as a mining engineer until a series of kidney problems forced him to retire. His days became a cycle of eat, sleep, eat, sleep, interspersed with visits from his daughters. He sat on a plastic stool outside his house, watching people walk by.

He said a visit from President Obama and Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, a year earlier had changed his life.

“We all looked at this young guy who had built his business from scratch and grown his business like crazy in just a few years. Not even 40 years old,” he said, adjusting his Yankees baseball cap. “He said any of us could do it.” With the help of his younger daughter who had picked up some English working as a journalist for a government magazine, he put up his two free rooms on Airbnb and had already started construction on a third floor where he would add another two rooms for rent. He’d made enough money to buy a motorcycle, and he would take his wife on it on weekends to Malecon’s seaside.

For many Cubans, tourism has become the primary escape from a low-paying government job and speaking English is often a gateway into new opportunities. Our biking tour guide, a 22-year old girl from Vinales, told us how she had picked up her English purely through binge-watching American TV shows. “I love Supernatural and Arrow,” she said as we passed by El Palenque, a limestone cave that doubled as a nightclub on weekends. Wifi is expensive (at about $2 per hour), so she and most of her friends use “El Paquete Semanal,” a 1TB collection of digital contents containing new episodes of TV shows, films, books, and other customized options that is updated weekly at a cost of about $1 (~30pesos). She’d been recruited as a tour guide by her boyfriend’s cousin after he’d heard her mimicking a line from Family Guy. Each morning, she walked 20 minutes from her house near one of the tobacco farms into town where she would take phone calls from both English and Spanish-speaking tourists. She’d even mastered horseback riding for the group’s most popular foreigner-focused tours.

When I asked her boss, another fluent English speaker, how he’d had gotten into the touring business, he said he had actually studied engineering in college but could barely pay his bills as an engineer. He left Havana and returned to his small hometown in Vinales where he found a job at a friend’s tour guide company. After a few years, he bought a few used mountain bikes from some visiting foreigners (since it’s still too difficult and expensive to import new bikes into Cuba) and started his own tour company.

“No one needs a programmer. I haven’t coded anything in years, except to make a website for my tour services,” he said, standing barefoot in a walled-in plot of pebbles and bricks: the foundation to a new house. He’d recently hurt his knees on a biking tour, so he’d switched his attention to building his own casa particular. His father, a farmer, had given him a small plot of land but he had no interest in using it for tobacco. “I like designing things, visualizing and organizing. I made the entire blueprint for this house,” he explained proudly, walking us through where the two bedrooms would be, the space between them to limit sound leakage, the cooled hallway to the kitchen and the seating arrangement for breakfast, all along a skeleton of concrete and bricks already laid into the ground. With limited masons and funds, however, he said it would take nearly 4–5 years to complete. It took him nearly 30 minutes by motorcycle just to get to a wifi hotspot so he could answer email inquiries about his tour services, so it was still difficult to scale his business.

Lack of infrastructure was a problem, but limited food/supplies and a looming sense of stagnation were the more troubling issues for most Cubans.

“Why would anyone work hard? They know it won’t get them anywhere,” the girl from Guantanamo says, lighting up a half-crushed H.Upmann cigarette. The only four things she says people could always get in Cuba were cigarettes, sugar, rum, and coffee, the top exports for the country. “If I want apples and the government’s not selling apples now, even if I have the money to buy, there’s no way I can get an apple.” She says the country still largely relied on imported food and because of the US embargo, their options were always limited. Our casa particular owner in Trinidad told us that finding everyday goods like toilet paper and eggs could take days to find in stores, with most products being used for tourists (e.g. at hotels and casas). She used an iPhone 4 that her daughter had sent her from Slovenia because it was impossible to find (or afford) a working smartphone. She apologized for how her sheets, pillow covers, and blankets were all different colors and sizes because it was impossible to buy a full set, so she bought whatever she could find.

The girl from Guantanamo says she owns only one pair of jeans. They cost her 30cucs (~$30), more than a month’s salary for most government workers. Her shoes were 20cucs (~$20). Almost everything was Made in China. The government-operated shops had limited stock, so she and her friends often relied on street vendors, many of whom traveled to nearby countries like Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic to source the latest styles and sold them at a massive mark-up on the black market. She says it’s her dream to own an authentic pair of Manolo or Christian Louboutin shoes. When I ask where she could buy them in Havana, she laughs.

“I don’t even want to think about it. The cost of one pair could feed a whole family for a year.”

Every Cuban I met was proud of four things in their country: free education, free healthcare, overall safety, and a deep respect for family. The fourth often manifested in an almost feminist mindset that I hadn’t expected.

“I have only a handful of friends,” one Cuban man said. He’d worked for the military for more than fifteen years and despite having earned a college degree in communications, he couldn’t find any non-military job outside of hotel security guard and storage warehouse labor. “One of my best friends, a guy I knew since we were kids. I recently found out he had hit his wife. That was the end of our friendship. I thought, how can you hit the person you love? You’re supposed to treasure her, protect her. I just couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t be friends with someone like that.”

I asked him why so many people in Cuba go to college but almost no one goes on to graduate school. He just shook his head and said with a smirk, “It’s a sad story.”

“What do you mean? I love sad stories,” I joked.

His girlfriend snickered, “Why? Because you can get on a plane tomorrow out of here?”

The owner of our Havana casa particular said that many Cubans still tried to swim their way to the US border, hoping to leverage the Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy. Much of his wife’s family had immigrated to the US during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, some during the massive 1960s Cuban migration. Everyone we met had family in Miami. Most make trips home every year and bring whatever supplies they can. A new phone, a pair of good earphones, or an eyeliner refill. Anything is better than nothing. My tour guide in Vinales said I could probably find a buyer for any of my old electronics in Cuba.

“Do you think things will get better?” I ask the girl from Guantanamo. It’s my last night in Havana, 9 days in and I still have not made sense of the happy-sadness that seems to permeate every person I’ve met.

The cafe has started pulling down its metal shudders so we switch to a small, government-owned bar across the street from Havana’s tiny Chinatown. Several classic American cars, all collective taxis, are lined up on the street, hoping to pick up a few tired stragglers from Centro Habana. The drivers are gathered outside their cars, laughing and arguing baseball. The girl flicks her cigarette stub onto the street. She grins at me like I’ve asked a loaded question.

“We all smile and look happy because we’re hoping, some of us consciously and some unconsciously, that someday, who the fuck knows when, someone will come and save us,” she answers.

This article originally appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.

This post is brought to you by PADI as part of the PADI AmbassaDiver initiative. Read my latest ramblings on the PADI blog! 3-devide-lines

I didn’t get to hit up many bucket list dive destinations in 2016. While I absolutely did some very cool dives — in Thailand, Brazil, Jamaica, and Hawaii! — I didn’t go on any dedicated dive trips and didn’t check off any dream dives. And so, as many of you know, I instead focused on keeping myself engaged and excited about diving by jumping headfirst into a trio of continuing education courses.

So, my fellow dive enthusiasts may know that there is kind of a catty term in the scuba community which refers to someone who is obsessed with racking up specialty certifications — “card collectors.” Well, I’m saying loud and I’m saying it proud — I am now officially a certified card collector. If I could take a PADI specialty in getting PADI specialities, I would probably enroll right now. I loved these courses!

I kicked things off with the Self Reliant Diver course at Master Divers, then made my way to Ban’s for an Enriched Air certification, and finally rounded it out with a Sidemount Diver speciality at Sairee Cottage.

PADI Sidemount Diver Speciality

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

So um, what the heck is sidemount? It’s basically a new gear configuration — it simply means that you carry two tanks at your sides instead of one on your back. I’ll get into why you’d want to do that in a bit! Sidemount originated with cave diving in Europe, where pioneers realized moving their tanks alongside their bodies allowed them to keep a lower profile, and to remove one or both cylinders as needed to squeeze through tight passageways. The modern sidemount configuration as we know it today mostly evolved in communities of cavern and cave diving enthusiasts in Florida and The Yucatan. And now it’s spreading around the world.

Including to Thailand. My friend Gordon is a long-time PADI Instructor who got super pumped about sidemount after traveling to Egypt to continue his advanced Tec dive training. He enthusiastically brought a set of the specialized gear back to Koh Tao and started singing the sidemount siren song! I’m so grateful that he did — I have to admit that not long ago, I wanted nothing to do with sidemount. Tec related courses are kind of intimidating to me, and I just didn’t get what the point was. But after a year or so of watching so many of my close diving friends take Gordon’s course and rave about it, I just had to join the club and see what all the fuss was about. And it turns out I really had nothing to be intimidated by — it was the simplest of the three courses I took in 2016 and required only an Open Water Certification and twenty logged dives to begin.

You have two choices when it comes to sidemount training — the PADI Sidemount Diver course introduces divers to sidemount techniques for recreational scuba diving, while the Tec Sidemount Diver course teaches technical divers how to mount at least four tanks for their technical diving adventures. I enrolled in the former.

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

One of the best things about my little continuing education experiment here on Koh Tao was finding a new dive shop that was the perfect fit for me. I get asked for advice on this constantly and I now have a much wider range of personalized recommendations to dole out. While I had excellent experiences at all three of the dive shops I studied at, it’s Sairee Cottage that has become my go-to for fun diving with friends ever since.

For me, it’s the perfect size — not so big that you get lost in the mix, but still buzzing enough that there’s always someone to grab a coconut with at the swim-up bar after a dive. What’s that? I should have just opened with the swim up bar? Tell me about it! Between the fabulous pool, the coolest classrooms on the island, and a great team of instructors and divemasters — many of whom are my close friends! — I know where I’d sign up to do my Open Water if I was doing it all over again.

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

PADI Sidemount Diver Speciality

The PADI Sidemount speciality consists of one confined and three open water dives. For Gordon and I, that translated to one pool session, one shore dive from the beach right in front of the dive shop, and two open water boat dives that we checked off on a super fun trip to Sail Rock! We spread that out over three days, but some people do it in two.

The speciality also consisted of coursework from the PADI Sidemount and Tec Sidemount Diver Manual — section one pertains to PADI Sidemount Diver, while two and three are for Tec Sidemount Diver. I carefully read section one of the manual, completing quizzes along the way, and wrapping up with a knowledge review to ensure I’d absorbed the information. Of my trio of courses it it was the least time in the classroom, as there isn’t really any complicated dive theory behind sidemount.

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Instead, the primary focuses of the course were learning a new equipment setup, perfecting “trim” (your underwater body position and posture) and practicing “back-finning” (swimming backwards using just your feet and fins), learning gas management, and practicing emergency procedures. When I first jumped in that pool with this strange new gear setup I had a flashback to trying drysuit diving in Iceland. After being a certified diver for eight years a lot of my dive routine is on autopilot, but not on these days! My whole body was like, whoa, what is this crazy thing we are doing! If you need to be shaken out of a dive routine — this is one way to do it.

I actually found the trim and backfinning focus to be among the most challenging and the most interesting of the course takeaways, considering those are both important skills that can be used on any dive. Your trim underwater is as important as your posture on land, and though back-finning is primarily of interest to cave divers who need to be able to negotiate tight spaces, it is also a fabulous skill for underwater photographers and videographers who need to nail the perfect composition, too.

After a long day in the pool and digging into my manual and another day putting our skills into practice with a sixty minute shore dive, Gordon and I were joined by several of our friends for the final day of our course on Sairee Cottage’s popular weekly trip to Sail Rock, where I’d really get the chance to put the pieces of the course together and see how I felt about this whole sidemount situation once and for all.

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

I was absolutely thrilled to be out on the water and surrounded by so many of my favorite people. The Sail Rock trips typically consist of two dives at Sail Rock followed by a third back closer to Koh Tao. One of the biggest pros to diving sidemount is having double the air, which gives you a significantly longer dive time –of course you still need to follow your dive computer’s limits closely to avoid decompression time.

Our friend Brian joined Gordon and I on sidemount, and so while a big group of us all kicked off the dive together, when the single-tank crew surfaced the three of us on sidemount were able to stay down and complete one super-long dive instead of popping up, taking off gear, having a surface interval, putting gear back on and descending a second time. One point for sidemount!

We set a goal of a 100 minute dive time — crazy, right?! — and while I admit I was getting a tad chilly towards the end, it was a pretty fun milestone to cross. The average dive time, at least on Koh Tao, is around 45 minutes, so more than doubling that at the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand was a huge deal. Over and hour and a half kicking it with these amazing underwater critters? Who wouldn’t love that!

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

PADI Sidemount Diver Speciality

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Becoming a PADI Sidemount Scuba Diver

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Becoming a PADI Sidemount Scuba Diver

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Eventually we remembered that we hadn’t grown gills, and returned to the surface.

After our amazing underwater marathon at Sail Rock we took it easy and did a typical 45-minute dive at the third site for the day, my beloved Shark Island. I was amazed by how quickly I’d taken to the sidemount procedure. While I did struggle with getting the gear on at time, once I was underwater it felt incredibly natural, and after just a few dives my muscle memory had already picked up the habit of switching between air sources every 50 bar or so — you don’t want to just let one tank empty all the way before switching to the other, as that would leave you lopsided — as the empty tank grew lighter — and without a backup tank.

It was a beautiful dive and the perfect note to end the course on.

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

Well, that and the swim up bar drinks we had when we were back on dry land!

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

Diving with Sairee Cottage, Koh Tao, Thailand

So after three days and many, many hours underwater, I definitely got a feel for what all the fuss is about when it comes to sidemount. The benefits are significant — increased air supply (which increases dive time), accessibility of all stages and gauges (as they are under your arm instead of on your back), self reliance in out-of-air situation, a more streamlined underwater profile, easier equipment transport (with two small cylinders as opposed to one big), and versatility (it’s great for those with physical challenges that prevent them from diving a traditional configuration).

What are the drawbacks? Well, you do have to switch between tanks throughout the dive, which make it a more complex gas management system. Also, since sidemount is still fairly rare, you’re unlikely to find a buddy who’s familiar with the equipment unless you BYODB (Bring Your Own Dive Buddy, duh). But mostly, it’s just plain cost.

Want more underwater? Read more diving posts here!

I’d recommend this course to potential tec divers who want to get their feet and fins wet,those interested in cavern and cave diving, those who blow through air quickly and long for longer dive times, petite divers who struggle with a traditional configuration, and anyone who wants to shake themselves out of a diving rut.

There are only a few schools on Koh Tao currently offering the PADI Sidemount Diver speciality. The course generally lasts 2-3 days and costs 12,000B. I can’t recommend it — or Sairee Cottage — more highly.

Becoming a PADI Sidemount Scuba Diverportrait by my friend Paddy of Peach Snaps

Personally, I loved the sidemount configuration. While I have no problem with running out of air (I’m almost always the last person to hit a half tank!), I do have issues with the size of a traditional scuba cylinder compared to the size of my body.

As a 5’1″ woman, I often struggle with the traditional tank-on-the-back setup. Between the system of attaching weights to the tanks and getting the tanks off my back and under my arms, the lower back pain that normally plagues me after a day of diving was completely non-existant! And with slightly smaller cylinders, I’d have even more mobility both above and below the surface. I greatly look forward to sidemount configurations becoming more widely available as I personally would be thrilled to dive this way more often.

I had a blast with this course. Between our hundred minute dive record, the skills I learned, the amazing day I shared with my friends and the absolute badass I felt like underwater, it was not a course I’ll forgot anytime soon.

Divers, would you consider a PADI Sidemount speciality? What should I do next?

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All underwater photos in this post were taken with the Canon PowerShot G7X and its Canon Waterproof Housing. See a full list of my photography gear here.

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Becoming a PADI Sidemount Scuba Diver

Learning to Scuba Dive Sidemount

 

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Spring Sale!

Right now is the perfect time to kick off or up your blogging game. Why? Travel Blog Success is on sale!

Travel Blog Success Spring SaleI rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fifth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now! And now’s definitely the time to buy, as this is the biggest discount of the year by far.

Bonus: Recently, Travel Blog Success launched an exciting new Brand Partnership Course, one of several new specialty courses also on sale. Another? Videography for Travel Bloggers, which I’ve also taken and reviewed. So if you’re already a member, now is the time to invest in continuing education. Purchase two or more products and get an additional 10% off your purchase!

Click here to receive 25% off all TBS memberships — no code needed! Sale ends tonight at 11:59 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

In the Caribbean Sea, encircled by Mexico, Belize, Cuba, and Jamaica, are the Cayman Islands. Made up of three separate islands — Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman — it offers up land, water, and wildlife adventures unlike anywhere else in the world. But perhaps what it’s best at is nourishing your body, mind, and soul through amazing cuisine, relaxation therapies, and, of course, its stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters. You can do nothing, or you can do it all. Your choice.

[Note: Meredith was a guest of Cayman Islands Tourism. All photos by Meredith Richardson and Cody Barnhill.]

Grand Cayman and Seven Mile Beach

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

Turquoise waters engulf the perimeter of Grand Cayman Island which quickly give way to deep blue ocean, exposing sheer drop-offs as deep as 5500m within the Cayman Trench. It all makes for dramatic views from land or sea. Washing up on the shores of this seven mile stretch of pristine beach are iconic symbols of the island: Seashells, like conch, serve as a home to local sea life while also making for delicious fare on local menus.

Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

One of the newest resorts decorating Seven Mile Beach is the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa. The experience of both staying and dining at the resort should be classified as approachable luxury. Your experience here will leave you feeling like royalty without sacrificing the down to earth vibe you are greeted with upon arrival. The casual elegance of this place is exuded in its streamlined rooms whose doors open fully to reveal the ocean, with handwritten notes and prosecco left by their staff, or the 8500-square-foot spa that offers private saunas, steam baths, and a hot pool to all guests.

Check out the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa on travelstoke.

Eating locally and sustainably

Cayman Islands relax

Self-dubbed as the ‘culinary capital’ of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer up nothing short of amazing cuisine. With a variety of cultures inhabiting the island, the influence this plays on the palette is obvious. This cultural melting pot not only dishes up a multitude of flavors but many restaurants source their food right from their own property or in the waters surrounding the island.

Cayman Islands relax

From left to right, Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, The Brasserie, and Avecita are all must-dine places on Grand Cayman. Mizu prides itself on its sustainability practices and unconventional roll recipes; The Brasserie has its own half-acre organic garden where most of its fruits and veggies come from, as well as its own chicken coops; and at Avecita (in the Kimpton Seafire Resort) the chefs aim to use as many elements of the product foraged as possible, making the presentation of their dishes and drinks a true work of art.

Check them out on travelstoke: Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, The Brasserie, Avecita

Exploring the Cayman Islands by water

Cayman Islands relax

After letting the abundance of local cuisine digest, indulge in the sapphire waters surrounding the island. With so many ways to enjoy the water you’ll be left trying to carve out time for your next dip.

Sailing

Cayman Islands relax

Probably one of the best vantage points you can get of the islands, catamaran sail trips are a popular means of getting offshore and onto the water. The islands’ surrounding waters are riddled with sail boats taking advantage of the reliable Caribbean trade winds that give sailors an advantage of getting places sans motor. Charter companies offer daily trips for those who can’t take the helm themselves and just want to relax and enjoy the ride. The magic hour on the water is right at sunset, where you can watch the sun dip below the horizon while sailing the warm waters surrounding the island.

Diving

Cayman Islands relax

Home to more than 300 dive sites in the string of islands, the Kittiwake Dive Site serves as an artificial reef to marine life offshore of Grand Cayman Island. Stripped of hazardous materials and sunk in 2011, the former navy vessel rests at a mere 20 meters in depth, making this an attraction for both novice and advanced divers. You can explore down to the depths of her five levels or all the way up to the bridge on the bow.

Check out Kittiwake Dive Site on travelstoke.

Snorkeling

Cayman Islands relax

There are many locations around the Cayman Islands where you’re sure to witness the amazing colors of the coral and other underwater life. Popular spots include Sting Ray City (below), Cemetery Beach, and Turtle Reef (shown above).

Sting Ray City

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

Protected within one of the island’s designated wildlife interaction zones, and nestled in a series of sandbars of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, is Sting Ray City. Visitors can book guided tours by boat, where they can not only swim the shallow waters these Southern Stingrays inhabit but even hold them with the assistance of a certified guide.

The North Side of Grand Cayman

Cayman Islands relax

Known as the ‘locals’ side of Grand Cayman Island and lending itself to an even more laid back mentality than the other sides of the island, the crew of Rum Point have perfected how to have a good time. Famous for their mudslides and lion fish sandos, the resort is a perfect place to find affordable but good eats, play volleyball in the sand or just pull up a lounge chair or hang in a hammock for the afternoon.

Check out Rum Point Beach on travelstoke.

Cayman Crystal Caves

Cayman Islands relax

Only six miles south of Rum Point and situated in the heart of the rainforest are the Cayman Crystal Caves. These limestone caves are some of the newest attractions open to the public on the island. Believed to be over a million years old and once submerged under the sea, stalactites and stalagmites line the ceilings and floors of these caverns where even at the shallowest of depths you can still find fresh water pools. Legend has it that pirates used the caves as hideouts or shelter during hurricanes and that they stored their treasures here, but nothing sparkly has surfaced besides the natural crystal formations to prove that this is true.

Cayman Islands relax

Massive tree roots decorate the entrance of the caves while varieties of woodpeckers make the overgrowth their home. You can find the Northern Flickers nesting in the hollows of the trunks, popping out occasionally to say hello.

Check out the Cayman Crystal Caves on travelstoke.

Cayman Brac

Cayman Islands relax

Only 90 some odd miles northeast of Grand Cayman Island is Cayman Brac. Smaller than Grand Cayman, and only 1.2 miles wide on average, if you are lucky enough to get a window seat on the flight there then you are likely to catch the entire island in one glance. Set at an even slower ‘island time’ pace than its big sister island, Cayman Brac is the spot to be if you are in need of some serious rest and relaxation. Wanting to disconnect, escape the crowds, or simply take in the view while listening to the waves lap the shore? Welcome to Nirvana.

Cayman Islands relax

Cayman Islands relax

The landscape scales in size surrounding the island as picturesque sandy white beaches eventually become breath taking cliffs jutting out into the ocean.

Le Soleil d’Or

Cayman Islands relax

Offering a variety of organic fare fresh from their orchards and gardens situated above the resort grounds, Le Soleil d’Or is one of the leading farm to table restaurants and resorts in all of the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands relax

House chefs not only offer up cooking classes to guests, but develop new menus daily based on what has been caught in local waters and what is being harvested that morning from the farm.

Cayman Islands relax

With everything from upscale lodge rooms to quaint villas to large guest houses that stretch the length of their private beaches, the resort’s beach spa is a perfect place for that oceanside massage you’ve always dreamed about.

Check out Le Soleil d’Or on travelstoke.

Cayman Islands relax

Serving as a place for both fun and extreme relaxation, the Cayman Islands fulfilled whatever desire we had to simply kick back, relax and allow ourselves to indulge in the great things that island life has to offer.

AS TRAVELERS, we know that some destinations are more visited than others and we usually try to avoid them — who wants to spend their time surrounded by hoards of tourists all staring at the same monuments, visiting the same museums, and lounging on the same beaches? What we don’t necessarily think about is how much certain countries are relying on tourism for their economy.

According to data that howmuch.net collected from The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, those with the largest tourism industries are not always the ones that are the most dependent on it.

Top 10 countries with the largest tourism industries (GDP)

1. United States ($488 billion) 2. China ($224 billion) 3. Germany ($130.8 billion) 4. Japan ($106.7 billion) 5. United Kingdom ($103.7 billion) 6. France ($89.2 billion) 7. Mexico ($79.7 billion) 8. Italy ($76.3 billion) 9. Spain ($68.8 billion) 10. Brazil ($56.3 billion)

Top five countries most reliant on tourism (GDP)

1. Malta — 15% 2. Croatia — 15% 3. Thailand — 9.3% 4. Jamaica — 8.9% 5. Iceland — 8.2%

I was personally surprised that Austria depended so much on tourism and that France’s was not colored in pink, but what stuck me the most is Iceland’s dependency on the travel industry, “Iceland is one of the smallest countries by population in the world [but] it receives more visitors in one year than the entire population of the country,” explains howmuch.net.

What surprised you about this map and this data? Let us know by leaving a comment.

H/T: Mapped: The World’s Dependency on the Travel Industry via Howmuch.net

More like this: Mapped: How to travel the world and help our planet

WE KNOW that Americans are the second biggest spenders when traveling abroad (behind China), but where do they spend all their money? Orbitz researched the American people’s favourite travel destinations and created the map below to illustrate the data found.

Americans travel destinations

Map: Orbitz

Some of the destinations coincide with large populations of immigrants. For example, Indian people are the largest population of immigrants in Texas after Mexican people, therefore it is not surprising that Texas’ favourite travel destination is India (immigrants visiting their family members is an easy explanation). The same goes for The Philipines being Alaska’s preferred destination.

Other destinations do not seem to have any correlation with immigration but show that sunny locales are generally favored for vacations: Jamaica, Aruba, Costa Rica, The Bahamas. More like this: Mapped: The countries that supply the most immigrants to each US state

The Rough Guide to Jamaica

Robert Coates

The Rough Guide to Jamaica is the ultimate travel guide to the most captivating of the Caribbean islands. From dining by the sea to dancing under the stars, we've picked out the best of Jamaica, with full-colour pictures offering a taste of what to expect.

Detailed practical advice covers everything from restaurants and accommodation to tipping and tours; an events calendar details the island's legendary reggae shows, and insiders' tips ensure that you'll discover the island beyond the resorts.

The Rough Guide to Jamaica also provides the lowdown on each part of island, including the white-sand beaches and watersports of Negril and Montego Bay; the lush rainforest retreats of Portland; the hip hotels of the unspoiled south coast; unforgettable hikes in the cool Blue Mountain peaks; and Kingston's electrifying arts and nightlife scene. You can explore every corner of Jamaica with clear, detailed maps that will help you navigate with ease. You can make the most of your trip with The Rough Guide to Jamaica.

Moon Jamaica (Moon Handbooks)

Oliver Hill

Make your Escape with Moon Jamaica! Come to Jamaica for its tropical climate and calm Caribbean waters; stay to explore the heart of its vibrant culture and spirit with Moon Jamaica! What You'll Find in Moon Jamaica:Expert advice from local author Oliver Hill, who shares the best-kept secrets of his island homeFull-color, vibrant, helpful photos Detailed directions and maps for exploring on your ownIn-depth coverage of Negril and the West Coast, Montego Bay and the Northwest Coast, Ocho Rios and the North Central Coast, Port Antonio and the East Coast, Kingston and the Blue Mountains, The South CoastActivities and ideas for every traveler: Surf the turquoise waters, or relax on white sands. Get your adrenaline fix by cliff jumping or climbing the Blue Mountains. Hike through lush jungle to magnificent waterfalls, or move to the beat of Kingston's legendary music scene. Sample Jamaican rum and coffee, or dine beachfront at a luxurious resort. Eat freshly picked fruit for breakfast, watch hummingbirds flit about tropical flowers, or bathe in a crystal-clear spring on a hot day.Strategic itineraries in an easy-to-navigate format, such as The Best of Jamaica, Roots and Culture, and Hidden Beaches and Hillside HikesCurrent background information on the landscape, culture, history, and environmentEssential insight for travelers on health and safety, transportation, and accommodations, packaged in a book light enough to fit in your beach bagWith Moon Jamaica's practical tips, myriad activities, and an insider's view on the best things to do and see, you can plan your trip your way.Looking for more fun in the Caribbean sun? Check out Moon Aruba or Moon Dominican Republic.

Jamaica Dive Map & Coral Reef Creatures Guide Franko Maps Laminated Fish Card

Franko Maps Ltd.

Perfect for divers, snorkelers and explorers! Side One is a mini-map of the wonderful island of Jamaica with more than 50 dive sites named and located. Side Two is a reef creatures identification guide with nearly 100 species illustrated and named. This convenient, waterproof reference is made of hard, laminated plastic with hole for lanyard. 5.5" x 8.5"

Lonely Planet Jamaica (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Jamaica *

Lonely Planet Jamaica is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Groove to the riddims of reggae, release your inner Errol Flynn rafting the Rio Grande and sample Blue Mountains coffee straight from the source; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Jamaica and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Jamaica Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - eating & drinking like a local, outdoor activities, landscapes, culture More than 20 maps Covers Kingston, Blue Mountains, South Coast, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, North Coast, Montego BayNegril, West Coast, Central Highlands and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Jamaica, our most comprehensive guide to Jamaica is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for more coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Discover Caribbean Islands guide for a comprehensive look at what the whole region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Paul Clammer and Brendan.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Jamaica. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA, May 2013 - April 2014.

Insight Guides: Pocket Jamaica (Insight Pocket Guides)

Insight Guides

One of the most-popular caribbean Islands, Jamaica has it all. With its stunning natural setting, low mountains, white sandy beaches and clear waters, it's the destination of dreams. Be inspired to get more out of your visit by the brand new Insight Pocket Guide Jamaica, a concise, full-colour guide to this tropical paradise that combines lively text with vivid photography to highlight the best that the island has to offer.

Inside Insight Pocket Guide Jamaica:

Where To Go takes you from Downtown to 'MoBay' (Montego Bay). Discover the best beaches, coast roads, beautiful Martha Brae River and stunning Discovery Bay.

Top 10 Attractions gives a rundown of the best sights to take in on your trip, including Runaway Bay, Seven Mile Beach and the Bob Marley Museum.

Perfect Day provides an itinerary for one day in Negril.

What To Do is a snapshot of ways to spend your spare time, from watersports to walking trails and shopping, plus nightlife.

Essential information on Jamaica's culture, including a brief history of the island.

Eating Out covers the island's best cuisine.

Curated listings of the best hotels and restaurants.

A-Z of all the practical information you'll need.

About Insight Guides: Insight Guides has over 40 years' experience of publishing high-quality, visual travel guides. We produce around 400 full-colour print guide books and maps as well as picture-packed eBooks to meet different travellers' needs. Insight Guides' unique combination of beautiful travel photography and focus on history and culture together create a unique visual reference and planning tool to inspire your next adventure.

'Insight Guides has spawned many imitators but is still the best of its type.' - Wanderlust Magazine

Jamaica (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

National Geographic's Jamaica Adventure Map is designed to meet the needs of adventure travelers with its detailed and accurate information. This map includes the locations of cities and towns with a user-friendly index, a clearly marked road network complete with distances and designations for roads/highways, plus secondary routes for those seeking to explore off the beaten path. Adventure Maps differ from a traditional road map because of the specialty content they include. Each map contains hundreds of diverse and unique recreational, ecological, cultural, and historic destinations — outside of the major tourist hubs. National Geographic Adventure Maps are the perfect companion to a guidebook.

The Jamaica Adventure Map covers the entire island nation in one easy to use map. The east side of the map includes the capital city of Kingston, Blue Mountains - John Crow National Park as well as Morant Point on the eastern edge of Jamaica. The west side of the map includes the famous tourist destinations of Montego Bay and Negril with its miles of uninterrupted white-sand beaches. The map also shows the many offshore reefs that ring this Caribbean nation.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:150,000Sheet Size = 25.5" x 37.75"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

A Small Place

Jamaica Kincaid

A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua--by the author of Annie John

"If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V. C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him--why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument. You are a tourist and you have not yet seen . . ."

So begins Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up.

Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.

Jamaica - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Nick Davis

Laid back, sun-drenched tropical paradise, or hotbed of drug-related crime and violence? Neither stereotype is true. Jamaica suffers from a PR problem, created largely by tabloid headlines written thousands of miles away. The reality is more complex and more fascinating. Despite its small size, Jamaica punches above its weight. Its footprints in sport and music are, like its people, larger than life. It is one of the few countries to have its own soundtrack— mento, ska, and reggae are popular around the world. The University of the West Indies campus at Mona is a regional source of excellence. Jamaicans have a fire that has been hard to douse. It was burning when their forefathers arrived on slave ships, barely alive after the middle passage, and it was there when they fought the British to a standstill in the Maroon Wars. In the English-speaking Caribbean they have a reputation for being brash, but the Jamaicans have a warmth that is unmatched. They are unafraid to talk to strangers, they’ll laugh at nearly anything, they’ll discuss and debate with passion, and they’ll let you know it straight. Despite real economic and social problems, this beautiful and invigorating country regularly ranks among the top five happiest nations in the world in the annual Happy Planet Index. Culture Smart! Jamaica takes you beyond the clichés with a fresh, uniquely well-informed look at of one of the most intriguing countries in the region.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

There is a high level of violent crime and murder mainly related to gang activity and reprisal killings in inner-city communities in some major cities. Police may impose curfews with short notice in areas where flare-ups have occurred.

Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Violent crime (armed robbery, kidnapping, murder) and petty theft (pickpocketing, bag snatching) occur; particularly in KingstonSpanish Town and in Montego Bay. Although the presence of security and anti-crime troops has intensified in major urban areas, drug- and gang-related violence occurs, including shootings, and can result in death, injury and destruction of property. There is a constant risk of becoming the victim of crossfire. 

Some areas in Kingston, mainly inner-city and poor neighbourhoods, have high incidences of crime and should be avoided: Whitfield Town, Payne Land, West Kingston, Grant's Pen, August Town, Denham Town, Hannah Town, Arnett Gardens, Tivoli Gardens and Olympic Gardens, Harbour View, Central Village, Spanish Town, Mountain View, Trench Town, Cassava Piece, Canterbury, Norwood, and Rose Heights. You should also avoid some parts of Montego Bay, namely St. Clavers Avenue and Hart Street, Flankers and Mount Salem (except for the resort areas).

There has been a significant surge of violence in Kingston and the St. Andrew Corporate Area, as well as the communities of Waterhouse, Drewsland, Cassava Piece, Rockfort and downtown/central Kingston.

Do not walk alone. Exercise particular caution after dark, and avoid visiting beaches or using buses at night. If you are a victim of crime, do not offer resistance, as this reaction may provoke the use of violence.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Although most hotels and resorts are well guarded, always ensure that your hotel room doors and windows are secure. Higher vigilance is recommended when staying in smaller or isolated establishments with fewer security arrangements. Compounds that are gated and guarded are considered the safest accommodations in the Kingston area.

Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. Do not show signs of affluence or carry large sums of money, and be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing money from automated banking machines (ABMs). Also be vigilant at supermarkets and retail outlets, as credit card and ABM fraud is increasing in Jamaica.

Road travel

Stay on main roads as much as possible.

Traffic drives on the left. Coastal roads are in fair condition, but driving in the interior is dangerous due to narrow, winding and poorly maintained roads, which are also poorly lit at night. Weather conditions can damage or render some roads temporarily impassable.

Speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol are common. Motorists should keep vehicle windows closed and doors locked. Roadside assistance is available island-wide.

When driving between Norman Manley International Airport and Kingston, take the South Camp Road (also known as the Humming Bird Route) rather than Mountain View Avenue, where frequent altercations between rival gangs occur.

Public transportation

While public transportation is available, it is often overcrowded and frequently a venue for crime.

Use only taxis ordered from hotels and authorized by the Jamaican Union of Travellers Association (JUTA). These are identified by red-and-white “PP” licence plates and a lime green JUTA sticker on the window. Since taxis are not metered, agree on the fare in advance.

There is no passenger rail service in Jamaica.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 112 or 911 for the police, the fire department, and ambulance services. Dial 119 to reach the police emergency centre.

Mobile police patrols operate to assist tourists. Security personnel and front-desk hotel staff can also offer assistance in most emergencies.

Visitor information booths and Jamaica Tourist Board offices are located throughout the island. They offer various services to visitors, including direct radio links with local police and information on safe public beaches. These offices are located at:

- Montego Bay: Cornwall Beach, Gloucester Avenue: tel. 876-952-4425, -4426, -4427, or -4428

- Sangster International Airport: tel. 876-952-2462

- Ocho Rios: TPD co. office: tel. 876-974-7705/2582

- Kingston: Head Office, ICWI Building, 2 St. Lucia Avenue: tel. 876-929-9200

- Airport Authority, Norman Manley Airport, Kingston (flight information only): tel. (876) 924-8452-6

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Good to excellent medical facilities exist in all tourist areas and in Kingston. In remote areas, however, medical care and hospital facilities are limited. Medical expenses can be very high. It is normal for clinics to request payment up front or to take a credit card impression as a guarantee of payment prior to providing medical care. You should report any illness or injury requiring hospitalization to the Embassy of Canada.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

There is no prisoner-transfer agreement in place between Canada and Jamaica.

Illegal drugs

Possession of illegal drugs (including marijuana) is a severe offence and may lead to lengthy jail terms. Departing visitors are thoroughly screened for drug possession. Many Canadians are serving prison sentences because they became involved in drug crimes, in some cases unwittingly. Pack all baggages yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else. When leaving Ocho Rios and Montego Bay with a cruise ship, you may be searched by local authorities for drug smuggling. You should be accompanied by a witness when undergoing such procedures.

Laws

Inappropriate conduct (public nudity in non-designated areas and indecent language) can lead to arrest.

Homosexual activity is illegal. There have been incidents where the public display of homosexual behaviour has led to acts of persecution and violence. Discretion is highly recommended.

It is illegal to wear, buy or sell army or police camouflage clothing.

There are import and export regulations on items such as firearms, produce and pets. Entering the country with a firearm or even a single round of ammunition is considered a serious crime. Contact the High Commission of Canada in Kingston for specific information regarding customs requirements.

It is mandatory to wear a helmet on mopeds, motor scooters and motorcycles, and to wear a seatbelt in cars and taxis. Visitors are subject to heavy fines for non-compliance.

Visitors can drive in Jamaica with a valid Canadian driver’s licence. Residents must obtain a Jamaican driver’s licence.

Money

The currency is the Jamaican dollar (JMD). Credit cards are widely accepted. There have been reports of an increase in fraud and identity theft. Remain vigilant when using your credit or bank cards in public places such as restaurants and other merchants.

Climate

Hurricane season

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Flooding and landslides can occur at any time in the mountainous regions and cause extensive damage. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Seismic activity

Jamaica is located in an active seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes. In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities.