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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
  • Portmore
  • Ocho Rios
  • Port Antonio
  • Morant Bay
  • Black River
  • Falmouth
  • Port Maria
  • Mandeville

Other destinations

  • Black River
  • Blue Mountains
  • Cave Valley
  • Nassau Valley
  • Manchester
  • Great Goat Island

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 (including Macau) can also stay for 30 days without a visa. However, it's for tourist purposes only; to travel to Jamaica for any other reason, they still need a visa.

Most other nationalities need visas.

By plane

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

Both airports receive vast numbers of international flights daily. There are smaller airports in Negril and Ocho Rios as well as another smaller one in Kingston, which can be accessed by smaller, private aircraft.

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

? Main Article : Jamaican patois phrasebook

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. Spanish is becoming compulsory in schools across the island, so native speakers will have little or no trouble communicating with locals. Chinese and Indians are reported to get across with their respective languages due to the significant number of immigrants having either as a native tongue.

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.

Sites

  • Dunn's River Falls
  • Rose Hall Great House
  • Turtle River Park
  • Devon House
  • Blue Mountains(Portland, 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

When you speak about accommodation, Jamaica is the right place for great hospitality, staff and a well kept environment. There are many hotels or small inns that can accommodate our tourists and visitors.

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. Hotels and resorts have a somewhat tolerant attitude towards openly homosexual behaviour, due to partially enforced anti-discrimination laws. But simply put, Jamaica is not a suitable destination for LGBT tourism.

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

If in need of police, dial 119, just don't expect them to show up on the spot.

Drugs and alcohol are prevalent. Armed men may pose a threat to women in some areas. Inner-city parts of the island such as Spanish Town and some neighbourhoods in Kingston (Trench Town, etc.) should be avoided even during the day. However, those who are interested in visiting the Culture Yard in Trench Town should be safe if they go during daylight hours and with a hired local guide, which should not be terribly expensive. Be sure to ask for advice from locals before going, and avoid going there around elections, when violence flares up.

September, October, and November have 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. Being invited to the homes of locals is largely uncommon. When entering the home of a friend, always remember to remove footwear. Table manners and etiquette are quite lax, however, so practising these will give you no extra points.

It must also be noted that any person of East Asian descent will almost always be called "Missa/Miss Chin"; this is a common stereotype based on prominent locals bearing the surname. This should not be taken seriously, as it is a form of endearment existing among locals. Caucasians will also be met by stares from numerous people in the less touristy areas. But don't worry. Just smile!

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". Attempts at speaking the local dialect will cause bursts of laughter on every occasion. So it's best to stick to Standard English.

Connect

By phone

Jamaica has two mobile network operators, Digicel and Flow (formerly Lime). Jamaican numbers are 7 digits long. The calling code is +1 (876) then follows the numbers, e.g +1 (876) *******

By Internet

In almost every area you go in Jamaica there are Wi-Fi hotspots to connect to the net. Data Plans, which most Jamaicans call 'service', offer a certain amount of bytes which can easily be accessed on your mobile phone without worrying about Wi-Fi (this is the variation of Wi-Fi for most people in local areas).


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.

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