Travel, Currency and Money saving tips for Jamaica
While Jamaica's beaches are certainly alluring, this is a country to dive into, literally and figuratively. Beneath the waves there's great scuba diving and snorkeling, and you can float on the water too with lazy bamboo-raft trips (let someone else pole). The adventurous can go caving, or get their hiking boots on to explore the remote crags and forests of this crumpled landscape.
Jamaica is a popular destination on the cruise roster, mainly for passenger liners but also for private yachts. More than a million cruise-ship passengers sail to Jamaica annually, making it one of the world’s biggest cruise-ship destinations.
While cruise lines’ optional land tours are conveniently packaged to take in many of the island’s sightseeing highlights, they also move quickly and tend to shield visitors from interaction with locals.. If you venture out on your own, you’re likely to enjoy a richer cultural experience. If you want to tour the island, consider hiring a local taxi driver, who will likely shed light on local issues and give you a more colorful tour. Wander the streets of the main town, poke into little shops, eat at local restaurants and buy mementos from street vendors, or veer off the beaten track.
Best way to get around Jamaica?
Jamaica's small size makes domestic flights largely redundant, but (ridiculously expensive) charter flights are available with TimAir (www.timair.net) between its hub in Montego Bay and Kingston, Negril, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. An extensive transportation network links virtually every village and comprises several options that range from standard public buses to private taxis, with minibuses and route taxis in between. There is usually no set timetable – buses leave when the driver considers them full – and passengers are crammed in with little regard for comfort. Taxis and buses tend to fill quickly early in the morning (before 8am) and around 5pm as people depart for work or home.
Private minibuses, also known as ‘coasters,’ have traditionally been the workhorses of Jamaica’s regional public transportation system. All major towns and virtually every village in the country are served.
One of the biggest problems tourists face in Jamaica is petty theft. Thieves are on the lookout for jewelry, cash and valuable electronic items such as cameras, cell phones and iPods. Most resorts provide safes so you can store items of value in your room, which is obviously recommended.
Travel tips for Jamaica.
High season in Jamaica is usually December through to March. Expect sunny, warm days, especially on the coast. Little rainfall, except in Port Antonio and the northeast. At night it can become chilly, particularly in the mountains.
Jamaica has had an ongoing issue with violent crime, largely perpetrated by gangs which are often armed with firearms. While government travel advisories still indicate that the country is safe to visit, caution must be taken due to the heightened risk in some areas.
Like many aspects of Jamaican culture, the food is a creole, born somewhere between the Old and New Worlds. African spice rubs have evolved into delicious jerk, while yam, rice and plantain form the basis of rich stews, and fish abound in local waters.
Jamaica is a very laid-back country, but one that also insists on good manners: witness the way that people never fail to say 'good morning' to fellow passengers when getting in a route taxi. Always greet people properly, and treat elders with extra respect. That said, don't be surprised at the directness of many conversations.
Jamaicans dress smartly when they can (even more so when heading to a party or social event), and many government offices and banks have written dress codes on the door – beachwear should be very much confined to the beach.
Some areas in Kingston, Negril and Montego Bay are considered a higher risk of crime and violence. Caution should be taken if you choose to visit these areas, particularly when there is word of a possible protest as demonstrators often erect road blocks making travel in and out nearly impossible.