Jamaica Tourist Guide & Info
Jamaica's nation multi-cultural mosaic contains African, Asian, European and the Middle Eastern influences. And this wonderful melting pot has created quiet an array of customs and traditions.
Resorts will provide you will all the possible comforts and services you can dream of. But take the time to absorb the essence of these people by seeing a performance art, be it theatrical, musical or other. Dance to your heart's content during Carnival or one of the many music festivals such as the Reggae Festival. Enjoy the savoury traditional dishes with saltfish, goat, bammy or sweet exotic fruits. Get familiar with a Rastafarian's way of life.
Come and experience first hand the true meaning of the national slogan: Out of Many, One People.
Origin & Culture
With fertile grounds and a tropical climate the land yields the most wonderful fruits and vegetables such as sweet mangoes, bananas, ackees, papayas, yams, root vegetables and other exotic fruits, most of which were brought from Africa to feed the slaves at a low cost.
The most famous Jamaican dish, or should we say preparation, is jerk. Originally this method of spicing and cooking pork underground was designed by the Maroons (escaped slaves) to hide their whereabouts since no cooking smoke was dissipated. Now chicken, fish and other food can be jerked. The unique spices were used to preserve the meat. The endemic cassava root is used to make the traditional flat bread called bammy. Fish is also fried and national dishes include spiced ackee and saltfish, curried goat and oxtail with beans.
Desserts consist mostly of fruit served with condensed milk or sweet potato and bread pudding. Some would say the famous Blue Mountain coffee is the best in the world. There is an annual Jamaica Coffee Festival held in Kingston. This country produces also fine rums and liqueurs, the best known being Tia Maria.
Here you will find a creative energy that overflows into whatever we do be it visual art, writings, story telling or handicraft. Dancing is an everyday act, whether for worship, cultural celebrations, formal events and social gatherings. Reggae, Jamaica's most recognized sound is heartbeat of our people.
Religion is everywhere in and is predominantly a Christian country, with large groups of Baptists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. It is a fact that Jamaica has the most number of churches per square mile than any other country in the world. One religion particular to the country is Rastafarianism, based on the ideal of a world free of poverty, oppression and inequality.
Jamaica has interesting physical geographical features. Measuring 235 km long and 93 km at the widest point, it is located inside the Caribbean Basin. The island of Jamaica is the third largest in the Caribbean.
The landscape consists mostly of mountains with narrow and discontinuous coastal plains or plateaux. The mountain ranges go across the centre of the island and the highest elevation point is the Blue Mountain Peak, rising at 2,256 m above sea level. The land is naturally irrigated by the 120 rivers that originate in these mountains. The coastline count 1,022 km with white sand beaches on the north side and black sand beaches on the south side.
The island was first inhabited by the Tainos natives. Then Columbus visited the island in 1494 and not long after began five hundred years of European occupation. The Spanish were the first here but in the 1650s the British captured Jamaica from them. The Spanish retaliated by freeing and arming their slaves, hoping the slaves would fight but instead they sought refuge in the island's interior. These slaves came to be known as the Maroons and they resisted colonization attempts.
During the 1700s the island was producing 22% of the world's sugar but experienced many frequent uprisings from the remaining African slaves and it eventually brought on the Emancipation Act of 1834. Plantation owners recruited cheap labour from China and India.
Finally in 1944 universal adult suffrage was adopted and the country gained independence from Britain in 1962.
Explore all three botanical gardens. There are several smaller gardens spread all over the country and many host horticultural shows.
With more than 200 bird species, Jamaica is a bird watcher's paradise. Many can be observed at the Hope Zoo. The national bird is the Red-Billed Streamertail Hummingbird and it appears on the money and airline logo. Other wildlife includes snakes, lizards, frogs and crocodiles.
Jamaican sports include athletics and soccer but the national obsession is cricket. Brought here by the British in the 19th century the game has steadily gained popularity ever since. And lets not forget the famous bobsled team.
Other Useful Info
Foreign currency can be exchanged for Jamaican dollars at the larger banks or the accredited exchange bureaus of the country. Usually the hotels will also make the exchange but at a lesser rate of exchange. There are also exchange bureaus at the Montego Bay and Kingston airports for all international flights.
Major credit cards and the travellers' cheques are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants and businesses.
There are two distinctive rainy seasons: the first from May to June and the second from September to November. You may experience short but refreshing afternoon tropical showers all year and bring a sweater for the evening during the winter months.
For temperatures charts please refer to your destination of choice.
You will find an excellent worldwide telephone service. The country code for Jamaica is 876.
Internet Cafes and most hotels will provide Internet access for a small fee. The mail service is reliable enough. Jamaica is also very proud of its three daily national newspapers.
There are no required vaccines to enter Jamaica (unless arriving from certain tropical countries) however precautions do need to be enforced. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.
The most common illness is the traveler's diarrhea (turista), usually showing up on the third day.
Drinking water in Jamaica is purified and filtered by modern methods and is safe to drink.
March/April – Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday
May 23 – Labour Day
August 1 – Emancipation Day
August 6 – Independence Day
End October – Heroes Day
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Boxing Day
Unofficial holidays include:
Gang violence and shootings occur regularly in inner-city areas of Kingston but tourist resorts are safe. However as a tourist you are more likely to be a target of petty crime. Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels and ensure that your lock hotel door or your rented car. Carry your wallet and camera discreetly.
It is important to know buying or carrying any type of drugs in Jamaica is ILLEGAL and searches are done at airports prior to departure.
Gastronomical souvenirs vary from premium Jamaican rums, liqueurs, Blue Mountain coffee and of courses jerk spices and the Pickapeppa sauce.
The General Consumption Tax (GCT) tax of 17.5% is applied to goods and services. Hotels usually include a service charge of 10% to 15%. Restaurants accept the same 10% to 15% tipping rule. Tipping is also customary for bellmen, doormen, porters, tour guides and taxis.
The departure tax of around JA$1,000, per person, is usually included on your plane ticket but if not added it will be payable at the airport, please verify.
Daily international flights arrive at the two international airports in Jamaica and domestic air services are available. Many cruise ships depart from Jamaica as well.
Taxis have pre-established rates and buses services are available on a city and national level. Car and motorcycle rental desk can be found at the airport, in some hotels and in the city. When crossing the street or when renting a vehicle please remember that Jamaicans drive on the LEFT.