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Holidays in Jamaica

Understanding Jamaica

With 28 million people, Jamaica is the third most populous anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada It remains a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State


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 Bay St 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 Asian 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

Jamaica has a sizeable minority of East Indians, and varying numbers of Whites, Afro-Chinese, and persons of Syrian/Lebanese descent, many of which have intermixed throughout the generations Individuals on the island seldom belong to one racial group; the genetic roots of many people can be traced to origins that are not necessarily physically apparent Christianity is the major religion in the island

Jamaica's resources include coffee, papaya, bauxite, gypsum, limestone and sugar cane


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

Talking in Jamaica

Most Jamaicans speak Jamaican Creole, also known locally as Patois Patwa Jamaican pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different from English, despite heavy usage of English words or derivatives Jamaican Creole is used almost exclusively when Jamaicans speak between one another In all other cases especially around tourists English is used

Although all Jamaicans can speak English, Westerners may have trouble understanding them It's English but a heavily dialect version Even the billboards use the Jamaican phonetic slang, like "Eberyting is ah right" to mean "Everything is all right" Some Jamaicans speak a little bit of the other popular languages, like Spanish

You may hear some Jamaicans say "Waah gwan?", "Waah appen?", or "what tah gwan", the Patois variation of "What's up?" or "What's going on?" More formal greetings are usually "Good morning" or "Good evening"

What to see in Jamaica

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

What to do in Jamaica

Hiking, camping, snorkeling, horse back riding, backpacking, swimming, jet skiing, sleeping, visiting the Giddy house, drinking and swimming with dolphins


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 notarized 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

Buying stuff in Jamaica

The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar $, J$, JA$ It comes in notes of $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000 Coins in circulation are $20, $10, and $5 with smaller coins being almost worthless As of December 2009, the exchange rate hovers around JA$83 for US$1

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 the dollar 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 Kingston, Montego Bay, Portmore, Ocho Rios and Negril and most other major towns A curious exception is petrol stations which mostly require cash There are a few petrol station 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 travelers checks in $'s There is something like an 8% 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

Food and eating in Jamaica

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 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 barbeque 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 Many of the local varieties are unknown to visitors Locally grown fruits and vegetables are inexpensive Visitors may well find that imported produce tends 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 takeout stores and has a distant 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 Ital food is completely vegetarian and generally consists of a vegetable stew Ital food is not generally on the printed menus in the upscale tourist restaurants and can only be found by going to smaller places often just somebody's house Rastafarians are often vegetarians and eat and serve ital food

Drinking in Jamaica

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 flavors 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 for the first time 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 Western countries minus the ones with no drinking laws, of course! Guinness is popular and the export 7% proof has a kick

Accommodation in Jamaica

In major cities and touristic areas you can find a good variety of accommodations, from world-class brand hotels to family-managed bed & breakfasts and room rentals, but hostels are really few Camping is a good way to save money and camping sites are usually well managed, but especially during summer, managers tend not to accept last-minute groups of young people given the high chance of problems that such groups of Italian guys tend to cause, so you'd better book in advance Farmstays are an increasingly popular way to experience Italy, particularly in rural areas of Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Sardinia and Apulia They provide a great combination of good and healthy food, wonderful sights and not-so-expensive prices If you prefer self-catering accommodations, it's quite simple to find them on the wonderful Amalfi Coast or the less commercial and more genuine Calabria coast

Hotel star ratings can only be taken as a broad indication of what you will get for your money There are many marvellous 2-star hotels that you will want to return to every year and many 5-star hotels that you will never want to set foot in again The star rating, as in all countries, is based on a bureaucratic assessment of the facilities provided and does not necessarily relate to comfort Often the only difference between a 3-star and 4-star hotel is that the latter offers all meals while the former only offers breakfast

Working in Jamaica

Work in Italy is not easy to find The unemployment rate is high compared to other major European countries Many young adults, especially females, are without a job Starting salaries in shops, offices, etc range from EURO 800 to EURO 1,400 a month There's a huge underground black market though, where you'll find many people working This doesn't mean working in some kind of obscure crime syndicate: most "black" workers can be found in small business such as bars, pubs and small shops, or as construction workers Although this kind of job is illegal but legal consequences are most on the employer they're probably the easier thing to find if you're looking for a temporary job

If you're thinking about establishing a small business be sure to get in contact with local Chamber of Commerce and an accountant and they will help you to sort out the mess of Italian laws

Cities in Jamaica

albert town  anchovy  bamboo  black river  bull savanna  cambridge  discovery bay  falmouth  half way tree  kingston  lucea  mandeville  maroon town  may pen  montego bay  morant bay  ocho rios  port antonio  port maria  portmore  spanish town  

What do you think about Jamaica?

How expensive is Jamaica?
(1 JMD = 0 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant546 JMD
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)3.6 JMD
McDonalds meal678.65 JMD
Local beer (0.5 draft)266.67 JMD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 298.62 JMD
Cappuccino303.87 JMD
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)123.28 JMD
Water (0.33 bottle)72.96 JMD
Milk (1l)239.88 JMD
Fresh bread (500g)265.32 JMD
White Rice (1kg)193.37 JMD
Eggs (12) 301.48 JMD
Local Cheese (1kg) 813.34 JMD
Chicken Breast (1kg) 786.07 JMD
Apples (1kg) 286.8 JMD
Oranges (1kg) 198.16 JMD
Tomato (1kg) 191.66 JMD
Potato (1kg) 178.42 JMD
Lettuce (1 head) 122.56 JMD
Water (1.5l)135.05 JMD
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 1.1 JMD
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)230.83 JMD
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 449.98 JMD
Cigarettes514.5 JMD
One way local bus ticket132.72 JMD
Monthly pass for bus4.6 JMD
Taxi start213.4 JMD
Taxi 1km268.02 JMD
Taxi 1hour waiting470 JMD
Gasoline (1 liter) 146.68 JMD
Utilities for a "normal" apartment10.56 JMD
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 5.51 JMD
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 40.92 JMD
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 21.78 JMD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 90.24 JMD
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 64.09 JMD, your travel companion

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