Below is a bunch of useful tips for people who would like to travel around Jamaica. All information provided is based on our experience.
Since Jamaica is an island your travel options are mainly limited to airplanes or cruise ships. As a flying-related website we recommend of course the first one 🙂 Flying to Jamaica will allow you to spend more time on the island than 1-day trip offered during cruises. And believe us – the island is worth staying much longer!
Renting a car
On many travel-related websites you will be advised not to rent a car on Jamaica. You will read about people driving like crazy and roads in terrible shape. Not to mention the left-hand traffic.
As always in such cases the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many Jamaican roads are horrible and bumpy. You can’t drive too fast there without losing your wheels. However, they also have nice, relatively new roads, where you can safely drive over 100kmh. These are mainly coastal roads between bigger cities. There is also 1 paid highway, which has 2 lines each direction and is brand new. However, this one is very short.
When you decide to take less popular roads you never know what to expect, but assume the worse. Asphalt can end without any warning and even if it doesn’t end it’s covered with holes. That is why when renting a car ensure you have good tires and at least 1 spare.
When it comes to driving style of locals we must say opinion are exaggerated. If you are not scared of left-hand traffic you should be fine. Traffic on Jamaica is not even close to what you see in Asia.
If you don’t need a car all the time the good option to commute are route taxis. These cheap taxis are mainly used on short, local routes, but you should be able to negotiate good deal if you need to travel further. The price is usually very low. You can recognize these taxis by red letters somewhere on the front of the car’s body.
Jamaica isn’t the cheapest country you will ever visit. If booking over Internet you can expect hostel prices similar to US. We were using dorm rooms in hostels, always booking on-line day before. You have to count 25$ on average per night.
Here are top 3 hostels we stayed at:
- Montego Bay – Bird’s Nest
Pool and very nice view. They also own a kitesurfing school, so you can get direct transport to the kiting spot and hang out with instructors in the evening.
- Port Antonio – Germaican
Ran by a nice German couple, who renovated an old house. Very hard to get there, no Sat-Nav will guide you. Couple kilometers of driving through woods on bumpy roads without asphalt. You better contact owners before you try to get there on your own. The view and atmosphere is worth the effort.
- Kingston – North Light
Spectacular view at Blue Mountains directly from the porch. From the other side you can see the entire Kingston. Very friendly house-keeper. You’ll need a taxi/car to get to Kingston city center.
In the home of reggae music you should expect nothing else than positive vibes. And that is what you will find on Jamaica! Jamaicans are very open and friendly. You can easily joke around with strangers, chat to Rasta-mans, ask for directions etc.
It’s also very easy to communicate with them, because they all speak English (well, kind of 😉 ).
Most commonly use phrases are:
… so all positive, don’t you think? It tells a lot about Jamaicans 🙂
What I like is that they are not too insisting, even if they try to sell you something. Of course, as in every other region of the world, you will find places where you shouldn’t go alone after dark (e.g. old Kingston from what I’ve heard). However, we’ve never felt threatened during our stay.
While visiting Jamaica there are some traditional dishes that we recommend you to try:
- Jerk pork/chicken
It’s actually a usual BBQ dish served with a “spice” called jerk. It is usually a little spicy, but you can get the mild version if you want. If you can only try it once we recommend chicken, as it’s hard to find a real juicy and tender pork. We can recommend “Scotchies” in Montego Bay or Kingston.
- Ackee & Saltfish
This is a really traditional Jamaican dish, that is usually served for breakfast. The Ackee fruit is a bit mild in taste and it has consistency (and color) of well-done scrambled eggs. It’s mixed up with pieces of salted cod, which gives more flavor to the dish
- Goat Curry
Goats are very popular on Jamaica and you have to actually watch for them while driving. The favorite way to prepare their meat on Jamaica is a goat-curry
- Blue Mountain Coffee
The world famous coffee comes from the heart of Blue Mountains. It’s very tasty but more expensive than regular coffee. If you decide to buy some you can find it in supermarkets – it will be cheaper.
- Jamaican Rum
Jamaican rum comes in several flavors. It’s very popular alcohol beverage among locals. If you don’t like it straight up we recommend mixing it with a local, grapefruit-taste soda called “Ting”.
- Red Stripe beer
The most popular beer on Jamaica is a local brand “Red Stripe”, which also comes in less popular (and more expensive) “Light” version. Only small bottles and cans available (341ml)
We get a lot of questions about the total price of our trip. Well, Jamaica is not very cheap, but on the other hand nothing very expensive there. Their currency is Jamaican Dollars (JMD) and the exchange rate for USD is more or less ÷100 i.e. 100 JMD = 1USD.
Here is the summary of prices for most popular products and services:
- Flights from US: start from 100 USD
- Renting a car for 1 week: 300-400 USD
- Fuel: 1.3 USD per liter
- Dorm bad in hostel: 25 USD
- Entrance to attractions (waterfalls, caves, etc) – 20 USD each
- ½ jerk chicken with festival bread at Scotchies: 10 USD
- Ackee & Saltfish for breakfast: 7 USD
- Red strip beer: 1.5 USD in a supermarket / 3 USD and more in a bar
As you can see it’s not that bad 🙂 And the island visit is worth every penny!
Top 10 tourist attractions
Make sure to read about our favorite things to do on the island:
One Love to all our Readers! 🙂