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I’ve traveled to Jamaica dozens of times over a 21 year period and because I’m so passionate about you having the best possible experience this free report is yours! If you’re considering a trip to Jamaica, especially to Westmoreland including Negril. IMMEDIATELY receive a free download, things you absolutely need to know before travelling to Jamaica. Whether you’re new to the island or have been travelling here for years, this free report is guaranteed to contain valuable information sure to make your trip more exciting, more unique, and more memorable. . If you headed to Negril be sure to read « The Best Way to Spend a Day in Negril » for insider tips and expertise from veteran travelers.
Table of Contents:
1. Planning Your Trip
2. Travel Options on the Island
3. Communication with Jamaicans
4. Local Cuisine & Specialties
5. Connectivity and Communication Solutions
BONUS SECTION: AVOID DELAYS Jamaican Immigration and Customs Declaration Tips
Planning Your Trip to Jamaica
There are obviously many personal factors to consider when planning any trip. The purpose of this section is to organize the major decision.
Factors to consider are:
– Length of Your Stay
– Goals or Reasons for Travel: What Type of Experience are You Looking For?
– Developing an Itinerary
– Purchasing Airfare
– Arranging Accommodations
– Creating a Pack list
Length of Stay:
My primary residence is in Milwaukee Wisconsin, my trips to Jamaica have been as short as 4 days and up to 2 months. Depending on where you live; it’s not only possible to travel to Jamaica for an extended weekend but it can be practical as well. A longer stay is generally better because you have more days to amortize the cost of your airfare (a large expense of your vacation). For shorter stays, it is generally better to have a single destination in mind with the goal of relaxing and soaking up some sun. Relaxing can take the form of active rest or just a reprieve from your daily routine. Longer stays are great and truly ideal for soaking up the vibes, long afternoon conversations with locals or wandering around your environment and taking day trips to attractions or other areas of the island.
Goals for your vacation / Type of Experience:
Whether you’re looking to kick back and relax, seeking adventure, or experience rich and diverse culture, Jamaica is a great choice. Of course you can do a bit of everything on a trip as short as 7 – 10 days, but your motivation for traveling is worthy of some deliberate consideration after some quick research will help you get the most out of your time. Is this a couples getaway that you want to be pampered? Do you simply want the most economical option to sit on the beach and soak up the rays? Are you willing to sacrifice some personal comforts so you travel more and see more once you’re on the island? Is cultural immersion and being in nature appeal to you? Whether it’s simply to avoid winter, be in Jamaica for an event or festival, timing itself could be a motivation for your travel.
Authors Note: Jamaica shares an ideal climate along with the rest of the island in the West Indies, but its rich biodiversity, dramatic topography, and abundance of fresh water separate Jamaica from the vast majority of Caribbean islands. Jamaica is home to the tallest (Blue Mountains) and oldest mountains (The Dolphinhead Mts) in the Caribbean. Jamaica is the most biodiverse country in the Caribbean and the Dolphin head Mountains have the highest percentage of flora and fauna endemic to the region of anywhere in the world. If there is one thing you must EXPLORE during your stay it’s Jamaica ‘s gorgeous inland countryside and mountains. Almost all resorts and hotels have multiple day trips, our pick for the absolute best day trip out of either Negril or Montego Bay is Mayfield Falls. This two mile stretch of unadulterated natural waterfalls is an absolutely incredible experience.
Developing an Itinerary
After you’ve determined the approximate length of your stay and reasons for travel, your itinerary will start to take shape. Will you be staying in multiple locations once on the island or staying in one place and exploring from there? Do you have a list of « must see » attractions? Is it practical to see all of them with day trips from a single location? Or are you content just wandering around and exploring without any destination in mind? If you’re traveling to Westmoreland or Negril consider reviewing this list of popular day trips from Negril
Purchasing Airfare to Jamaica
Travel aggregators like Expedia, Travelocity and Kayak have homogenized flight price information for major airlines. Many independent charters offer direct flights to Jamaica during high travel season (November – April). FunJet is one such example that serves the Midwest United States. If you have flexible travel dates ITA Flight Matrix is the most efficient tool. It accommodates a simultaneous variable for the duration of your stay AND up to a 30 day range of departure dates.
After you determine how much time is realistic given your personal circumstances, you can begin to decide what sort of experience you’d like to have and it’s time to consider making reservations. Jamaica has a wide range of hotels, inns and villas to accommodate almost any budget and taste:
– Backpacking / Hostels
–www.couchsurfing.org a free P2P room share option in private residences
–WWOOF.org volunteer on an organic farm
–AirBnB generally a lower cost P2P room sharing option
– Renting a Private Home or Villa – Many Private Homes and Villa are available for rent along with staff to take care of shopping, cooking and house cleaning.
–Vacation Rental By Owner is a very popular place to find private villas and homes
Independent Resort or Hotel
– Most Resorts in Jamaica are independently owned and operated enterprises. Locations from rural to urban, ocean front to mountain, and accommodations themselves are equally diverse from opulent to dormitory style. Independent hotels may offer meal plans but also give visitors the option to roam around and explore the area they are staying in, patronizing area eateries, cafes, and bars. Customers at these area establishments vary from locals to tourists and prices tend to be fairly reasonable, albeit lower priced in rural areas when compared to resort towns.
– All-Inclusive resorts offer a consistent, homogenized and generally stress free stay. What these large corporate operations lack in authenticity they make up for with service, planning activities and unlimited food. All inclusive resorts charge extra for premium liquors and off site tours.
Eco Lodge and Resort
Eco Lodges are an increasingly popular choice for travelers seeking an ideal blend between authenticity and sustainable comfort and luxury. Travelers at eco lodges are typically more interested in experiencing local culture, traditions, customs and the way of life. Eco lodges are as concerned with the well being of the environment, employees, and community as they are their guests. Eco Lodges make their best effort to use renewable building materials, energy sources, water conservation and typically source food locally through community supported agriculture.
Where ever you choose to stay DO get off the grounds and connect to the locals and local culture. If you’re staying at a mega resort, ask the lady cleaning your room, where her favorite local restaurant is . . . if you’re staying at an independent inn or lodge, wander to the local shop for a cold Red Stripe or a bottle of spring water, then stay for a while and chat it up with the locals.The Jamaican national motto, is « Out of Many, One People » it’s one thing to know the motto, but actually experiencing it is to know and understand Jamaican culture. Lastly even if you’re relying on a personal referral, before you book a stay consider checking TripAdvisor or other popular review sites for additional tips and suggestions. Here is a link my Eco Lodge in Jamaica on TripAdvisor. Of course I’d like you to consider a stay at Camp Cabarita, many of our guests believe that it is the ultimate combination of value comfort and uniqueness.
What to pack?
Obviously the length of stay, type of trip and your accommodations while on the island will largely determine items you should pack. I do have a minimum suggested pack list that applies to almost any traveler to Jamaica whether backpacking or staying in a mega resort. More can be added as space permits:
1 pair of light pants
Shorts and T shirts
Water shoes (crocs or teva type waterproof sandals get the job done)
Trail shoes/ or Tennis (if you plan on going anywhere other strolling the beach)
Water Bottle (Nalgene or SIG Type)
Solarcane – Aloe with Lidocane
Microfleece Long Sleeve
Small dry sack
2-3 Zip Lock Bags
It’s impossible to develop a pack list to fit all persons and travel styles, but the above list should cover the majority of needs for most travelers. If you forget to pack anything rest assured most necessities are readily attainable almost anywhere in Jamaica.
Traveling on the Island
Travel options on island:
-Renting a Vehicle
Renting a vehicle has appeal for travelers that want the freedom and flexibility travel at their own pace and explore with no particular destination in mind. Renting a vehicle is less expensive than chartering a car and driver, however there are some factors to consider. Many Jamaican roads are narrow or in poor condition, Jamaican divers are aggressive AND you’ll be driving on the left hand side of the road instead of the right. If you do rent a car make liberal use of your horn and be ready for traffic circles in and around town centers.
Chartered vehicles has many advantages over renting a car. Sitting back to take in the scenery and listen to your guide is often the right choice for persons that want to enjoy the scenery and learn from a local about the areas they are passing through.
Tour Companies specialize in transporting guest to attractions and destinations. The experience with a tour company is likely to be a bit more refined and structured than chartering a vehicle, however tour companies are as capable at delivering an authentic experience.
Route Taxi’s if you need to travel as reasonably as possible and time is not at a premium route taxis are a reasonable way to travel. Traveling by route taxi often means the route to YOUR final destination will me more circuitous. Taxi’s are often filled slightly beyond capacity- it not uncommon to have 4-5 passenger in the back seat of a mid sized sedan.
Authors Tip: If your staying at an independent hotel or resort in the Negril Area JUTA Tours provides transportation to and from Sangster International Airport for $25 per person.
Communication with Jamaicans
While english is the official language of Jamaica, Patois is the commonly spoken native tongue and knowing just a few phrases can go a long way in making your trip smooth and pleasurable. Patois is a creole language blending West African, Spanish and English. Patois is rich in sylorgisms, cultural references and allorgies. It can be near impossible for a newcomer to the island to understand two Jamaicans conversing in Patois, however learning to speak a few phrases of Patois can make interacting easier and not make it obvious it’s your first time on the island. Like most places I’ve traveled, locals genuinely appreciate when visitors take a little time and effort to know the local dialect and colloquialisms. Below is a list basic phrases, pleasantries, and greetings that are helpful to know:
– Declining on offer to purchase: « Mi Good » « Mi Okay »
– Basic Greetings: « Waa gwan » or « What’s Going On »
– Are you good(ok)? « Every ting Irie? » or « Every ting crix? »
– Show of mutual respect. « Respect Mon » to a man or woman
– Know how to shake hands Jamaican style
Author’s Note: A quick note on Jamaican currency and foreign exchange. Most places in Jamaica will accept either US or Jamaican currency however you best value will be to change you currency at a ‘Cambio’. This can be accomplished at the airport but there are island wide Cambios that generally offer a better exchange rate. Any leftover currency can be converted back to US Dollars upon your return. As when traveling anywhere abroad, remember to notify credit card companies of your intent to travel.
Brown Stew Chicken
|Ackee and Saltfish (National Dish)
Conch (Soup or Curried)
Old Time Synting
|Plantains (Fried, Porrage)
Avocado (called Pear)
Roasted Corn w/ Dried Coconut
|Bammy (Casava Flour Flatbread)
Gizzada (Jamaican baked danish)
Drops (Ginger, Coconut, Cane Sugar)
Foul Toe (Unleavened Animal Cracker)
|Blue Mountain Coffee
Sorrel (Hibiscus, Ginger)
Fresh Fruit Juices
JB Overproof Rum
Guiness (Kingston Brewed)
Connectivity and Communication Solutions
Cellular Voice and Data Options
Digicel and Lime are the two wireless voice and data providers on the island. Both companies offer 4g and have good service in urban areas. Lime tends to have better coverage in rural areas. Roaming on your own cellular network (e.g. Sprint, Verizon, T-mobile) can be costlyin Jamaica. If you need to be in frequent phone contact (domestically or internationally) and you have access to an unlocked Droid or iOS device you can purchase a SIM card from either provider for about $10 USD. Digicel offers pre and post paid plans and calling cards are widely available at store and shops throughout the island. Flip phones can be purchased inexpensively from either provider.
Calling Jamaica from Abroad
If you decide to purchase a phone or have an unlocked phone and purchase a SIM AND would like to accommodate a simple inexpensive way for a person abroad to call your Jamaican telephone number I recommend purchasing the Penny Boss Calling Card from COMFI.com and adding the telephone numbers of the people that may be calling you to your account (this removes the need for them to enter a PIN when they call)
Communicating over WiFi
I recommend downloading Magic Jack for both iOS and Android, whichs allow for unlimited free calling over WiFi to any US Number over WiFi.
Heywire is the best choice for texting to a US cell phone. WhatsApp is great if both parties have the application. Skype and is still the best for voice + video chatting. Facebook also support app to app calling.
Author’s Tip: If staying connected and wired is a priority consider staying at a hotel that offers free WiFi.
Updated for 2016: Consider using a password keeping application such as 1Password available for desktop and iOS / Android. Keep all banking / credit card passwords / 800 Numbers available and encrypted.
Jamaican Immigration and Customs:
There are several common mistakes made on the Jamaican Immigration and Customs Declaration form that if avoided will prevent unnecessary delays, hassles and confusion. Have the following information handy:
-Incoming Flight Number and Date
-Departing Flight Number and Date
-Passport Number & Date of Issue
-Address while in Jamaica
All dates are in International Format Day/Month/Year
Don’t Forget the Departure Record (Bottom of Front Page)
The Form is 2-Sided. Don’t Forget the Back (Custom’s Declaration)
1 Form Needs to Be Completed For Each Traveler
Update: Jamaica now has immigration pre verification kiosks like many US Airports. You will insert your passport into the kiosk and receive a receipt vouch as pictured below:
Did I miss something? Please add your advice below!