You’ve got Bob Marley tunes newly loaded onto your phone, and you have non-stop cravings for jerk chicken, you can almost feel the Caribbean heat warming up your cold winter bones. These are sure signs your holiday trip to Jamaica is close. To help you prepare and maximize your vacation fun, here is our list of important things to know before you visit Jamaica.
Driving around in Jamaica
Jamaica is a former British colony and they follow the British style of driving on the left side of the road. This, in combination with twisty-turny Caribbean roads that climb up and down mountains might pose a challenge to some North American drivers. Take the easy way out and hire a driver. They are not expensive and will help you maintain your newly acquired laidback Jamaican chill.
Jamaican currency is the Jamaican dollar. Don’t be confused and think it is tied to the current rate of the American dollar; One Canadian dollar equals around 100 Jamaican dollars. Bank ATM’s are found throughout Jamaica, but our recommendation is totake out enough cash to last a few days.
Although both the US and Jamaican currency is accepted in Jamaica, you will find it easier to deal with the local currency, and you won’t have to worry about figuring out correct exchange rates when receiving Jamaican change back from your US funds. Be sure to let your bank and visa company know your travel plans before you leave home to avoid a hold on funds.
Jamaica is fortunate to have 3 major international airports on the island: Norman Manley in Kingston, Sangster in Montego Bay and Ian Fleming in Ochos Rios. Air Transat flies into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
Best Jamaica Spots for Party, Family and Beaches
Party Time in Negril
You can find a party in most spots in Jamaica but hands down, the biggest party scene happens in Negril. Head to West End Cliffs and get your reggae on at Rick’s Café or the Jungle Club for some serious throw off your flip-flops kind of fun.
The best time to get your Negril party hat on, if you are brave enough and your stamina is strong, is during Spring Break or Dream Weekend. This is a huge Beach festival held every summer over a 4 day weekend in July. Party Strong, people!
Montego Bay For Family Fun
The calm warm waters of Doctor’s Cave Beach and Montego Bay’s family friendly resorts makes this area perfect for any family vacation in Jamaica. A fun activity for when the kids get tired of the beach is river tubing and zip-line adventures on the Martha Brae River with Chukka Tours. Older kids will love a night visit to the Luminous Lagoon, a phosphorescent exploration of a mangrove bay and lagoon near Montego Bay.
The best beaches are located… everywhere on the island! Our favourite Jamaica beach, if we are forced to choose is Doctor’s Cave Beach. Its ban on beach vendors makes for a lovely, and tranquil beach experience. We also fell in love with the brilliant, so bright blue waters of Boston Bay Beach in Port Antonio. This is Jamaica’s top surfing spot, afterwards be sure to appease your post-surf appetite with the BEST jerk chicken made on the island.
Jamaican History and Culture
Jamaica’s history and culture is rich and diverse. It has emerged from its colonial past to become a nation of proud people who take great pleasure in the knowledge that Jamaica has gained the world’s ‘respect mahn’ for its distinct foods, fabulous music and their easy going attitude towards life. You can’t help but relax when you are on the island, and remember, most things will operate on island time, so order another Red Stripe beer and enjoy.
Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island, and is divided into three counties and many local parishes. This is where you find the traces of British colonialism with names like Middlesex, Cornwall, Surrey counties and Trelawney, Westmoreland parishes. Jamaicans will tell you which parish they are from, and you will probably gain total respect if you can tell them which county that parish resides in. For example, Montego Bay is in the parish of St. James and in the county of Cornwall.
The island boasts a large number of great activities and cultural events.You can attend a music festival, go rafting, bike down a mountain, or spy with your looking glass the rare Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo or Rasta bird. Most tourists don’t venture far from their resorts while visiting the island, which is unfortunate because there is so much to discover and fun to be had outside of the resort grounds.
If you want to explore Jamaican culture and its history during your visit, check out the Jamaica Tourist Board website for current up-to-date information about Jamaica. Some must-does for any culture or history fans are:
Bob Marley Museum
Located in the capital city of Kingston, the Bob Marley museum is housed in the former residence and studio of Jamaica’s reggae king.
Rose Hall Plantation House
Restored in the 1960’s the Rose Hall is Jamaica’s most famous Great House or plantation. Book the night tour of Rose Hall and you might see the legendary White Witch during your visit.
The final tip of important things to know before you visit Jamaica is to remember to kick back and move into a lower gear while on the island. You are on vacation, and you’ve picked the perfect spot to get away from the everyday stresses of home. Respect and relax, yeah mahn!
Now that you know all the basics about Jamaica, book a trip with Air Transat to this gorgeous Caribbean island and start exploring its wonders!