Jamaica is a true jewel of the Caribbean, with a host of cultural secrets waiting to be discovered – from irresistible island cuisine to colourful art and the unmistakable rhythms of roots and reggae. There’s really no place like it.
But, as with any new destination, it pays to be clued up on what to expect, so you can stay safe and return with a smile on your face. Here are 8 tips to make sure your trip to Jamaica is unforgettable for all the right reasons.
1) Prepare before you go
To avoid unwanted complications if problems do arise, the Jamaican Tourist Board recommends you bring an additional photo ID as well as your passport and visa (if needed), and take photocopies of all of them with you in case of theft. As well as keeping family and friends back home up-to-date, you can also notify your country’s embassy or consulate of your trip in advance, in case of an emergency.
2) Be on your guard for scams
Visitors are considered easy prey for Jamaican hustlers, who you may encounter around popular tourist sites. Many are persistent and will try to wear you down by constantly bugging you, hoping you’ll pay them to leave you alone. Don’t. Politely tell them firmly that you’re not interested, rather than ignoring them. Pretending you don’t speak English may send them looking for their next victim. If they really won’t quit, alert the local police.
3) Don’t flash the cash
It’s good sense wherever you go, but many people still make themselves an easy target for theft by advertising what they’ve got on them in public. It’s smarter not to carry too much cash in Jamaica – leave any you won’t need in your hotel’s safe. Wearing expensive jewellery or watches is also a no-no. Keep your handbags, rucksacks and other belongings close to your body and in view, and you won’t go far wrong.
4) Take care at your hotel
Crime against tourists has dropped a lot in recent years, and chances are you won’t encounter any problems. But it still makes sense to keep your hotel room door and windows locked at night, and don’t let anyone into your room unless they can prove they are hotel staff.
5) Don’t get harassed
Women visiting Jamaica, especially when alone or in all-female groups, can often be targeted by persistent local lotharios. It’s best to take a firm approach if you become the subject of unwanted attention, and dressing modestly should deter most of their advances. To avoid any more serious problems, it’s recommended not to walk alone at night, or at any time if you go too far off the beaten track. And, for obvious reasons, be sure to insist that your drinks are poured in front of you when you stop by a bar.
6) Know the drug laws
While drugs may not be too hard to come by in Jamaica – and you’ll likely be offered some at least once – they remain largely illegal, and the consequences of being caught with any can be severe. Armed police often carry out random searches, and the local cops are not the kind you’re going to want to mess with.
7) Don’t drink and drive
The same applies to drinking and driving. You won’t be able to plead ignorance because you’re just visiting, and Jamaican jails are notoriously nasty. The island’s drivers can be aggressive and dangerous in any case, so you may prefer to give the roads the swerve.
8) Stay healthy
Most tap water in Jamaica is safe to drink, but if you’ve ventured to a remote spot, bottled water is the way to go. If you do get sick and need a doctor, you may have to pay cash even if you’re insured. Make sure you are covered in case of serious illness, and bring along any prescription drugs you may need in case local pharmacies run short.
Now you’re primed and prepared, you can enjoy the fantastic experience of Jamaica that so many others do each year. Go soak it up.