Before Booking Your Trip to Jamaica, Read This!
Wondering whether you should change your currency to Jamaica dollars, when best to visit, where to go, how to get from point A to B, and what else to expect? Well, you’ve found the blog! Read this before booking your trip to Jamaica.
Winter is approaching and you long to go somewhere warm, or perhaps you want to experience a totally different culture in a new environment. You’re probably here, reading this because you’ve heard a lot about Jamaica, and have been longing to visit Africa. Don’t worry. You’re at the right place! However, we are making it clear to those who probably didn’t know, that Jamaica is not in Africa, though we have chiefly, West African heritage. So, if you were planning to take a trip to Africa, and Jamaica was somewhere on your itinerary, sorry to disappoint. Jamaica is in the Caribbean, between North and South America. Now that this is clear, read on to know what you can expect when you visit Jamaica, before you book that trip.
Here are 9 things to know:
1. Best times to take a trip to Jamaica
The best times to visit Jamaica would be in the winter, especially if you’re from a region that gets extremely cold during those months. Yes, Jamaica gets a bit cold in winter months – around 65° F or 18° C, but that’s as low as it gets, as we do not experience seasons. To some, this isn’t cold and is perhaps the perfect temperature – not too hot, not too cold.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t visit other seasons, but this is our peak season. Since it is, there are cons as well. If you want a quiet time and cheaper deals, Fall and Spring would be ideal, or you can just visit on your summer vacation. If you plan to visit during summer, please bear in mind that summer is also peak season, so it might be more expensive, and it gets extremely hot. It’s mostly hot all year round.
2. Great All-inclusive Resorts
For certain, you don’t have to worry about where you will stay once here. Jamaica has a variety of all-inclusive resorts. Some of the top ones include ones we’ve visited before. You can read about a few of our experiences here. So far, our favorite is Moon Palace Resort.
- Moon Palace Resort
- Royalton Blue Waters and White Sands
- Ocean Coral Spring
- Azul Beach Negril
- Royal Decameron Caribbean Club
If you plan to visit on business occasions, for an extended stay, or to experience the City life in Kingston, you can learn about a few hotels in the corporate area, based on our experience.
The hotels are not all inclusive. However some, such as Spanish Court Hotel and R Hotel come with complementary breakfast. Having to purchase lunch and dinner each day, especially during an extended stay can be a bit costly, but you don’t always have to eat in. You’re in the heart of Kingston. We have cheaper fast-food restaurants such as Juicy Patties, Popeyes and KFC. R Hotel also has condominiums with kitchens, so you can prepare your own food.
3. Flights might be expensive
Unfortunately, flights to Jamaica can be a bit costly, especially during tourist peak season (December to February). This is because Jamaica is a popular tourist destination, and many person’s #1 pick in the Caribbean. Last summer, Jamaica was ranked #1 for booking by U.S. travelers, so flights especially from the U.S. can be expensive. Airlines maximize on this to increase revenue. Other reasons include the shortage of staff, inflation, and rising fuel cost. We recommend you planning in advance, which includes saving for your trip. Have at least USD $300 for a round-trip off season, which might end up being layover flights, or USD $700 peak season for a round-trip.
4. You might experience major culture shock
I think this is the one you should anticipate the most. The culture, the economics, political and social life is totally different from non-Caribbean countries. Jamaica is also a very religious country, so religion influences a lot of things we do and say. Life in the Caribbean can be extremely different and even overwhelming for those who have never been exposed to our culture. What you see on social media or on the television is one thing, but it’s an entirely different experience here. Your experience may not be anything like how the media depicts Jamaica to be. Yes, we are a happy set of people, some people like to smoke marijuana and relax, while listening to the tune of Bob Marley or dancing in the streets, but that’s Jamaica for you. Yes, we are selling Jamaica, but we are telling you that you may or may not like it here. Based on your perspective, upbringing and tolerance, some experiences might be frightening, some touching, some unamusing. In the midst of that, you are certain to find rewarding experiences.
Safety can be a major question or concern, especially if you plan to roam the streets, especially in the Cities, so read this to know how you can remain safe and protect your loved ones while here.
The internet cannot get over shared experiences of people who have visited Jamaica stating how much it’s not what they had expected. This doesn’t have to be the case for you, so before you board that plane, please prepare. Ensure to do your research into our system and culture, so that not many things catch you by surprise.
5. If you stay within a resort, you may not experience the real Jamaica
On the flip end of experiencing culture shock, you may actually come here and not be shocked at all – with everything being just like on the television. That’s if you stay solely within the bounds of a resort. Jamaican resorts are highly Americanized or Europeanized. The Jamaica Tourist Board’s PR mandate is to sell only the best parts of Jamaica, so of course, based on policies, the resorts will stick to a particular script, and present to you what’s familiar.
With this in mind, before booking a resort, think about what you intend to achieve upon staying here. Do you want to come just to escape the harsh winter? For the sun and sand? For the wholesome food? Or for all of the above and/or the rich raw culture? Think about what you want to achieve and book your trip accordingly. So if you intend to experience the real Jamaica, not just the sugar coated, you not leaving the resort might limit that.
6. Getting around might be expensive
Everything comes with their pros and cons. Just as how safety may be a con in certain areas of Jamaica, transportation may be one as well. If you incorporate everyday travel in your itinerary, well, it might put a strain on your pocket. Though public transportation in the Kingston Metropolitan Area might be comparatively low as opposed to public transit in the States, or perhaps other parts of the world, in other areas, chiefly tourist areas, it might be the opposite. If you opt to take a taxi to dodge this expense, please bear in mind that this is risky, as most are unsafe to travel in. Unfortunately, you may not be able to rely on the public bus system, which leaves you to choose the safest and most reliable methods of travel, which might strain your pockets. It may be manageable if you plan and save in advance.
We’re here to help you know what to expect so you can prepare for any uncertainties. In Jamaica, we have Uber(not many), other cab services, rental, company excursions, and private and public charters, such as JUTA. Knutsford Express is one we highly recommend. It’s even commonly used by locals. It takes you from the airports to destinations such as Negril, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Kingston. Unfortunately, we do not have train systems in resort areas, or a shuttle bus system.
7. You may use U.S. currency, Visa or Mastercard
Wondering how you’ll get to spend? Or whether or not you can use your debit and credit card here? Or if you’ll have to change your money to Jamaica’s currency? Well, we have good new and bad news. The bad news is that non-U.S. visitors may be at a disadvantage of using their local currency. Jamaica widely accepts U.S. Dollars, so you can shop around with that currency, however we wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re traveling from other countries, you could change to JMD before or after arriving, at a Cambio. The good news is that, your Visa or Mastercard is just as important as your passport. Most businesses in Jamaica accept them so you may not need to travel around with cash. You are even able to use them at the ABM to withdraw cash in Jamaican Dollars, but this might be costly. Your local bank may charge international fees as high as $6 per transaction, which is almost $1000 JMD.
8. Mannerisms and British Influence
This one is often overlooked, but just like preparing for a job interview or researching a company, your travel to Jamaica should be treated as such. Again, do your research! If I’m going to a country, I’d want to know how they greet each other, what’s considered respect, what’s disrespectful etc. Learn these nuisances, lest you commit social crimes. In addition, Jamaica was once colonized by the British, so we’ve gotten many customs from them, such as how we address people in authority, e.g. the use of Sir/Madame, though they are often used out of terms. Some of the words we use are British words, or use British spellings. In addition to these, we have our own jargons. We’re not saying you should do a Jamaican Language course before coming. We’re simply saying many English words have a totally different meaning in Jamaica, or we have our own vocabulary.
9. Jamaicans can be reserved and conservative, but direct, and some may come off as unpleasant and aggressive
Jamaicans being warm and friendly is one of the greatest stereotypes of the century. It was found that despite the vibrancy and friendliness of the people, Jamaicans are inherently reserved. Most are outwardly cordial and friendly, but they may not be quick to initiate conversations, talk about themselves or open up on a very personal level. Thus, they can be standoffish until they get to know you. This nature, the Jamaican Creole, plus the direct preference in communication may cause some to appear aggressive. Jamaicans might be particularly friendly and helpful to tourists, but that’s where it ends for most.
We tried to give you a non-biased list of things to expect before coming to Jamaica. As such, we hope you’ve learnt something new, and that any uncertainties you may have had have been addressed. You are always welcomed to visit! Whenever you visit, be sure to tell us about it and tag us in your posts on Instagram @resortcaribbean.
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