Five Things First Time Travellers To Jamaica Should Know
- The official currency is the Jamaican dollar. However, it's possible to use US dollars at resorts, certain shops and the higher-end restaurants.
- Drive on the left side of the road. As Jamaica is a former British colony, the country still uses their road rules. The streets in Jamaica are also full of tight curves, so take it slowly to avoid any accidents.
- The cheapest way to get around is with route taxis. If you'd rather not tackle the roads yourself, this is the next best way to get around. You'll share a ride with locals and have more money in your budget to splurge on experiences.
- Sometimes you have to tip, and sometimes you don't. Most restaurants automatically add a service charge to your bill. If you don't see one, it's customary to tip your waiter between 10% - 15%.
- Drinking the tap water is safe. Unless you are travelling to far-flung rural areas, stick to bottled water. It's also a good idea to avoid ice sold at street stands and clean your teeth with purified water if you're staying in Jamaica's backwaters.
Best Time To Visit Jamaica
The best time to visit Jamaica is during November and December. Hurricane season has just ended, the weather is beautiful, and there are tons of flight deals to find. The high season crowds have yet to arrive, meaning you'll have Jamaica's beaches and top attractions all to yourself.
January to March is peak beachgoer season. Jamaica is a popular spring break destination, and you expect excellent beach parties and idyllic temperatures. But with the influx of travellers, prices will be at their highest. It's not uncommon for rates to spike to USD 700 per night. If you're planning on visiting during this period, book everything well in advance to lock in lower prices.
Spring is a great time to visit Jamaica if you don't mind a little bit of rain. April to June sees the beaches emptying out and many of the resorts offering incentives to visit during this tourism lull.
If you're on a tight budget, the cheapest time to visit is from July to October. The summer months see a decrease in tourism as hurricane season starts. However, many of Jamaica’s best festivals happen in midsummer; you'll just have to plan around many of the key attractions and hotels closing down.
Kingston is the capital city of Jamaica. Half jungle, half cosmopolitan city, there's plenty to see and do in this UNESCO Creative City of Music.
Its most popular attraction is The Bob Marley Museum. You'll be able to visit his former home as well as the Tuff Gong recording studio.
Kingston's other highlights include the historic Devon House, the Natural History Museum and Hope Gardens - the biggest botanical park in the West Indies.
Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica. Its golden beaches and historic plantations attract thousands of visitors each year.
It's also a divers' paradise, fringed with colourful coral reefs. Bird lovers will also enjoy hand feeding the hummingbirds at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. Other top activities include horseback riding on the beach, ziplining and guided river rides on bamboo rafts.
The city also has a busy lineup of festivals and events. If you can, plan your trip around Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race and the Reggae Sumfest.
Negril is Jamaica's capital of casual. Located on the western tip of the islands, it's famous for its Seven Mile Beach and beautiful eco-resorts.
Spend your days lounging on the clothing optional beaches, snorkelling the coral reefs or watching divers plunge of the Negril Cliffs into the sea below. For those who want a little bit of pampering, you can head to the therapeutic mineral springs and have a spa day.
Top Attractions in Jamaica
Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall is an 18th-century sugar plantation that was owned by the infamous Annie Palmer. Notorious among the slaves for her cruelty and black magic, many believe her spirit still haunts the grounds today.
The English style estate is 15 km from Montego and home to beautiful ocean views. Ghost hunters can join a spooky candlelit tour and learn about the apparitions that have been seen over the years.
For the less superstitious, the house is open for day visits and is full of beautifully restored 18th-century decor and antiques.
Before you leave, visit the dungeon which has been transformed into Annie's Pub. You can buy a rum cocktail called "Witches Brew" which many believe helps to banish the spirits of ghosts and black magic.
Doctor's Cave Beach
Fringed by sparkling blue water, The Doctor's Cave Beach rose to fame in the 1920's. A famous British osteopath announced that the water possessed healing powers and visitors flocked to Jamaica's shores to see if it was true.
While the cave was destroyed in 1932 by a hurricane, the beach has remained a popular destination. Over the years, hotels have sprung up along the coastline, and cruise ships regularly stop here to offload their beach loving guests.
It's considered the best beach in Jamaica, and while its waters won't cure your ailments, it's well worth a visit.
Bob Marley Museum
No visit to Jamaica would be complete without a Bob Marley experience. The museum is located at the reggae icon's former home in the heart of Kingston.
The tour gives visitors an insightful look into his life and includes a visit to his bedroom. It's one of the eeriest rooms in the house, as there are bullet holes in the wall from an assassination attempt.
But the best part of the tour for fans of the musician is without a doubt The Tuff Gong Studio. It's here where Bob Marley recorded some of his greatest hits that set him up for superstardom.
Dunn's River Falls
Located near Ocho Rios, Dunn's River Falls is one of the Caribbean's most famous attractions. Each year, the natural wonder attracts thousands of visitors to cool off in its pools or climb to the top of the falls.
If you do want to do the later, make sure to bring water shoes or footwear with grip that you don't mind getting wet. If you don't have any, you can hire a pair at the entrance as well as a guide.
To avoid the crowds, plan your visit around the cruise ships schedule to enjoy the beauty of the area in peace.
John Crow Mountains National Park
Stretching across 200,000 acres of tropical rainforest, John Crow Mountains National Park is famous around the world for its rich biodiversity. It's home to more than 800 species of animals, more than 200 different types of plants and the world's second largest butterfly.
But its most famous attraction is the Blue Mountain. Standing at 2,256 metres high, it's the highest peak in Jamaica. The mountain can be submitted in two days on foot or by mule. The trek offers hikers some of the region's most breathtaking mountain views and glimpses of Cuba in the distance.
Major International Airports in Jamaica
- Norman Manley International Airport
- Sangster International Airport
- Ian Fleming International Airport