Jamaica, Caribbean - Stein Travel
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Jamaica

It's easy to wax lyrical about Jamaica, the famous island in the north Caribbean. From the the glorious glow of its sunsets, to the unique and engaging ways of its people, its alluring white sandy beaches, lush green mountains and sparkling waterfalls - all of these stunning features can inspire the poet in anyone. The beauty of this island paradise has drawn visitors for centuries.

At first, it was the wealthy few who were privileged to enjoy the unspoilt tropical delights of Jamaica, but today the northern and western coastlines of the island bristle with tourist resorts and 'all-inclusive' hotels. Natural attractions have been commercialised to cope with the crowds, yet somehow, this commercialisation has not spoiled Jamaica. It still presents a magnificent kaleidoscope of colour and beauty that makes holidaymakers sad to leave, and vow to return.

The name Jamaica originates from the pre-colonial native inhabitants of the area, the Arawak Indians, to whom Xaymacameant 'land of wood and water'. There is little left of the Indian culture: after being discovered by Columbus in 1494, Jamaica was ruled by the Spanish for 150 years and then by the British for the next 300 years. Independence came in 1962 to the Jamaican people, who are now a warm blend of different cultures and nationalities, though significantly African-based due to the number of imported slaves who endeavoured to keep their home traditions alive while being forced to labour on the plantations.

There is, however, a little trouble in this island paradise: the Jamaican people on the whole are poor, and very reliant on tourism for their living. Some visitors object to being harassed by vendors, unlicenced taxi drivers, hair-braiders and the like. Petty crime is also a problem. These minor irritations, however, should not keep anyone away from savouring the spirit of Jamaica, which is as rich as the lilt of the local patois and the rhythms of the reggae music for which the island is famous.

Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

Jamaica has holiday attractions that extend far beyond the stretches of Negril's Seven Mile Beach. Among the many great things to see and do in Jamaica, there are destinations such as Kingston's Bob Marley Museum and Spanish Town, or the Montego Bay Marine Park and Rose Hall (said to be haunted by beautiful Annie Palmer, the 'White Witch of Rose Hall').

In Ocho Rios, visit Dolphin Cove and Dunn's River Falls, or explore the Green Grotto Caves. Fans of the movie Blue Lagoonwill find the actual site near Port Antonio, while rum enthusiasts will enjoy the Appleton Rum Estate on Jamaica's South Coast. All this sightseeing is made more enjoyable by year-round good weather, but storms and hurricanes can occur between July and November.

Business

Business in Jamaica is surprisingly formal, with proper titles used and suits and ties the norm despite the tropical climate. Introductions are usually made with a handshake and an exchange of business cards. Punctuality is key, and socialising is an important aspect of the business meeting. Business hours are usually from 8.30am to 4.30pm or 5pm on weekdays, and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Climate

Jamaica's climate is tropical with constant warm to hot temperatures all year round, though cooler in the higher, central areas. The wettest months are between May and November, when short sharp showers can be expected. The heaviest rains occur in September and October and the hurricane season runs from June to November; however, despite the powerful Hurricane Ivan of September 2004, relatively few hurricanes touch Jamaica.

Communications

The international access code for Jamaica is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 876. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom); the outgoing code is not needed when calling the US or Canada. City or area codes are not required. Direct international telephone services are available, and operators can also facilitate calls. The local mobile phone operators use various networks, including GSM, which is compatible with most international networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts, and access is also available from most hotels and parish libraries.

Customs

Contrary to popular belief, smoking ganja(marijuana) is illegal in Jamaica. Homosexuality is prohibited.

Duty Free

Travellers to Jamaica over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 227g of other tobacco products; 946ml alcoholic beverages and wine; perfume up to 150g; and goods for personal consumption to the value of US$500. Prohibited items include products made from goatskin (e.g. drums, handbags and rugs).

Electricity

Electrical current is 110 volts, 50Hz. Flat two- and three-pin plugs are in use.

Health

Dengue fever and Leptospirosis are travel health risks in Jamaica, so visitors should use mosquito nets and insect repellant and avoid rivers and dams. There is a small malaria risk, and visitors are advised to take precautions against mosquito bites, though prophylaxis is not considered necessary. Although generally safe, the tap water can cause stomach upsets and visitors are advised to drink bottled water if on short trips. Private medical facilities are of a reasonable standard but can vary throughout the island, and facilities are limited outside Kingston and Montego Bay. Medical treatment can be expensive so insurance is advised. No vaccination certificates are needed for entry into Jamaica, but yellow fever certificates are required for travellers coming from an infected area.

Language

The official language of Jamaica is English but a local patois is also spoken, a mixture of English, Spanish, and various African languages.

Money

The Jamaican Dollar (JMD) is divided into 100 cents. The island is well supplied with ATMs, banks and bureaux de change. Banking hours are usually Monday to Thursday from 9am to 2pm, and Friday from 9am to 4pm. Cambio exchange offices are found throughout the country, open later than banks and often offering better exchange rates. Retain receipts as proof of legal currency exchange. Exchange bureaux at the airports and hotels also offer better rates than banks. Major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Both cash and travellers cheques are best taken in US Dollars.

Passport Visa

All foreign visitors to Jamaica must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country, return/onward tickets to their country of permanent residence, and the necessary travel documentation for this next documentation. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Jamaica, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

There are high levels of crime and violence in Jamaica, especially around Kingston, and tourists should be alert, not resist in the event of attempted robbery, and avoid walking or using public transport at night. If you are self-driving do not give lifts to strangers. When travelling to or from the airport in Kingston avoid the Mountain View route. Travellers on the Hummingbird route should also be cautious at night. Avoid walking alone in isolated areas or on beaches, even in daylight hours. Jamaica is prone to hurricanes between June and November.

Tipping

Outside the all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, where tips are part of the package, visitors should tip 10-15% for taxis, personal services, room service and restaurants where a service charge is not already included in the bill. Parking attendants, bellboys and porters also expect a tip.

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