Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

by Lexa Pennington / Oct 21, 2014 /
Lexa Pennington's picture

YAY! You're planning to visit Jamaica, land of Irie - beautiful, pleasing, excellent, or as Urban Dictionary puts it, "to be at total peace with your current state of being. The way you feel when you have no worries."

People have long headed to Jamaica to relax, unwind, and be at peace.

 

Fashion model on edge of boat, man rowing, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Published in Harper's Bazaar, November 1946. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Fashion model on edge of boat, man rowing, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Published in Harper's Bazaar, November 1946. Wikimedia Commons: Toni Frissell

 

To get there with no worries, we suggest following our guide to the 7 things you need to know - so that once on the ground, you're Irie.

 

Getting There

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. On island, there are three international airports for you to fly into:

  • Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay
  • Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston (the capital)
  • Ian Fleming International Airport, Ocho Rios

Pick an airport depending on what you'll be doing in Jamaica. Most tourists land in Sangster, because of its central location. Book to Manley if you'll be traveling to the Blue Mountains or Kingston itself. Fly into Ian Fleming if you're headed to the Ocho Rios resort area, on the north coast.

 

Manley airport, Jamaica. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Manley Airport. Wikimedia Commons: wolmadrian

 

Getting In

As always, you’ll need a passport. If you’re a US citizen or permanent resident,  or a Japanese, German, Italian, or Canadian citizen, you don’t need a visa. If you’re a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, you’ll also need a return ticket and sufficient funds. Be sure to check if you’re from a different country as to what is necessary to enter Jamaica. Or, if you’re a turtle, swim in

 

Oracabessa turtle, Jamaica. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Oracabessa turtle, Jamaica. Wikimedia Commons: Banjoman1

 

Where to Stay

Honestly, it's easiest to stay in an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, such as Couples Resorts. You'll find it an easy way to get the most out of your vaction. Some resorts include just about everything - water sports, diving, snorkeling, meals, beverages, excursions, shuttles, and more.

Irie, coming right up!

 

Lime Cay, Kingston, Jamaica. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Lime Cay, Kingston, Jamaica. Wikimedia Commons: Gmanacsa

 

Money

Jamaica uses the Jamaican Dollar (JMD, J$, JA$). There are paper banknotes and both large and small denomination coins. You can spend US dollars in most tourist places, although off the tourist track, you’ll need Jamaican dollars. Be sure to calculate what it costs to use US dollars – sometimes there is a very high charge.

There are many banks throughout Jamaica, as well as ATMs (called ABMs).

Credit cards are accepted at most businesses in larger cities.

Hot tip: be sure to notify your bank and your credit cards when you travel. Otherwise, they’ll freeze your accounts for suspicious spending.

 

Jamaican $20 coins. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

$20 Jamaican coins. Wikimedia Commons: Aamsse

 

Getting Around

Jamaica has over 4,000 square miles! You can get around via taxis (look for local/route taxis over tourist taxis to save money), rental cars, buses, trains, and even airplanes. If you’re headed from one end of the island to the next, consider taking a domestic flight – it’ll save you a great deal of time.

If you drive, remember to drive on the left. Jamaica is a former British colony and as such, sticks with their rules of the road.

 

Ocho Rios. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Ocho Rios. Wikimedia Commons: Patricia Edwards

 

Language

English is spoken in Jamaica, as well as a patois called Jamaican Creole. The Jamaican people are very friendly and warm, so it’s worth it to engage in conversation, even if it takes you awhile to understand the patois.

 

Treasure beach. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Treasure Beach. Wikimedia Commons: Ikaros1975

 

Stay safe

As with anywhere you travel, be aware of your surroundings, be vague about where you are staying when asked, and stay in well-lit, well-trafficked areas. Be a savvy traveler and avoid dangerous areas. Know that in Jamaica, marijuana is illegal (although plentiful), and there is an extreme bias against homosexuals.

 

7 mile beach. From Visiting Jamaica? 7 Things You Need to Know

Sunset on the sea at Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica. Wikimedia Commons: Chaoleonard