Travelling to Jamaica for the First time? 7 things you should know.

I am from Toronto but my parents are from the beautiful island of Jamaica. I visited my Granny there when I was a little girl. now going back as an adult, it’s a completely different experience. I will tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly as much as I can remember it. The last time I travelled to Jamaica was back in 2012 February. I plan to go again January of 2013.  So here are the things about visiting Jamaica, I want to prep you for.

The Jamaican Currency

Jamaican currency

The Jamaican currency was very confusing for me. I know with time I would get used to it, but I found it confusing. First of all it took some time for my brain to accept it as real money, and secondly the conversion is so wide that, that in itself makes it more difficult. There is some good news though..

  • In Jamaica you can use American Currency
  • In Jamaica you can use Canadian Currency
  • Yes, they accept all 3 currencies everywhere

So What is the exchange rate?

  • It is roughly $1 Canadian dollar = $100 Jamaican Dollars
  • …$10 Canadian dollars = $1000 Jamaican Dollars etc

If you keep that in your head, it helps a lot. Spending money is something that must be done anywhere we go….learning how to convert Jamaican currency in your head before you buy something, will lessen the time spent making the “I am confused” face.

No Payphones at the  Jamaican Airport

I mentioned this in a previous blog post. unfortunately there are no payphones at the Jamaican airport. So if you think you are going to step of the plane and call a cab, or call a friend to come and pick you up, or make reservations for a Jamaican hotel, think again. No payphones. No phone calls. This was really hard on us…it was late at night…and we had to find a hotel. You will probably have to ask to borrow someones cell phone if you plan to make any phone calls from the Jamaican airport.

Expect to get overcharged

If you are just stepping of the plane, taking a taxi for example, expect to get overcharged. That is just the way it is in Jamaica. The good news is, Jamaican living is much less expensive than Canadian living so, what they call “overcharging,” is what we call “normal price.” That is a silver lining right?

Jamaican Danger!

Many people will warn you that travelling to Jamaica is of high risk. Well, it’s not that simple. Doing anything in life involves some risk. It’s a matter of knowing how to do it to minimize the risk. I have heard stories of foreigners getting hurt while in Jamaica. But I am a foreigner and I made it to Jamaica and back to Canada. And I went to many places alone without a problem.  So here are my Recommendations.

If you are a foreigner there are some dos and don’ts to visiting Jamaica.

  1. Dont wear your best clothes – Jamaicans love name brand clothing, its best not to entice them.
  2. Don’t wear expensive Jewelry – Same thing as above.
  3. Travel in Groups – Just makes a person think twice.
  4. Don’t flash your wallet or Money in Public – Just carry what you need, and nothing more. Use the bank machine, that is what it is there for.
  5. Don’t get high or stoned – Seriously some Jamaican people may see you as high or stoned as an opportunity
  6. Only take the taxis with the “Red License plates” – These are registered.

I hope this article doesn’t scare you. Again, I visited Jamaica, and I am back home safe and sound. I love Jamaica so much that  I am moving there in 2013. So, people do survive.  I just want you to be prepared if it is your first time.

The customs Line up in Jamaica

line up in jamaican airport

I feel like this is worth mentioning because it is one of the things I encountered that I didn’t expect, that kind of upset me. My flight arrived in Jamaica at 8:15pm Saturday night. I thought I would jump of the plane and straight into Jamaican fun. Um no. Not so fast. When we got off the plane I noticed that some of the people were running. Yes! Literally running. Later when we were stuck at the back of the line, I found out why. It’s because you have to go through customs to get out, and if you don’t run you have to wait like 45 minutes in that Jamaican airport heat. In case you are wondering, there was no A/C. That made waiting a real chore.

One more Important thing… (customs form)

I want to mention this cause I was verbally chewed up for not understanding…there is a little form they will have you fill out on the plane before you go through Jamaican customs once you land. This paper from what I can remember, will ask you if you are carrying alcohol, if  you have plant life…crazy questions. Here is the zinger. The little tiny piece at the bottom…you are actually expected to keep it with you for your whole trip. Yeah weird I know. I could not find mine, so at customs, exiting Jamaica to come back to Canada, they gave me a new one. The problem was the customs lady had such a deep Jamaican accent that I couldn’t understand her. I said “I am sorry I don’t understand.” She then became impatient with me and spoke in a deeper Jamaican accent. I found this experience to be humiliating. So, keep this silly little paper with you, so you can enter the Jamaican customs, to go back home, without a problem.

Jamaican Men and Women

Jamaican women

Jamaican men and women, living in Jamaica, are sexier than you can imagine. It really

Jamaican man

is the truth. You might find yourself having to clean drool from off your shirt. They are mighty fine. The funny thing is. They will want you too. Nobody really pays that much attention to monogamy down there as we do in the west. Depending on your reasons for going, this may be a good thing.

I really love Jamaica. every time I think about it I feel so happy inside. I cant wait to breathe the Jamaican air again. I will share as much as I can with all of you, the next time I travel. As we Rastafari say. Jah Bless.

Visit my other blog Jamaican Rastarfari blog to learn more.

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Posted on November 29, 2012, in Jamaica Culture, Jamaica Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Horrible terrible article, this is utter garbage, where did you get it that we will steal people’s clothing? Jamaicans treat foreigners far better than we treat each other (though that’s not bad) and everything isn’t overpriced in Jamaica, I guess had you lived here more than just visiting you would see how badly you are misleading the few visitors that happen upon your site

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    • I agree…Jamaica is very safe.
      I am not sure where this fear of Jamaica came from(must be before my time) but its safe(& Fun)
      ….I have vacationed in a few parts of Jamaica…Kingston was my favorite. Kingston has a great
      night-life…I went to the market in downtown Kingston and that was an adventure believe me!!!
      Once I spoke, the locals immediately knew I was foreign and they immediately said to me welcome to Jamaica with a big smile on their face…they ask me if I was enjoying my trip and everyone made some suggestion of the places I should visit on my vacation….I GOT NOTHING BUT LOVE mon!!
      All that said, I use use the same common sense I use back home in the USA…I am not going to advertise my money and be a flashy fool. That would get you robbed anywhere. Plus why would I want to hang out in a Jamaican ghetto community if I do not hang out in an American ghetto community.
      You have good and bad areas, stick to the good areas in jamaica(& anywhere else in the world for that matter) and you will have a GOOOOD TIME!!

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  2. I loved my trip t Jamaica. Just be careful of the men and to some degree the women. They will ask you to buy them things, ask for money and get upset with you if you don’t. They will accuse you of not trusting them. The resort staff are the worst I have seen in Jamaica. Just be aware and use common sense!!

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  3. Norrah-Jan Wallachy

    I am going to Jamaica for my first time eva. im from Canada, we trust, love and respect everyone equal. I am sure I will have the safest most beautiful time of my life. I look forward to meeting the real people of their island. we are renting a car to see the real Jamaica. booking in anywhere to lay ours heads when we tire.I am looking forward to meeting you Jamaica! Love NJ! see ya when I get there this Christmas!

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