I’m starting to plan my April vacation, and right now all signs point to the Caribbean as our destination; more specifically, Jamaica.
Though I’ve always wanted to go, I don’t really know much about Jamaica. Have you been? Would you recommend it as a vacation destination? Is there enough to do to keep a two week holiday interesting? I think my biggest question is, what’s the economic situation? Does the US Dollar go a long(ish) way there?
Any insight, anecdotes, whatever are much appreciated.
Guess it depends on what you mean by that. I don’t go in for the real touristy type vacations, and definitely like to get a an actual cultural feel of wherever I’m visiting. Other than though, I don’t know enough about Jamaica to know what the “real” Jamaica might entail…
I’ve been a few times. I highly recommend Negril, it’s sort of Jamaica’s “country”. It’s one of the top tourist destinations and there is a lot to do there, but two weeks does seem like a lot.
Last time, we spent the first week in Negril at an all-inclusive, then the rest of our time was exploring the rest of the island. We went to Kingston (not touristy at all) and toured Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studio, we went over the Blue Mountains and toured a coffee plantation, then on to the north side of the island to Port Antonio to the Blue Lagoon.
When I was there the exchange rate was around 40-1 for the Jamaican dollar, and yes, American money goes pretty far.
Enjoy, we love jamaica, the people, and the laid back “soon come mon” attitude.
Let me clarify - it’s not a tourist trap in the general sense. You can definitely go out exploring and it’s very safe, and you can definitely get a feel for the local culture if you leave the insulation of your resort/hotel.
We saw Ziggy Marley perform there last trip and it was amazing.
Keep in mind that drugs are illegal in Jamaica and that there are many American prisoners in Jamaican prisons on drug charges. Even if everyone seems to be smoking pot okay, just think of how much extra money that taxi driver/hotel workers/bar maid etc. can make by selling you drugs and then turning you in.
Have they come any closer to finishing that highway to Negril that they’ve been building for the past 10 years?
Negril is a longish bus ride from the airport, but I’d say it’s worth it. Sometimes the bus ride is real riot, othertimes just quiet and boring.
American money and Jamaican are both ‘dollars’ (although Jamaican dollars are also called " jays"). Make sure you know which currency is being discussed when haggling price on stuff and make sure you are getting the right change.
Some people have a problem acclimatizing to the laid back attitude. When you ask for coffee at breakfast, it might be 10 minutes or more before you get it. Hassling your waiter will do you no good, so don’t bother. You just have to be patient.
The place we’re currently looking at is in Norse Point, and from what I see so far, it’s absolutely wonderful. The cottage is directly across from Pellgrew Island (which is apparently a 5 minute swim. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to swim, maybe this will be a good time to learn?) and not far from the Blue Lagoon. Included in the place are two women who clean daily, and cook all three meals on the premises (but we have to buy the food), as well as acting as guides around the place and will accompany us pretty much anywhere we want them to go.
We’ve been looking at all-inclusive resorts as well, but for what we’re likely to do, and the amount of money we would probably spend on things like food, a private setting seems to make more sense and will give us a little bit of freedom to just decide what we want to spend our money on, instead of feeling like “We have to go scuba diving, because that’s part of what we’re paying for.” Not sure if that’s an accurate attitude, but it makes sense to me. And while I might be just daydreaming, if the women who are “assigned” to us are of the right attitude, I could see all kinds of benefits like getting a cooking lesson or getting local insight on things, and discovering things and places that you might not normally get as part of a package deal.
As for laid back, the more, the better. One of the things I’ve loved most since I moved to South Africa is the much more laid-back culture, and it’s one of my biggest draws to somewhere like Jamaica. And as for drugs, well, no worries there, there’s absolutely zero interest in that sort of recreational activity.
I spent two years in Jamaica in the Peace Corps and a lot of time in the other Caribbean islands, too. Of course you should be careful in any big city, but I happened to love Kingston (and couldn’t stand all the hustlers around Negril). I lived in Port Antonio on the northeast coast, which I think is by far the loveliest part of the island. Email me if you have more specific questions related to what you want to do and see on your vacation.
My husband and I have been there on a couple cruises. The ships stopped at Ocho Rios/Dunn’s River Falls. Of course, the cruise ship has their own tourist stuff, and there are tour buses just waiting to whisk you and 40 of your best friends to play cattle car.
Maybe we were foolish and naive, but we walked a few blocks away from the boat pier and flagged down a taxi. We told the driver that we’d give him X amount of money for a tour of where he would take his family from off island.
We had a great time! He took us to an arboreteum that had been the summer home of some producer in the '20s and then to lunch at Turtle Falls restaurant.
He drove us above Dunn’s River Falls, where they were torturing tourists. (the big attraction is climbing the falls, people get hurt, not a place you want to get hurt.)
The building was hard to place, I think it was a friend or relative’s home.
He asked if we wanted any mementos, then took us to an old man doing wood carvings. The things we got were much higher quality the the stuff in town, we paid less and we got to watch the artist at work.
We even still have his card if you’d like a referral (kidding, the last time we were there was 6 years ago. He may not even exist anymore)