Jamaica is the third largest of the Caribbean islands and the largest of the English speaking Caribbean islands. The island covers approximately 4,244 square miles (10,991 sq km) and is 146 miles (235 km) long. Widths vary between 22 and 51 miles (35-82km) The country is very mountainous; with the highest point the Blue Mountain Peak, reaching 7,402 feet (2,256 m) Jamaica abounds in fine beaches and scenic beauty, and has some 120 rivers. On August 6, 1962, after more than 300 years of British rule, Jamaica became an independent country. Today, Jamaica remains part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Montego Bay is located on the North West coast of Jamaica.
The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar. The current Exchange Rate in Jamaica is fluctuating around 128 Jamaican dollars to 1 U.S. dollar. It is best not to exchange money at the airport; their rate tends to run low. The best exchange rates tend to be at the Cambio’s (located at various spots throughout Montego Bay), banks or hotels. Do not exchange all of your money when you get to Jamaica. It’s best to exchange it as needed; you will lose money converting Jamaican dollars back to U.S. dollars when you depart Jamaica. Keep all exchange receipts. They will be required when exchanging any unused Jamaican money to U.S. money prior to departure. Most shops and restaurants accept all major credit cards. You may want to notify your credit card company in advance to be sure you are set up to access your card outside of the country.
Jamaicans speak English and speak it eloquently, but with their own musical lilt, unique sentence patterns, and some words that have survived from West African languages. When Jamaicans speak Patois, a blend of English and African, the discussion may be almost incomprehensible to the visitor at first, but in a little while you catch the rhythm and begin to pick up expressions. Proverbs and place names express the vitality of Jamaica talk: for "Mind your own business", there is "Cockroach no business inna fowl-yard"; for being corrupted by bad companions, "You lay down wid dawg, you get up wid fleas" -- and for the pretentious, "The higher monkey climb, the more him expose." Both British and Biblical place names abound -- Somerset and Siloah, Highgate and Horeb. There are Awawak towns called Liguanea, Spanish ones like Oracabessa, and entirely Jamaican names like Rest-and-Be-Thankful, Red Gal Ring and Me-No-Sen You-No-Come (If I don't send for you, don't come).
Generally, all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport when traveling to Jamaica, as well as proof of anticipated departure from Jamaica. Additionally, passport must contain one blank page for a Jamaican entry stamp. Non US citizens should contact the Jamaican Consulate for more information.
Eastern Standard Time, Jamaica does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
It’s not hard to find a taxi in Jamaica; they are literally everywhere. Official taxis have red license plates with white numbers; they are the only ones to use. Be sure to negotiate the exact cost in Jamaican currency before getting into a cab. Better prices can be negotiated with large groups. Don’t ride alone; always stick with the buddy system.
The temperature in Jamaica ranges from the high 80’s in the day to the low 70’s in the evenings. Don’t forget your sunscreen! The sun is extremely hot and, even if you tan easily, you will burn. You don’t want to ruin your spring break with painful sunburn. Jamaica’s rainy season is in May and October; bad weather during spring break is almost unheard of!
There isn’t one in Jamaica; Unlike some of our other destinations, where club attire is key, shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops will work just fine.
No worries, your blow dryers and clothes irons will work without adapters.
In some cases, a service charge will be included in your check. Always check with your server. Please be sure to tip the people who take care of you. Your waiters, bartenders and room maids are vastly underpaid and many of them rely on your tips.
Roaming charges can be very expensive. Check with your cell provider before leaving on your vacation. The best way to call home is to purchase a Jamaican Calling Card when you arrive. Additionally web apps are an excellent way to communicate to the states. Wifi is readily available at local restaurants and hotels.
Keep all medication with you at all times. Do not put it in with your checked luggage and keep it in the prescription bottle.
It is best to keep a “No Problem” mind set while in Jamaica. Nothing happens in a hurry in this laid-back country. While the Jamaicans will do anything for you, it will be on their time. Just about every local you see will offer to get you anything you want; some will stop at “no” and some will be overly persistent. Don’t get annoyed or angry. Try to keep in mind that this is a third-world country and they are just trying to make a living. Their key word is RESPECT; show some and they will undoubtedly do the same. A good way to get around without having to stop or be stopped at every vendor is to walk quickly like you have someplace to be. Don’t say things like “catch me tomorrow when I have some money,” they will remember, just be polite and say “no, thank you.”
Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is represented by a Governor-General. The island's government is patterned on the British Parliamentary System, with an Upper and Lower House. A general election is held every five years. There are two main political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party, (JLP) and the People's National Party, (PNP). A new party, the National Democratic Movement, (NDM) has emerged, although it is not represented in parliament.
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