Come join us here in Jamaica. But, before you do, we have a few tips to help you enjoy all that we have to offer on our beautiful island paradise. We want you to get packing so we’ll jump right into our useful tips for your trip to Jamaica!
Welcome to Jamaica
Your first destination on the island is one of two airports, the Norman Manley International Airport (link to airport article) in Kingston or the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. We recommend you get a flight destined to the airport that is close to your final destination on the island. Jamaica has daily incoming flights from many airlines, it’ll be too much to list here. If you are over the age of 21 with a driver’s license, rent a car with us. The freedom to move about on your own is a good way to enjoy your trip. Driving in Jamaica doesn’t take much, but you can also make use of shuttle and taxi services provided by hotels or independent companies.
English is the official language of Jamaica and is spoken throughout the country. However, the local dialect is called ‘Patois,’ also referred to as ‘Jamaican Creole’ or ‘Patwa’ and is a form of broken English. The language can be a little complex for those unfamiliar with it. Not to worry though, locals will try their best to speak so you can understand them. They will even go as far as to begin ‘Patois’ lessons, to which you will surely enjoy, ‘yea mon.’
In Jamaica, the currency used is the Jamaican dollar (JMD). However, the US dollar is an acceptable form of payment in most places throughout the island, especially major tourist areas. You can also exchange international currencies to Jamaican dollars. The best places to do so are commercial banks, cambios, and hotels/resorts, all of which are located island wide. They will exchange US dollars as well as British pounds, Euros, and Canadian dollars. For all other currencies, we recommend strictly visiting a bank. Keep in mind that banks give far better exchange rates than your hotel will.
Some businesses will accept major international credit cards such as Visa and Master Card, however, cash is always a safe bet. ATMs are few so it is advised that you carry just the right amount of cash you may need for the day or use traveller’s checks. They are widely accepted and still a popular means of currency, but you should always inquire about the fee before cashing them. Sometimes there’s a high surcharge, which can vary from place to place.
If you wish to visit a Bank, opening hours are Monday to Friday and ranges from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A few banks are open on Saturday; hours vary between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Bear in mind that banks in Jamaica operate pretty much like anywhere else. If you plan to visit one, prepare for a long wait.
Taxes and Hotel Service Charges
A General Consumption Tax (GCT) of 16.5% is applied to all transactions for goods and services unless exempt or zero-rated. A 10-12% hotel room tax is applied and a service charge of 10%.
Normal practice is to tip 10% in restaurants, bars and hotels (although most automatically add a service charge to their bills). Tipping for luggage is around US$2 for each piece. Further tipping is not necessary unless extraordinary service has been rendered or if you feel led to.
Jamaica observes Eastern Standard Time all year round (EST). Set your watches on the flight so you may be in sync with the time when you arrive.
Jamaica has a tropical climate and is relatively sunny year-round. Whether in the high altitude regions or in the cities, it is rare not to see blue skies during the day. With an average temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, Jamaica maintains a pleasant climate. Rainy season in Jamaica normally starts around May and ends November. The coolest months are December to February, with February usually having the coolest temperatures. Expect highs in the mid-80s (F), and lows in the high 60s, depending on your location. In the higher terrains like the mountains, evening temperatures may fall as low as the mid-40s. While sight-seeing on your trip during the day, the sun can become a bit overwhelming. Along with carrying water, place a damp washcloth in a cooler and take it as well. Sunscreen is a must or you’ll be sure to get sunburn.
What to wear
For the most part, pack cool, casual clothing. It’s a good idea to include a light jacket and pants/long skirt, as evenings may get cool, especially in the months from December to February. Outside of resort areas or on the beach, a swimsuit is not considered appropriate clothing. A few businesses will post their dress code in a notice on their premises, but most require at least a shirt and shorts. Many hospitals/doctor’s offices do not allow entrance if you are dressed in sleeveless shirts or shorts. Bear in mind that you may decide to attend an event where you want to be well dressed. Pack with this in mind. Nude and topless swimming is restricted to specific areas. Ask before you shed your clothes!
Health & Security
There are some vaccines that are recommended or required by the CDC and WHO, especially if you plan on travelling to any rural areas or you plan on a lengthy stay. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Jamaica: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, and influenza. Tap water in Jamaica is safe to drink. Travellers do not have to worry about drinking bottled water when eating out, brushing teeth with water from the faucet, or avoid raw veggies for fear of getting sick. If visiting a very remote area with questionable water filtration, then bottled water is recommended.
For safety purposes, it is recommended that you avoid walking alone at night, use all locks on your hotel room door, and always be aware of your surroundings. Travel to the downtown area after dark is highly discouraged. However, other areas of the country including tourist areas, pose a minimal security threat but visitors should exercise caution at all times.
The Jamaican telephone system operates as part of the North American network. All Jamaican telephone numbers, for now, use the 876 area code which is now required when dialling locally. Telephone, fax and mobile phone networks are very good. Check out our article, Communicating in Jamaica to see just how simple it is. Wi-Fi or Internet access increases in Jamaica every year, as technology improves and is available in virtually all hotels. If a cost is attached, prices are given for Wi-Fi or Internet access under the individual hotel listings. In addition, you’ll find at least one cybercafe in each of the major resorts
We hope our useful tips for your trip to Jamaica made things that much easy for you. Here at Hummingbird, we are not just a car rental company, but a guide to making your experience Jamaica in an unforgettable one! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below. We would love to help.