Jamaica Country Info – The compact Jamaica Guide

Country info FAQ

What is Jamaica and where is Jamaica located?

Jamaica is a Caribbean island that is also a state in its own right. Unlike Haiti or the Dominican Republic, the entire island is part of the national territory. Jamaica lies 145 kilometres from Cuba and is the third largest island in the Greater Antilles. In addition to the main island, the two island groups of the Morant Cays and the Pedro Cays are also part of Jamaica’s national territory. Jamaica is part of the British Commonwealth and the Queen is the official head of state.

What language is spoken in Jamaica or what is the national language of Jamaica?

The official language of Jamaica is English. However, the language spoken on the streets is often not English but Patwa. Patwa is a creole language that is spoken not only in Jamaica, but also partly in Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. It is based on English, but has an unmistakable West African flavour. Patwa is also the language sung in many reggae songs. You cannot understand it with only a normal knowledge of English. However, most Jamaicans also speak English, though many are not fluent.

The Jamaican Flag

How much time difference does Jamaica have and what time is it in Jamaica now?

Jamaica does not have a time change between summer and winter time.

According to German winter time, Jamaica has -6h time difference from Germany

According to German Summer Time, Jamaica has -7h time difference from Germany

This means when it is 18:00 in the evening in Germany, it is 12:00 noon in Jamaica (German winter time) or (German summer time) 11:00 in the morning of the same day.

What is the capital of Jamaica?

The capital of Jamaica is Kingston. It is also considered the capital of reggae.

What currency does Jamaica have?

The currency of Jamaica is called the Jamaican dollar

What do you call the people of Jamaica?

The inhabitants of Jamaica are called Jamaicans (the Jamaican, the Jamaican)

Safety

How safe is Jamaica?

The app Geosure rates Jamaica with a score of 63-78. (0 is harmless 100 is the worst possible, Germany is around 33). Kingston has a worse score than other typical tourist cities.

The Foreign Office warns against violent confrontations and assaults. In any case, we would advise you to always carry as few valuables as possible and not to wear the others obviously. Also, it is better to travel during the day and in busy places. If you get a slightly strange feeling in some areas in Jamaica, you are probably not wrong.  

Jamaica is probably not the most pleasant country for alone women. Jamaicans sometimes flirt very aggressively and act partly very macho. Although we were always travelling in pairs, Martina was whistled at and persistently called after on the street several times. We were not used to this in other countries in the region. However, there are strong regional differences here.

In Jamaica, assaults on homosexuals are reported time and again. While we have also repeatedly seen obviously gay men, especially in Kingston, homosexual persons should nevertheless take care and prefer to avoid obvious displays of affection in public.

We felt slightly less safe in Jamaica than in most other destinations in the region. However, we still did a lot of walking during the day.

The mentality in Jamaica

Jamaica has a reputation as a deeply relaxed stoner island. We didn’t get that impression – yes, everyone smokes pot and everyone can sell you weed, even your taxi driver. But Jamaicans are not deeply relaxed.

We had the impression the people are a mixture of extremely friendly and extremely unfriendly, which is sometimes a bit exhausting. Older people in particular like to chat with tourists on the street and then also give helpful tips for the region. But it also happened to us more than once that vendors completely ignored us or didn’t tell us that our food was ready at a snack bar. So it always depends on who you meet. We encountered everything from extremely obliging and helpful to money-grubbing rip-offs.

We had the impression that Jamaica is a country that is a bit overwhelmed with tourism. But of course it is always difficult when places with on the one hand great economic hardship of the locals are then turned around for the tourists, who then wave their expensive clothes and technology in front of the tourists’ noses.

You also have to remember that especially in places like Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, there are over 2000 day tourists from the cruise ships walking around on some days. It is no wonder that some locals only have annoying ATMs in front of them at some point.

Significantlymore pleasant we found all the places that are even less touristy. In Moore Town, for example, you clearly noticed that the people were insanely happy about tourists and the money was seen as a welcome source of income, but not as a matter of course. In retrospect, I must say, we almost regretted not having left more money there, for example in an inn. Because here you had the impression that people still really profit from tourism.

Flights and travel

Jamaica has two international airports: the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston and the even larger  Sangster International  Airport of Montego Bay.

Eurowings and Condor offer direct flights to Jamaica. The flight time to Jamaica from Germany is about 11h. A direct flight with Condor in our sample was available from €452 from Frankfurt am Main to Montego Bay.

The cheapest flight in our test was from Brussels with Tui-Fly, but with the Flixbus ticket from Germany already included. The cheapest flight (+bus journey) cost 174€ oneway. The travel time here was a gruelling 26h 10min from Aachen, for example. But for only €4 more, there was also a connection on the same route that took only 18 hours. It is worth comparing a little here.

Another option is to travel by cruise ship. These usually call at Ocho Rios or Montego Bay.

German holidaymakers do not need a visa for Jamaica for up to 90 days but do need a passport. If necessary, an onward travel/exit ticket may also be required. A longer stay can be applied for at the local immigration authorities for a fee.

Entry to Jamaica, experience report

Climate & Weather of Jamaica

The hottest time of year in Jamaica is June to October with highs above thirty degrees. The lowest temperatures are also above twenty degrees at night. However, there is usually a fresh breeze on the island, which makes the heat more bearable.

Of course, it also gets colder in Jamaica the higher you go. In the Blue Mountains you can climb up to 2250 metres. But even on their summits, the average temperatures are still around 13 degrees.

Although Jamaica is close to the Cayman Islands and Cuba, the weather here is again a little different throughout the year. Unlike its neighbours, Jamaica has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. Like its neighbours, it rains relatively little in Jamaica when it is winter in Europe – that is, from December to April. However, there is a second, shorter dry season in July and August. The rainy season in Jamaica is then correspondingly  in the months in between.It rains more in the north-east of the island than in the south of the island.

In addition, Jamaica, like everywhere else in the Caribbean, is in hurricane season in late summer and autumn. It officially runs from June to October. In Jamaica, the months of August and September are particularly affected.

Sights in Jamaica

Cities

  • Black River – base for river trips, lots of crocodiles!
  • Falmouth – town near a luminous lagoon. Take accommodation in the town. The suburbs by the lagoon are not nice.
  • Kingston – Capital and Reggae
  • Montego Bay – international airport and hotels
  • Moore Town – lovely little town on the edge of the Blue Mountains (day trip possible from Port Antonio)
  • Negril – Beaches and All Inclusive Tourism
  • Port Antonio – we recommend Ferry Hills
  • Ocho Rios – Tourist Harbour Town instead.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls in Jamaica

activities

  • Hiking in the Blue Mountains
  • Bob Marley Museum
  • Canoe River Rafting
  • Boating
  • Attending Reggae Festivals – In Kingston on weekends
  • Snorkelling and swimming

Beaches & Snorkelling

Unfortunately, Jamaica, like most Caribbean countries, is currently extremely affected by the algae plague. The stinking algae collect on the beaches or in large carpets. Those who want to have a nice day at the beach should therefore go to one of the well-maintained private beaches, even if they often charge an entrance fee. Be careful, in Jamaica we encountered especially many sea urchins .

Brown algae problem in Mexico

  • Bamboo Beach Club (Ocho Rios)
  • Doctors Cave (Montego Bay)
  • Frenchman’s Cove (Port Antonio)
  • Sandals South Coast (Whitehouse)
  • Seven Miles Beach (Negril)
  • Winfried Beach (Port Antonio) -Our favourite beach in Jamaica. Also has a fresh water pool. Free of charge against tip.

Transport in Jamaica

Rental car

In Jamaica there is left-hand traffic and the Jamaicans are the worst drivers we have encountered on all our trips so far ( Especially in Kingston). There are all kinds of animals running around on the streets and people occasionally walk on the side of the road and between the cars. In addition, the Jamaican police occasionally like to check the speed limits with their radar guns. The roads are usually not in good condition, but at least passable. There are often traffic jams in the cities. For us, Jamaica is a country where we would not want to drive, if only because it would stress us out far too much.

However, there are many car rental companies at the airports. The international driving licence is valid in Jamaica.

Taxi in Jamaica

Taxis in Jamaica are relatively expensive. At the airport in Kingston we had taken a taxi at one of the official counters. We found out later that the prices there are fixed. On other routes you should check the price before departure. At peak times, it can happen that you don’t get a taxi at all. Especially in the morning rush hour in Kingston, you should either order the taxi in advance or allow much more time.

Taxi Colectivo

Thecheapest way to travel in Jamaica is by taxi colectivo or shared bus.

They travel fixed routes and whoever raises their arm can get in and out wherever they want. However, the taxis do not take detours.

Colectivos can be recognised by their red number plates and the chequered pattern on the sides. Just ask around in the towns for the right route. The different routes start at different places, but are not signposted. The drivers of the other Collectivos can tell you where to go.

The collective taxis are fully loaded as far as they can, depending on the driver. In a car with five seats, four people are squeezed into the front row and six or seven into the back. Then, if there’s still room in the boot, they’ll still use that too. Children are stacked even more than adults. Safety aspects are ignored. On the other hand, the fare is very reasonable at JD$150-250.

The small buses are usually less crowded and travel further distances. Therefore, you should give them the benefit of the doubt.

However, it doesn’t always get that crowded in the taxis. Sometimes you are lucky and the only passenger. At least when you get in, you can see if you want to squeeze in. We often went with the Colectivos and there were some extremely funny rides. However, you should really see the whole thing with a bit of humour too.

Always ask for the price of a colectivo in advance, as the drivers sometimes decide to be a private taxi if you are the only passenger. Accordingly, they will try to charge you ten times the price.

In Ocho Rios and Montego Bay it was much harder to get colectivos than in Port Antonio, for example, as they are more reserved for locals there.

Buses in Jamaica

The largest and also very convenient provider of long-distance buses is Knutsford.

Here you go to the overview.

Hotels in Jamaica

Hotels in Jamaica are mostly either big all-incl bunkers in the tourist resorts or else small bed and breakfasts. There is also now a wide range of Airbnb accommodation. Prices start at around 20€ per night, but very much depend on where exactly you want to go. Especially with smaller hotels, pay attention to the facilities. For example, functioning Wi-Fi is not a matter of course.

Eating in Jamaica

The food in Jamaica takes some getting used to and is expensive. Ready-made meals in Jamaica are much more expensive than in Germany. Other food prices in the supermarket are also at least on a par with Germany – if not above. Restaurants are not exactly cheap either. For a meal, you should expect at least 7-10€ per person.

What you can get everywhere is Jerk Chicken with Rice and Beans. This is chicken grilled to dryness with dry rice and beans. In so-called jerk centres you can usually also get grilled fish. If you are lucky, you can eat freshly caught fish directly in the small snack bars on some beaches.

One food we have come to really appreciate is ackee, a fruit that tastes similar to scrambled eggs. Also green leafy vegetables are very common. We also ate grilled breadfruit for the first time – it is very dry without sauce. Also, Jamaica has what is called Titi-Apple, a fruit that tastes like rose water.

We didn’t get much of the numerous stews you read about online. However, one local raved to us that goat curry was the best dish in Jamaica.

The favourite restaurant of Jamaicans is KFC. It’s everywhere and there’s always a lot going on here.

Many Rastafarians are vegetarians. Therefore, you will find vegetarian options in many locales. However, the choice for vegetarians is not particularly varied.

One thing to remember in restaurants: If there is no price advertised, negotiate prices before you eat. Otherwise, people will overcharge you.

Conclusion: Is a trip to Jamaica worth it?

Jamaica is a very scenic country, however it is also a very poor country that struggles to cope with itself. We wouldn’t want to miss many of the experiences there, but also had the urge to tear ourselves away from places a few times. In Jamaica, we would recommend that you choose accommodation where you will feel comfortable. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a place to retreat to.

For the one week all-inclusive holiday we would definitely not recommend Jamaica. You won’t see the beautiful sides of the country there, the jetlag is too long and the price-performance level is clearly worse than in other places in this world.

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