Jamaica travel guide
The famous birthplace of Bob Marley, reggae and the Rastafari movement, Jamaica’s cultural offering to the world is far greater than its size might suggest. With varying degrees of success, beach resorts around the world have attempted to emulate the Jamaican seaside vibe, but once you’ve felt the sand between your toes on this Caribbean island, you’ll accept no substitutes.
But it’s so much more than a beach destination. Beyond the swaying palms and white sands lie misty coffee plantations, the epic Blue Mountains, raging rivers prime for rafting and forests alive with exotic species. It’s not all wild. Manicured parks and gardens are a Jamaican speciality and you can spot exuberant clusters of tropical blooms on any street corner of this fertile island.
At the heart of it all, though, is music. From bass-heavy beats pumping out of Kingston’s frenetic nightclubs, to harmonious choirs singing in village churches, it is in the air wherever you go. If song satisfies Jamaica’s sensual needs, food and drink tend to its soul. Culinary delights range from gourmet seafood in award-winning restaurants to street-side jerk chicken washed down with a chilled can of Red Stripe. You can taste some of the world’s best rum and coffee here, not to mention a sumptuous range of tropical fruits.
Negril and Montego Bay are Jamaica’s two main coastal resorts, with exquisite sands, lively clubs, fine restaurants and world-class golf. And then there’s Kingston, the island’s spirited capital and home of the island’s music scene, where grand Georgian plazas and elegant mansions are serenaded by soca rhythms and the pulsating buzz of the city. Sleepy fishing villages offer a glimpse of Jamaica’s quieter side, but ultimately, whether it’s high-octane adventure or slow travel you’re looking for, you’ll soon be seduced by the rhythm of life on this irresistible island.
10,991 sq km (4,244 sq miles).
2,803,362 (UN estimate 2016).
268.4 sq km.
HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Patrick Linton Allen since 2009.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness since 2016.
Usually 110 volts AC, 50Hz, though some places use 220 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without a grounding pin) are mostly used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Crime levels are high, particularly in and around certain areas of Kingston and Montego Bay. Gang violence and shootings are common, although usually confined to inner city neighbourhoods. Be especially cautious if you’re travelling to West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town and certain parts of Montego Bay, including Flankers, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights and Mount Salem. Public order incidents and demonstrations can occur in Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay. You should avoid all demonstrations. Criminals often use these events as cover for robbery and theft. You should be particularly vigilant in these areas.
The motive for most attacks on tourists is robbery. There are mobile police patrols, but you should take steps to protect yourself and your belongings. Be vigilant at all times, even if you’re staying with friends and family. Don’t walk alone in isolated areas or on deserted beaches, even during the day. Take particular care when withdrawing money from ATMs. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or wear eye-catching jewellery. Try to vary which restaurants you use. Using the same place too often might make you a target for thieves. Avoid using buses at night.
Most hotels and resorts are well guarded, but robberies can occur. Follow hotel security procedures. Use hotel safe, lock windows and doors and report suspicious activity. If you are in residential accommodation, make sure proper door locks and window grilles are fitted and consider employing a guard and fitting a house alarm. Gated and guarded compounds are normally the safest type of accommodation.
Criminals have targeted visiting British nationals and those returning to resettle permanently in Jamaica. There have been some violent incidents, including armed robbery, murder and rape. Before returning to resettle, seek advice from the Jamaican High Commission in London and the local Jamaican Information Service.
Don’t resist in the event of an attempted robbery. If you need the police in an emergency, call 119.
The Jamaican police may impose curfews at short notice for specific towns or areas.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
Travelling to and from Norman Manley International Airport
There have been outbreaks of violence in recent years in the Mountain View area on the route between Kingston and Norman Manley International Airport. You should avoid the Mountain View Avenue route during the hours of darkness and use the alternative signposted Humming Bird route via South Camp Road instead.
The British High Commission has previously received reports of British nationals being robbed when travelling to private accommodation from Norman Manley International Airport. Be especially vigilant when travelling from the airport to your accommodation.
You can drive in Jamaica using a UK driving licence for up to 6 months. If you aren’t familiar with Kingston, don’t drive in the city. If you get lost, you risk putting yourself and your passengers in personal danger. Some hire cars and minibuses don’t have seatbelts fitted in the rear. Check with the hire car company before you arrive.
Road accidents and fatalities are common. Many roads are badly maintained with poor signage. Roads in rural areas are narrow, winding and poorly lit at night. Speeding and drink-driving are common.
Drive defensively, and take great care on the roads, whether you are in a vehicle or a pedestrian. Drivers and front seat passengers must wear seat belts at all times. Keep the windows up and doors locked. Be particularly vigilant when stopping at junctions or traffic lights. Criminals are known to use techniques which distract drivers to gain access to vehicles to steal handbags and other items of value.
Motorcycle riders must wear a helmet.
Hurricanes, tropical storms and road-works can temporarily block roads. Check your route in advance.
Only use Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) approved taxis or minibuses for excursions, airport transfers and sightseeing. Don’t hail a taxi in the street and don’t share a taxi with strangers. Most hotels and resorts have assigned JTB drivers who carry photo ID and display a prominent blue JTB sticker on the front windscreen.