Top events in Jamaica

April
18

For those who enjoy getting their feet wet, or just feeling the spray from the safety of a harbourside bar, Jamaica’s Easter Regatta held, in...

May
01

The only international literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean, Calabash was founded in 2001 by novelist Colin Channer. Over 30...

July
01

The ultimate celebration of this quintessentially Caribbean cooking technique is the Portland Jerk Festival held every July 4th, when the...

Sunset, Jamaica
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Sunset, Jamaica

© 123rf.com / Byron Moore

Jamaica Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

10,991 sq km (4,244 sq miles).

Population

2.9 million (2013).

Population density

264.7 sq km.

Capital

Kingston.

Government

Constitutional monarchy. Gained independence from the UK in 1962.

Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented locally by Governor-General Patrick Linton Allen since 2009.

Head of government

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller since 2012.

Electricity

Usually 110 volts AC, 50 Hz, though some places use 220 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style flat two-pin plugs (with or without a grounding pin) are mostly used.

The third-largest island in the Caribbean is also one of the most colourful. Idyllic white sand beaches and vibrant tropical blooms sit on a backdrop of blue mountain peaks. As the adopted home of the Rasta, Jamaica is also a riot of red, gold, and green.

Renowned as the birthplace of Bob Marley, reggae remains at the island's musical heart. Rice-and-peas, rum, coffee and cricket are its soul. Excellent tourist facilities and attractions range from leafy parks to handsome colonial towns and neon-lit nightlife. Negril and Montego Bay are Jamaica's two main coastal resorts, attracting tourists with exquisite sands, lively clubs, fine restaurants and world-class golf. Laid-back Negril boasts 7 miles of beach, while sizzling Montego Bay boasts the reputation as party-town.

Venture a short distance along the coast to discover 'the real Jamaica', amidst street markets of ackee, yam and breadfruit and vendors hawking kulu kulu rum. Explore the sleepy fishing villages of Treasure Beach, Port Antonio and Oracabessa which offer a glimpse of Jamaica's quieter side. Music is inherent to Jamaica, be it roots, rock or reggae and in Kingston, the island's spirited capital, grand Georgian plazas and elegant mansions are serenaded by soca rhythms and the pulsating buzz of the city. You’ll soon be seduced by the rhythm of life on this famous paradise island.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley's death on 11 May 1981, with many celebrations expected in honour of the iconic singer.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 01 March 2015

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

Crime levels are high, particularly the capital city Kingston. Gang violence and shootings are usually confined to inner city neighbourhoods, including West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town and certain parts of Montego Bay. 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.

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.

Local travel

The Jamaican police may impose curfews at short notice for specific towns or areas. 

Travelling from the airport

There have been outbreaks of violence in the Mountain View area on one route from Norman Manley International Airport into Kingston. Avoid this route and use the alternative signposted Humming Bird route via South Camp Road instead.

The British High Commission has 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.

Road Travel

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.

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.

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