About Jamaica, Jamaica
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Jamaica's nation multi-cultural mosaic contains African, Asian, European and the Middle Eastern influences. And this wonderful melting pot has created quiet an array of customs and traditions.
Resorts will provide you will all the possible comforts and services you can dream of. But take the time to absorb the essence of these people by seeing a performance art, be it theatrical, musical or other. Dance to your heart's content during Carnival or one of the many music festivals such as the Reggae Festival. Enjoy the savoury traditional dishes with saltfish, goat, bammy or sweet exotic fruits. Get familiar with a Rastafarian's way of life.
Come and experience first hand the true meaning of the national slogan: Out of Many, One People.
Kingston Currency : Jamaican dollar Driver's License : International license recommended. Must be 25 years old and have a credit card. Jamaicans drive on the LEFT. Electricity : 110 V, 50Hz. Hotels often have 220 V. Entry Requirements : A valid passport is required. Return or onward ticket required. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the country’s Embassy for up-to-date information. GMT Time : -5 hr. Daylight savings time is not applied. Government : Constitutional parliamentary democracy. Land size : 10,991 Km2 Language : English, patois English National Airlines : Air Jamaica Population : 2,731,832 approx Religion : 61% Protestant, 4% Roman Catholic, 35% other including spiritual cults. Required Vaccines : None unless arriving from certain tropical countries, please verify with the nearest Jamaican consulate. Tourist Season : December through April
With fertile grounds and a tropical climate the land yields the most wonderful fruits and vegetables such as sweet mangoes, bananas, ackees, papayas, yams, root vegetables and other exotic fruits, most of which were brought from Africa to feed the slaves at a low cost.
The most famous Jamaican dish, or should we say preparation, is jerk. Originally this method of spicing and cooking pork underground was designed by the Maroons (escaped slaves) to hide their whereabouts since no cooking smoke was dissipated. Now chicken, fish and other food can be jerked. The unique spices were used to preserve the meat. The endemic cassava root is used to make the traditional flat bread called bammy. Fish is also fried and national dishes include spiced ackee and saltfish, curried goat and oxtail with beans.
Desserts consist mostly of fruit served with condensed milk or sweet potato and bread pudding. Some would say the famous Blue Mountain coffee is the best in the world. There is an annual Jamaica Coffee Festival held in Kingston. This country produces also fine rums and liqueurs, the best known being Tia Maria.
Culture In Jamaica, the smiling faces and warm words tell many stories of African, English, Spanish, Irish, Scottish, Indian, Chinese, German, and Syrian origins. There is an interesting pairing program called Meet the People that matches tourists and locals with similar interests. Participation is free, contact the Jamaican Tourist Board for further details.
Here you will find a creative energy that overflows into whatever we do be it visual art, writings, story telling or handicraft. Dancing is an everyday act, whether for worship, cultural celebrations, formal events and social gatherings. Reggae, Jamaica's most recognized sound is heartbeat of our people.
Religion is everywhere in and is predominantly a Christian country, with large groups of Baptists, Anglicans and Roman Catholics. It is a fact that Jamaica has the most number of churches per square mile than any other country in the world. One religion particular to the country is Rastafarianism, based on the ideal of a world free of poverty, oppression and inequality.
Geography Jamaica has interesting physical geographical features. Measuring 235 km long and 93 km at the widest point, it is located inside the Caribbean Basin. The island of Jamaica is the third largest in the Caribbean.
The landscape consists mostly of mountains with narrow and discontinuous coastal plains or plateaux. The mountain ranges go across the centre of the island and the highest elevation point is the Blue Mountain Peak, rising at 2,256 m above sea level. The land is naturally irrigated by the 120 rivers that originate in these mountains. The coastline count 1,022 km with white sand beaches on the north side and black sand beaches on the south side.
History The island was first inhabited by the Tainos natives. Then Columbus visited the island in 1494 and not long after began five hundred years of European occupation. The Spanish were the first here but in the 1650s the British captured Jamaica from them. The Spanish retaliated by freeing and arming their slaves, hoping the slaves would fight but instead they sought refuge in the island's interior. These slaves came to be known as the Maroons and they resisted colonization attempts.
During the 1700s the island was producing 22% of the world's sugar but experienced many frequent uprisings from the remaining African slaves and it eventually brought on the Emancipation Act of 1834. Plantation owners recruited cheap labour from China and India.
Finally in 1944 universal adult suffrage was adopted and the country gained independence from Britain in 1962.
Nature Creating an exceptional ecosystem, the tropical climate provides Jamaica with a diverse array of natural treasures of flowering plants and abundant wildlife. Natural Rivers, lagoons, marine parks and mineral springs recognized for their therapeutic values abound in Jamaica.
Explore all three botanical gardens. There are several smaller gardens spread all over the country and many host horticultural shows.
With more than 200 bird species, Jamaica is a bird watcher's paradise. Many can be observed at the Hope Zoo. The national bird is the Red-Billed Streamertail Hummingbird and it appears on the money and airline logo. Other wildlife includes snakes, lizards, frogs and crocodiles.
Sports Besides sunbathing and swimming you can enjoy a wide variety of water sports such as kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling. Play a game of tennis or beach volleyball, go horseback riding on the beach or you can even zip around Montego Bay's go-cart track.
Jamaican sports include athletics and soccer but the national obsession is cricket. Brought here by the British in the 19th century the game has steadily gained popularity ever since. And lets not forget the famous bobsled team.
Banks & Money
Foreign currency can be exchanged for Jamaican dollars at the larger banks or the accredited exchange bureaus of the country. Usually the hotels will also make the exchange but at a lesser rate of exchange. There are also exchange bureaus at the Montego Bay and Kingston airports for all international flights.
Major credit cards and the travellers' cheques are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants and businesses.
Climate Mountain breezes and northeast trade winds create a pleasant year round climate. You will find a tropical climate at sea level and temperate climate in the interior mountainous region of the island. The average temperature oscillates between 19C and to 32C. Of course the higher the altitude the cooler it will be.
There are two distinctive rainy seasons: the first from May to June and the second from September to November. You may experience short but refreshing afternoon tropical showers all year and bring a sweater for the evening during the winter months.
For temperatures charts please refer to your destination of choice.
Communication You will find an excellent worldwide telephone service. The country code for Jamaica is 876.
Internet Cafes and most hotels will provide Internet access for a small fee. The mail service is reliable enough. Jamaica is also very proud of its three daily national newspapers.
Health There are no required vaccines to enter Jamaica (unless arriving from certain tropical countries) however precautions do need to be enforced. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.
The most common illness is the traveler's diarrhea (turista), usually showing up on the third day.
Drinking water in Jamaica is purified and filtered by modern methods and is safe to drink.
Official Holidays January 1 - New Year's Day March/April - Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday May 23 - Labour Day August 1 - Emancipation Day August 6 - Independence Day End October - Heroes Day December 25 - Christmas Day December 26 - Boxing Day
Unofficial holidays include: February 6 - Bob Marley Day March/April - Carnival
Safety Gang violence and shootings occur regularly in inner-city areas of Kingston but tourist resorts are safe. However as a tourist you are more likely to be a target of petty crime. Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels and ensure that your lock hotel door or your rented car. Carry your wallet and camera discreetly.
It is important to know buying or carrying any type of drugs in Jamaica is ILLEGAL and searches are done at airports prior to departure.
Shopping Bring an extra suitcase, your bargaining skills and head for the nearest craft market. Some typical handicraft includes mahogany sculptures, batik summer clothes and various leather goods. More souvenirs like beaded jewellery, hand-sewn embroidery and straw accessories abound.
Gastronomical souvenirs vary from premium Jamaican rums, liqueurs, Blue Mountain coffee and of courses jerk spices and the Pickapeppa sauce.
Taxes & Tips The General Consumption Tax (GCT) tax of 17.5% is applied to goods and services. Hotels usually include a service charge of 10% to 15%. Restaurants accept the same 10% to 15% tipping rule. Tipping is also customary for bellmen, doormen, porters, tour guides and taxis.
The departure tax of around JA$1,000, per person, is usually included on your plane ticket but if not added it will be payable at the airport, please verify.
Transportation Daily international flights arrive at the two international airports in Jamaica and domestic air services are available. Many cruise ships depart from Jamaica as well.
Taxis have pre-established rates and buses services are available on a city and national level. Car and motorcycle rental desk can be found at the airport, in some hotels and in the city. When crossing the street or when renting a vehicle please remember that Jamaicans drive on the LEFT.
Jamaica Top Hotels
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Montego Bay is the capital of St. James Parish and the second largest city in Jamaica by area and the third by population (after Kingston and Spanish Town). It is a tourist destination with duty free shopping, cruise line terminal and the beaches. The city is backed by picturesque low mountains. Popular beaches include Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach, home to an amusement park. Today, Montego Bay is known for its large regional hospital (Cornwall Regional Hospital), port facilities, second homes for numerous upper class Jamaicans from Kingston as well as North Americans and Europeans, fine restaurants, and shopping opportunities. The coastland near Montego Bay is occupied by numerous tourist resorts, most newly built, some occupying the grounds of old sugarcane plantations with some of the original buildings and mill-works still standing. The most famous is the White Witch's Rose Hall which now features a world-class golf course.
Negril is a small but widely dispersed beach resort town located across parts of two Jamaican parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. It is famous for its 7 miles of cool, white sand beaches and another 7 miles of 40' cliffs. One of the most beautiful towns in Jamaica, it has a more laid back atmosphere than that of Montego Bay and is more touristy than Ocho Rios. When you stay at a hotel on the beach you are literally on the beach when you walk out of the beachside of your hotel. You have probably never seen water this clear or warm. You will be amazed at how far out you can walk in the water before it gets up to your neck. The water is gentler and the sand is whiter(smaller grained aka softer) the farther down(away from town) you are. The end of the beach down by the all-inclusives is the whitest.