I asked some locals what they wanted tourist to know before visiting their country!
Here is what Jo and Leisa said:
Experience a little piece of paradise on earth that is Jamaica
We are Jamaicans by birth. This, we believe, gives us enough authority to be able to give advice about visiting this super cool spot on earth. We have been to at least 13 countries so far, and although all really beautiful, nothing compares to Jamaica, and I do mean nothing.
Imagine that you have a ticket to visit the country in two weeks’ time, having been convinced by a friend who wants you to go with them. Well, imagine that you and I are good friends so I will give you the snoop on what a friend needs to know before they visit Jamaica.
Let me give you a few unbiased facts about the country first.
Introduction, including facts and geography
Jamaica is a small island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. The population is about 2.9 million. To put this in perspective, the population of Florida is about 7 times more than the population of Jamaica! Jamaica has a tropical climate with high temperatures and humid weather. As a result, the country is lush and green. It is, however, prone to damage caused by hurricanes. In Jamaica we drive on the left-hand side of the road and the currency is the Jamaican dollar. Jamaica exports agricultural products such as bananas, coffee and sugar. In Jamaica we speak Patois and English. Reggae music originated in Jamaica, and it’s most famous Reggae musician is Bob Marley. Jamaica is a huge tourist destination and over 1 million tourists visit Jamaica every year. Jamaica is very proud of its many talented sports people like Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Now I will give you the facts that you need before you go so that you can make up your mind about what to do, where to go, and what to eat while you are there. Trust me, you will have a blast. And you know how in some countries things are very different according to the season? Well in Jamaica there is very little noticeable change so it is ‘irie’ all year round. ’What is ‘irie’ I hear you ask? Well basically that just means super nice, all good.
I live in England now and when I go back to Jamaica these days, I go as a tourist. It’s different really from how I would operate if I still lived there. I think it has its pros if you have some insider information. So I’ll share with you some of the best spots to be at. There are several tourist spots in different areas, mostly along the coast where the beach is easily accessible.
Mandeville is weather wise, the coolest part of the island. It’s my new tourist spot for this reason. The rest of the island can be unbearably hot with temperatures in the high 30s (Celsius) normally. Whilst the cooler clime is the clincher for me, you might prefer to be in the ‘heat’ of things. If you travel all inclusive, then you will benefit greatly from the air conditioned accommodations. There are a few hotels in Mandeville such as The Mandeville Hotel, Glenrock hotel, and Golf View Hotel. All of these have Wi-Fi access. There are also some excellent villas. My favourite is Mountain Top Villa. It is completely secure, has Wi-Fi access, a swimming pool and really friendly staff. If you want to prepare your own meals, the facility is there for that. One of the best things is that it is very near to the town centre of Mandeville where you can get to see the real city sights, including the outdoor markets, street food vendors and sassy little children going to and from school.
If you were to ask visitors to the island about their spots to visit outside of the beach, you will hear several places mentioned quite often. Visitors from the USA and England like to visit Usain Bolt’s eatery Tracks and Records and the Bob Marley Museum in the capital city Kingston. In Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Falls and Mystic Mountain are places not to be missed. You must go back home to taunt your friends and family with a picture of you after you manage to climb Dunn’s River Fall. Beware that you most likely won’t be alone in the photograph as you would have climbed the showery terrain as part of a human chain physically and mentally cheering each other on.
Oh my mouth is watering right now just thinking of the delicacies that can be had in this beautiful island nation.
If you haven’t heard about Jerk Chicken before, I’m going to assume you have been living under a rock. This is chicken that is marinated in a spicy secret mixture and then cooked over hot coals. It is truly delectable. Pork is another speciality that is done this way too. ‘Jerk’ is a Jamaican term for meat cooked this way. There are now many ‘jerk’ festivals where people show off their skills culinary skills this way. The aroma wafting through the air is just delightful. You can learn how to make jerk sauce HERE
Whilst Jamaica is well known for jerk, another speciality also is patties. Patties are pastry encased with meat or vegetarian options. The pastry is not the regular pastry that can be found everywhere else, and it is definitely not white in colour. It has a yellow/orange tint to it which is coloured by either curry powder or turmeric. There are patty shops on most main streets. You must try patty if you do go to Jamaica. There is a definite art to eating patty. The locals have mastered the art and you can too. They are served in paper bags and are piping hot and most eat it as soon as it is handed to them straight from the oven. Be careful though. The steam from a hot patty can do lasting damage. So if you find you can’t master the art then leave it to the pros.
Most Caribbean islands have a national dish (don’t ask me why). In Jamaica, the national dish is ackee and salt fish. Ackee is a very rare vegetable which is combined with sautéed salted dried cod fish and seasonings and condiments such as garlic, onion, pepper etc. The finished dish is had with any or a combination of the following: fried dumplins, boiled dumplins, boiled green banana, boiled yam, potatoes, bammy or even bread. Ackee is very delicious but there is one thing to be careful of. Many people, including some Jamaicans have an allergic reaction to ackee. You don’t know if you will be one of them until you try. The general rule of thumb is that if you have any food allergies, you most likely will be allergic to ackees.
There are many savoury foods in Jamaica which I have not come across elsewhere in my travels. Tun cornmeal, run dung, staga back and pakasa are just a few.
There are also delicacies of the sweet kind, including: sweet potato pudding, cornmeal pudding, gizzarda, and coconut drops.
Fruits, when they are ripe, smell so good!!! There is a bountiful supply of fruits, some that I have only ever seen in jamaica. There is such a bountiful supply that some people eat just fruits (not meals) at certain times of the year. In fact there is a lovely song that when translated goes something like this: ‘I don’t eat cooked food when mangoes are in season’. Some fruits to try include: tamarind (they are quit sour), mangoes (there are many varieties), sweet sop, sour sop, apples, jackfruit, water melon (especially that grown in St. Elizabeth), june plum and star apples. There are great varieties of mangoes which grow quite easily in the tropical climate. You may be privileged enough to get a whole one to yourself or as part of a cool fruit salad medley… mouth-watering.
Most of the delectable fruits grown in Jamaica are blended or juiced to make refreshing fruit juices. When suitable fruits are hard to come by, then lemon or limes with sugar and water will do. With ice, this is a welcome thirst quencher. There are also alcoholic beverages which Jamaica is well known for including the world famous Red stripe Beer, Heineken beer Dragon stout and Malta.
Jamaica is known as one of the most churched countries in the world. Various versions of Christianity are practiced in different parts of the island with most preferring to go to church on Sundays and some on Saturdays. All churches are welcoming and offer services for adults as well as for children and other young people. It is also usual for you to arrange to have your wedding officiated at a church during your stay if you make prior arrangements.
Jamaicans are very competitive by nature, that’s really part of our genes. When Jamaicans participate in sport, they give it their all. We are not always in it to win it but for us, taking part is just as important as winning. Jamaica, like I have said is a very hot country, yet some stalwarts trained for and entered in a bobsled competition in a winter Olympic Games! They couldn’t be more out of their comfort zone, but they did really well. Their triumphs are chronicled in the movie: Cool Runnings. They did far better than some who spend their time in snow! By the way, if you are ever there when a national team (of any sport) wins a game, be prepared for a whole lot noise. We are even known to bang saucepan lids together in celebration so much so that you’ll want to join in. If you are ever there when the Reggae Boyz (national football team) win an international match, you’ll be pleased to see the whole country (even the trees) transformed into the national colours of black, green and gold! Make sure to have those colours in your suitcase so you don’t stand out or look disrespectful.
The night life in Jamaica is simply awesome! The drink, the mellowness of the sunset and the vibes from the music make for a vibrant mix. People are laid back, trusting, chatty, jovial and sincere. There are many clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants that are also open until late. In fact, some never close.
Slang talk (Get in with it and talk Jamaica)
If you want to seem to be more irie, then it’s best if you learn a few of the slangs from the island. Start off with
‘Waa gwaan?’ – a greeting translated as ‘what’s going on?’. It just means how you are.
‘Wa you name?’ –what’s your name?
‘Weh you come from?’ – Where are you from?
Places to stay
The most popular tourist areas are Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay, Negril and some areas in Portland. The beach is easily accessible in most parishes.
I would suggest that you go to a site like Expedia to see other customers’ reviews before you make a final choice. Be mindful though that a few people are extra fussy (or pretend to be) and find faults with any and everything. The venues, grounds, and rooms are usually very well maintained. Staff is friendly and welcoming but not overly so. Here are a few pics to whet your appetite.
A word of warning
Yes, Jamaica is Paradise, so to speak. But just as you would not turn up in a new community in any country and call unwanted attention to yourself, you should not do that in Jamaica. Take care to keep yourself and your possessions safe. Do not go off with someone you just met. If you are in an all-inclusive hotel, it is, honestly, the safest place to be. You may not get much of a chance to hang out with the locals in their setting, but that is fine. You will learn about the culture of the country by way of the cultural presentations put on by your hotel. If anyone tells you that it is safe to walk around the streets on your own, they are not being truthful.
Your next holiday could very well be in Jamaica. Aren’t you excited? The advice given here is current, up front and honest. You will have a blast eating the food, soaking up the sights and sunshine while experiencing all the very best that life there has to offer to a tourist. If you have any questions still, don’t hesitate to give the girls Jo and Leisa at https://joleisa.com a buzz. They’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Jo and Leisa are the owners of Joleisa.com, a frugal lifestyle blog. They are teachers and authors who hail from Jamaica, but now live in England. They have been blogging for over a year and are proud parents of three teenagers. Follow them on social media here:
Thank you Jo and Leisa for contributing! If you would like to write your own guest post from a LOCALS point of view please email or contact me through my social medias!
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Chasa is a travel blogger who has been writing since 2016. She has traveled domestically and internationally since 2013 and resides in the state of Alabama, where she pursues her passion for helping people see the beauty in other states and countries through her own accounts.
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