Last week we covered the basics of Jamaica: where to stay, what to know and which tours to take. There’s a lot to see and do in Jamaica, and also a lot to know. Here are a few fun facts about Jamaica that will help you plan your vacation a bit better, written by GGG’s Allie Baron who recently spent her honeymoon in Jamaica.
1. Despite the perception and abundance, marijuana is illegal in Jamaica.
You will smell it everywhere and most likely will be approached about buying it frequently. If you choose to purchase it be careful – police often will have locals sell to tourists in stings. Never smoke on the beaches or in bars – only in your hotel and even then make sure your hotel doesn’t have an anti-marijuana policy, as many of them do. You may feel comfortable enough when constantly surrounded by it but police rarely arrest or cite locals.
2. Negril is separated into two sections – the beach and the cliffs.
Although we stayed on the beach, we did pay a visit to the cliffs. The cliffs are known for cliff diving, ocean caves, and great snorkeling. Rather than going to the super-touristy and packed Rick’s Café we headed to Xtabi which is a hotel but has swimming open to the public. There is a $1.00 fee for use of the facilities but if you have a bite to eat or a drink at the bar they waive the fee. You are able to explore several caves, swim, and there is a 25 ft diving platform. As opposed to Rick’s, there were only about 15 people there and we never felt over-crowded.
3. Buy food from the roadside jerk stands and beach vendors to save money.
The food is delicious and much cheaper and more authentic than most restaurants. Definitely try the patties which will cost you about $2 each – stewed pork, chicken, fish, or soy stuffed inside a pastry wrapper with a piece of coconut bread. Fruit vendors also walk up and down and for a couple of bucks you can buy coconuts, mangos, avocados, bananas, and pineapple which they will cut up for you. Nothing is better than drinking coconut water straight out of the shell on a hot day!
4. Taxis are readily available but make sure to take an official taxi which are identified by the red license plate.
There are many gypsy cabs also available but are not insured and generally less safe. Use of meters is rare so make sure to ask the fare and negotiate before you get into the cab.
5. Some restaurants will add on a gratuity, but most do not.
Make sure to tip your service staff, housekeepers, taxi drivers, and guides appropriately.
6. Beach vendors are common but friendly.
We never felt unsafe walking around Negril and this is how we met so many amazing people. Most Jamaican’s are unbelievably friendly and we discovered lots of treasures just by talking to the locals. You will encounter tons of beach vendors whether you are walking around or lounging by the ocean. Some of them can come off as aggressive but if you are polite and firmly tell them you aren’t interested (unless you are!) they will wander along. If you choose to buy something there is some room to negotiate price but remember that you are in a developing country and be fair with what you offer.