Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Jamaica
Get the real flavor of Jamaica through interactions with the friendly locals at shops, restaurants and bars.
Bring some cash. Some places take credit cards and some do not. In Jamaica some ATMs issue only Jamaican dollars, some issue only US dollars and some issue either currency (you need to specify which one you want).
Rules of the road and local motoring etiquette are different. Jamaicans are very expressive with their horns. Polite beeps (a couple of taps) can mean “Hello”, “Thank You”, “Pay Attention” or “Let me pass”. Angry beeps or beeps expressing annoyance are longer and can mean you’re taking too long to react to a green light, make a turn or you’re holding up traffic. The horn is a form of communication, so please do not get angry or take offense when you hear someone honking at you.
In the words of those who've been there before ...
I have been to almost every part of Jamaica and Seven Mile Beach is by far the best location in all of Jamaica, the sunsets are incredible, the ocean is calm, the sand is soft and white.
You can't go to Jamaica and not visit the Bob Marley Museum. Bob is a legend in Jamaica and part of their whole culture.
What is the best way to get there?
Jamaica is served by three international airports: Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, and Ian Fleming International Airport close to Ocho Rios.
Do I need a visa?
If you’re visiting Jamaica from overseas, use this site to see if you need a visa.
When is the best time to visit?
Sunseekers will rarely be disappointed in Jamaica with daytime temperatures hovering between 77-86°F (25-30°C) all year-round. November to June brings the sunniest and driest weather, ideal for lazing on the beach or partying at a festival — top events include Carnival (April), Bob Marley Birthday Week (Feb) and Reggae Sumfest (July).
Hurricane season runs from August to November, and it’s rainiest in September. However, if you don’t mind the daily showers, out-of-season travelers can pick up some good deals at the island’s resorts.
Renting a car or motorbike can be a cost-effective choice for those wanting to explore multiple destinations. A 4WD is recommended if you’re heading out of the main towns, where roads are often unpaved and full of potholes.
Knutsford Express operate regular buses between Kingston, Negril, Ocho Rios and other destinations around Jamaica.
Minibuses and shared taxis:
Minibuses and route taxis (shared taxis) are the most common way for locals to get around, linking towns, villages and beaches all around the country. Most have set routes, but no official timetables, so it’s best to enquire locally.
Uber and other ridesharing services are not currently available in Jamaica.
On the ground
What is the timezone?
Eastern Standard Time
What are the voltage/plug types?
The standard voltage in Jamaica is 110 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. There are two plug types — one with two flat pins and another with two flat pins and a grounding pin
What is the currency?
Jamaican dollar (JMD); US dollars are also widely accepted.
Are ATMs readily accessible?
Yes, in all large towns and cities.
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes, especially around the main tourist resorts, but you will need cash at some smaller shops, restaurants and markets.
How much do I tip?
Tipping is not obligatory in Jamaica, however, a 10-15% tip for exceptional service is always appreciated.
Restaurants: Some will add a 10% service charge as standard.
Hotels/resorts: A US$1-2 tip for the bellman and housekeeper is appreciated.
Tour guides: 10-20%
Taxi drivers: Drivers do not expect tips in Jamaica, but it’s nice to round up the fare. If drivers are particularly nice or helpful, 5% will suffice.
Are there local customs I should know?
The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 18 years old.
Marijuana use, sale and possession is illegal in Jamaica. Although steps have been made towards decriminalization, you will be fined for being in possession without a medical prescription.
Drive on the left:
If you hire a car, be aware that Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road. Similarly, when crossing the road, be sure to look to the right.
Keep your clothes on!:
Topless sunbathing is not generally acceptable in Jamaica and while you may find it’s tolerated at some resorts, it’s best to do as the locals do and keep covered.
Jamaica’s tap water is drinkable in all of the main cities and resorts, so bring a refillable water bottle.
Learn the local lingo:
Jamaica’s official language is English, but it’s often mixed with Jamaican Patois and is full of words and phrases unique to the island.