Jamaica is the third largest of the Caribbean
islands and the largest of the English speaking Caribbean islands. The
island covers approximately 4,244 square miles (10,991 sq km) and is
146 miles (235 km) long. Widths vary between 22 and 51 miles (35-82km)
The country is very mountainous; with the highest point the Blue Mountain
Peak, reaching 7,402 feet (2,256 m) Jamaica abounds in fine beaches
and scenic beauty, and has some 120 rivers. On August 6, 1962, after
more than 300 years of British rule, Jamaica became an independent country.
Today, Jamaica remains part of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar. The current
Exchange Rate in Jamaica is fluctuating between 36 and 40 Jamaican dollars
to 1 U.S. dollar. It is best not to exchange money at the airport; their
rate tends to run low. The best exchange rates tend to be at the Cambio’s
(located at various spots throughout Montego Bay and Negril), banks
or hotels. Do not exchange all of your money when you get to Jamaica.
It’s best to exchange it as needed; you will lose money converting
Jamaican dollars back to U.S. dollars when you depart Jamaica. Use traveler’s
cheques whenever possible; it is the safest way to travel with money.
Keep all exchange receipts. They will be required when exchanging any
unused Jamaican money to U.S. money prior to departure. Most shops and
restaurants accept all major credit cards. You may want to notify your
credit card company in advance to be sure you are set up to access your
card outside of the country.
Jamaicans speak English and speak it eloquently, but with their own
musical lilt, unique sentence patterns, and some words that have survived
from West African languages. When Jamaicans speak Patois, a blend of
English and African, the discussion may be almost incomprehensible to
the visitor at first, but in a little while you catch the rhythm and
begin to pick up expressions. Proverbs and place names express the vitality
of Jamaica talk: for "Mind your own business", there is "Cockroach
no business inna fowl-yard"; for being corrupted by bad companions,
"You lay down wid dawg, you get up wid fleas" -- and for the
pretentious, "The higher monkey climb, the more him expose."
Both British and Biblical place names abound -- Somerset and Siloah,
Highgate and Horeb. There are Awawak towns called Liguanea, Spanish
ones like Oracabessa, and entirely Jamaican names like Rest-and-Be-Thankful,
Red Gal Ring and Me-No-Sen You-No-Come (If I don't send for you, don't
United States Citizens: All visitors, 16 years and older, must present
a valid passport or an original state issued birth certificate (with
raised seal), naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship
along with a valid, state-issued photo ID. No visa is required for tourists
and tourists are allowed to visit the island for a period not exceeding
six months. Underage (16 and younger) must present an original birth
certificate (with raised seal) and a valid photo ID such as a school
ID. All documents must bear the same name. Non US citizens should contact
a JTB office for more information.
Eastern Standard Time, Jamaica does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
It’s not hard to find a taxi in Jamaica; they are literally everywhere.
Official taxis have red license plates with white numbers; they are
the only ones to use. Be sure to negotiate the exact cost in Jamaican
currency before getting into a cab. A cab ride from the Cliffs to the
Beach will cost about $100 Jamaican ($2 U.S.) per person. Better prices
can be negotiated with large groups. Don’t ride alone; always
stick with the buddy system.
The temperature in Jamaica ranges from the high 80’s in the day
to the low 70’s in the evenings. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
The sun is extremely hot and, even if you tan easily, you will burn.
You don’t want to ruin your spring break with painful sunburn.
Jamaica’s rainy season is in May and October; bad weather during
spring break is almost unheard of!
There isn’t one in Jamaica; Negril is known for being the “capitol
of casual.” Unlike some of our other destinations, where club
attire is key, shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops will work just fine.
No worries, your blow dryers and clothes irons will work without adapters.
Restaurants do not include Tips in your bill. Please be sure to tip
the people who take care of you. Your waiters, bartenders and room maids
are vastly underpaid and many of them rely on your tips.
Collect phone calls to home are expensive, about $10 U.S. for every
3 minutes. The best way to call home is to purchase a Jamaican Calling
Card when you arrive. A 5-minute calling card usually costs about $200
Jamaican; U.S. it’s about a dollar a minute. Email is another
way of letting home know you’re still alive. Ask your STS representative
for Cyber Café locations.
Keep all medication with you at all times. Do not put it in with your
checked luggage and keep it in the prescription bottle.
It is best to keep a “No Problem” mind set while in Jamaica.
Nothing happens in a hurry in this laid-back country. While the Jamaicans
will do anything for you, it will be on their time. Just about every
local you see will offer to get you anything you want; some will stop
at “no” and some will be overly persistent. Don’t
get annoyed or angry. Try to keep in mind that this is a third-world
country and they are just trying to make a living. Their key word is
RESPECT; show some and they will undoubtedly do the same. A good way
to get around without having to stop or be stopped at every vendor is
to walk quickly like you have someplace to be. Don’t say things
like “catch me tomorrow when I have some money,” they will
remember, just be polite and say “no, thank you.”
Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy. Queen
Elizabeth II is represented by a Governor-General. The island's government
is patterned on the British Parliamentary System, with an Upper and
Lower House. A general election is held every five years. There are
two main political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party, (JLP) and the
People's National Party, (PNP). A new party, the National Democratic
Movement, (NDM) has emerged, although it is not represented in parliament.