An irrepressible energy seems to infuse every part of Jamaica – and we’re not just talking about reggae. From the captivating colours of the coast, with its white sands, turquoise waters and blue skies. To the intense flavours of the food (and potent rum cocktails). But away from the bustling shores around Kingston and Montego Bay, you’ll discover a more laid-back Jamaica. One where luxury resorts sit among rugged scenery and historic towns – rewarding those who step off the beaten path.
- Capital city: Kingston
- Currency: the Jamaican dollar (J$). Coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 20 dollars, and notes in denominations of 100, 500, 1000 and 5000.
- Cuisine: Classic Jamaican dishes include fiery ‘jerk’ chicken and pork, fried plantain, saltfish and sweet cassava. Seafood curries are also popular on the coast.
- Tipping etiquette: Tip 10-15% for good service in a restaurant – although check a service charge hasn’t been added to your bill first. Tip hotel porters and maids directly, at 1-2$(USD) per bag or per day. Some resorts have a no tip policy, so it’s best to ask the concierge.
- Saying hello: Locals most commonly speak Patois, with greetings including ‘wah gwaan’ (‘what’s going on’) and ‘whap’am’ (‘what’s happening’). Simply saying ‘hello’ is also fine.
WHEN TO GO
The busiest time to visit Jamaica is from December to March, when sunny, warm weather spells long days at the beach. June to November brings wetter weather, with chances of storms – but it’s also when some of the island’s major cultural events happen. The northeast of the island, around Port Antonio, has the island’s wetter weather, with rain showers likely year round. However, this adds up to beautiful, lush scenery and lots of outdoor activities.
In 1692, an earthquake pulled part of piratical Port Royal into the sea – you can scuba dive this ‘underwater Pompeii’ with government permission.
Top tip from SLH