What do I need to know before I go to Jamaica?
Answered by Aneisha Dobson, Associate Writer
If you’re also asking this question, then I guess that a trip to Jamaica is on your bucket list of things to do - Congrats!
And I am here to help you! But just where should I begin? There is oh so much to share about this island paradise.
Should I start by giving you a list of our scrumptious cuisines? Or, should I tell you that we have some of the best beaches in the world?
This island is so diverse, so abundant, that there is too much to put in one article.
But never mind, I'll narrow it to the 'meat of the matter', the stuff you really need to know before you get here as a visitor, six (6) of them!
Ready? Let’s go!
Top 6 things you need to know before you go to Jamaica
What we eat, how we prepare our food, the plants grown on our island, the way we build our homes, our religion, our recreational activities, our art and our music, can all be traced back to our early history.
Whether or not you’re a lover of history, you'll still appreciate that what happened in the past has all come together to shape and mold our country and its people into what and who they are now.
If you are into tobacco smoking then you should know that the Tainos, the indigenous people, brought it to Jamaica. And if you love cricket? You'll know we do too - and we thank the English for that.
Do you love Escoveitch fish? Well, thank the Spanish for that, because they brought that culinary style to Jamaica.
Read more on the Spanish contribution here.
If you enjoy listening to reggae music then you should know that several aspects, such as the usage of drums, was inspired by Africans.
You see, those of the past have helped to create the Jamaican culture that has drawn you to the island, and yes, to this website.
In addition, the remnant of our ancestor’s existence can be seen in the various historical sites scattered across the island.
As such, I highly suggest that you get to know the history of our Jamaica, learn about our foreparents and explore some of our historical sites.
Here at My Island Jamaica we have a number of insightful articles about our history and historical sites, but you can also search books and other publications relating to Jamaica's history.
Start by reading about the early history of Jamaica here.
Knowledge about our country’s roots will give you a better understanding and appreciation of who and how we are.
This popular line from the song “Hot, Hot, Hot” by The Merrymen gives you a synopsis of what the weather is like here in Jamaica.
In fact, we heavily promote our tropical climate and deem it as an asset, a blessing. It is one of the reasons why tourists flock our island all year round.
But, while we generally experience a tropical climate there are periods where it rains for several hours of the day.
Also, Jamaica is no stranger to cold fronts. During this time we dust off our sweaters and brace ourselves for the cooler weather.
However, this cold is nothing compared to other countries and it only lasts for a couple of hours, a couple days, usually felt more in evenings/nights.
But generally speaking, the temperature here in Jamaica is rather warm all year round.
Be sure to read our article on The Jamaican Climate for more information - including average temperatures by month.
Regardless of the type of activities you plan to engage in here, I’m pretty sure shopping for Jamaican souvenirs and apparel is also on your to-do-list.
As long as you’re planning to buy things then it’s good for you to become familiar with the Jamaican currency, yep the medium of exchange, the money.
When trading in Jamaica, you will hear amounts like “Fifty Dollars” or “Two Thousand Dollars”, depending on the item that you are purchasing.
But don’t panic, will gladly accommodate your US dollar - and pound, and Canadian too.
Those are the three most popular and accepted currencies in Jamaica.
In fact, some stores are geared toward tourists, thus their prices are quoted in US Dollars.
So there it’s not a necessity to convert your currency to Jamaican dollars - although we recommend it because of its high value here in Jamaica. Read more on Jamaica's currency here.
The Jamaican Language
When we Jamaicans open our mouths; it doesn’t take long for someone to realize where we’re from. Lol.
Many try to imitate our accent and pattern of speech. Big up former US President Barack Obama who proved to the world he can speak Jamaican. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out on YouTube).
When visiting a new country, an understanding of the language of the people is very important for obvious reasons. So grab a book on Jamaican Patois, listen to Jamaicans speaking (whether in video or in person) and read some Jamaican literature.
I’m sure you will be speaking like (or somewhat like) a Jamaican in no time. Read more on the language, and learn some new patios words here. Yah, mon!
The Jamaican Food (Cuisine)
Chances are, you have already fallen in love with the taste of Jamaican food at some Jamaican restaurant in your country of origin.
But, let me kindly inform you that food prepared here is 1,000 times better :-)
With our home grown herbs & spices and exceptional culinary skills, Jamaican meals will surely leave your taste buds wanting more. Some popular dishes here, and what you should probably ask for are:
- Jerked chicken
- Ackee and saltfish (our national dish)
- Rice and peas with fried chicken (a popular dish usually prepared on Sundays)
- Roasted breadfruit
- Curried goat
- Red Peas soup
- Pumpkin soup and a host of others.
And if you have a sweet tooth, then I’m sure you’ll surely love coconut drops, gizzardas, potato pudding, grater cake and Toto (which is actually coconut cake).
And if, for whatever reason, you are craving some fast food while here, like KFC, Pizza Hut, Popeye’s and Domino’s Pizza, we got those as well.
Chinese, Italian and Asian food? We have that too!
Read more about Jamaican food here. Already familiar with Jamaican food? Try some of our free Jamaican recipes here.
This leads to my final point.
Must Visit Places & Things To Do
There is never a dull moment, unless its your choice. Honestly, the possibilities here are endless. There is something here for every one, every time.
- If you like history, we have scores of historical landmarks and museums.
- If you love the beach, remember we have some of the best beaches in the world.
- If you’re a foodie, we have loads of restaurants.
- If you’re a party animal, we got loads of clubs and nightlife!
- Love reggae music? Remember we are the home of reggae!
- Are you into water parks and dozens of cascading waterfalls? Oh yes, we have those too!
And I didn't mention all the watersports, from scuba diving and kayaking to snorkeling and fishing.
Food festivals, sightseeing, sunset watching, cliff jumping and even volunteering, yes, we have them.
Start here and follow the links from there. You'll see what I mean.
I hope this helps.
Until next time…
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About The Author
A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' - since April 2007.
To date, he serves over 8,300 unique readers / viewers per day.
His efforts have earned him featured positions in local publications, including the Jamaica Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica, Carlong Publishers, as well as recognition from numerous prestigious international agencies and universities.
He invites you to join his friends list and stay updated on all the latest. You are also invited to join his exclusive patron community.