WHAT LANGUAGE IS SPOKEN IN JAMAICA?
Jamaica's official language is English, although Patois is the dialect most Jamaicans use on a day to day basis among themselves, or with long time visitors.
WHAT TIME ZONE IS JAMAICA IN?
Jamaica falls under Eastern Standard Time.
WHAT ARE THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURES DAY AND NIGHT?
Temperatures remain fairly constant year round on the West Coast. Mid to high 80's up into the low 90's by day, nights drop down into the mid to low 70's most months. December through February may drop a little bit more, prompting some people to feel a need for a light wrap if outdoors. Humidity is highest August-October.
HOW OFTEN DOES IT RAIN?
Jamaica is in the tropics, so rain can be a frequent visitor to the island. You may encounter some days when rain does not occur, but for the most part, expect it and enjoy it! Tropical rainstorms are most often intense, brief (only and hour or two long) and can bring a cooling relief from the humidity. Often referred to as "liquid sunshine" the rains are what keep the island so lush and green.
WHAT CLOTHES ARE SUITABLE?
Think light - as in lightweight, drip-dry cotton separates (shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, skirts or sarongs.) Sandals, bathing suits, and a hat to will be your typical daily attire. You could survive by night in the same type clothing, but you may want to pack a set of eveningwear. No glitter, sequins or coats and ties in Negril! Just a pair of trousers and collared shirt for men, a dress or skirt for the ladies. If you're planning to do any hiking, you may want to throw in a pair of sneakers, and many people bring water socks if they're going to be doing any snorkeling or climbing on rocks when on a day trip to the waterfalls.
WHAT CURRENCY IS USED IN JAMAICA?
Jamaican currency is called the Jamaican dollar, or "J" for short. It comes most often in bills (1000J- 500J-100J-50J-20J-10J) although there are also some coins.
CAN I PAY WITH US DOLLARS?
Just about everyone will accept US dollars in place of Jamaican currency. The problem may be in getting change. Not all businesses, especially the smaller ones, will have enough change in US currency, and will need to give you Jamaican dollars instead. There should be no problem with this - just be sure to check and see what the current conversion rate is, and whether or not the shop will give you the same rate, or close to it.
Traveller's checks can be cashed in any bank or cambio; there most likely will be a small fee to do so. Large hotels and tourists restaurants will often accept credit cards (Mastercard and Visa), and some banks have ATM machines, although the money given will be in Jamaican dollars.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT CONVERSION RATE?
The currency fluctuates minimally on a month to month basis, although it seems that recent years have found the Jamaican dollar falling steadily, and the US dollar going farther. Check the following site (or one of your favorites) for the current conversion rate at the time of your departure: http://www.xe.net/ucc www.xe.net/ucc
WHERE CAN I CHANGE MONEY?
Banks (open Monday-Friday) and Cambios (open Monday -Sat and sometimes Sunday) will give the best rate of exchange, but the hotels will also change money for you, although the rate of conversion is often lower.
ARE CABS ALWAYS AVAILABLE?
"Cabs like sand" is a Jamaican phrase to explain the fact that you will never lack the opportunity to catch a ride. It is usually advised that you use the red plate cabs because they have comprehensive insurance and a license for their route. Be sure to verify the price of where it is you plan to go before you get in the cab for your ride.
IS THERE CAR RENTAL AVAILABLE?
There are rental agencies in Negril for both cars and motorcycles/scooters. Prices can seem high, running $50 or more per day for a car. There will be a deposit that is refundable providing there is no damage to the vehicle when it's returned. Check and notate any current damage (nicks, scratches, etc.) with the owners before you leave the lot. Motorcycles currently go for about $30 per day, scooters for $20. To rent a car, you will need your current driver's license and be 21 years of age or older. Driving in Jamaica is done on the left, with the driver sitting on the right hand side of the car.
IS THERE A PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM?
Minivans travel the same routes as cabs, but for far less money - however, they are most often used for trips to the surrounding areas, rather than just in and around Negril proper. They can be most easily boarded at the car-park on Sheffield Road close to the Negril Police Station. Timetables and the number of passengers squeezed into the vans often depend on the whims or needs of the driver.
There is also a small aerodome where shuttle planes can be booked that will take you to airports in the main tourist towns (Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Kingston.)
IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER IN NEGRIL?
Jamaica's water is perfectly safe to drink, no need for boiling, but bottled water is also sold at the tourist grocery store in town (Hi-Lo Grocery Store) for those that prefer it.
WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL JAMAICAN FOODS?
Breakfast usually consists of ackee and saltfish (often compared to scrambled eggs with shredded salted cod), accompanied by boiled green bananas, fried or boiled dumplings, and Johnny cake (a fried sweetened bread). You may also encounter cornmeal porridge, and of course, a variety of local fruits in season. Blue Mountain coffee is available, and is considered by many to be one of the world's finest coffees.
Lunches and dinners will just about always have chicken or fish on the menu, or stewed beef, curried goat, and soup. Side dishes may include calaloo (similar to spinach) or cabbage, and "rice and peas" (rice and red beans cooked in coconut milk).
WHAT KINDS OF RESTAURANTS CAN BE FOUND IN NEGRIL?
Food establishments range from small snack and pastry shops to small local eateries to large tourist restaurants. Filling snacks of patties (pastry wrapped around a meat or vegetable filling, then baked or fried), bun & cheese (sweet bun and processed cheese wedge) or jerk chicken are readily available and considered "fast food" for those on the go. Restaurant fare varies, and one can find French, Italian, Chinese, and American cuisine, although all come with a Jamaican twist.
IS ONE ALLOWED TO DRINK ALCOHOL IN PUBLIC?
You may walk on the beach with a drink, although it is not advisable to do so on the street. You will need to keep your cup or bottle with you when done, and dispose of it in the proper trash bin, which is not always easy to find. Being drunk in public is considered "low class" and not something you will often see among the local population.
IS IT EASY TO FIND PHONES OR COMMUNICATE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD?
Many hotels have a phone in the room, and all will have a phone at the main check in desk you could use. Check the service charge before making a call, most hotels have high rates. Public booths could be used if one has a Jamaican phonecard. These can be purchased in town, Negril has a call center in the ValueMaster shopping complex and one down on the West End, where you can purchase a phonecard, or have a call made for you - once the connection is complete, you are directed to a phone and pay in cash when the call is over.
Internet cafes or centers are opening up around Negril - just ask and you will be directed to one. Here, you can send and receive email, send or receive faxes, make phone calls.
WHAT TOURIST ATTRACTIONS DOES NEGRIL OFFER?
The main attraction is the 7-mile white sand beach and the translucent waters. Day and night, there is always something to do on the beach or at anyone of the many beach bars and open air cafes.
Moving down to the West End, the beach gives way to limestone cliffs and more places to investigate. A popular activity in this area is cliff jumping from places such as Pirate's Cave, Pickled Parrot or Rick's Caf . Sunset watching is popular in this area too - as Negril is the most western part of the island, the sunsets are unobstructed and often quite stunning.
The Negril Point Lighthouse, built in 1894, marks the farthest western point, stands over 100 feet high, there will always be someone on the premises who, for a small fee, will let you climb to the top, or take you on a tour of the grounds.
Day trips can easily be arranged to Roaring River and cave, Mayfield Falls, the Appleton Rum Estate, Black River Safari, Lover's Leap, Treasure Beach, Y.S. Falls, and more.
ARE THERE MUSIC EVENTS IN NEGRIL?
Nightlife happens seven nights a week in Negril. Live music can be found on a rotating basis at Alfred's Ocean Palace, Risky Business, DeBuss, and Roots Bamboo. Music ranges from reggae to dancehall tunes; all on open air stages, with plenty of sand to dance in, the sound of ocean waves gently lapping the sand, just steps away. For those who prefer recorded music, Compulseion Disco pumps hard-core dance tunes Wednesdays and weekends. Occasional folkloric shows, fire-eaters, limbo dancers and jugglers also pepper the night scene. Big name reggae artists perform seasonally, in and around town.
Ask, and you'll be pointed in the right direction.
WHAT SPORTS ARE AVAILABLE IN NEGRIL?
Watersports abound in Negril. Take your pick from snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing, jet skis, sailboats, kayaks, parasailing. Crawl out of the water and indulge in volleyball, basketball, soccer, bike riding, and horseback riding. Play a round of golf at the Negril Hills Golf Resort. A day-pass from a resort fitness center will allow you to get in a game of tennis or work out in the gym.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO SUNTAN TOPLESS?
Although you will not find Jamaicans engaging in this activity, in front of some of the beach hotels, you will find topless sunbathing acceptable. Some hotels have a totally clothing optional beach.
ARE THERE ANY DANGEROUS ANIMALS IN THE SEA?
If snorkeling or diving, you may spot an eel or barracuda, but they will only bother you if you bother them first! Occasionally you may spot a nurse shark but they are harmless. Spiny sea urchins can hide in sea grass and along the cliffs and reefs, the spines are painful if you step on one of these creatures. Many people advise wearing watersocks. If a spine does lodge in your foot, remove the spine and have a local tell you about the ammonia cure for stopping the pain. Jellyfish are most often spotted in harbors on the north coast rather than in Negril.
WHAT IS THE SHOPPING LIKE?
Shopping is available from craft stalls, both on the street and at the two craft markets. Something to catch your interest will also be found in tourist souvenir shops, and duty-free stores. Woodcarvings, straw goods, indigenous art, perfumes, watches, and jewelry are available. One can also buy an array of cooking spices and sauces, Blue Mountain coffee, rums and liqueurs, and cigars. Jamaican music is available on CDs or cassette tapes.
IS THERE A SHOPPING CENTER NEARBY?
There are three shopping centers in town. On Norman Manley Blvd. (the beach road) - the newest center to open is Times Square. The complex is comprised of duty-free specialty stores. At the roundabout in the center of town, one can find the ValueMaster grocery store, fruit stalls, the Cable & Wireless Jamaica communications center where phone cards may be purchased, and other small shops. In the Hi-Lo Shopping center (on the road towards the cliffs, one will find an arcade with more gift shops, a large air-conditioned grocery store, outdoor eateries, a travel agent, two banks, and a video checkout center.
ARE THERE DOCTORS, OR IS THERE MEDICAL SUPPORT IN NEGRIL?
The Negril Minor Emergency Medical Clinic always has a doctor on staff if needed. Payment may be made in cash or with credit card. There is a small hospital 25 minutes away in the parish capital of Sav-la-mar. Pharmacies can be found in different shopping centers in Negril, although it is best if you bring your own prescriptions with you.
No injections are needed before entering the country, unless, within the past six weeks before reaching Negril, you have just returned from Asia, Africa, Central or South America, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or Trinidad and Tobago.
IS THERE ANYWHERE TO BUY CAMERA EQUIPMENT AND FILM? CAN FILM BE DEVELOPED IMMEDIATELY?
Almost all the tourist gift shops sell film and camera batteries. Disposable and underwater cameras are also available many places if you find yourself needing one. Same day, or next day processing is available at two photo centers if the timing is right.
ARE THERE ANY DANGEROUS ANIMALS TO WORRY ABOUT?
Mosquitoes are not usually dangerous, but they can definitely be a nuisance. Avoid being bitten by carrying and wearing a GOOD repellent - bring it with you! Apply it liberally in the early evenings or after rain. There has not been a malaria outbreak on the island for forty years, so pills are not necessary. Mosquito coils can be purchased anywhere, and burn in your room like incense, they are highly effective. If you have a net and want to bring it with you, you may find a way to hang it.
Sand flies are present the beach at dusk- they are basically invisible but leave a long-lasting, itching bite. The mosquito repellent should work on these creatures also.
There are no poisonous snakes in Jamaica, but if hiking, or involved in an activity that would have you turning over rocks or rotted wood, watch out for the "forty-legs" centipede - long, ugly, and capable of inflicting a nasty bite.
CAN I BRING MY DOG/PET WITH ME?
Animals entering Jamaica must endure a six-month quarantine period. Do yourself and your pet a favor and leave the animal at home with a trusted attendant.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT CRIMES IN JAMAICA?
Jamaica's violent image is vastly exaggerated. Much of the trouble one may hear about is restricted to areas within the city of Kingston, or in areas that tourists will never see. Ninety-nine percent of the island's visitors will never experience a moment of crime, or violence. Blue-uniformed tourist police walk the beaches and roads in Negril should you ever have a complaint. You are on vacation, but that doesn't mean you should leave your brain at home - take the same precautions you would in any foreign city .don't flaunt your money, don't walk alone in dark areas at night, don't drink and smoke and party until you are no longer aware of who you are or where you are, and you should be fine!
ARE DRUGS LEGAL IN JAMAICA?
Ganja (marijuana) is illegal to possess, use or export and tourists are just as able to be prosecuted as Jamaicans are. If you are going to smoke, be discrete, and do NOT travel with it if you move around on the island. Life is too short to experience an anxiety attack in one of the many routine roadblocks that appear on the Jamaican roads.
Cocaine is another drug of choice for many young tourists, but it too is illegal - the same rules for ganja apply to this drug too.
If not one to indulge in drugs, simply say "No thank you" when approached and keep walking.
WHAT ELECTRICITY IS USED IN JAMAICA?
The island uses 110 volts, although a few hotels also having 220 volts. Take your own adaptor if you are not sure of what you will need or encounter.
IS TIPPING DONE, IS IT EXPECTED? WHAT IS THE USUAL PERCENTAGE?
Some restaurants automatically add a 10-15% service charge to your bill, no other tip is required in this case. Wages are exceptionally low in Jamaica, and the cost of living is high. Many employees depend on tips to feed their families. Tip for services well done, for information that has been a help, for what you would be happy to receive a tip for if you were the one providing the service. And never underestimate the power of a REAL smile and a GENUINE "thank-you". Everyone likes to know that his or her work is appreciated and noticeable.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO MARRY IN NEGRIL?
Jamaica is a beautiful island, and a popular place for weddings. You must be on the island twenty-four hours before applying for the marriage license. You must have a valid passport or certified copy of your birth certificate, if divorced, a certified copy of the decree, and if widowed, a copy of the past partner's death certificate. All documents should be in the hands of the wedding coordinator a month in advance. Your wedding can be arranged through your hotel or though Genuine Jamaica's wedding coordinator.