Travel

Travel Jamaica: A 10-Minute Guide on Facts & Observations

Below is a list of random facts and observations gathered from various excursions during a week-long trip around Jamaica. Some places I visited on this trip, included: Blue Mountain (in Port Antonio), Negril (Margaritaville / Duty-Free Shopping at Times Square), and Montego Bay. For the sake of time, I have not re-arranged, organized, nor edited my notes, which were originally taken on my BlackBerry Smartphone over the course of the week. This blog post is an informative  “dump” of information that  you will likely be able to read through in less than 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Note: Most of the stats were taken via word of mouth. Double check the information using online sources if you’re looking for specific stats. This blog post will give you a ballpark idea and a generalization of what it is like in Jamaica. For a lengthier summary of my trip and experience (in paragraphs!), please see: Jamaica Travel: An Overview!

Facts/Thoughts/Observations:
– 14 Parishes: St. James (capital: Montego Bay) , Falmouth, St. Ann (Capital: Port Mariah), Annotto Bay, St. Mary, Portland parish, Buff Bay is where you ascend to Blue Mountain and you’ll pass Charles Town (Port Bay, will be at Blue Mountain and have lunch; Port Antonio is famous for Blue Lagoon and where movie stars vacation)
– from Buff Bay, Portland, is where you start going up Blue Mountain. The roads are bumpy, narrow, and winding
– Blue Mountain 7402ft high, produce the best coffee in Jamaica
– homes have metal bars, burglar bars
– lots of churches
– Exports (via ship): bauxite, limestone, sugar (can sugar)
– lots of mahogany trees
– the local markets here are like gai see in HK and farmer’s markets in North America
– local housing here reminds me of the houses in Malaysia, around KL.
– There’s a Xerox office/HQ in Montego Bay, in a nicer area of the city.
– Democratic government. General election is every 5 yrs. 2 parties: People’s National Party and Jamaican Labour Party.
– 3 international airports: 1) Kingston, 2) Montego Bay, 3) Ian Fleming International Airport *most recent (James Bond movie area)
– police stns are pained blue and white
– certain hilly areas remind me of northern India, near kasmir
– Horse racing is Wednesdays, Saturdays, and public holidays. (Trying to intro casinos, but the churches are opposing it)
– public and private school children wear uniforms
– area where lots of Spanish people live or settled?!
– aluminum pots
– banana and sugar were the first exports
coffee plantation: women do the planting, men cut off the branches. All by hand. 800 jamaican dollars (not even $10 USD) for 90lbs of the coffee berry
– coffee plantation: 1) pick the berry, 2) dump berry in water, 3) remove all the “floaters” (the good ones sink to the bottom), 4) take berry and break apart to extract the coffee bean (white color), 5) dry beans under the sun and peel off layer of skin, 6) roast coffee beans (constantly stirring them for even roast), 7) grind beans for coffee powder
– Jamaican newspaper is 50 Jamaican dollars (50 Jamaican dollar/90 ~ $0.55USD
– the island is packed with resorts and tourists. Cruise ships dock here and passengers can spend the day at a resort too, so on Wednesdays the resorts are extra packed on the beach/buffets/pools (Great day to leave for an excursion to avoid the crowds) A lot of the businesses cater to tourists — restaurants, bars, Margaritaville (owned by Jimmy Buffet), etc.
– More resorts/villas seem to be being built
– Shell and Texaco gas stations: ~$1.32/L
– due to the focus on tourism, vendors will be vying for your every dollar. In spite of this, they are not as aggressive as some other countries and won’t pressure you to buy anything you really don’t want. (Always shop with the mindset that “you don’t really NEED it.” You’ll gain better negotiation skills with more experience.)
– networking skills and business partnerships, important
– country is pretty developed
– lots of BlackBerry smartphone users
– mobile plans are pretty cheap (to me): 30mins/1 USD. Telecomm companies: flow, digicel, lime
– overall, people here are pretty chill and satisfied with life (they are friendly with each other and Jamaica is referred to as “the promised land,” meaning the land provides for most of their needs. Fish in the sea, food on trees, pretty good weather all year round, etc.)
– life is pretty simple. Food, sun, beach, fun, dancing, music, and a steady job makes them pretty happy.
– bus stops are cement or metal huts on the side of the road. Sometimes no signage.
– University is very competitive here.
– the road on Blue Mtn took 2yrs to open
– caution: naked men on the side of the road, coming out of the Caribbean Sea
– it feels like you’re living in a developing, yet somewhat developed country (due to the resort experience). Because it’s “the promise land”, I feel as though there are much less people who are living in poverty. A basic job seems to give them a decent life, unlike that in India perhaps, where people seem to work more to make similar amounts… Maybe it’s the difference in heat… And smell…?
– other than the resorts, I never saw buildings over 10 stories high
– it’s just really beautiful to see the sunrise and sunset by a body of water
– coconut trees, pineapple trees, plantain trees, papaya trees
– Saw KFC and Pizza Hut, but no Mc Donalds

Common phrases:
– “yea, mon” – yes, hello, good (greeting word)
– “irie” = great/awesome
– “no problem” = sure, good

They have the coolest street signs here (no wonder people are so chill):
– “Don’t speed…arrive late!”
– “spend more time with your family… Don’t speed.”
– “Arrive alive, don’t drink and drive.”

Attractions on the Island:
– Mystic Mountain
– Dunn’s Waterfall (900ft)
– Dolphin Cove
– plantation tours
– horseback riding tours
– golf clubs

*$7.50 USD/gallon of gas in Jamaica
*license plates: 4 numbers 2 Roman letters
*By 7pm, it seems to be pretty dark already (In Apr/May)
*street lighting is not very good

* Got to watch “Smile Jamaica”, the morning show in Montego Bay and learned about some cancer research at the Uni of West Indies and about a prominent journalist’s new organization
* Craziest bargain. Asking: $12. Offer: $5. Paid: $6. Bought something else, gave $5. Then got 2 free gifts to go with it! (They’ll say: “it’s X, but then we bargain… you tell me your best price.”)

*Jamaica is really multicultural. I never knew there were so many Chinese and Indian people here!

*lots of Chinese people here too and call then all “Mr. Chin” (lots of Wongs and Chin here)

*March is crazy hot month and summer months are hot, Nov-Dec is cooler

– beef patties, or curry chicken
– fruits: coconut (year round), banana, nasberry (looks like a kiwi),
– Uni of west Indies (medical), U of Technology, Northern Caribbean Uni (IT, social, arts degrees); $5000 USD per year
– school: 3-6yrs old kindergarten, 1-6 primary school, 7-11 high school, 12 optional
– 75,000 ppl in Montego Bay (Jamaica: 2.7million, growing nightly. LOL!)
– tourism is the main industry, service industry, farming, bauxite (used for processing aluminium , Agriculture (coffee, papaya, banana)
– sunrise in Apr: 545am, sunset in Apr: 645pm
– imports a lot of used cars from Japan
– Brand new Toyota Camry $43,000 USD
– typical transportation: privatized busses or taxis
– lots of Chinese and Indians. Most own all the wholesale, grocery stores, and  in downtown Montego Bay.
– Excelsior brand and the bakeries are all owned by Jamaican Chinese
– license plates that are red are taxis, green – commercial, white – private, yellow –  government.
– Bus from Montego Bay to Kingston is 800 Jamaican dollars
– snapper is most popular fish
– owner of Excelsior (the national bakery) is the same owner as Sunset Beach Resort
– 16 yrs old, provisional license; 18 can get full license
– “Jamaica is a blessed country” (no one should starve there)
– Mango tree, breadfruit tree (anyone can take from them to eat)
– Lignam vitae (lilac color) is the national flower
– all Chinese people are called “Mr. Chin”
– Jamaica: 33.33% income tax, 17.5 sales tax (if you earn minimum wage or lower, then you are tax exempt)
– $50USD per week or $20USD
– $2500USD /month for a family of 5 to live comfortably
– $250USD/month 700sq ft for 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom; 100USD/month for electricity, 50/month water, 40/month for internet, 40/month for water
– electricity is privatized
– water is semi-privatized

Also saw: Excelsior distribution centre, Red Stripe Distribution center, a plant that prepares the boxcite for exporting via ships, lots of famous places, funeral homes/cemeteries

Food:
– jerk aka. Mixed Caribbean spice (is actually a green plant that’s very savoury!)
– bammy (fried triangle)
– ackee (yellow fruit)

– drive on right side of car and on left side of the road (like in HK)
– people are pretty familiar with the internet and a lot use social media. Even businesses use it as a marketing tool. (E.g. “Find us on Facebook”)
– QR Code on the back of a menu
– although the bus was air conditioned, the trip felt like a bus trip in India (so bumpy!! Narrow roads with twists and sharp turns)
– tried ackee, plantain,
– there are actually shipping containers used as homes/shops/storage here. (Like in the middle of town and on sides of roads)
– many people buy land and slowly buy enough supplies
– SHOPPING: based on my experience, duty free shops are pretty cheap for coffee and rum (never at any street shops or shops attached to a resort), buy postcards from the street shops.
– different children use diff uniforms that indicate their school
– school goes on 2 shifts. (Even high school) 1215-5pm (evening shift)

Patois – the language English and Tree (from Ghana)
What = wa?
Where = wre
Wa guan = what’s up?

– tourism first started via the banana boats in Port Antonio
– 27 kinds of bananas grown in Jamaica (306 kinds in the world); largest banana is the plantain
– Grand Palladium = largest resort in Jamaica
– Iberostar = 3rd largest resort  in Jamaica
– Owner of Riu is from Spain
– soca dance (lots of bum mov’ts!)
– limestone and garment factories. (Many of the garment factories are now in Mexico)
– Sugar cane used for: processed sugar, molasses (for rum), vinegar, ethanol
– Montego Bay to Negril is about 1.5hrs (70km)
– 100lbs, 25lbs, 30lbs. Gas cylinders are bought for cooking. No pipelines for gas. Each house usually has 2 cylinders in their home (one is for backup)
– Montego Bay = “Bay of lard.” Pigs lived in Montego Bay before people.
– KFC = Kill Fat Chicken = Keep you From Cooking. They also have Wendy’s and Payless Shoes
– 135k popn in Montego Bay (including 75k which are residents)
– building and urban city, mall, on the West Side
– 14 parishes and 3 counties in Jamaica
– Negril is in Hanover and West Warland (part of 2 Parishes)
– St. Ann is the largest parish.
– Lucea is the capital of Hanover parish. (We passed by the mayor’s office and tax collection office)
– 150 rivers in Jamaica.
– Kingston is the only parish without a river
– every half a mile, there is a new community
– many little wood sheds near sides of road where kids get their hair braided (saw this from the tour bus window)
– Negril doesn’t have tall buildings, because there is a a building code that says you can’t have over 2 floors
– gasoline costs a tad more in Negril (personal observation)
– Bauxite is a red soil mostly from St. Ann
– 1962 gained independence from Britain (2012, they celebrated their 50 years of independence)
– passed by the golf course in Happy Valley where the Jamawalka (*sp) Golf Tourney is held

Negril
– 7 mile beach
– white sand (no rocks like in Montego Bay)
– hardly any algae near the shore

– lots of local tourists at the resort. Or lots of African Americans at the resort (mostly from Boston)
– lots of tourists from USA (California, Chicago, PA)
– shops sell fake brand name bags

Reminders for next time travel:
– good to bring Ziploc bags
– Coins are useless here. US and CDN
– vendors will happily take your Cdn money!!
– lots of sunscreen (3 tubes totally ok. So much re-applying)
– always bring extra plastic bags (opaque ones) Reusable bags always come handy! A mini backpack (like a MEC one) and a light rock climbing clip are very useful.
– hair ties, bobby pins, and clips are a must (ladies!)
– waterbottle or cup with lid

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8 thoughts on “Travel Jamaica: A 10-Minute Guide on Facts & Observations

  1. Wow, these are some amazing facts and interesting tidbits. Thanks for sharing this. I feel I learned a lot more about Jamaica with this insider insights.

    • Thanks, Paul. Sorry for the disorganization! I haven’t had time to post them, let alone organize them. Glad you enjoyed my insights and hope they will be useful to you in the future.

  2. Pingback: Jamaica Travel: An Overview! | tyw lifestyle.blog

  3. I really enjoyed reading your facts and observations on Jamaica! It’s one of my favorite Islands in all of the caribbean. The reminders of what to bring next time were really helpful too! Enjoying your blog so far! 🙂

    • Hi Daisy,

      Thank you for your message! I tried my best to capture what I could on my mobile, without letting it take away from the experience and living in the moment of it all! I hope you enjoy my other posts and future posts!

  4. Hello,

    My name is Cliff Barre and my wife Tiffany and I are responsible green travelers and active writers for our Peace, Love, and Travel blog. I recently came across your blog and really enjoyed reading this article! I would love a chance to speak with your readers about the idea of Green Travel Tips and how it can help them become eco-friendly travelers and reduce their carbon footprint while traveling to destinations such as this. I have some tips for before traveling, during traveling, and some green destinations to travel to.

    If you think this topic, or any other for that matter, would be of interest to your readers, please let me know and I’ll start pulling it together.

    I look forward to hearing back from you, thanks!

    Sincerely,
    Cliff

    Linkedin

  5. I must say you have a great Observation. The best about your page is that it is not Paragraphed but mainly you focused on telling in Points that make it easy to read. Very wonderful information. I appreciate it.

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