Jamaica is a land of diversity; it is the third largest Caribbean island, which means it covers a lot of area, boasting broad plateaus, leafy lowlands, sky-scraping mountains, rolling volcanic hills, and of course, beautiful beaches.
This means that, no matter how you plan on visiting Jamaica – whether on your own, via a cruise ship, or through us here at Volitionary Tours – being prepared will help you enjoy your visit that much more.
Why Visit Jamaica?
A culturally rich and diverse geographic island, Jamaica boasts so many things to do, that you couldn’t possibly do them all in one trip (although you could try!). The plethora of choices, not just including many beautiful beaches, means everyone will find something wonderful to experience in Jamaica. Volitionary Tours offers some of the best native Jamaican guides to help you experience any or all of it, at your own pace, on your own time.
When to Go?
The peak travel season (when most tourists visit Jamaica) is January through March; the droves that visit increase as it gets closer to March, which normally hosts Spring Break in the United States. Since more travelers visit during this timeframe, you can expect prices to be a lot higher, too. The weather is generally pleasant during this time, though, and there are several festivals during this timeframe (including Bob Marley Week in February, and the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in January).
The best lull in travel to Jamaica, when most tourists do not visit, is November and December. The weather still remains nice (between 75 and 85 degrees F), though it can be a bit more rainy. Because of the lack of tourists at this time, prices are the best and resorts are looking to offer the sweetest deals to attract your traveling dollars.
The summer months can be good for travelers as well, though keep in mind that this is hurricane season in the Caribbean. You will need to keep informed as to the happenings of the weather if you’re planning on visiting during this timeframe.
If you’re flying into Jamaica, be sure to check the flight time. From the middle of the U.S./East Coast, a direct flight will take about four hours or so.
Should you bring U.S. or other currency to Jamaica, or exchange your money for Jamaican dollars? This is an often-asked question, and the answer depends on where you’re planning on going in Jamaica. If you plan on sticking to the tourist areas, you can use either currency; U.S. dollars are universally accepted in those areas, though other currency (Euros, Pounds, etc.) may not be, depending on the area. If you plan on going off the beaten track, and Volitionary Tours can certainly take you there if you wish, Jamaican dollars are your best bet.
If exchanging currency, be sure to check Google for the current exchange rate. Most banks will exchange currency for you for free, if over a certain amount (depends on the bank). Keep in mind that most currency exchange services are themselves a business, and are therefore looking to make a profit. The worst exchange rates, by far, are at an airport; you’ll usually have to pay a fee of some kind on top of whatever exchange rate you get. If you plan on exchanging currency while in Jamaica, be on the lookout for a Cambio (a foreign currency exchanger), which can offer better exchange rates, usually. Your Volitionary Tour Guide can help guide you through this process if you require assistance.
What to Pack
This really depends on what you want to do! If you’re planning on visiting beaches, of course, bring swimwear (as well as sunblock!). Casual attire is generally accepted everywhere (e.g. shorts and t-shirts), though the more formal dining and other venues may require more dressier clothing (slacks and dresses, closed-toe shoes, etc.). If you plan on visiting a specific restaurant or resort, it’s best to check with them, but your Volitionary Tour Guide can also help you prepare for this.
Just in case, add the following numbers to your phone’s Contacts. It’s always best to be prepared. Your Volitionary Tour Guide can also offer ideas on some good numbers to know for wherever you are visiting.
- Ambulance and Fire: 110
- Police: 119
- Your Hotel(s) phone numbers
- Your airline’s phone number
- Your Volitionary Tour Guide’s number
Jamaica is the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean, so if you’re an English speaker (and you’re reading this, right?), fear not! As Jamaica was colonized by England, you’ll find that spelling and language will generally reflect that of Great Britain rather than the United States.
Jamaicans also speak a local language called Jamaican Patois, otherwise known as Jamaican Creole or Patwa, a language that goes back several hundred years, stemming from native languages spoken during the dark days of slave trade in the Caribbean, integrated with English. It also heavily borrows from Spanish, Irish, Scottish, and Aboriginal, making it a truly flavorful language. It is more of a spoken language than written, so you are likely to see it in informal settings. Don’t worry, though; your Volitionary Tours Guide is a native of Jamaica, and will speak the local languages, making it very easy to navigate off the beaten track if you so choose!
Don’t be surprised, however, if you encounter Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and/or Arabic, among other languages. As Jamaica becomes more of an international tourist destination, it will attract a wide diversity of visitors, and therefore many different languages!
Contact one of our Experience Extraordinaires to start planning the perfect visit!