After exploring Jamaica without any guides and making some mistakes here and there, we acquired a lot of knowledge about what to do and not to do and how to experience the real Jamaica. So here are our best tips to help you get the most authentic experience possible while having a great time on the island of one love.
1. Opt Out of Staying in Resorts
You won’t find the real Jamaica behind the tall gates of an all-inclusive resort. Jamaica is not bland buffet food, unlimited booze, overfilled pools and partying to whatever is popular right now. There is so much more to Jamaica than resorts. We challenge you to stay at local guesthouses and hotels to help support the locals and not big American corporations. When you stay at locally ran guesthouses and hotels you can get local advice on things to do, places to visit, eat and of course the opportunity to interact with locals. Don’t opt for a whitewashed experience where the only Jamaicans you will ever meet are servers, drivers and hustlers trying to sell you something. Another great way to find local accommodation is on Airbnb. For some suggestions check out our article on the best Jamaica Airbnbs here.
2. Take Route Taxis
It’s the best and cheapest way to get around Jamaica. Who needs private taxis when you can travel the local way. You may have to squeeze in with a few locals but if you don’t mind you will get where you are going in no time for ten times cheaper than a private taxi.
3. Stay in Negril for Only a Few Days or Skip it Altogether
We suggest staying in Negril for no more than two days. It is very touristy, expensive for the average backpacker, crowded and not as relaxed as other parts of Jamaica. Yes, I know there is seven miles of beach but is it really beautiful when it is crowded with people, and hustlers harassing you to buy something? You can find beaches just as beautiful or better in different parts of Jamaica like Winnifred Beach in Port Antonio for example. It’s way less crowded, more relaxed, and surrounded by nature.
4. Watch Out for Cars
Not many places in Jamaica have sidewalks so you will most likely be walking on the road and drivers in Jamaica drive wicked fast so pay attention to the cars. We would recommend walking against traffic so you can see oncoming traffic. I had way too many close calls for my liking.
5. Store Your Stuff in a Black Plastic Bag
Sounds weird right, well let me explain. Instead of walking around with a daypack put everything you need like money, camera, etc. in one of those black plastic bags that you get whenever you buy something somewhere. Thieves won’t think much of it as many people including locals are walking around with them not to mention, it will make you less of a target.
6. Travel During the Off Season
Everything is just soo much cheaper during the off season. Less hasslers, less crowds, cheaper accommodations, and more opportunities to bargain. Off season is from May to about mid December.
7. Don’t Just Be a Beach Bum
Don’t get me wrong, we love beaches and Jamaica has some of the best beaches we have ever seen but there is more to Jamaica than just beaches. There are plenty of lush mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, beautiful caves, remote villages and so much more. I challenge you to travel deeper into the island and away from the east coast.
8. Eat at Local Restaurants
We are all about supporting locals and we think other travelers should be too! When you go to local restaurants you know the money is going directly to them and not big corporations or the 1 percenters helping them get richer. Not to mention it is usually way cheaper than food chain places and the food is more authentic. Here are some must-eat dishes you need to try while in Jamaica.
9. Budget Tip
If prices are quoted in US Dollars know that you are in a expensive location. Run away, run away fast. Though US dollars are accepted in certain areas (i.e tourist areas) the Jamaican Dollar is the official currency. This guide should give you a good idea of how much things cost in Jamaica.
10. Relax, Enjoy and Repeat
Take it easy, relax and enjoy Jamaica. Time is a thing of the past. Leave your watch at home and just kick back and enjoy the good vibes of the island!
Did we miss anything? Do you have some travel tips for Jamaica?