Jamaica Panorama Photo


Guide to Jamaica

Where is Jamaica?

Jamaica is a large island in the Caribbean Sea and the Greater Antilles. To the north of Jamaica is Cuba and to the east of Jamaica is Hispaniola (made up of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). It occupies nearly 11,000 square kilometers and is 234 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide.

What is Jamaica?

Jamaica is the third largest English speaking country in the Americas region, even though Jamaican people speak a distinct version of English called patois. The country has had a torrid history being one of the largest centres of slavery and sugar production in the world. In 1962 Jamaica became independent but this parliamentary democracy is still a constitutional monarchy. As part of the Commonwealth Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of state for Jamaica. The capital of Jamaica is Kingston and there are 14 different parishes.

Why go to Jamaica?

Jamaica is an incredibly diverse country and each region of Jamaica has its own particular culture. People in Jamaica are happy to show you their country and in terms of atmosphere and nightlife there is nowhere in the world quite like Jamaica. It gave the world reggae legends like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and more recently an explosion of dancehall music popularized by the likes of Sean Paul. Jamaica’s most famous music producer Chris Blackwell still lives there and runs a number of experience hotels which are excellent fun to visit if you can afford them. That includes the swanky Goldeneye property which was where Ian Fleming was inspired to write the James Bond novels. But one of the best reasons to go to Jamaica is that there is a range of accommodation and restaurants to suit every budget. 

Jamaica has its own unique jerk cuisine and is also a great place to get seafood such as conch and lobster. Meanwhile the country exports large quantities of its prized rum and coffee, as well as another illegal commodity. Jamaica is very impressive in terms of scale and as well as having wonderful beaches there are huge rivers which flow into the sea which are ideal for rafting. The island has an amazing range of natural features such as underground caves and areas of practically uninhabited countryside. The country is an amazing place for bird watchers with many endemic species.

Jamaica has a reputation for being dangerous as Kingston has one of the highest murder rates in the world. In truth these are mostly gang killings in the bad inner city neighbourhoods. With some common sense and the right precautions Jamaica is no more dangerous to visit than any capital city. At times people may bother you to buy things but as long as you engage with them and are firm if you don’t want anything then most likely they will leave you alone. However Jamaica is definitely a relatively poor country so don’t go flashing any wealth or jewellry around.

Who lives in Jamaica?

Around 2.8 million people live in Jamaica. Originally there were indigenous Taínos people who spoke Arawak. Then a large quantity of slaves were brought over from Africa. Today most Jamaicans are protestant (about two thirds), and they are split between a number of different types of church. There are 4% Roman Catholics, while one third of the population subscribes to other religions such as Rastafarians. In the mountains of Jamaica there is also a community of maroons who fled from their captors and fought hard against British rule.

How do you get into Jamaica

1)By Air
There are two main international airports in Jamaica – The Kingston Norman Manley international airport in the capital and the Donald Sangster airport in Montego Bay. There are also smaller airports in Ocho Rios and Negril for private aircraft. Citizens of countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and Germany can stay in Jamaica for a period of time without a visa.

2)By Land
Jamaica is an island so you cannot drive into it. But once in Jamaica there is a lot of public transport in the form of buses, route taxis and trains. For information about driving in Jamaica see our Drive Smart Jamaica page.

3)By Sea
Jamaica welcomes a number of large cruise ships into the main ports in places like Ocho Rios. There is also a new port at Falmouth.
 

What to do in Jamaica

Go to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston to find out about the life of the reggae superstar then take a tour of Trenchtown where he first started making music. You can also go to the final resting place of Bob Marley in Nine Mile and see where he was embalmed.

For yet more musical culture take in the Weddy Weddy soundsystem in Kingston or go to a dancehall.

Head to the charming town of Port Antonio
for spectacular beaches and a breath-taking Blue Lagoon.

Eat lobster on the beach at Winifred’s Beach
or head over to the dazzling white sands at the private Frenchman’s Cove.

Hike up the cascading Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios which are the main tourist attraction in the country.

Catch the famous Reggae Sumfest festival in Montego Bay where long white beaches make the perfect place to party under the coconut trees.

What to do in Jamaica

Visit the Blue Mountains for a serene setting and a chance to taste the best coffee in the world.

Head to the Black River to see American crocodiles and other types of wildlife with a trusty local guide.

See the luminescent lagoon at Glistening Waters and combine the trip with a tour of the old slave town of Falmouth.

See the incredible Seven Mile Beach in Negril where many luxurious hotels cater to guests.

See where Christopher Columbus first landed in Jamaica at Discovery Bay.

See Firefly on the north coast which was the home of the writer Noel Coward.

Bob Marley Museum

Bob Marley Museum

Negril Beach

Negril Beach

Quick facts
Government  Parliamentary democracy & constitutional monarchy
King   
Prime Minister  Bruce Golding
Population  2,847,232
Date Format  
Drives on the  Left
Internet TLD  .jm
Dialling Code  +1-876
Time Zone  UTC -5
Currency  JMD - J$

Jamaica Public Holidays

Sun
25
Christmas Day
Mon
26
Boxing Day
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