Feel The Vibe
There are many reasons one might dream of visiting Jamaica and our culture sits high at the top of that list. There’s just something novel about Jamaica, something undeniably exquisite that attracts visitors to our shores time and time again. As soon as you step foot onto Jamaican soil, you feel the vibe. That energy is unmatched. Nothing can compare to experiencing it for yourself. Come dive into an authentic Jamaican vacation full of vibrancy, electricity, unrivalled charm, and untouched beauty.
Jamaican Culture & Traditions
The pull of our alluring island is far more than our sparkling blue waters and incredible mountainous terrain. The food is tantalizing and the weather is perfect, but it’s the charm of our people ho will keep you coming back for more.
The famous words of Bob Marley, “every little thing is gonna be alright” is a lifestyle we embody. No matter what hardships may hide beneath the surface, we find a way to smile, dance, and be merry as we go about our days.
Pull up a chair at your favourite watering hole and watch the smile light up your bartender’s face as they greet you like a long-lost friend. Stop and ask for directions and they’ll be accompanied by humorous tales of the twists and turns to be expected on your path. Buy a cup of soup from a roadside vendor and become enraptured in the vibes of the bustling food stalls. We’re happy people always and this is reflected in our art, traditions, and everyday life.
Of course, there are specific parts of our culture that may capture your heart and become part of your fondest memories.
Our food is known worldwide as some of the best cuisines around. It is spicy and flavourful and full of fresh ingredients. Everybody loves a good jerk dish or a hot, flaky patty, fresh from the oven. Our oxtail is well-loved and even our ice-cream has been ranked as some of the best in the world. Which Jamaican foods are you just salivating for? There are so many things you must try when in the land of rhythm and spice like our ackee and saltfish and our wide-ranging array of tropical coconut sweets.
Tasting your way through the island is a great way to connect with the history of Jamaica as you learn more about what makes us so special with each dish you try. Head to Boston, the home of jerk, to learn more about this famous method of cooking. Trek to the Blue Mountains to try the luxurious coffee in the heart of its home. Stop in Negril or along the South Coast to try some of the best, freshest seafood ever, and go hiking in the hills to taste the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables plucked from the land.
Talk Like a Jamaican
As you trek around the island you might pick up a few words from our Jamaican Patois. This is our colourful dialect, a mish-mash lingo from our English, Spanish, and French colonial past.
It will help you to groove to our Jamaican music, though the baseline of the reggae will sweep you into euphoria whether you understand the words or not. A visit to Jamaica isn’t complete without a night spent dancing to the beat under magnificently twinkling stars.
Your new patois words will also help you at any of our exciting sporting events, whether large scale or local community happenings. Grab a Red Stripe Beer and observe the animated crowd as they scream ruthlessly at their team and opponents on the field. A Jamaican sporting event rivals your favourite major festival or finals around the world.
Come to Jamaica and feel the vibe. Once you’re here, you’ll know why Jamaica is the heartbeat of the world.
Understanding our history means understanding why Jamaicans are as resilient and laid-back as we’re known to be. We are a diverse nation because of our past and continue to be a multicultural melting pot offering experiences dipped in unique blends of traditions preserved from centuries ago.
Indigenous People of Jamaica
Our documented history begins when Christopher Columbus first came to Jamaica in May of 1494. He was thoroughly impressed with what he saw as noted in his logs “the fairest island that eyes have beheld: mountains and the land seem to touch the sky … all full of valleys and fields and plains.”
He later brought other Spanish settlers who colonized the land and forced the Tainos, American-Indian people who had already occupied the land, into unpaid labour. The Tainos were a gentle people who named the island “Xaymaca,” meaning “land of wood and water.” The words “hurricane,” “tobacco,” and “barbecue” were also derived from their language. Konoko Falls is home to an extensive museum dedicated to the Tainos.
Eventually, the Taino population perished completely due to a combination of forced labour as well as the diseases the Spanish brought with them, like the common cold, for which the Tainos had no immunity.
The Spanish established the city we now know as Ocho Rios where explorations continue in an effort to unearth Columbus’ ships beached somewhere in this region.
The History of Jamaica
The Spanish were the first to bring sugarcane and slavery to the island. They ruled the land for a century and a half until they were defeated by the English in 1655. Slavery and sugar cultivation became Jamaica’s main trade, making the English planters incredibly wealthy.
Buccaneers soon operated out of Jamaica, attacking the treasure ships of Spain and France. One was a young indentured labourers from Wales named Henry Morgan. He would prosper and rise to Lieutenant Governor. His home base, Port Royal, was known as the “richest and wickedest city in Christendom.” However, in 1692, an earthquake destroyed Port Royal, pushing it below the sea.
What’s left of Port Royal today stands proudly as a relic of its coloured past. A visit to the naval base and the museum there, followed by a fresh seafood meal at an outdoor seaside restaurant, makes for a memorable cultural outing.
When the English arrived, the Spaniards fled to the neighbouring islands. Their slaves escaped into the mountains and formed their own independent groups, called Maroons. The Maroons were in time joined by other slaves who escaped from the English.
For a long time, they fought against the English who sought to re-enslave them. So successful were the Maroons, fighting from their fortresses, that the English were forced to sign peace treaties granting the Maroons self-government and ceding to them the mountain lands that they inhabited.
The runaways periodically staged rebellions until the treaty in 1739 that gave them a measure of local autonomy that they still retain today. Every year on January 6, the Maroons celebrate the signing of this treaty and visitors are welcomed to partake in the lively song and dance within the sacred lands.
Abolishment of Slavery
Slavery was abolished in 1834. In the economic chaos that followed emancipation, one event stood out: the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865. The uprising was led by a black Baptist deacon named Paul Bogle and was supported by a wealthy Kingston businessman, George William Gordon. Both were executed and are now among Jamaica’s national heroes. Monuments to all Jamaican heroes can be viewed in the National Heroes Park in Kingston where the Jamaica Defence Force performs an entertaining Changing of the Guards ceremony each day at noon.
In the years that followed, much of modern Jamaica was forged. Migrants from India and China came as indentured workers for sugar estates and rapidly moved to other occupations. Soon Jewish settlers came to Jamaica, followed by migrant traders from the Middle East. All together these groups created the diverse people of Jamaica today, to which we owe the national motto “Out of Many, One People.’
In the 1930s, politics in Jamaica was born. Two very dissimilar men, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante—who, in a uniquely Jamaican coincidence, happened to be cousins—founded the two major political parties, the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, respectively. On August 6, 1962, at a midnight ceremony witnessed by Britain’s Princess Margaret and U.S. Vice President Lyndon Johnson, the British Union Jack was lowered; the new black, gold, and green Jamaican flag was raised, and Jamaica became an independent nation.
Entry requirements differ for travellers depending on your country of citizenship and/or residency.
- U.S. Citizens traveling to and from Jamaica must present a valid passport when leaving and or re-entering the United States. Residents must present their Alien Resident Card (Green Card) together with passport of country for which they hold citizenship.
- Canadian Citizens: Valid passport or a government-issued identification with photograph, along with an official birth certificate. Canadian residents must present a Canadian Permanent Resident Card and a passport showing country of citizenship.
All visitors are required to travel with a return ticket or onward ticket for entry into Jamaica.
For more information on the specific documents needed to travel to Jamaica visit the Travel Documents page on the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency's website. Visitors traveling via airlines can also go to www.iatatravelcentre.com to review travel document requirements.
Unconditional Landing is a facility offered to foreign nationals to stay in Jamaica. The Unconditional Landing is a type of extended stay which allows persons who are Jamaican by birth, by descent, or naturalization to work and attend school in Jamaica. This stay is also offered to CARICOM Nationals. Applications can be submitted to the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency with the requisite documentation.
Travel Requiring Visas
The Jamaican Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates are happy to assist travellers to Jamaica for business and leisure purposes. You may connect with the nearest office, from the links below, to apply for your travel documents for Jamaica.
Jamaica Embassies and High Commissions
Consulates and Consulates-General
Fun, excitement, relaxation, and adventure awaits you in Jamaica! As the saying goes, preparation is key, so it’s great that you’re researching the finer details of your trip before you go. Our Jamaica travel tips will help you have the best experience here on your tropical getaway. Wherever you go, you’ll find native quirks and perks and prepping for any and every experience will help you to have a pleasant and memorable holiday no matter where your trail may take you.
Tips for Jamaican Travel
Visiting somewhere new can be thrilling and you may be wondering what to expect in Jamaica and how to keep safe while you explore. We suggest a few ways that will bring you ease in the event of a hiccup, natural or otherwise. These tips will help you stay poised for a spontaneous vacation, ready to explore whatever fun happenings may cross your path.
What about passports and visas?
Let us help you with all the details you need to know about Jamaica’s entry requirements. A simple mishap can ruin your perfectly planned escape to the land of spicy eats and rocking beats, so be sure to know before you go.
Smaller details can make or break your trip too. Need-to-know information, like what to pack, how to drive in Jamaica, our time zone, and climate have all been laid out for you. Though we are in the tropics, our insider tips will help you to stay ready for any type of weather. Do you need an adapter for your charger? Should you get a special driver's license? Will your phone work in Jamaica? Not to worry, we’ve covered all of that plus more so you’ll have everything you need before you say bon voyage.
Jamaica welcomes millions of visitors each year and has quite a high visitor return rate. Keeping these few things in mind when you visit may see you joining the throngs of adoring visitors who love this land of wood and water, finding their own unique reasons to keep coming back each year.
Airports in Jamaica
Norman Manley International Airport
Located in Kingston, use this airport if you’re visiting the capital city, Port Antonio or heading to the beautiful Blue Mountains. Efficient transport can be arranged to take you to the domestic airport in Kingston, Tinson Pen, where flights are available to other parts of the island. Car rentals, taxi services and tour operators are located in the Arrivals Ground Transportation Hall to help you get to your destination, safely and happily. For more information, just visit https://nmia.aero/
Sangster International Airport
Located in Montego Bay, most tourists land here. It's the better port of entrance if you're headed to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Negril. In addition to international terminals, this airport has a domestic terminal with local flights that depart regularly to Kingston, Negril, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios. Taxis, hotel shuttles and car rental companies are available to help you get to your final destination. For more information, just visit https://mbjairport.com
Ian Fleming International Airport
Our newest international airport, the Ian Fleming International Airport, is located in the Ocho Rios resort area. It is a convenient entry point to Jamaica's north coast for small aircraft. Many of Jamaica's renowned villas and resorts are only minutes away. For your convenience, car rentals, taxi services and shuttles are easily arranged. More details at https://ifia.aero
Banks / Currency
Licensed cambio centres and commercial banks are accessible in all resort areas. The official currency exchange rates vary daily, so it’s advisable to shop around for the best rate before converting your cash. Most of our ATMs accept international bank cards, with Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Plus logos. Banks also give credit card advances, change traveller’s checks and other financial services.
We enjoy a hot and humid tropical climate all year round, which is exactly what you want for a relaxing vacation. Temperatures range from 19 degrees Celsius (66 Fahrenheit) to 32 degrees Celsius (99 Fahrenheit). Even though we’re known for our sunshine, we have two rainy seasons a year, from May to June, and September to November. Hurricanes may pass over the island during the months of June to November, so keep an eye on the news.
Lightweight, breathable fabrics are the way to go here on the island. Shorts, swimwear and flip flops keep you chilled on our beaches. A thin sweater will keep you cozy in the evenings. And semi-casual wear for women, and a jacket for men, will get you into all of our fine dining restaurants. Whatever you do, don’t pack too much, as you’ll want to take some of our special clothing back home with you.
Jamaica is well connected to the rest of the world. Direct international telephone service operates in all areas, 24 hours a day, and telephone operators will gladly facilitate collect, third-party or credit card calls. E-mail and Internet access is available too, usually at hotels and parish libraries, but also at local Internet cafes. Three daily newspapers and five weekend newspapers will keep you in the know, while some hotels and gift shops receive the international editions.
Here on the island, we drive on the left side of the road. The speed limit is 50 kmph (30 mph) in built-up areas, and 80 kmph (50 mph) on highways, and all drivers are required to carry a valid license. Jamaica recognizes valid International Driver’s Licenses, but visitors from North America may use their country's license for up to three months per visit. Car rental is available in most major towns, cities, and airports, but you can be no younger than 25 years old to hire a car yourself.
In Jamaica, the use, sale and possession of drugs such as ganja (marijuana), cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin and any other controlled substance is illegal. Violators are subject to severe punishments – specifically arrest, fine and imprisonment. Don’t ruin your vacation.
The electrical supply in Jamaica is 110 volts/50 cycles standard, and electrical appliances use plugs that are two-pronged and flat (such as those used in the United States and Canada). Bring along any adaptors of convertors you might need if this doesn’t suit some of your appliances and chargers. Most hotels will provide you with hair dryers, alarm clocks, radio, and a clothes iron, but make sure you find out first.
Officially, we speak English, but we like to mix it up with our own island version of patois. It takes a little getting used to, but you’re sure to have lots of fun trying out a few of our expressions. Look at our Patois page to learn some words and phrases before getting here.
We love animals here on the island, but we do ask you to make sure your pets are healthy if they are coming along with you on your trip. In keeping with international standards, the importation of all live animals into Jamaica requires an import permit from the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, prior to arrival in Jamaica. All animals must be rabies-free and must never have been rabies vaccinated. Dogs and cats (with permits) are allowed into Jamaica only from Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Eire. For more information, contact the Veterinary Services Division: tel. 876-977-2489 or 876-977-2492. To secure a permit, fax a letter of request to 876-977-0885.
Jamaica falls within the Eastern Time Zone (UTC/GMT -5 Hours) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. At approximately 18 degrees north of the equator, the island falls within the tropics, and as such does not experience drastic seasonal changes in sunrise and sunset times. Year-round, the island averages between 11.5 and 12.5 hours of sunlight per day.
Jamaica has hundreds of natural springs and rivers, both above and underground. Over the years, we have developed extensive water treatment and supply systems island-wide, so all drinking water in Jamaica is purified and filtered by modern methods. Our water is safe for you to drink, clean your teeth, bath and wash clothing in. If you choose not to drink the water, rest assured - there are many brands of Jamaican spring water that meet or exceed the highest international standards, available at most shops and restaurants.
Word To The Wise
No matter where in the world you’re traveling, it’s important to read the news, stay safe, travel in groups when you are unsure of where you’re going, and keep an eye on your property at all times. Here are some tips to make your Jamaican vacation safe and fun.
- Make sure you travel with a valid passport or visa (if required). Also, bring another valid form of photo I.D., and photocopies of both I.D.s. in case of loss or theft.
- Read up on local laws and practices before you get here.
- Give friends and family your contact information and itineraries in case of emergency.
- Register with your country’s embassy or consulate before you travel. That way your country is aware of your whereabouts in case of emergency.
- Keep luggage, handbags, or backpacks in view at all times.
- Keep possessions close to your body.
- Don’t take around large amounts of cash.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry on road trips or excursions.