Each country has its cliché. Jamaica, the third largest Caribbean island, is home to Bob Marley, reggae music, rum, and marijuana smoking Rastafaris. But it is also a popular destination for package tourists. Whether by cruise ship or low-cost airlines, tourists from all over the world are transported directly to the large resorts and spend an all inclusive time without seeing the country. After my trip to Cuba, I wanted to find out if the island has more than that to offer.
Except for the first night, I had not pre-booked anything. It was only on the outward flight that I leafed through the guidebook and was amazed. For me, it would be an exciting holiday!
Kingston and Spanish Town in the south were not on my itinerary. And so I landed on the opposite side of the capital in the north of the island, in Montego Bay. The English language would make it easier for me to communicate in the country and also the possibilities of paying in US $ and Jamaican dollars were pleasant.
I had immediately discarded the initial idea of renting a car. In a licensed taxi it cost 15 USD from the airport to the hotel, which was on the so-called hip strip in Montego Bay.
The Caribic house was not really cheap at least for a single person, but the location could not have been better. We had a perfect view of the turquoise sea from the balcony. There was the Doctor's Cave, a private beach and the Biggs, a beach restaurant with good drinks. My favorite was the Passion Colada. Next door there was a small supermarket and two houses down was the restaurants for breakfast.
While planning the trip and accommodations, I realized that this trip would generally not be very cheap. A day at Doctor's Cave Beach with sunbed and umbrella cost 20 US $, cocktails were around 10 US $, dishes started at 10 US $. The food consisted mostly of a mixture of fish, meat, and fruit and was simply fantastic. In short, I arrived in the Caribbean!
The day trips were to places such as the Dunn's River in the east, the Windsor Caves, or the Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon. They were priced at between 70 and 140 US $. So it was now up to me to decide whether I should move anti-clockwise or clockwise towards the capital. I chose the way through the west. Negril was the most touristic place. Supposedly the most beautiful beach on the island called Seven Mile Beach was my first stop.
The center of Negril was not necessarily nice, so I opted for a slightly more remote place in the West End called Xtabi. My bungalow was large with a view-protected outdoor shower with great bathing facilities in the sea. The restaurant was right on the cliffs. Here there was an underground cave system, in which a few bats flew over my head. The bungalows on the cliffs cost several hundred US $ per night. They were unfortunately only nice to look at.
The traditional Jamaican breakfast and national dish consist of the Saltfish with the ackee fruit, onions, bacon, tomatoes, and vegetables, combined with fresh pastries and delicious bananas. On the fourth day of travel, I set aside my restraint on food. Given the fact that all Jamaican women show their curves more confidently than anyone, I did not have to worry about this either. So with my belly and butt out, I had food and cocktails without restraint.
The Seven Mile Beach was not as spectacular as it was advertised in tour guides. Perhaps it was because the sun was not shining. At least the annoying dredging of beach vendors was limited. Apart from that, some older ladies with young, muscular Jamaicans spent their time. In continuous intervals, I could smell the marijuana or Ganja in my nose, which is however completely normal on this island. Local men like women regularly smoke weed, although it is officially forbidden.
After the somewhat meager strange experience and also the unspectacular Time Square Shopping Mall, I finally decided to invest in a 2-hour tour of the Royal Palm Reserve, a large marshy and mangrove area. In the nature reserve, we walk over water for more than a mile on wooden bridges through the jungle.
For me, this was an adrenaline-driving action, because this huge area seemed to be completely deserted except for a few ducks. I was alone on the road and was utterly confused thinking about situations with killer spiders, venomous snakes, crocodiles and drowning aliens.
That night I slept in a tree house for the first time in my life. The small wooden house with its two rooms actually had everything you need for life, even a roof terrace. There was loud reggae music from the radio. Two fans were doing their best, and the pool was just 5 meters away. It was a very cool place!
It had almost everything that makes people happy with a fantastic view, a pool where you can even sit at the table, a good restaurant, a bar with good drinks, and a stage with live reggae music. And not least an adventure to try out was the cliff jumping! From about 20-25 m you can dive for a test of courage into the deep turquoise water.
In between, there were shows from ultra-muscular Jamaicans who left their high pedestals with flips and screws as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Everyone jumped down from here from the young and the old, with or without alcoholic influence.
Shortly after the sunset, the guests left the grounds next to me. I spent the evening at a small tree restaurant, which was actually a shack and belonged to my accommodation. At the same time, it seemed to be the headquarters of the local male prowess.
My route, contrary to expectations, led from Kingston to the Dominican Republic. I had to move further south. I decided to make the last stop in Treasure Beach, a quieter place with small fishing villages. From Negril depending on the transport, it is about 2-5 hours away. My private accommodation was in the green in a huge flower garden overlooking the sea. Here it was peaceful, quiet and seemingly harmless.
I entered Kingston, the capital of Jamaica with mixed feelings. I honestly had not expected that this island which I had entered with so many prejudices could be so well liked. Because of my initial prejudices against this island with boars, gigolos, and crowds of package tourists, I had imagined that one can experience little excitement outside the huge resorts. But just the opposite was the case.
The large resorts are located in Negril. If you do not know that the island is a popular holiday destination, you would almost not notice anything. For example, you can travel around the country for half an hour with the help of route taxis, and a maximum of one or two white people can be seen on the road!
The Jamaicans are an open people and generally welcome foreigners very warmly. It does not take long before you are involved in a conversation with local people. Many want to sell something, but others are simply so nice and interested in a conversation. What especially stands out is the willingness to help.
Jamaica is ranked sixth in the Happy Planet Index and it seemed as if there were some convincing arguments. Jamaica has a brilliant weather, cool music, fantastic food and a life-setting with which one can enjoy the entire trip.
Jamaica Travel Tips
The public transport system in Jamaica is brilliant and, above all, more than favorable. In addition to some regular buses, there are taxis every day from village to village and from town to town for an unbeatable price. In a bus, you can travel long distances safely. The journey from Montego Bay to Negril costs 14 US $, and from Negril to Kingston is 25 US $.
All other routes are covered with so-called route taxis, which can be recognized by their red number plate and are shared with up to four people. This means you pay only a fraction of a regular taxi ride for longer distances. The route taxis always go back and forth. The practical thing is that you can go anywhere on the route. If you see a car with a red badge, you simply need to lift your arm. In larger villages and cities it does not take a minute to get a seat.
From Negril to Treasure Beach, with 4 people around you can pay a total of only about 10 US $. The driver should always know the final destination. He will then take care that you get to the right place. Normal taxis are relatively expensive. A 2-hour drive costs about 100-150 US $.
Gay couples should opt for a different destination. There are extreme prejudices against homosexuality, which can lead to violence or worse. It is important to know that Jamaica has a very high rate of AIDS, which is why you should insist on a condom!
Always pay attention to whether taxes and service charges are included in the price or are exclusive! This also applies to dishes and drinks in restaurants.
You can pay in both US $ and Jamaican dollars. The credit card can be used almost everywhere. The Jamaican Dollar should be used for taxis and other local businesses. Theoretically one can always pay with both.
It is available almost everywhere. WIFI is mostly free in hotels and restaurants, and also at the airport.
JAMAICA CHEAP TRAVEL- THIS IS HOW IT WORKS BEST
With all the help and good spirits, the Jamaicans want to make money from the tourists, of course. This is understandable because the main income is generated in Jamaica through tourism. The street market things are often much more expensive for tourists. If you do not know the prices, it is advisable to check before in a supermarket or in the hotel or hostel.
CANNABIS IN JAMAICA - A PART OF THE NATIONAL CULTURE
While the possession of cannabis is still being pursued in many European countries, this has now been legal in Jamaica. This has also been high since the herb has long been anchored in the culture of many inhabitants and is as widespread on the island as is probably in no other country in the world.
The possession of two ounces, which corresponds to about 56 grams is legal. Cultivation and sale remain prohibited. However, the sale is largely regulated by the police. Smoking in public is, however, still punishable and entails a small fine. This also applies to tobacco, as to grass. One who lights a cigarette in the public, by the way, is rather strangely looked at.
LEAVE THE HOTEL AND GET TO KNOW LOCALS
Many tourists during the Jamaica holiday hardly leave the hotel grounds, although there is so much to discover in Jamaica. Not only nature is phenomenal, but also the locals. You can get not only an insight into the culture of the country but really a lot of inspirations and new visions of life. Life is short and you should have fun were sayings that I heard continuously on this trip.