Travel Fundamentals for Jamaica

Learn about the differences and delights you'll experience in Jamaica

Photo credit: © Lucian Coman |

Visiting Jamaica is a great experience no matter how much you know before you leave home. Still, a little local savvy will go a long way and help you feel as comfortable as possible on this unique and diverse island.


Jamaicans are easygoing people, but a few codes of conduct will keep everyone smiling. Common courtesy always goes a long way; handshakes and politeness are always respected, especially in business situations. Travelers are reminded that punctuality is greatly appreciated, and when it comes to fashion, locals in Jamaica consider short skirts and shorts for women to be inappropriate.


Like any other country, each region of Jamaica has its own style. The following chart provides a brief description of Jamaica's larger cities.

City Description
Montego Bay Affectionately called "MoBay," the community of Montego Bay is one of the most popular resort destinations in Jamaica, especially for American travelers. Here you'll find upscale resorts and all-inclusives with all the bells and whistles. It has plenty of commercialization and isn't the best spot for authentic Jamaican culture, but it is easily accessible from its own airport, the Donald Sangster International Airport.
Negril If you want to leave your inhibitions behind, Negril is the place to go. Here, beautiful beaches, some of them clothing-optional, host crowds interested in partying and ganja (marijuana). The East End features upscale hotels, while the West End is a throwback to the popularity Jamaica enjoyed in the 1960s - a more free-spirited and bohemian style of vacation, featuring local restaurants and modest cottages. A word of warning: Walking alone at night, especially outside a resort's secured area, has been greatly discouraged by many.
Ocho Rios Ocho Rios is most Americans second choice for destinations in Jamaica. It is a popular cruise port and truly thrives on tourism. It is just two hours from Montego Bay and offers a more laid back hotel stay than either Montego Bay or Negril. Beaches here are beautiful, and some people travel here for the history - Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels here, and it was a popular spot for Errol Flynn and other legends as well.
Runaway Bay Runaway Bay is much smaller than Ocho Rios and less popular. It has fewer people day-to-day because it lacks the cruise ship popularity that Ocho Rios holds. However, it does have a few historical distinctions and is the spot where the Spanish fled the island after their defeat by the British. Travelers looking to avoid "tourist traps" may find this their ideal vacation spot in Jamaica.
Port Antonio A unique destination lacking in posh resorts and crowded streets, celebrities and travelers alike enjoy the peace of Port Antonio. This seaport northeast of Kingston is also north of the Blue Mountains. Known as one of the more lushly beautiful sections of the island, it is also popular among explorers. Visitors here are more often European than American, and the atmosphere is extremely relaxed, especially when it comes to nightlife, upscale dining and shopping. Don't visit this part of Jamaica, however, if you're looking for all-inclusives and mega resorts.
Kingston Kingston is the city most vacationers avoid, whether because they've been warned away by its bad reputation or because it simply doesn't offer the resort amenities vacationers are looking for. Business travelers are generally the only travelers visiting Kingston. However, it is a major urban center and the cultural center of the island with a large number of artists and artisans among its inhabitants. Nightlife can be great, but travelers are warned to take extra caution - as in any major metropolitan area - and avoid certain neighborhoods, especially at night. Just outside the city are the Blue Mountains, where Jamaica's trademark coffee is grown. It's also easily accessible through its own airport, though it is often recommended that tourists stick to Montego Bay's airport unless visiting Kingston or surrounding areas.

Along with these tips on etiquette and overview of Jamaica's main cities, we offer numerous articles of information regarding many of the most important basic travel tips.  Learn about any documentation you may need to enter the country, which clothing is appropriate, how you can call home, and more by selecting an article from our list of "Travel Basics" to the left.


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