Spending some time enjoying the glorious Caribbean seas that surround Jamaica’s lush peaceful North-East coastline of Port Antonio is heavenly and the surest way to chase away a feeling of the winter blues.
Like many places in the world there are subtle cultural differences that you will encounter when having a break in Jamaica, especially as a woman. You may share the same language, but in the same way that there are differences between the UK and the US you will encounter some minute differences in Jamaican attitudes to those back home. This is our ‘Girl Guide to Jamaica’, especially written to ensure that all women get the most out of their holiday in Jamaica.
Chat but Leave out the Details
Jamaicans are ever-so-friendly and will approach anyone for a little chat, this is just part of the national character, to chat and say hello to everyone. In Jamaica, blanking people is considered extremely rude: it will cause offense and could potentially lead to unpleasantness. We suggest you always acknowledge and exchange a quick “hi” with a grin to those that greet you.
If anyone does seem particularly persistent in drawing out a greeting into a long conversation and you really don’t want to chat, then we recommend just putting the same questions back that you have been asked, i.e.:
If asked, where you come from, just ask them in return where do they come from?
If they ask you your name, ask them theirs.
They will soon get the message
If you are at the beach and someone shows you their beadwork, or calabashes that have been fashioned into bags or utensils and don’t appeal simply just say “sorry, not today; maybe later in the week”, they will then respect you and leave you alone.
Whilst enjoying the friendly chats do maintain a healthy sense of being streetwise. Do not tell people where you are staying – we have known beach vendors and similar to turn up at Hotel Mockingbird Hill insisting on seeing guests whose enthusiastic verbal supply of holiday details (hotel &c.) convinced them they wanted to “chat” further… less is more as the saying goes!
No Problem Maan!
People in Jamaica, like many places in the world, are very quick to promise anything with a “No Problem maan!”, but be very clear about the arrangements being made, and preferably have it written down as a record.
Do not be “charmed” into handing over your credit card to anyone who offers to help you with the ATM machine or whatever. You would not do this at home, so why risk it in a foreign destination?
Mr Cab Driver
Follow our version of this Jamaican saying – “Do not try to penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to transportation”!
In Jamaica there are three forms of taxi:
a.) The illegal ones
b.) The so-called route taxis that act more like a bus service with people getting in & out and just paying their fare for a particular stretch
c.) The fully licensed and regulated taxis which also have full insurance coverage.
We have had to pick up guests who were left stranded on the road side when an illegal (albeit cheap) taxi that was in such bad condition burst into flames. As a woman this is simply not worth taking such a risk. When such things go wrong there is no ability to follow this up because they are manned by unknown drivers without insurance, your own travel insurance would not cover you in the case of such emergencies if you were injured.
Route taxis are fine for short stretches, but be aware police are now cracking down on those who do not have the right papers and literally confiscating their cabs in the middle of beyond, forcing their passengers to fend for themselves, so if you use these make it short & sweet not a long journey.
When ordering a taxi to a place, ask for it to pick you up in a nearby restaurant and do not pay the fare till you have arrived back at your final destination. We have experienced guests who, having ordered a cab in town, paid the fare in the morning and were left stranded when their driver couldn’t be bothered to go back and pick them up.
Bubble Bubble Boil & Trouble
To be on the safe side and avoid upset tummies, stay away from drinks made with the local water or ice. It is preferable to stick to bottled drinks that are chilled without the addition of ice or even better have a coconut chopped fresh for you to drink. We recommend fresh coconut water as the ‘source’ of what is advertised as ‘bottled water’ can be questionable.
If eating on the road or at informal eateries stay away from salads as one never knows in what water the salads have been washed.
Keep a pack of disinfectant wipes, toilet paper and hand gel to wash without water when traveling. The condition of public toilets (few & far in between) often leaves much to be desired so it best to be equipped with the necessities; for that reason it is best to use the facilities at the airport before embarking upon your journey to your hotel.
Do advise your hotel of your expected arrival time and carry their telephone number with you. We also recommend that you keep the hotel posted of your plans – to avoid them worrying about you and sending out a search party for you, which does happen. Hotels do not want to “control” your activities but they do have a sense of responsibility for their guests and want to ensure their safety and well-being. Some hotels in Jamaica have a mobile number for you to send an SMS or of course you can tweet.