Experience why Jamaica is one of the most special places on earth. Immerse yourself in a culture as vibrant as the art, as unique as each sunset and as diverse as the people.
Truly a nation “out of many, one people,” Jamaica is a multifaceted mosaic of international customs and traditions. Many ancestors from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, have helped to shape the culture that is uniquely Jamaican. When visiting this island gem, take time to experience the culture… it’s what sets it apart from other Caribbean destinations. Reason with a Rastafarian about life, love or politics. Lose yourself in the rhythms and movements of a people who still refuse to be constrained. Visit one of the many theatres or stage shows and delight in the performing arts, showcasing everything from Jonkonnu to jazz. Want to dance too? Join in the wild revelry of Carnival and Augus’ Mawnin or just follow the reggae beat, pulsing from street corners and rum bars island wide. After that, share a meal – ackee and saltfish with roasted breadfruit, escoveitched fish, bammy and festival – the epicurean feasts will tantalize your taste buds. In Jamaica, you’ll discover new worlds, and familiar ones too, lots to learn about, and even more to love. No wonder it’s been called “the biggest little island in the world…”
Negril’s history only began a few centuries ago. Known as a shipping haven in the 1700s, Negril’s sparse population and lack of visitors was due to a large swamp area and extremely bad roads, that made getting there difficult. One of the first people to realize Negril’s potential was Norman Washington Manley who ordered canals to be cut in order for the swamp to be drained. He then had a major highway built. It’s no wonder why the main road in Negril is named after him.
In 1958 Negril’s Land Authority was established. There to supervise the land development, and preserve the unspoiled beauty Negril had to offer, they have been ineffective and only step in occasionally. Even when it comes to the rule “no building shall be built taller than the tallest palm tree.” Only to have palm tree’s that tower brought in so the buildings can go that much higher.
During the 60’s Negril saw an influx of “hippies”. These college students, draft dodgers, veterans and foreigners all saw Negril as a safe haven, especially Negril’s West End. They gravitated there to people’s homes, for a place to get away from all the rules of typical society. As a result of the increasing numbers of visitors’ landowners in the West End prospered, and shortly after more homes and business received more modern conveniences.
It was not that long ago that Negril finally got TV’s and telephones, many places also got electricity, and pipe water. Only a few hotels lined the beach and cliff area. So Negril has come a long way in a short amount of time. Negril is now lined with mega hotels beginning in Bloody Bay, large and small hotels, and cottages, line the beach of Long Bay, and the West End cliffs. Vendors and small shops can be found all throughout the beach area and plaza’s can be found at the round about, towards the West End Road.
Negril is now flocked with travelers from all over the world. Spring breakers invade Negril’s beach every year from March until the beginning of April. Tourists from colder climates travel to Negril during the winter months, from December to April, to get away from the cold and enjoy Negril’s warmth. From mid-April to the beginning of December many bargains can be found as its Negril’s off-season.
When it comes to environmental issues Negril leads the pack. Marine parks to protect the reef have been put into place. Over the past few years the reef has become lack luster due to storms and boating. Energy and water conservation and coastal clean ups are among a few of the issues Negril has begun to tackle. Many of the hotels are proud to be a part of the conservation efforts put forth.
With it’s gleaming white powdery sand beaches and water so clear you can see the bottom even in great depths it’s easy to understand why people flock to Negril and why it’s said to have the best beach in the Caribbean. Calm waters beckon young and old to drift in the clear Caribbean Sea. To watch as the small silver herring jump in schools out of the water to evade larger prey, or as a ray gently glides along the shore.
Come to Negril to meet the smiling faces, see new sights, relax, and let your soul get re-energized. You may fall in love with this country, and Negril itself, like so many before you already have.
Most hotels and resorts have safes in the rooms. Please use them to lock up your valuables (jewelry and extra cash) as well as your plane tickets and ID’s. If possible, take a copy of all your ID’s with you just in case they are lost or stolen.
Although drugs may seem plentiful they are illegal. Possession of “ganja” and hard drugs carries a stiff penalty. Although mushrooms are legal.
You may see a 10% service charge when dining out. That charge does not go to the servers but to the Jamaican government. Please tip as you would at home, your servers will appreciate your kindness. Worker make extremely low wages – you would be surprised to learn of their weekly salaries.
Jamaicans do not see dogs and cats the way you are used to seeing them. They are protection. They also cannot afford to take care of their animals the way you are used to seeing them being taken care of. They do have fleas, heartworm, ringworm, roundworm, hookworm and many other parasites. That being known be careful where you walk barefoot. If there is an area known for having animals put your shoes on. Ground itch, or creeping eruption, is not fun! Jamaicans are not starving their animals. They are thin but typically healthy.
Many boats can be found up and down both the beach and cliff area. Boats can be chartered for fishing, snorkeling, sight seeing, or a picnic lunch on Booby Cay. Captains will be more than happy to accommodate your requests. Again bartering can come in handy to get some great prices on fun day trips.
For lower cab fares go outside your resort and walk. Cabs will pull over. Look for red plates. You say your price. Don’t let them tell you a price. If it’s too high keep walking, there will be another cab, trust me. For around $100J you can go from RIU to the roundabout, or from the roundabout to the cliffs. $300J is more than enough to get you from beach road to cliffs, usually. Start low though, like $200J, (around $3.00 USD) and work your way up from there. Everything can be bartered. We mean Everything. ALWAYS AGREE ON A PRICE BEFORE GETTING INTO A CAB.
Always use a licensed taxi; Route Taxi, Big Ship Tours, Juta Tours, Esperanza, Alfred’s, and Sunshine Tours are a few names. Make sure their licence plates are red. That means they are licensed to drive tourists.
If going out at night you may opt to pay for a cab for the night. Your driver will either wait for you outside the club or set up a designated pick up time. Make sure you write down the cab drivers name and cell phone number. Again, ALWAYS AGREE ON A PRICE BEFOREHAND.
The Jamaican dolar is the official currency. Most places will accept, and love, USD. Especially for tips. Always bring your travelers cheatsheet with you. That way your exchange rate is right there, and it’s wallet size!
Jamaica time, or Island time, is not just a joke. Things really are a bit slower here. Life is not as fast paced as it is at home. So slow down. Never go to a restaurant starving. They actually make your food. It’s not frozen or pre-made and sitting under a heat lamp. It’s real fruits in your fruit juices, not a bottle. So relax. Have a drink, chat with friends and enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Language is spoken by Jamaicans?
The official language of Jamaica is English, although many residents speak Jamaican Patios which is a mix of English, African, Indian, Spanish and slang.
What Time Zone is Jamaica?
Jamaica is on Eastern Standard time, although they do not participate in day light savings time. During day light savings time they are an hour behind EST.
Can I rent a car in Negril?
Jamaicans drive on the left-hand side of the road. There are many things to consider before renting a car. Potholes, animals, and quick passing cars are common place. You may want to go to Negril a few times before deciding to rent a vehicle. You can rent vehicles by the day or week around most resorts. Mopeds, scooters, bikes, and motorcycles as well as cars and jeeps can all be rented.
Can I drink the water?
Yes, you can drink the water straight from the tap in Jamaica. The water is from the mountain springs and is chlorinated. Although when traveling outside the larger cities it pays to be a little more cautious as flooding may have caused contamination in more rural area’s, and many outside of the cities still use well water, boreholes, or water direct from rivers and springs.
What type current do they use?
Electricity is the similar to the US; they use 110 volts, 50 cycles, using the same receptacles as us. Although you may notice that your appliances may run a little cooler and slower than at home, due to the US having 120volts, 60 cycles.
Are there ATM’s In Negril?
Yes. There are a few in Hotels, but most people go to the Scotia Bank at the round about. It dispenses money in JMD.
Should I change my money before I go down?
It used to be that you could get a good exchange rate using USD at many stores and restaurants. Not so anymore. There are many Cambio’s along the beach road. Also stores like Hi-Lo will dispense all change in JMD. ATM’s at the round about dispense JMD as stated above. Many places will be more than happy to accept USD.
What is the attitude towards homosexuals in Jamaica?
Jamaica is an adamantly homophobic nation. Homosexual intercourse between men is illegal, and anti-gay hysteria is a staple of musical lyrics. Homosexuality is a subject that evokes extreme reactions among Jamaicans, and it is difficult to hold a serious discussion on the topic.
Most Jamaican gays are still in the closet. Nonetheless, many hoteliers are gay-friendly or gay-tolerant, and you should not be put off from visiting the island. Just don’t expect to be able to display your sexuality openly without serious adverse reaction.
Can I sunbathe topless or nude in Negril?
Topless sunbathing is allowable all along Seven Mile beach. Nude sunbathing is usually kept to private coves on the West End cliffs, sections of Booby Cay and a very small section of Bloody Beach. Hedonism II, Couples Negril, Grand Lido Negril, Point Village Resort, Firefly, Carib Beach Apartments and some resorts on the West End have either clothing optional areas or nude beaches.
Will the vendors always bother me?
The vendors along the beach are trying to earn a living, like most of us. They will try to sell you everything, literally. A simple “no thanks” is usually all that is needed. Sometimes they will persist. Don’t try to be kind with a “maybe later” or “I don’t have my money on me” because they will persist even harder if you give them an inch. Show them respect and “no thank you. I don’t want anything.” Period.
Is there a mall?
Negril now has a shopping mall to equal the ones found in Mo Bay or Ocho Rios. It’s the Time Square Mall on Norman Manley Boulevard across from the popular Bourbon Beach nightclub (formerly De Buss). There are more than a dozen duty-free shops and souvenir stores, including a courtyard cafe. This mall offers Negril’s best selection of watches (from Chaumet to Patek Philippe), jewelry (including some from the collections of Chopard and Miki-moto), and gifts and accessories such as a wide assortment of pens and writing instruments. Crafts are sold here, along with perfumes, books, cigarettes, cigars, film, liquor, dresses, and Blue Mountain coffee. The cigar store here has a walk-in humidor and sells genuine Habanos or Cuban cigars. Jamaican cigars are also sold.
Are there grocery stores?
If you have a housekeeping or self-catering apartment, you can pick up groceries at Value Master or the Hi-Lo Grocery Store in the Hi-Lo Shopping Centre on West End Road. If you need to buy in bulk, say cases of beer, soda, water go to Negril Cash and Carry in White Swan Plaza. They are a wholesale distributor. If you are staying on the West End Road along the cliffs then you have two choices in larger markets. M&L market near Sam Sara, and Wise Choice Market near Tensing Pen. There are also many small grocery stores along both the beach and West End Road. Here’s your chance to enjoy Blue Mountain coffee, Jamaican spices, and locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Where can I buy Jamaican crafts?
Just off Norman Manley Boulevard, as you head south into Negril Village, is the Negril Crafts Market on the right. It is a collection of shacks and is the largest center for crafts in the area, though they’re sold virtually everywhere, including along the Beach. Woodcarvings, beads, jewelry, and other items fill the market. Haggling is expected; begin by offering half the price you’re quoted.
The worst shopping is at the overpriced boutiques found at first-class hotels, especially the all-inclusives. But they can come in handy when you’re seeking postcards, souvenirs, suntan lotion, or swimwear in a pinch.
Other vendors can be found at Fi Wi Plaza on West End Road, between a traffic circle and “Sunshine Village.” The most expensive (but not always best) crafts are sold at Rutland Point Market in the north of Negril.
Is there prostitution in Negril?
Yes. Although it is not legal. You will see many men and women looking to show you love. Many beautiful women will surround single men at the clubs, and single women will receive the same treatment from the local men.
Are women treated as equals there?
‘Political correctness’ hasn’t yet filtered down from the educated Jamaican middle class to the male masses. Many Jamaican men display behavior and attitudes that might shock visiting women, often expressing disdain for the notion of female equality or women’s rights. Rape is possible in Jamaica, and occasionally involves female. Many times people traveling as a couple will find that most transactions and conversations will be directed at the male. It’s not out of disrespect for the female; it’s just what they are accustomed to.
If you’re single, it will be assumed that you’re on the island seeking companionship. Any remonstration to the contrary will likely be met with wearying attempts to get you to change your mind. Black women can expect to hear a ‘roots’ trip.
If you go along with the flirting, don’t expect a Jamaican man to understand if you’ve no intent of going further. Your innocent acceptance will be taken as a sign of acquiescence. The Jamaican male has a fragile ego and is likely to react strongly to feeling like a fool. Don’t beat about the bush for fear of hurting the man’s feelings.
Many foreign women welcome these advances, as evidenced by the proliferation of ‘rent-a-Rasta’s’ – semi-professional good time guys, or gigolos – on the arms of North American and European women. Most often, the man is excited more by your economic clout than your looks – a foreign catch brings status and the possibility for wheedling some cash. You’ll be the moneybags in any romantic encounter.
What is there for kids to do in Negril?
There are plenty of activities to keep kids occupied. From waterfalls to water sports, Negril has much to offer. Parasailing, jet skis, banana boat rides, glass bottom boats, snorkeling, rhino tours, and natural lazy rivers can all be found in or near Negril. Kool Runnings Water Park is across from the Beaches Negril Resort and great fun for kids.
Are there poisonous snakes?
No, Jamaica shipped in mongoose to kill off rats long ago that also killed the poisonous snakes. Jamaica does have the non-poisonous Jamaican yellow boa, which are rare.
Are there crocodiles?
Jamaica is home to the American Crocodile. Typically they can be found in Black River of the St. Elizabeth, but they have been found all along the south coast from Westmoreland to Portland point. With a small population of crocodiles found on the north coast from Hanover to Trelawney.
Is there anything in the ocean I should be careful of?
Always shuffle your feet while wading in so as to not step on Stingrays. Also be careful of Sea Urchins. As their spines can break off and stick into your feet. While snorkeling be careful of fire coral. Although there are many different varieties of this coral, all are edged in white. Always stay away from Scorpion fish. With feathery spines around it’s back and side this fish looks dangerous. Also dangerous is the Barracuda. This silver fish with sharp teeth can be found in deeper water snorkeling and scuba diving. Sea Lice or Sea Bathers Eruption caused by the larvae of the Thimble Jellyfish is also a concern.
Are there sand fleas?
Yes. As the sand cools at night the sand fleas come out. Wear deet, or whatever you feel works, for both mosquitoes and sand flees. Many larger resorts spray the sand for sand fleas.