Jun 282013

Footloose and fancy free – it really is the way to see Jamaica. Keep reminding yourself of such prerogatives when you pay a visit to this friendly, colourful, melodious, delicious Caribbean paradise.

Its name comes from the Taíno word “Xaymaca”, or “Land of Wood and Water”/”Land of Springs”. Imagine these lands being sun-soaked and lush, don’t forget the mountains, add beaches so beautiful they’ll make you feel like you’re in a dream, and you’ll have a pretty good picture of Jamaica’s stunning natural beauty.

Beauty of Sunset Beach, Jamaica

Beauty of Sunset Beach, Jamaica Image Credit: Heather Mclaughlin

Ninety percent of the population is of black (mostly African slave or Afro European) ancestry – people whose cultural rhythms outlasted the many other indigenous/other-nation slave/occupying cultures who called Jamaica home, or its colony.

And what a wonderful cultural rhythm it is! Music and dancing are central, food delicious, its pervasive spirituality complex and enriching, its friendliness renowned – and its most famous son is the great Bob Marley.

Backpackers, get ready! You’ll love the flexibility of traveling on a shoestring in Jamaica.

Getting Around

Do your research:
Always know how much you should be paying for taxi rides and rentals before you arrive. If it’s in your budget, it can be fun to have the flexibility of renting a car or motorcycle, but there are plenty of public transportation options if you go that route (get it?). Public buses, minibuses and taxis (both private and shared) can be found in each town’s transportation station, usually near the main market. Carry a supply of Jamaican coins and bills in denominations of J$50 and J$100 so no one has to deal with big bills.

Enjoy the Rum, Jerk :
Did I mention the food is really tasty? Not on the light side, but healthy in its way. Jamaica invented jerk spice, another cultural export besides reggae that has made its way around much of the world – so you can count on good flavours. If drinks are your main concern, Jamaicans also make a pretty good case for claiming the best rum in the world, so you won’t be disappointed on that side, either. If you’re looking for cheap eats and drink, just find out where the locals go – you’ll get better quality for half the price, or less.

Island Dreams :
Almost anywhere you go on the island you’ll find hostels and/or reasonably-priced places to lay your happy head – B&Bs, cabins, huts, private residences. Just poke around on the internet before you travel. It’s always worth a try asking around about lodging (and other recommendations, especially ones on the beach) when you arrive where you’re going and sit down at the bar for a Red Stripe.

Want to Hang on the Beach and Drink Punch Tomorrow?
Two great places to meet other freewheeling travellers are hostels and cheap music venues and bars. There’s always the beach too, no need to be shy if you see someone you want to talk to. Just keep in mind that sometimes people lounging on heavenly sand are happy alone in their own blissed-out worlds. But once it’s time for a shower, eat, and drink, it’s also time to meet, greet, and party!

“No worries”, a popular Jamaican phrase is a pretty great mantra. Just pack for warm weather (bring something nice/pretty to wear in case you get a fancier invitation), be ready to slow down and enjoy, and make the most your holidays to Jamaica.


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