Jamaica Tours & Vacations
At this stage we don't have any organized trips to Jamaica.
That said, Intrepid can create tailor-made tours to many destinations, including Jamaica. Our fully customized trips still offer the same small group experiences with local leaders, but made just the way you want it. Simply fill out your details on our Tailor-Made page and one of our travel specialists will be in touch.
Jamaica at a glance
Jamaican Dollar (JMD)
(GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio
Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin)
Learn more about Jamaica
Culture and Customs
In addition to its beautiful beaches and flavorful food, the people of Jamaica are an inherent part of the country’s appeal. Their friendly nature, sense of humor and colorful banter are hard to resist. Even Jamaican Patois, a mix of English and African languages, has a charming, almost musical air to it.
As the birthplace of reggae and dancehall, music plays an important role in Jamaican culture. Historically linked to Rastafarianism, reggae was used to express spirituality and bring awareness to social and political injustice. Look no further than Jamaican icon, Bob Marley, who sang of ‘One Love’, to see this relationship at play. Gospel sounds are an integral part of church, while West African folk songs pepper daily life. Hand in hand with music is dancing – energetic and mesmerizing, few can resist swaying to the beat when island ‘riddims’ (rhythm in Patois) are played.
Spirituality is also highly valued in Jamaica. Home to more churches per square mile than any other country, about 65% of the population is Christian, while the rest adhere to Hinduism, Islam, Judaism or various African religions. About one percent of the population follow the Rastafari philosophy, which seeks to recapture and celebrate African heritage. Despite being a small group, followers have left an indelible stamp on the country and their movement has spread to other parts of the world.
Eating and drinking
Many of the flavors and spices found in Jamaican food come from the Spanish, British, African, Indian and Chinese populations who inhabit the island. Taking advantage of the natural bounties at their disposal, Jamaican dishes feature plenty of fish, tropical fruits and produce. While the local cuisine has a reputation for being fiery, those with lower spice thresholds don’t need to worry as there are actually many dishes and snacks that don’t have chili peppers. Meat dishes feature heavily in the local diet – jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail are some of the more popular dishes – yet many Rastas believe adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet is an important part of their faith, so a wide array of options for vegetarians is usually available as well.
Nothing is more quintessentially Jamaican than a plate of jerk chicken with rice and peas. Be aware that most Jamaicans eat their meat well done, so proper jerk might be drier than what you’re used to. Side dishes are usually vegetarian and include plantain, a sweet tropical cooking banana that is sliced and deep fried, and callaloo, a staple Caribbean green. Slightly bitter and nutty-tasting, callaloo is often steamed and lightly seasoned with green onions, garlic, thyme and coconut oil.
For a cheap and satisfying snack, nothing beats a vegetarian or spicy beef Jamaican patty. Available everywhere, Jamaican patties are similar to an empanada and get their golden hue from turmeric. Roadside stands selling boiled corn, roasted yams, soups, fried fish, coconut water and various tropical fruits are also easy to find.
In addition to coconut water, skyjuice (shaved ice covered in fruit syrup) is a Jamaican favorite sold by many street vendors. This drink is best avoided, however, as the ice is not always sanitary. Luckily, Jamaica has plenty of other refreshing options to quench your thirst instead, like various types of rum punch or Red Stripe, a local Jamaican beer. If you’re after a java jolt, coffee harvested in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains is full-bodied, exceptionally smooth and among the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world.
Must-try foods in Jamaica
1. Curry goat
A staple across the Caribbean, this slow-cooked savory dish is packed with flavor. Chunks of goat and potato are simmered in curry powder and various other spices until it’s thick and tender.
2. Rice and peas
Rice and peas (which might be pigeon peas, kidney beans or black beans) are simmered in coconut milk, thyme and other spices to create a dish that is simultaneously sweet and savory.
3. Jerk chicken
This quintessential Jamaican dish gets it’s distinct flavor from jerk spice (a mixture of Scotch bonnet peppers, pimento, cinnamon and nutmeg), which is dry-rubbed into the meat. Jerk pork and jerk fish are other variations worth trying.
4. Saltfish and ackee
A popular breakfast choice, the mild and creamy flesh of Jamaica’s national fruit (ackee) is boiled with salt-cured cod (salt fish), tomatoes and various spices to create a dish that is both sweet and salty.
Geography and Environment
Jamaica is a tropical island nation located south of Cuba and west of Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. More than 1,000 km (621 miles) of coastline stretch over numerous bays, keys, and islands to produce some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Calm waters give way to white-sand beaches along the northern coast, whereas black-sand beaches can be found in the west. Miles of the well-developed coral reef is located along the north and east coast.
More than just idyllic beaches, much of Jamaica is covered in rugged peaks, some of which are volcanic. The Blue Mountains and Dry Harbour Mountain occupy the eastern half of the country, descending westward into Cockpit Country, a hilly limestone landscape of ridges, caves, and sinkholes.
As an island nation, shopping options aren’t as extensive as you might find elsewhere. Malls are relatively modest in size and most items are imported, making them more expensive than what you might expect. Your best bet while shopping in Jamaica is to look for locally-made goods. Jamaican rum and coffee are both great choices that can be purchased relatively cheaply at any local grocery store. Though Blue Mountain Coffee may seem pricey, it is still a fraction of the price of what you would find outside of the country. Rum distilleries, like Appleton’s and Hampden Estate, are also a good place to both sample and purchase locally-made rums.
Head to craft markets to shop jewelry and handmade wood carvings, though be aware, many of the other goods commonly found in markets are neither handmade or locally-produced. Harbour Street Craft Market in Montego Bay and ‘Cooyah’ Market in Kingston are two of the biggest markets to practice your haggling skills. ‘Cooyah’ Market also stocks a wide array of Rastafarian clothing, which is typically red, green and gold (the colors of the Ethiopian flag). And of course, Bob Marley memorabilia can be found everywhere throughout the country.
Be aware that US dollars are widely accepted, although technically it is illegal for vendors to sell items in foreign currency. Most places give change in Jamaican dollars regardless of the currency you pay with.
Festivals and events in Jamaica
For many Jamaicans, music is an important part of daily life and inextricably intertwined with their culture and identity, so it makes sense that many of their festivals incorporate their musical heritage. Some of the best ones to keep an eye out for are:
Bob Marley Birthday Bash
Every year, the idyllic beach town of Negril celebrates the life of Bob Marley with a multi-day festival featuring authentic Jamaican music, food, and art. Festival dates vary slightly each year but always coincide with the beloved icon’s birthday on February 6th.
Saint Ann Kite Festival
Colorful and elaborate kites fill the sky over Saint Ann’s beach during the day, while concerts take over during the evening for this wholesome, yet entertaining annual March festival.
Jamaica’s largest music festival takes over Montego Bay every July. Attracting reggae icons, international artists, and energetic crowds for over 20 years, Sumfest just might be ‘greatest reggae show on earth’ like they profess to be.
Jamaica’s Carnival (Bacchanal)
In the months leading up to Easter, the infectious sounds of calypso and soca fill the air as Jamaica comes down with Carnival fever. Concerts, beach parties, street parades and weekly mas camps take place across the country, culminating in a grand parade in Kingston that rivals Rio’s in the spectacle. Featuring costumed revelers, high-energy dancing, pulsating music and a euphoric atmosphere – Carnival is a must for anyone wanting to experience the excitement and bacchanal of a proper Caribbean fete.
|A Brief History of Seven Killings||Marlon James|
|Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley||Timothy White|
|The True History of Paradise||Margaret Cezair-Thompson|
|Wide Sargasso Sea||Jean Rhys|
Jamaica travel FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Jamaica experiences beautiful, warm weather all year round, although the risk of tropical storms tends to deter tourists during the summer months. Hurricane season tapers off around November, drawing most travelers to Jamaica between December and March, when the weather is consistently warm and sunny and there is little rainfall. Rainfall begins to increase in April and May, but shouldn’t hinder travel plans. Travel is cheapest between July and October when increased rainfall and sporadic heavy storms become common.
Australia: No – not required
Belgium: No – not required
Canada: No – not required
Germany: No – not required
Ireland: No – not required
Netherlands: No – not required
New Zealand: No – not required
South Africa: No – not required
Switzerland: No – not required
United Kingdom: No – not required
USA: No – not required
Travelers from most nations do not require a visa to visit Jamaica for stays of up to 90 days. Most travelers that do require a visa can obtain one on arrival. Check with your local consulate or embassy for up-to-date information.
It’s recommended that your passport is valid for at least six months past your departure date and that it has a few blank pages for stamps.
It is customary to leave a 10% tip at hotels and restaurants. Some will automatically add a 10 or 15% service charge, in which case there is no need to leave an additional tip.
The Internet can be accessed at internet cafes and hotels in large cities but is limited in rural and remote areas.
Cell phone coverage is good in major cities, but may not be available in rural and remote areas. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home.
Western-style flushable toilets are the norm in Jamaica. Most restaurants charge a small fee to use their restrooms.
Bottle of local beer = USD 1.20
Plate of jerk = USD 3.50
Simple meal at a local restaurant = USD 20
Sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant = USD 30+
Tap water is safe to drink in tourist areas and major cities though should be avoided in more rural parts. Regardless of where you are, it’s a good idea to avoid ice, as there is no guarantee the water used to make it was not contaminated. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, pack a reusable bottle. If you are in doubt about the quality of the water, your guide or hotel can tell you where to find filtered water
Major credit cards are generally accepted by medium-sized and larger businesses, particularly in tourist areas, but may not be accepted by smaller vendors or in more rural parts. It’s a good idea to always carry some cash in case credit cards are not an option.
ATMs are widely available at airports and in larger towns and hotels, although they have a reputation for being unreliable. Many banks will give credit card cash advances if the ATM is not working. For safety reasons, it is recommended that you only use ATMs during business hours and avoid using them after dark.
A high amount of discretion is recommended for LGBTQI travelers in Jamaica. Some of the country’s most prominent reggae and dancehall artists have been known to espouse anti-gay speech. Sexual acts between men are illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and homophobic-related violence is almost never prosecuted. Public displays of affection should always be avoided. That said, there is a large local gay population and an underground gay scene exists in Kingston.
For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or Smartraveller before you travel.
Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1: New Year’s Day
March 1: Ash Wednesday
Apr 14: Good Friday
Apr 17: Easter Monday
May 23: Labour Day
Aug 1: Emancipation Day
Aug 7: Independence Day
Oct 16: National Heroes Day
Dec 25: Christmas
Dec 26: Boxing Day
For a current list of public holidays in Jamaica go to: https://www.worldtravelguide.net/guides/caribbean/jamaica/public-holidays/
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travelers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travelers check with their government or national travel advisory organization for the latest information before departure:
Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Go to: https://travel.gc.ca/
From the UK?
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/
From the US?
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
The World Health Organization also provides useful health information.