TIPS ON TRAVELLING IN JAMAICA
The best way to discover Jamaica is at your own pace. This guide is planned for visitors with a car or "wheels" of some sort. When renting a car or motorbike be sure to deal with a reputable and registered company and have all your insurance in order. An air-conditioned car will add to your comfort and is sure to protect you from the heat of the midday sun, if you're travelling in the summer months.
We have included descriptions of the six main areas with tours radiating from Kingston, Mandeville, Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, and Port Antonio. Interesting detours are also described. We give the approximate mileage of each tour, but the time each tour takes is entirely up to you, as well as road and weather conditions and other imponderables. You may want to stop and smell the flowers, have a swim, picnic, negotiate a purchase or whatever. It is impossible to see every point of interest mentioned on the same day, so you may wish to plan your own itinerary using our index and tour maps. Here are some additional suggestions for motorists.
FINDING YOUR OWN WAY
A good road map is essential. The bad news is that getting lost is half the fun. You may see unexpected places and meet interesting people. You can get directions at any cross roads, corner shop, police station, or for that matter in the middle of a canefield. The problem is that in their eagerness to help, your informants may underestimate distance and overestimate road conditions. If a Jamaican tells you that a road is bad, believe him it is probably impassable. Beware of someone who speaks of a "driving road" especially if he happens to be riding a donkey. His idea of what constitutes a "driving road" may be entirely subjective. We discovered that a "driving road" may be negotiable only with a jeep or tractor.
A "chain" is an archaic measurement of British origin equivalent to 22 yards. In Jamaica the term is still used frequently and indiscriminately to estimate distance. A "few chains" could be anything up to a mile, or two, or more.
Driving in the city may test your mettle. Plan your route ahead of time, expect traffic jams, maniacal drivers, malicious pot-hole, major air pollution and do not be surprised if the traffic lights are not working.
Road manners. Jamaican drivers are neither the most cautious nor the most courteous in the world. They speed, pass on the wrong side, stop in the middle of the road to have a chat and honk or yell at other drivers who cross them. For your part, do not be afraid to use your horn; this is a necessary survival skill especially on winding mountain roads and in village streets thickly populated with loungers, livestock and children.
In rural areas, be prepared for your appearance to cause comment, especially in remote areas. "Whitey" or "Red Man" are not insults, merely descriptions of your complexion.
Rural roads have unexpected hazards: tiny children who wander in to the road to wave at you, schoolchildren on their way to school, cricket games in the middle of the street, ambling livestock, to name just a few. Not to mention again the infinite variety of potholes.
Freelance Guides will volunteer to show you the way. Make discreet inquiries before accepting their services and agree on a fee before setting out. Giving lifts is one way of getting a guide and a lot of local information. As a rule it is perfectly safe to pick up school kids or little old ladies on their way to church. Screen other applicants carefully.
HOW TO DEAL WITH HUSTLERS
Let's face it, you are going to meet some, especially in the resort areas. If you are not interested in the goods or services offered, just say so, politely but very firmly. If the hustler persists, look around for a policeman. If all else fails, a well chosen Jamaican expletive may work wonders because it will demonstrate that you are not a total "stranger in paradise". Get a Jamaican friend to tutor you in the most effective phrases (you don't even have to know what they mean). Most Jamaicans have a sense of humour and are well acquainted with the Tourist Board's campaigns aimed at reducing tourist harassment so another defensive tactic is to say "Cho man doant harass de tourist" or, alternatively "Leff me nuh man can't you see I am a poorist?" (i.e. impecunious traveller). As a rule, the further you are away from a resort area or official attraction, the less likely you are to be harassed.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Crime is just as prevalent in Jamaica as elsewhere in the world. It is foolish to walk around carelessly, especially in Kingston, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. If you do want to wander around in the towns, it is best to disguise yourself as a "poorist", many of whom establish instant rapport with sympathetic locals. This means you will have to dress simply, (the scruffier the better) and leave your cameras, jewellery and money in a safe place. Persons who encourage drug vendors and prostitutes are dealing with criminals and putting themselves at risk.
RENTING A DREAD
Recently Jamaica has figured in some European magazines as offering "Sex Tourism" on a par with Thailand. This is nonsense. It is true however that many single ladies come to Jamaica in search of their own Bob Marley facsimile and local youths are only too happy to act as gigolos. This is known locally as "Renting a dread" because youths with dreadlocks are most in demand.
Your car rental firm will have advised you of their recommended procedure. Most have a 24-hour emergency service. But what if you breakdown on a country road far from a telephone? You will find that someone materializes as if by magic to help you. He will be a mechanic, have ambitions of being a mechanic, or happen to have a mechanic friend nearby. In a short while a small but sympathetic crowd may have gathered and at least two or three of them will be having a go at fixing your car. It is not a bad idea to request a diagnosis and an estimate of charges early in the proceedings. More often than not they will succeed in getting you back on the road, at least to the nearest telephone.
Accidents: Inform your car rental firm as soon as possible.
EATING EN ROUTE
It is fun to sample local food, for instance you should try some pepper shrimps at Middle Quarters, Fry Fish and Bammy at Scotts Cove in Westmoreland, Jerk Pork or Chicken almost everywhere and you can safely quench your thirst with "a jelly" a green coconut which is filled with coconut waterand lined with soft white jelly. On the journey from Ocho Rios to Kingston, hungry Jamaicans stop on Mount Diablo at Faith's Pen to snack: favourite items here are corn, roasted or boiled, or roast yam. Patties and coco bread, bun and cheese are popular with Jamai- can travellers and can be bought in most towns. Cold bottled drinks are available in almost every village. However, a picnic basket or box lunches and an igloo of iced water are sensible precautions. In case of injury or illness All large hotels have a doctor on call and can also recommend a dentist. If you are staying in a villa call the nearest hotel and ask for the name of their doctor or ask your housekeeper to recommend a local doctor. Emergencies should be taken to the casualty depart ment of the nearest hospital. The St John's Ambulance provide an ambulance service: Telephone: 974-5126. There is also an Air Ambulance Service which can arrange speedy airlift to the U.S. This service is listed in the telephone directory.
Contact your embassy or the nearest office of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
Jamaica Tourist Board
Montego Bay 952-4425?8.
Ocho Rios 974-2570
Port Antonio 993-3051
U.S. Embassy 929-4850
British High Commission 926-9050
Canadian High Commission 926-1500
German Embassy 926-6728
Japanese Embassy 929-7534
Netherlands Embassy 926-2026
If you do not have your own transport the tour desk of any large hotel can recommend a taxi or suggest an appropriate tour.
OVERSEAS TELEPHONE CALLS
Overseas calls made from a private phone require an individual ICAS number. Long distance and overseas calls can be made from public telephones using telephone cards which can be purchased from various locations.