Your travel guide to Jamaica

Travel to Jamaica

Best airports in Jamaica

Chances are that when you visit Jamaica, you will be entering through one of the three major airports. Recent upgrades to all our airports have made them much more comfortable than past times and placed them on par with many internationally acclaimed airports around the world.

Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA)

This is one of the three major airports in Jamaica. Located close to the Kingston Harbor, this airport is popularly used by tourists and locals travelling to the eastern side of the island such as Kingston, St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas. Norman Manley airport is not as busy as Sangster International Airport so you can expect a quicker immigration process.

Sangster International Airport (MBJ)

Located in Montego Bay, the Sangster International Airport is the number-one airport used by travellers because of its proximity to the resort areas such as Ocho Rios and Negril. This is the fourth busiest airport in the Caribbean with over three million passengers every year, which is twice the amount of the Norman Manley International Airport.

Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA)

Previously known as the Boscobel Aerodrome and catering to only domestic flights, The Ian Fleming Airport went under major upgrades from 2009 to 2011 and now facilitates commercial and charter flights to the U.S.A. and within the Caribbean. If you are looking for an airport near Ocho Rios or Runaway Bay, this is the closest international Airport. This airport is geared towards the high end tourist market in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Port Antonio. You won’t find any airbus planes here as yet, only small planes.

Local Travel

Domestic Airports/ Intra Island Flights

Tinson Pen Aerodrome

The largest of the three domestic aerodromes, Tinson Pen Aerodome is located on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston. Mostly business persons use this airport as a faster means of travel between Kingston and Montego Bay. Popular flight destinations also include Negril and Port Antonio.

Ken Jones Aerodrome

Port Antonio, once a buzzing tourist attraction, is home to the Ken Jones Aerodrome. Port Antonio is located to the far east of Jamaica and so visitors fly to and from this airport to visit the popular destination. A flight to Kingston only takes 15 minutes, and if you are driving you are looking at two hours.

Negril Aerodrome

The Negril Aerodrome is located just north of Negril. You will find that locals do use this airport but not as much as tourists who want to avoid the three-hour drive it takes from Ocho Rios to Negril or the 5- hour drive it takes from Negril to Port Antonio.

Jamaican Holidays

We have ten (10) national holidays, four of which are Christian holidays. These are Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day.
The other 6 are more secular namely, Labor Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day, National Heroes Day, New Year's Day and Boxing Day.

Here are a few:

Labor Day

Before 1961, May 24 was celebrated in Jamaica as Empire Day in honor of the birthday of Queen Victoria . As its name suggests, the day was used to celebrate the British Empire and England, complete with flag-raising ceremonies and the singing of patriotic songs.
But In 1961, Chief Minister, Norman Washington Manley proposed the replacement of Empire Day with Labor Day, a celebration in commemoration of May 23, 1938, when Alexander Bustamante led a labor rebellion leading to Jamaican independence. Until May 23, 1971, Labor Day was primarily a trade unions celebration with public rallies and marches. On occasion, opposing trade unions clashed on this day, so in 1972, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley promoted Labor Day as a showcase for the importance of labor to the development of Jamaica, and a day of voluntary community participation to beneficial projects. Since then, Labor Day has not only been a public holiday, but also a day of mass community involvement around the country.

Emancipation Day

August 1st If you know anything about slavery, then you should know that the abolition of slavery in the western world was perhaps the most important achievement for many of our foreparents. On August 28, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was given Royal Assent, which paved the way for the abolition of slavery within the British Empire and its colonies. On August 1, 1834, all slaves in the British Empire were emancipated, but they were indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system which was abolished in two stages; the first set of apprenticeships came to an end on 1 August 1838, while the final apprenticeships ended two years later on August 1, 1840.

Independence Day

August 6th. Pursuant to Emancipation Day, Jamaicans were still tied to the coattail of the United Kingdom. We wanted more and had a desire to make our own decisions, we needed our own identity. Another lobby was successful when Jamaica gained Independence from the United Kingdom in 1962- August 6th, hence this holiday.

National Heroes Day

This holiday is usually celebrated on the 3rd Monday in October. The celebration is geared towards honoring and lauding the efforts of our 6 heroes and 1 heroine. They challenged the institutions of slavery, colonialism and dependency thereby changing the course of our history.

Boxing Day

December 26th: In the olden days, the well-to-do persons in society would erect a box in Churches and Civic Centres and the day after Christmas, they would place donations in the form of gifts and money in this box. The contents of the box were then given to the plantation workers and the less privileged members of society. Hence, the name “Boxing” Day.

Jamaica Travel Tips

Transportation

  1. There are two international airports Norman Manley International in Kingston, Sangster International in Montego Bay.
  2. Getting to and from the airport is easy. Buses, coaches’ taxis and rental cars are available at both airports. Most hotels will arrange to have you transported, if you request it.
  3. Facilities at the airports include shops, restaurants, bureau de change, ATMs, car rental companies, cell phone sales.
  4. Departure Tax is J$1800 (equivalent to approximately US$16). This is usually included in the cost of airline tickets.
  5. If you're not going to be staying in an all-inclusive hotel, you'll want to get out and around. If you decide to rent a car, please remember that driving in Jamaica may prove very different to your experience elsewhere.
  6. Remember to drive on the left.
  7. Seat belts must be worn by the driver and front seat passengers.
  8. Don't be afraid to use your horn, especially when overtaking. We expect it.
  9. Speed limit is 50km/hr in built up areas and school zones. 80 km/hr in other areas.
  10. Look out for potholes. There are many, and they are often of the large variety.
  11. Look out for stray animals (cows, donkeys, goats), especially on country roads.
  12. Before driving at night, ask advice on the safety of the route before you set out. Know your route beforehand, and have company with you if possible.
  13. Lock your car doors if you are leaving your car unattended.
  14. Do not have marijuana in your vehicle. Police perform regular traffic checks, and marijuana is an illegal substance. A good thing to remember at all times.
  15. Outside of Kingston, the bus service is mostly unscheduled. Route taxis, which you simply flag down on the road, take the place of buses in many country areas. These will be shared with other passengers, with a set fare per passenger for a specific distance. Find out the fare to your destination before getting in.

Dress Code

  1. For the most part, bring along cool, casual clothing. It's a good idea to include a light jacket and pants/long skirt, as evenings may get cool, especially in the months from December to February.
  2. Outside of resort areas or on the beach, a swimsuit is not considered appropriate clothing. A few businesses will post their dress code in a notice on their premises, but most require at least a shirt and shorts. Many hospitals/doctor's offices do not allow entrance if you are dressed in sleeveless shirts or shorts.
  3. Bear in mind that you may decide to attend an event where you want to be well dressed. Pack with this in mind.
  4. Nude and topless swimming are restricted to specific areas. Ask before you shed clothes!

Health/Emergency

  1. There is no need to travel with drinking water. Much of the island's water supply is potable, and bottled water is easily available.
  2. Most street food is well prepared, and quite safe to eat. Jerk chicken, corn, pepper shrimp, fruit are some of the delicious foods sold on the roadside.
  3. Jamaica has no poisonous snakes. The most venomous creature that I can think of is the scorpion, which is not often encountered.
  4. It's a good idea to travel with insect repellant and sunscreen, or buy some soon after getting here.
  5. In case of a medical emergency, try getting the affected party to the hospital or doctor yourself, as many areas do not have an emergency ambulance service.
  6. Police emergency number is 119 (not 911).

Business/Communication

  1. US currency is accepted at most shops and businesses in resort areas, and larger businesses in urban areas. Smaller shops and rural businesses may not readily accept foreign currency. The same applies to international debit and credit cards.
  2. Many business places close on a Sunday. Most government offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Banks operate Monday to Friday. If you need to change currency on the weekend, try using a cambio, most of which operate within other businesses such as supermarkets.
  3. There are many Western Union locations around the island, in case you need money sent to you from abroad.
  4. General Consumption Tax of 16.5% is added to most consumer goods and services. Some businesses (especially in rural areas) include the tax in their ticketed prices, some don't. You may want to ask if GCT is already included, before you make a purchase.
  5. The number of locations offering wireless internet access is increasing, but still limited. All public libraries island wide offer free internet access.
  6. Jamaica's telephone area codes are 876 and 658.

Weather/Climate

  1. The coolest months are December to February, with February usually having the coolest temperatures. Expect highs in the mid 80s (F), and lows in the high 60s, depending on your location. In the mountains, night-time temperatures may fall as low as mid 40s.
  2. The hottest months are July and August. Expect temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. It may feel even hotter due to humidity.
  3. Although the official hurricane season is June to November, chances of a hurricane hitting the island during much of that time are extremely slim. Historically, the worst hurricanes have hit in late August and the first half of September. Happily, this has not happened very often!
  4. Frequent and sometimes heavy rainfall should be expected in the rainiest months, May and October. December to February/March can be very dry. In other months, there are regular afternoon showers.

General

  1. Tipping - in tourist areas and larger restaurants, gratuity is usually included on your bill. In the countryside, and in small establishments, tipping is left to the discretion of the visitor.
  2. Jamaicans appreciate it when you say ``Good Morning`` or ``Good Evening/Night`` when you enter a room. ``Good Night`` is used both in greeting and in taking leave.

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