What Not To Do In Jamaica - Updated 2021

what not to do in jamaica
Alyssandra Raiza
Alyssandra Raiza
Updated

With its pristine beaches, mouthwatering seafood, and extremely laid-back vibe, Jamaica is the ultimate Caribbean getaway! There’s no wonder that this sunny island nation remains one of the most popular vacation destinations, as you can enjoy everything here–from fresh eats, being out in nature, great music, and an exciting nightlife. Are you planning to spend your next vacation in an adults-only hotel or party hotel Jamaica? Though it can be very exciting to plan out every single thing you want to do on your trip, it would also help to be mindful of the things that you should avoid. If you want to enjoy a truly hassle-free vacation, read on to learn more about what not to do in Jamaica!

1. Avoid exploring the island by cab

Toyota Corolla (Jamaica)
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jason Lawrence used under CC BY 2.0

Although one would think that taking a cab would be the best way to explore an unfamiliar place, there are actually a few reasons why it would be best to avoid exploring the island by private cab, especially if it is your first time there. Mainly, this is because there is a bargaining culture in Jamaica and if you are not accustomed to haggling, some drivers may take advantage and demand you to pay an unfairly expensive fare. Though not all drivers are out scam you, it would be wiser to just make use of services like car rentals or even guided tours of the city.

2. Don't take rides with strangers in the city

Downtown market Kingston 1990 (3)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gzzz used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another thing to avoid when exploring the city is traveling or taking rides with strangers! Although you should definitely mingle with the residents and even make some new friends along the way, this is fairly standard advice. Putting yourself in a position where you can be taken advantage of by a complete stranger in an unfamiliar place is not the most prudent thing to do, no matter where you are! It would be better if you could take public transport, like buses or the red-plate cabs, and simply ask the drivers for directions, if you are unsure.

3. Don't eat non-local seafood

Seafood
Source: Photo by Flickr user llee_wu

With its beautiful coasts, Jamaica is also rich in fresh and delicious seafood! While it could be tempting to try every seafood dish on the menu, it would be wise to be mindful of which kinds of seafood are available locally and which ones have to be sourced elsewhere. It is best to avoid non-local seafood, because these tend to be less fresh and priced higher–you’ll end up paying more for lower quality seafood! Some of these non-local seafood to look out for include tiger prawns, salmon, and the like. Lobster, while sourced locally, is another type of seafood to steer clear of during the months of July through March, as catching them is illegal during the off-season.

4. Don't lose sight of your belongings

Police car of Jamaica 06
Source: Photo by user Dickelbers used under CC BY-SA 4.0

When traveling, it’s always best practice to keep an eye on your belongings. In Jamaica, beware of pickpockets in tourist hotspots like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios - always keep your wallet in your front pockets and your money tucked safely somewhere in your person. If you lose any valuables, you might be hard-pressed to find help from local police. Though dedicated and well-meaning, the Jamaican police are not always reliable when it comes to dealing with petty crimes. This is because they are, unfortunately, severely underpaid and understaffed. There simply isn’t enough manpower to deal with all the crimes that occur. This is why it is important to exercise caution on your trip!

5. Don't underestimate the roadside jerk shacks

Jerk stands along Highway A1 in central Jamaica
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user User: (WT-shared)... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Roadside jerk shacks can be found almost anywhere in Jamaica! Don’t be fooled by the low-frills appearance–much of the food that they serve in jerk shacks are not only more reasonably priced, but also much tastier than many of the restaurants in the area! Many of these roadside jerk shacks also offer great deals, like all-inclusive meals and barbecue nights. Jerk shacks are also great places to mingle with the locals and meet other tourists. You definitely wouldn’t want to miss out!

6. Avoid wandering away from your group

P1220078-Quiet beach
Source: Photo by Flickr user Gail Frederick

When in Jamaica as a tourist, it’s best to travel as a group and avoid wandering alone. Even in resorts where it’s generally safe and the staff friendly and accommodating, it is often advised not to let yourself be alone. Tourists are not exempt from crimes like petty theft and assault, and news reports about the harassment faced by tourists have surfaced over the last few years. As a general rule, it would be best to remain close to your group if you are traveling with friends or family, or try to frequent areas where you can be around other tourists or visitors.

7. Don't be a stickler for time

Jamaica Invasion Cruise
Source: Photo by Flickr user Travel Divas

One of the things that makes Jamaica an excellent vacation destination is the locals’ laid-back vibe. However, this also makes them notorious for being late! Island time is a real thing in Jamaica and it is difficult to expect punctuality here, even from professionals like the staff at a restaurant or a tour group. The best thing to do would be to anticipate this, schedule activities in advance, and ultimately, just learn to be a little laxer about it. You’re better off learning to get used to the slower pace during your stay!

8. Don't backpack alone through Jamaica

hikers
Source: Photo by Flickr user Greg Grossmeier

Though the idea of exploring a country as beautiful as Jamaica sounds very exciting, it is actually not recommended for tourists - especially those who are inexperienced or just visiting the country for the first time - to go backpacking alone. This ties into the advice listed earlier, regarding sharing rides with strangers and traveling in groups. Backpackers are among the top targets of criminals in Jamaica because they are often vulnerable and know very little about the area. It definitely would be safer if you set an itinerary and choose to visit highly populated areas instead of going off the beaten path.

9. Avoid walking around Kingston at night

Tenis
Source: Photo by Flickr user yonolatengo

As Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston is one of the busiest and most popular areas. There is plenty that you can enjoy here during the day, including the beautifully preserved 19th-century Devon House, as well as the National Gallery of Jamaica. At night, however, these areas become a hotbed of crime. Kingston is notorious for its high crime rates, particularly within the inner-city areas. To avoid becoming a victim of these crimes, it is best to explore Kingston during the day. If you must get around Kingston at night, be sure to travel as a group and stick to well-lit, heavily populated areas.

10. Try not to use American Dollars

Money Dollar
Source: Photo by Flickr user 401(K) 2012

One of the very first things you should do before traveling to Jamaica is to make sure you’ve converted your American Dollars into Jamaican Dollars. Most stores and services do not accept payments in anything but the local currency. Those that do also tend to be located at the more expensive areas. You can easily end up paying more, just because you’re paying in American Dollars! Fortunately, there are plenty ways to avoid this. It would be best to do your research on the costs of basic goods in Jamaica before your trip. It would be best to have your money changed even before you leave home, but if you somehow forget to, you can always have your money changed at a bank or even at your hotel in Jamaica. If you’re going to other attractions too, like malls or theme parks, it would be more convenient to have the local currency on hand.

Exercise caution and enjoy Jamaica

The Coral Princess in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Source: Photo by user Joe Ross used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Although Jamaica is one of the most relaxed vacation spots in the world–and certainly not any less safe than most other places–taking a few precautions will go a long way towards being able to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Whether you’re here for a festival or a bachelor party, just be mindful of these travel tips and you should be able to kick back, relax, and soak in the Jamaican sun without any stress or worry!

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