Top tips: Shopping and getting aroundPosted on: 24 April 2017 by Anthony Page
If you choose to explore Jamaica on your own, use these tips for getting around and finding the best value and variety when shopping,
Meandering the streets you quickly become aware shopping Jamaica-style is very different from the UK. Even in Kingston, there are no John Lewis or Debenhams-style shops. If this is what you want you will have to do what wealthy Jamaicans do – pop over to Miami! There are plenty of small boutiques in Kingston and a shopping mall, the Sovereign Centre, where you can pick up local goods. You will also find the resort hotels have high street brands in their on-site concessions, elsewhere you'll find access to branded goods limited.
However, what you can find however is an abundance of ‘street food’ and all of it popular, good and cheap! Fruit is in abundance and as fresh as you will get anywhere – most of it grows on the island.
Getting around is a choice of self-drive car hire or local taxis and both are economical if you are sharing the cost with others in your group. There is public transport on the island but be wary of travelling alone or at night as pickpockets and thieves do target tourists.
We started our trip in Kingston and on the first day left the city to go up to the Blue Mountain (yes you guessed it right, home of Blue Mountain Coffee). The journey took us nigh on two hours on winding, but safe, roads through scenery to die for. Lush tropical forests with undulating mist capped peaks and troughs. The sort of place where, when you turn the next bend another breathtaking view appears.
Halfway we stopped for a comfort break at one of the island’s army barrack complete with parading soldiers. After they finished their marching we had time to chat with them and learn about their lives in the services. Many joined the army as it provides stable income and comes with a good pension when they are in their mid-40s. Although not large Jamaica has a permanent army based around the island.
The south of the island is mainly devoted to farming and agriculture while the north is the main area for tourism and resorts. We spent all of our time in the north. Our stay in Kingston lasted three days and we then had time in Port Antonio, St Ann and finally Montego Bay. All along the northern coast, the sea is a warm clear sapphire blue lapping onto white sandy beaches – you couldn’t wish for more.
All along this northern coastline, there is plenty to do and see … and eat. The food at all the resorts is excellent with a wide variety to choose from. Traditional Jamaican food has a lot of fish and shellfish featured in it. Goat is very popular and made into a curry it’s really outstanding.
Security at all the hotels we stayed at was very much in evidence – tourists are sacred! Lots of the hotels on the island offer all inclusive tariffs so you pay a day rate and everything is included. Pretty good if you are a heavy eater and drinker.
Car hire and driving
Most big brand car rental companies are represented on Jamaica and you can drive on the island using a UK driving licence for up to 6 months.
Foreign Office travel advice cautions that if you aren’t familiar with Kingston, don’t drive in the city as if you get lost, you risk putting yourself and your passengers in danger. It sounds extreme but it is advice to heed as tourists are targetted and it is better to be safe than sorry.
The roads on the island are improving but poor signage can cause problems for people unfamiliar with the area. Roads in rural areas are narrow, winding and poorly lit at night.
Drive defensively, and take great care on the roads, whether you are in a vehicle or a pedestrian. Keep the windows up and doors locked and be particularly vigilant when stopping at junctions or traffic lights. Criminals are known to use techniques which distract drivers to gain access to vehicles to steal handbags and other items of value.
For more information about trips in and around Jamaica, contact the Jamaica Tourist Board (020 7225 9090), or see www.visitjamaica.com.
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