In the Mix — Integrating as a Traveller in Jamaica

With a year-round tropical climate, the potent cultural legacy of Bob Marley and its relaxed island attitude, Jamaica is a colourful, rewarding destination. Flights to Jamaica are often very affordably priced, and the Caribbean is an ideal onward destination from a USA trip.

Seasoned travellers will know that oft-travelled roads tend to lead to the same destinations; and some look for more than the usual tourist sights. The dolphin cove, Bob Marley museum and plush resorts are a good start, but to really integrate with the local community, there’s more to Jamaica than rum and reggae.

Jamaican Cuisine

If music is Jamaica’s heart, then food is its soul, and there’s no heartier, fierier soul food than jerk chicken. Scotchie’s restaurant in Ocho Rios on the northern coastline is a great place to start. Tuck into succulent chicken or tender pork slow-cooked over pimiento and served up without ceremony in a foil parcel.

The other quintessential dish is the patty, a piping hot, flaking beef pastry that makes for a delicious snack that can be found all over the island. Remember: choosing the hot sauce distinguishes the tourist from the traveller.


Learn the language

Jamaican Patois might bamboozle first timers and tourists, but if you want to integrate, you’ve got to attune your ear to this lyrical blend of English, local dialects and slang when on the island. You’ll also be less vulnerable out on the streets if you seem comfortable with the language.

Remember to always address your elders with “sir” and ‘ma’am’, speak to the locals, show willingness to learn and you should be cool.

Get Closer to the Community

Jamaica has a growing community tourism scene. Tours typically frequent small villages in central and southern parts of the island. Visitors can sample local cuisine and help on farms, visit schools and stay in private residences with host families. This is the way to discover the real Jamaica.

For another cheap and sustainable alternative to the beach and hotel-oriented experience, ecotourism might be the ideal road less travelled into Jamaica. There are eco lodges dotted around the country, which allow travellers to explore undeveloped coastline, rainforest habitats and superior hiking trails.

Jamaica yields unforgettable experiences for those who have the common sense and pragmatism to stay out of trouble. Its people are as warm and genuine as the island itself, and this is a country with a rich culture, deep history and natural beauty in abundance. Don’t miss out on all it has to offer.

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