Sangster International Airport – Montego Bay, Jamaica
I have travelled through Sangster International Airport, or Montego Bay Airport as it is more widely known, more times than I can remember. In the process I have learnt some tips and tricks for making the experience that little bit more relaxed and enjoyable. However there is one thing about Montego Bay Airport that I have been missing out on as I wasn’t even aware I could take advantage of it…
I stumbled upon the Instagram feed of a young English woman who is a languages graduate, a volunteer, an English as a foreign language teacher, a Carnival lover, a Vegan AND a successful serial solo traveller, to name a few of her talents and interests! I admire the way she is forging her own path by travelling around the world experiencing different cultures, by working, volunteering and generally having a good time – mostly on her own.
This got me thinking about all the travelling I have done in my life and how after moving to Jamaica, I have kind of stopped ticking places off my bucket list (I really must get back to that…). It also brought home how much I love that feeling of ‘wonderment’ when you travel somewhere new and made me realise that I have become accustomed to the way of life in Jamaica with each passing year of living here.
I decided to reach out to the multi-faceted Zoe to ask her to write a guest post on Sweet Jamaica. As I thought it would be fun to share her take on the Jamaican experience. Plus I also asked Zoe to share some tips for visiting Jamaica as a solo female traveller and how to go about finding volunteering work in Jamaica. Zoe graciously agreed and I am excited to share her Guest Post with you!…
Surviving Jamaica as a Solo Female Traveller
I’m probably not the only girl who was told that planning to go travelling in Jamaica alone was a stupid idea. A lot of my friends and family seemed to think I was going to get kidnapped (or worse), when most of them had never actually been there, so they were probably just basing their opinions from some out-dated films, videos, rumours or news articles. Anyway, I’ve now travelled to Jamaica twice by myself, for a total of almost four months, and I’m still here to tell the tale! I think about Jamaica almost every day and would absolutely love to be able to go back again some time.
Every culture has some great aspects and some not-so-great aspects, and Jamaica is no exception, so there were definitely some times when I felt annoyed and some times when I felt scared, but overall it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. I thought I’d share a few things that I think could be helpful for anyone planning to travel to Jamaica, especially as a solo female traveller.
Caymanas River with a friend from Trench Town
Practising hairdressing, downtown Kingston
Volunteering in Jamaica
The first thing is volunteering. There are a few backpacker hostels that offer ‘work exchanges’, meaning you can volunteer at the hostel bar or reception part-time in exchange for a free bed and sometimes food. If you’re interested in this, check out websites such as Workaway or Worldpackers.
I volunteered for a few months in a hostel in Kingston, and it was really helpful for getting to know people because I ended up becoming friends with some of the staff and their families, so I had local people to hang out with who I knew I could trust. It also gave me an insight into parts of the island I hadn’t visited, because guests who’d travelled around the island would often share their stories with me.
As well as hostel volunteering, there are a few local charitable organisations in Jamaica that welcome volunteers. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find information about these online, but luckily I managed to find out about the Trench Town Reading Centre through a blog post.
I emailed them after having found their contact details on their website, and they told me they’re always open to volunteers, even if it’s only for a one-off visit, so I went along a few days later. If you’re in Kingston and you like children, I would definitely recommend that you contact them and arrange a time to volunteer. The kids are cute and friendly and it’s something worthwhile to do on your trip. Again, this could help you learn more ‘inside’ information about the area and it could lead to some new friendships.
Made friends at Hellshire Beach
My little friend Rati in the Blue Mountains
Using Google Maps in Jamaica
Aside from volunteering, something I found incredibly helpful in Jamaica was Google Maps! Surprising, right? In Kingston, if you want to get from A to B but you’re not sure how the public transport works, if you ask Google Maps for directions, it tells you which bus to take and where to take it from. (This only applies for the official government buses, not the coaster buses).
There’s nothing wrong with asking people for directions and transport advice on the street, but personally I felt a bit better having some background knowledge even if I ended up asking people too.
I also used Google Maps for learning some road names before going to new areas, so I would know I have to pass X, Y and Z road on the left or right before reaching the restaurant/museum/bar I was looking for. This helped me to feel more confident as I was walking along by myself, and I could ask a stranger “X Road is just along here, right?” rather than seeming completely lost and asking “excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the museum?”.
Coronation Market Kingston
Menu in Portland
Dealing with Sexual Advances as a Single Female Traveller
When you’re walking along by yourself, don’t be surprised if you’re bombarded with more compliments and nicknames than you’ve ever had before in your life! Guys on the street normally called me things like “whitey”, “pretty girl” and “sexy girl”, but sometimes it would just be something like “blue blouse” if I was wearing a blue top.
In my culture it’s not normal to speak to people like that, and it can be a bit surprising at first when you’re in Jamaica, but just remember they give nicknames to everyone and it’s completely normal. I ended up having some very funny and interesting conversations with people who came to speak to me on the street, and sometimes it led to me eating at a nice restaurant I didn’t know about before, or hearing about a concert that I didn’t know was going to happen.
If you find that certain boys are too persistent, or you don’t have time to stop and talk, or you just don’t feel like having a conversation, don’t be afraid to tell them. I often just said “I’m going to be late for work so I can’t stop now” (which wasn’t even a lie really because I was often on my way to volunteer at the hostel). I know some girls who made up stories about their Jamaican boyfriend (who didn’t actually exist), and once they told the boys that their boyfriend was supposed to be meeting them in five minutes, that was often enough to end the conversation.
Jamaica is a beautiful place and I feel lucky to have experienced it, but as a solo female traveller, always remember the general tips for travelling, including not carrying much money, carrying money in two separate places (e.g. pocket and bra), not telling absolutely everyone where you’re staying, not walking around alone after dark if you can avoid it and listening to your instincts.
All the travellers I met in Jamaica were having a great time, so don’t let the rumours stop you. Book that flight, pack your backpack and get out there! Take a coaster bus where music plays loud enough for a 1000 person venue, buy local fruits at the market, eat Jamaican food from a little wooden cook-shop with no name, learn some patois, swim under a waterfall, drink a Red Stripe, go to a live dancehall/reggae show, laugh and smile with Jamaican children, talk to an old Rasta man about the meaning of life, and so much more.
Contact Details and Links
If you would like to learn more about Zoe’s experiences of world travel you can check out her website Travel With Zoe and her social media channels.
I have also included the links for the Volunteering Websites that Zoe mentioned in the post.
Every country has a different way of doing things and what some consider to be normal everyday behaviour is perceived as disrespectful or distasteful to someone from another country. When travelling it helps massively if you get at least a little introduction to the country you are visiting prior to your arrival, so you are aware of the culture, customs and traditions. It isn’t nice to be scorned for your bad or socially inept behaviour, so I always take time out to look and learn (or read a good article on it) before I talk and walk into trouble!
When in Jamaica, do as the Jamaicans do…
When in Jamaica DO…
Chill Out and Relax. You are working on Jamaican time from now on. When a Jamaican replies ‘soon come’ they do not mean it in the literal sense, it invariably means it will happen, when it happens. So be patient, it is usually work the wait, especially if it is for fooood!
When addressing a stranger it is always best to be formal, especially to those that are mature, or of child-bearing age. Using Sir, Mr, Miss or Mam when referring to someone is considered to be a polite way of conversing when you do not know them. It is also used alongside the more informal aunty and uncle and is good to use before the first name of anyone who is older or wiser, but more familiar to you (probably not advised in a formal environment though!)
The same goes if you are being served by someone at a store or restaurant, it doesn’t hurt to be polite and cordially greet people
When addressing a Police Officer, I highly recommend flagrant use of Sir, Mam, or Officer when conversing with them. It shows them respect and that you do not consider them to be inferior to you, which often means they give you less hassle
Try Jamaican food. It is delicious and there are dishes to suit every type of palate, including amazing Ital Vegan and Vegetarian foods
Treat Jamaican people with respect, remember you are not better than them just because you have a foreign passport, or because you are visiting where they are working
Be sensitive to the plight of the working class Jamaicans and do not try to take advantage of them. Many of the people seen vending in public places are just trying to make a living for basic necessities and to make money to send their children to school
Be firm and direct as most Jamaicans are. You will probably only confuse, or get taken advantage of by beating around the bush
Trust your instincts. If you don’t have a good feeling about a situation – remove yourself from it. Better to seem abrupt or rude than to regret staying around longer to see how it pans out
Conserve energy as it is expensive and water because it is scarce. Do not leave the water, AC, TV and so on running for inordinate periods of time especially when you have left your room…
Consider the environment, don’t haul off bundles of coral and shells, remove wildlife or ‘dutty up Jamaica’ by leaving your garbage lying around
Expect the unexpected! You will find more churches per square mile in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world (except the Vatican City itself), but they have a thriving music scene where they love to dance provocatively and wear very scanty clothing. Jamaica is a country of extremes!
Support Jamaica and Buy Jamaican! There are many ways you can do this on your trip, such as purchasing products that are MADE in Jamaica, patronising locally owned accommodation, attractions, tours, stores and eateries and supporting the street and beach vendors
Forget that whilst it is nice to be important, it is more IMPORTANT to be NICE – smile!
Stereotype Jamaicans because of what the media portrays, or because of one rude person you come across
Take photographs of people, or other people’s property without their permission, as they may not always be happy about it. Use common sense and Respect The Privacy of Others. Many Jamaicans love to pose for a picture and will be more than happy to do so if asked, whilst some may ask for a small fee if in a tourist area.
Refer to Jamaicans as ‘natives’. It has too many racial connotations that could be considered as a derogatory slur. Calling a black person ‘coloured’ is also laughable and ironic, when you consider that a white person goes blue in the cold and red in the sun! Using the terminology ‘Jamaican’ is the most appropriate way of addressing the wonderful people of Jamaica
Get drunk and run around half naked, or put yourself in other types of risky circumstances. Drink is not your friend, when you get into a tricky or dangerous situation
Forget that controlled drugs are illegal in Jamaica. Weed, Ganga, marijuana, green, grass, hash, gum, or whatever else you want to call it has been decriminalised (as of February 2015), if you are found to have less than 2oz in your possession, so is now a ticketable offence rather than a prisonable offence. See Below for more information
Flaunt flashy jewellery, expensive mobile phones, i-pods and so on. If you feel the need to show off, do it in the hotel or back at home where they are more readily available
Rent a car and leave it parked on a beach or near a water course where the tide may rise and take it away
Leave your car keys or valuables with a random person because you want to go swimming, or some other task that will remove you from the eye sight of the items
Get a false sense of security because you are on holiday / vacation. If you wouldn’t walk around alone late at night, or visit the local shops in beach attire when at home then don’t do it when you are in Jamaica. Use your Common Sense, or ‘screw your loaf’ as my Dad would say!
‘Anya Goes to Jamaica’ Book Review and Interview – Introducing Children to World Travel
Whilst searching online for children’s books I was drawn to an illustrated image of a beautiful girl with a big pink bow in her hair, standing with her arms outstretched underneath a banner that read ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’. Intrigued I clicked through to the website and discovered that the little girl was the main character in an adventure book based on world travel.
The first book in the series is all about Anya’s trip to Jamaica, which is perfect timing for me as… I live in Jamaica!
Introducing ‘Anya the World Traveler’ Book Series
Thinking this was a great way of introducing my nieces and nephews to where I had moved to, I poured through the mesmerizing illustrations and content on the AWA book series website. I really connected with the book and wanted to share the launch of these interactive, magical and educational journey books with you, so that you are able to share them with the young readers in your life.
Being a blogger I had to get the ‘inside scoop’, so I got in touch with the author Nikko FungChung to ask her in her own words all about ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’ and how she is going about introducing young readers to world travel and different cultures. After corresponding with Nikko I am even more in love with the books, the principles behind them and how she is taking on the publishing world with a brilliant, beautiful, bright, brown-skinned main character who is known as ‘Anya’, the World Traveler.
Why the Children in your life will love the ‘Anya World Traveler’ Book Series …
Introducing children to literature at a young age will enliven their minds to a world of possibilities, and Nikko FungChung captures the essence of childhood discovery in her books. Readers are taken on an adventure through the book discovering the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of each destination, subtly introducing children to different cultures and customs.
I feel that by reading the books, children will be more tolerant and learned about other parts of the world and people who may not necessarily look the same as they do. The main character ‘Anya’ is bright as a button and full of adventure and interacts with both boys and girls in the books, so she will be sure to appeal to both young male and female readers.
Children’s Literature Featuring a Black Main Character
I especially love that our international jet setter ‘Anya’has brown skin and is of mixed heritage, as she will engage a whole generation of young readers who can identify with a main character that looks more like them. The majority of the children’s picture books feature main characters that are white, which can give a lot of young, aspirational readers a feeling that they are less important, or that what their life experience is secondary and doesn’t matter as much.
“I believe that every child no matter what colour their skin is,
deserves to be depicted in literature as the super hero, the achiever,
the adventurer, or anything else their imagination conjures up. “
On the flip side having a main character that isn’t white helps to redress the balance for white children too, they get to learn and understand about other ethnicities, becoming more rounded and hopefully becoming more enlightened world citizens too!
In Conclusion, this book is simply beautiful and is a perfect addition to any child’s bookshelf. It’s also ideal if you are planning a trip to Jamaica with young children, why not pack a copy in your hand luggage and read it on the flight to introduce your child to all the wonderful things they will get to experience on their trip to Jamaica!
Interview with Nikko FungChung Author of Anya’s World Adventures Book Series
Without further notice I would like to introduce you to Nikko FungChung, an amazing mother who was so frustrated at not finding good children’s literature, she started making her own!
Not only a fantastic business woman, Nikko is a social advocate who includes other entrepeneurs on her own personal journey, through collaborations forged and featured in the book series.
The interview includes behind the scenes stuff about Nikko and her family, an introduction to the book series, tips and advice for travelling to Jamaica with young children and an exclusive about which destination Anya will visit in the next book!…..
1. Please introduce yourself and your beautiful family….
My name is Nikko FungChung, I am the author and creator of Anya’s World Adventures Children’s Travel Book Series. I am a wife and a mother to three wonderful children; my 4-year-old daughter Anya, 10-year-old son Kenneth and my 5-year-old step-daughter Daijha. My husband Daymean was born and raised in Jamaica, this is where we met. My family is also of Caribbean descent, but my heart has always and will always belong to Jamaica.
This is why it made sense that Jamaica be the first stop in the Anya’s World Adventures Book Series.
2. When did you start Anya’s World Adventures and who are the creative forces behind it?
I started writing the stories in 2014, to date I’ve written about 46 countries. With very little knowledge of the publishing world, I spent a year researching different options for distribution, self-publishing, trying to sign with a big publishing house. I decided self-publishing was the route for me, but I needed time to figure out the funding because it is VERY expensive to create, publish and distribute your own book. It’s funny actually because I have a few other businesses that in essence seem more complex than this, but being a self-published author has been the most demanding venture of them all.
In 2016, an investment company, Demography is Not Destiny, took a chance on me and gave me the money I needed to get started. This was the same year that I found my illustrator, Fuuji Takashi, who has been a blessing from day one! She resides in the Philippines and we have never met in person, yet we are so in sync. Fuuji really understands my vision and brings it to life better than I could’ve ever imagined.
3. Tell us more about your Company Philosophy, what makes you tick?
Anya’s World Adventures is a complete and fully interactive learning experience for young readers. Each book in the series will introduce them to a new country and culture through the eyes of a child. When I’m writing it’s important to me that everything is factual and accurate while maintaining that story-book feel.
At the end of each book, Anya purchases a souvenir to keep as a reminder of the adventure. Readers can purchase these souvenirs and collect them as they read each book in the series. I’m really big on giving back and supporting other entrepreneurs, so I source these souvenirs from small business owners, craftsman and/or artisans in the subject country.
The learning and adventure continues on the website where readers can join the AWA Club. Membership is free! With the AWA Club, members can practice new languages, try new recipes, access printable activities and much more!
4. What inspired you to create children’s books and the supplementary content on the website?
I wanted to give my children a more accurate and less biased view of the world in comparison to what they are shown on television and movies. I also wanted to give them a way to connect with their roots so they can understand all the different cultures and ethnicities that make them who they are.
I went to the library to get some books for my son so that he could learn about other countries and I realised the only books on the shelves were all facts, no fun! These books certainly weren’t going to keep the interest of my 8-year-old, never mind anyone younger. While it is important to learn about the imports, exports and government structure of foreign lands, I think it’s even more important to learn about the people, culture and lifestyle.
Every book in the Anya’s World Adventures Series is filled with facts, presented in a way that children will understand, allowing them to retain the information while enjoying a fun adventure!
5. What sort of readers does your book series appeal to and what do you hope they will gain from reading the series?
The language and content of the Anya’s World Adventures Book Series will appeal to children as young as 3 years old and as old 9 years old. It’s been a big hit so far with preschool all the way up to some fifth and sixth grade students. The reach of this book is very broad because the information is interesting and useful and the images capture the attention of early and proficient readers alike.
“I hope to make the world a little smaller with this book series.
When you learn about other countries, it broadens your horizons.
Living, learning, working or volunteering abroad all become options.
If we don’t allow our children to weigh out all the possible options,
we are doing them a great disservice and limiting their potential”
I also want the children who read my books to gain a better understanding of how similar we all are regardless of our race or cultural differences. It’s my belief that most of the world’s conflicts are caused by a lack of this type of understanding.
We get so consumed with our own existence and our personal way of life that it’s easy for us to turn a blind eye to something that is happening to a stranger across the globe and sometimes even in our country, because we don’t feel a connection with them.
Distance creates such a huge mental gap that instead of empathising, sympathising and offering assistance to others, we watch the news like it’s just a bad movie and continue with our day. I want to close that gap. I want our children to be a better, more caring generation and that begins with understanding and acceptance of other cultures and people.
6. How have you chosen the different destinations for the ‘Anya World Traveler Book Series?
When I first starting writing, I was focusing more on countries that I feel are most misrepresented in mainstream media. It was very important for me to provide a different and well-rounded view of these places.
In regards to release dates I want to do one country from each continent/region and then go back around the globe again and again. I don’t really see a finish line in sight because there is so much to learn and so much more to see and I am really enjoying the process. I think I’m most excited to complete the books about Africa and the Middle East.
7. Do you plan to travel to all the different places featured in the book series and will your children be accompanying you?
Yes, of course! I would love to visit most, if not all with my children – maybe one country a year because we still have to travel home to Jamaica yearly as well. If I can just introduce them to the idea of being citizens of the world and not being afraid to go to new places, then when they get older they can visit anywhere that I could not take them.
In the meantime, I do a lot of reading and research on each country before I write the book. People are also a big resource from me. I love to sit and listen to stories about their childhoods and upbringing so that I can make my stories more accurate and authentic.
8. Please introduce the main character ‘Anya’ and some of her sidekicks who will be featured in the Anya’s World Adventures book series. How do you hope your readers will relate to them?
Anya is a world traveller! If you meet my daughter, that’s the first thing she will say to you and she has only been to Jamaica, lol (laugh out loud). In the book Anya has a magic globe that takes her on magical adventures all around the world.
The great thing about children is they have great imaginations, so I was able to focus more on Anya and her experience without having to add parents, passports and TSA (Transport Security Administration; they search luggage and passengers) agents into the mix.
In in each country she meets up with a friend – sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl who she will visit. This adds an element of relatability for children because they get to see how another child who looks a lot like them, lives and plays. The friend she visits also has a parent or guardian there which I use to introduce foods, dress, hobbies, crafts or trades and so on.
9. You recently travelled to Jamaica with your young family. What are your top tips for getting to an overseas destination with children in tow?
Take a practice trip to somewhere more local. This will get them used to the airport process and plane travel.
Pack lots of snacks! Remember that water and juices cannot be carried on, but you can pack as many cookies, fruits and crackers as you’d like. These make for great bargaining tools and distractions.
Check EVERYTHING! I tried to be frugal on our first trip to NY (New York) and only checked two bags. It is impossible to get from point A to point B with a toddler and rolling suitcases and your smaller carry-ons.
Make sure to pack two extra outfits for children in your carry-on just in case you need to change them or your bags are delayed.
If your child has the tendency to get lazy after a two second walk, bring an umbrella stroller (push chair).
For international travel, having another adult or even an older child is helpful especially when navigating security and immigration.
Explain the trip to them before you go: will there be connecting flights, show them on the calendar what day you will leave/return.
Vacation rentals are great because they feel like home, being able to do laundry and cook for yourself is such a luxury when on vacation.
10. Would you recommend Jamaica as a family friendly destination and why?
Jamaica is an absolute paradise and it has something for everyone! We were travelling “back home” so we spent a lot of time visiting family and hanging out around the house, but we did make a few stops at some tourist destinations. Turtle Rivers and Gardens in Ochi (Ocho Rios) is a must see for all ages! Doctor’s Cave Beach is a great day trip in Montego Bay.
11. Which part of the island did you stay in during your family vacation to Jamaica? Where else did you visit?
Portmore is home, but since this was the kids first trip to Jamaica we decided to use a vacation rental in Draxx Hall, St. Ann, right next to Ochi (Ocho Rios). The location was ideal because to our right we had all the tourist attractions and to the left some more homey necessities. We visited family all over – Portmore, Spanish Town, Kingston, New Kingston, Negril, Mobay (Montego Bay), St. Mary etc.
12. Share some of your family highlights of the trip with your children to Jamaica?
Spending time with family was really the best part. I fell in love with Doctors Cave Beach and Turtle Rivers and Gardens (big up our tour guide Odane, he is the best). We actually already booked our next trip to Jamaica for Spring 2017!
13. What were Anya’s and her siblings favourite thing about the trip to Jamaica and why?
I was surprised that they enjoyed the regular, every day stuff much more than the more ‘exciting’ outings. I think they would both live on the beach forever if they could. They didn’t want to leave, I think it was nice for them to see their family and have a better understanding of where they come from. We raise them in a very Jamaican home, but actually going to Jamaica allowed them to connect the dots.
14. How about the Jamaican food and culture, what new things did you and the children enjoy trying?
Our children our very well versed in Jamaican cuisine and culture so there were no surprises for them there.
However, both of them spent a lot more time outdoors (versus staring at a computer or tablet as they would in America) and they were so brave – holding birds, climbing waterfalls and chasing lizards, lol (laugh out loud).
15. There is the option of collecting souvenirs with the Anya’s World Adventure Book Series, tell us more about that?
This is one of my favorite things about the series. It’s an opportunity for me to make an economic contribution to the country I’m writing about and support and promote entrepreneurship. I research and connect with local craftsman and artisans and I purchase items from them to be sold on AWABookSeries.com
I also feature the business owner on the AWA Club pages and all of my social media platforms. For the Anya Goes to Jamaica book, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Tena Harrison, owner of Pretty Little Things JA. She handmade about 400 anklets and bracelets for this project and I look forward to working with her again in the near future.
16. Where will Anya travel to in the next book and what can we look forward to?
I haven’t revealed this yet so I guess it will be an exclusive for you!
In the next book Anya will be going to India!
The book is due out in March 2017.
17. How often do you plan to publish a new adventure book for your readers to enjoy?
I plan to publish a new book in the series once every four months, God willing.
18. Where can the ‘Anya’s World Adventure’ book series be purchased and in what formats is it available?
Anya’s World Adventures has been distributed to all major online book retailers in both softcover and hardcover formats. Amazon is probably the most accessible internationally. Barnes & Noble also carries the books as well as a number of smaller bookstores. The books and souvenirs are available at AWABookSeries.com as well.
19. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
No, I feel like I may have said too much already! I tend to be pretty long-winded.
20. Please leave your thoughts on the ‘Support Jamaica! Buy Jamaican!’ campaign on the Sweet Jamaica website?
I think this is a great campaign and one that should be more widely supported. Jamaica is an amazingly diverse country with tons of resources and talents. I can’t wait to see what it becomes once it’s full potential is realised.
PLEASE NOTE: This post (and website) is written in (UK) English, however any references to the book title, and specifically the word ‘Traveller’ have been written using American English, as is the spelling in the ‘Anya goes to Jamaica’ book and the AWA website. Therefore, you will see the word spelt ‘Traveler’ in some places throughout this post. Rather than being a spelling mistake, it is more out of respect to the author who has written her book in American English.
Join the Anya World Adventure Club!
The fun doesn’t stop here, log on to the website and join the AWA Club! Where your child can get additional free content including downloads, you can share travel stories, watch videos, learn languages, listen to music, receive early access to book releases, discounts and VIP event invites.
Where to purchase Anya World Adventure Book Series Online
Top 5 Apps For a Vacation – Travel Hacks for Jamaica
When you are going on vacation it helps to have some Travel Hacks up your sleeve to make things run smoothly. I use my phone to get through a range of tasks on the go and have some trusty Travel Apps that I cannot do without. I love to get the most out of my time in Jamaica and there is no better way than to download some apps designed for a Caribbean vacation. Prior to my vacation I ‘spring clean’ my phone to make sure I have enough storage space for new photographs, videos and… of course Travel Apps! These are my favourite Top 5 Apps For a Vacation – Travel Hacks for Jamaica, you won’t get the best of your Jamaican vacation without them….
Top Travel App – Hack #1: Download your Airline Carrier App
If your airline carrier has a phone app it is a good idea to make space and download it. You can book flights and they usually provide the ability to store an e-ticket (electronic copy of your flight ticket) and boarding pass, the option to check in online and to verify flight details and times and so on. They are also useful in case of emergency as they will have contact numbers listed too. You can even keep track of your air miles if you are registered.
Virgin Atlantic. It lets you log in, check Air Miles, check -in online, change your seat, check flight details and more. Love, Love, Love!
I always use local currency when I come on vacation to Jamaica, as I prefer to get immersed in everything Jamaican! I also mostly frequent places that trade in the Jamaican dollar, however US dollars are widely accepted in all the ‘tourist outlets’. If you would like to give Jamaican dollars a try, but are worried about getting muddled up when converting on the fly, download a currency converter app.
XE Currency Converter. It is really easy to use and has bundles of currency information on offer. The UI (user interface) is smooth and you can set your top 5 currencies for immediate simultaneous conversion. You can also track the rate over time, which is helpful when trying to get the best rate for your hard earned vacation cash.
TripAdvisor is the go-to website for independent travel reviews on your Jamaican vacation. Whether you are looking for accommodation, or something to do once you get here, they will cover all the bases for your trip. The TripAdvisor App will give you mobile access to the main site and has a great ‘Near Me’ feature if you are looking for somewhere to go in your local part of the island.
Get more from this Hack:
As a keen TripAdvisor contributor I have reviewed nearly 30 Jamaican businesses and attractions and have two commissioned travel guides for Saint James, Jamaica published on the TripAdvisor website.
There is nothing worse than losing or misplacing your phone, but it can be especially upsetting when you are on vacation. In today’s digital age our phone serves many more functions than merely making calls and our whole life can be disrupted if it just left at home accidentally for a few hours, much less being lost on holiday! At the very least I would recommend putting a PIN or password lock on your phone to at least prevent unauthorised persons getting access to your personal information. If you want extra protection and are travelling with someone you trust you can enable GPS tracking Apps on each others phone to help find a misplaced handset. A lot of the apps also have remote setting so that it makes a noise, vibrates or the camera flashes to help you find the device when you say a password out loud; great if you are going on an adventure!
I have an Android phone and my favourite app for App for Android: Where’s My Droid. I am unfamiliar with the best app for an iPhone, who can recommend their favourite?
Download on Apple App Store: Tell me your favourite App for iPhone….
Hack #5: Download Digicel / Flow Phone Top Up App
If you are coming to Jamaica on vacation and are worried about running up a huge bill on your smart phone, there is a simple and cheap way around it. Use a local SIM card. I would highly recommend popping into your local Digicel or Flow Store on arrival and purchasing a SIM card. For a few hundred (Jamaican) dollars you can get a local Jamaican mobile / cell phone number and save a packet on charges. Digicel and Flow both have an online Top-Up App which I highly recommend. Download it for 24 hour easy top-ups charged to your home debit / credit card or PayPal account.
Ask about ‘International call plans’ to get minutes to call back home. USA, Canada and UK landlines are included (check website for full details). USA and Canada also get cell phone numbers included in the plan – the UK (unfortunately) does NOT
Put on a ‘Data Plan’ to tackle expensive rates on downloading emails, getting updates (on everything!), thumbing through social media accounts and so on
If everyone in your group gets a local SIM card you can call and text each other without incurring roaming charges when you are apart.
Hack Success Based On:If you are lucky enough to have an ‘unlocked phone’ you can replace your existing SIM card easily, if not you will have to get your phone unlocked before you leave.
Everyone likes a good book when they are going on holiday (vacation), so why should children be left out? The flights from the UK to Jamaica are especially long taking 9 – 10 hours depending on which way you are flying and even adults you can get a bit fidgety. A good book can help to while away the hours when confined to an airline cabin seat and will keep them entertained, educated and give you some quiet at the same time. Which is always a bonus! With restrictions on the amount of luggage you can take nowadays, I would recommend taking an electronic device as a form of entertainment as they take up little space and cover many bases. I discovered this fantastic children’s chapter book ‘Tunda on the Rock’ by Sabrina K. Marshall, a Jamaican author which can be downloaded on Amazon for Kindle. If you are looking for a Good Children’s Books for Travelling – My Review of Tunda on the Rock will give a child a light-hearted introduction to their stay in Jamaica.
Introduction to Tunda on the Rock
Tunda on the Rock is the first novel from a Jamaican born author Sabrina K. Marshall, who is a one woman powerhouse and an accomplished writer, among other things. Turning her hand to children’s literature, Tunda on the Rock is an exciting and amusing tale of an energetic puppies adventures around the island. Based in Jamaica, with beautifully described scenery and dogs that speak Jamaican patois (Jamaican Creole) anyone reading this book will be transported right into the land of wood and water. It would be perfect book to read the first chapter of the night before travelling to Jamaica, before continuing with the story on the flight and throughout the trip.
Sweet Jamaica Jules’ Review of Tunda on the Rock
I found Tunda on the Rock to be very captivating and engaging from the start and it didn’t take long to get into the story as the short chapters are jam-packed with quality content on every page. To be honest, I only planned to read a couple of chapters before going to bed, but I got so caught up in the story that I ended up reading the whole thing in one go! Each chapter introduces the reader to different elements of Jamaica which really brought the story to life in a realistic way. There were snippets of Jamaican history and descriptions of national treasures interspersed into the storyline, which give the story a thoroughly Jamaican feel. I laughed out loud in places and especially loved the life lessons hidden in the storyline, which are thought provoking without being patronising. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and feel that children of all ages would love to be introduced to this heartwarming Jamaican puppy ‘tail’.
International Children’s Books for Kindle
Whether you are travelling to Jamaica on holiday or not, this book is definitely one to add to the electronic children’s bookshelf! I am looking forward to sharing Tunda on the Rock with my nieces and nephews when I get back to the UK, as it will bring my new home in Jamaica a little closer to them and their imagination. This book is also ideal to add to your International Children’s Books for Kindle wish list, if you are looking for alternative reading titles for your child that have a Caribbean flavour.
The following information has been copied from the author’s page on Amazon.co.uk / .com. Image copyright Amazon.
Tunda on the Rock – Authors Biography
Tunda on The Rock is the first novel by ‘Jamerican’ author Sabrina K. Marshall. She was the creator, writer, and producer for the hit show, Kingston House, which premiered nationwide on Television Jamaica (TVJ) in February, 2012
When she’s not writing children’s books or teen dramas, she works with an advertising agency in New York City, holding over 10 years of experience developing ad campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. From Temple University, she has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing, from the University of London she has a Master’s of Arts degree in TV and Film Production, and she’s currently studying French at New York University.
She loves to travel, play tennis, and spend time with her family.
Authors Introduction to Tunda on the Rock
While the rest of the Bailey pack is out of the yard taking care of important business, the youngest member, who they call Tunda, with their Jamaican accents, is ordered to stay home on guard duty where it’s safe. But the courageous, day dreaming, golden-brown puppy has plans of her own.
She makes it her mission to prove her worth by partaking in a risky night-time adventure on The Rock—the dogs’ name for the area surrounding the Bailey home, consisting of a golf course, cascading waterfalls, and white sandy beaches. Her adventure is filled with new friends—and enemy by association, Rex—along with a rude awakening to the hard, poverty-stricken life outside of the luxurious Bailey residence where she’s spent her entire puppyhood.
As Tunda’s adventure takes her farther from home, she learns that her pack is in grave danger, more so than she could’ve imagined. With the help of her new friend, Onyx, and the wise Mr. Rasta, Tunda makes every effort possible to save the dogs of The Rock. Will she make it back home? Will she save them?
Publishing Information about Tunda on the Rock
Age Level, 9+
Grade Level: 4 – 12
Length; 98 pages
Page Flip Enabled
Enhanced Typesetting Enabled
Published on Amazon for Kindle
by Sabrina K. Marshall (Author), Marcelo Ferreira (Illustrator), Yuki Osada (Illustrator)
Download Tunda on the Rock on Amazon UK or USA
If you would like to get your hands on this great children’s book Tunda on the Rock you can download it on Amazon UK or USA by clicking the appropriate widget below:
Want to pay in £ UK currency click the first link….
Want to pay in $ USA currency click the second link….
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Jamaica has always been a great destination for a holiday, but now there are more reasons than ever to add it to your bucket list. There has been some good news this week with the changes that are going to be made to the APD, or Air Passenger Duty that is payable when travelling from, or through the UK, when visiting Jamaica. This reduction in tax is not only going to appeal to holiday makers, as it will also affect all the passengers who fly to Jamaica to visit friends and family.
What is APD (Air Passenger Duty)?
The United Kingdom has an excise duty (tax) called APD which is added to the cost of flights flying out of any UK airport and includes passengers who ‘stop over’ in the UK for longer than 24 hours for a connecting flight. The duty is only applied to aircraft that have an authorised take-off weight of more than ten tonnes, or that are capable of carrying more than 20 passengers. As the levy is calculated in ‘Bands’ dependent on the distance flown, long haul flights have felt the brunt of the charges affecting the price of flights to Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Although the APD tax was introduced partly as an environmental measure to curb carbon emissions, the charges were set at a flat rate and did not reflect the age or energy efficiency of the aircraft on long haul flights.
How Is APD (Air Passenger Duty) Calculated?
Jamaica currently falls into Band C, this Band includes flights that are between 4,001 and 6,000 miles from London to the capital city of the destination country. Since April 2013 this has meant that up to £300.00 of tax has been added to the cost of the flight. However for the first time in years the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced during his Budget presentation that the Caribbean region will be moved from Band C to Band B with effect from April 2015. The new Band B will be charged at the planned rate in 2015-16 of £71 for reduced rate passengers and £142 for standard rate passengers. The reduction is APD has been long-awaited as the steady increases have pushed Caribbean holidays out of many travellers budgets and especially affected the cost to frequent fliers visiting families and friends.
Why was APD Unfair to People Wanting to Travel to Jamaica?
As the APD was based on the distance from London to a country’s capital city, it made the charges unfair and gave favour to other long haul destinations over the wider Caribbean. For example, a 4,400-mile flight to Trinidad is taxed up to £332, but a trip to Hawaii, 7,000 miles away would cost up to £268 tax, because the US capital is closer to London!
How Did Jamaica Help Secure the Reduction in APD?
A CARICOM High-Level Committee was established to tackle the levy and comprised of select CARICOM High Commissioners, the Caribbean Council and representatives from the private sector. The Honourable Arnold J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade co-chaired by H.E. Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jamaica’s High Commissioner in London, lead the delegation that culminated in a meeting with UK Members of Parliament to raise their concerns about the harmful effect of the high levy on the Jamaican economy. Additionally, a CARICOM Coordinating Committee of Caribbean nationals was set up in the UK to raise awareness of the campaign. Following the move by George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK, Minister Nicholson described the budget announcement as “a victory for the economic diplomacy of Jamaica and the entire Caribbean region”.
Take this Opportunity to Book Your Holiday or Flight to Jamaica for 2015!
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Most people don’t like to think about taking ill or having something bad happening to them when they travel, it does sometimes happen. So be prepared, before you leave home.
Whenever I travel to Jamaica I make sure I buy travel insurance and a basic supply of medicines before I leave, so I have them readily available if I need them. If you need Private Health Care whilst in Jamaica, you will have to pay for it and even basic medicine, such as Hay Fever tablets, are expensive in Jamaica.
But, these are some other essential items that I pack when coming to Jamaica……
Some people are particularly tasty to bugs, whilst others merely get the odd one or two having a go at their ankles. There are mosquitoes and other biting bugs in Jamaica and at certain times and locations they are numerous, so take precautions with repellent or anti-histamine tablets (Hay fever tablets like Piriton).
Chemists (Pharmacy / Drug Store) are readily available in all the larger towns whereby you can easily buy medicines and ointments over the counter for non serious ailments. On one trip to Jamaica we were even able to buy a small supply of prescription medicine for a relative who had forgotten theirs. Medicines tend to be expensive in Jamaica and things like Ibuprofen (Nurofen type products) are not as readily available as Paracetamol, and Piriton and other hay fever/anti-histamine tablets are very expensive, so if you prefer them bring a small supply of the basics with you. Some people tend to suffer from indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, so again bring what you may need as you just never know what might happen!
My dear Mum has always been a bit of ‘girl guide’ when it comes to the ‘medicine box’ she brings away on holidays (vacations) with her and after my sisters and I poked fun at her over the years for the sheer scale and magnitude of its contents… I have realised that I too am slowly starting to follow her example of ‘BE PREPARED!’ (Although I must add it is still defiantly a scaled down version of what she used to bring).
Ibuprofen – Defeats all types of bodily pain! – DO NOT — — USE IF YOU SUSPECT DENGUE FEVER! — — USE PARACETAMOL / PANADOL ONLY!
Cold / Flu Tablets – Not to be expected, but it is more common than you would think to suffer these symptoms in Jamaica.
Cough Mixture – Soothe that tickly throat.
Antihistamine Tablets – Hay fever, rashes, minor allergic reactions and itchy skin solved.
Antiseptic Cream – Bites, stings, scratches, scrapes, (new tattoos!), all cooled down.
Plasters, small amount of dressings / bandages – Damaged skin is clean and covered.
Stomach Upset Tablets – Because you just never know when a grumbling tummy will start!
Sudocream – Spots, sunburn, and bites all zapped with this thick cream.
Eye Drops – Tired, itchy, bloodshot eyes made clear again.
Although not strictly medicines these are still all on my essential list of things to bring with me:
Anti-bacterial hand wash (no need to use water with it) – For clean hands on the go.
Tissues – Small packets serve to wipe mouth, nose, sweaty foreheads, and most essentially for when going to the toilet (toilet tissue is rarely available, except in the larger touristy places).
Wet Wipes (Baby wipes) – All types of sticky situations left fresh and clean!
Nail Glue and File – To fix back nails that go flying, start unattractively lifting, or loose shape.
Nail Polish (varnish) – Freshen up nails or for providing a patch up job until you can get to the professionals.
Dylash eyebrow and eyelash tint – Defined eyes without make-up, genius!
Tampax and thong panty liners – Feminine comfort.
Vaseline – For lips and dry patches (and to stop the eyebrow dye staining my skin too much!).
False Eyelashes – Defined eyes when you want that extra va-va-voom!
Make-up – Lighter formulations work better in the heat such as a tinted moisturiser instead of a foundation, if you really cannot put up with going bare-faced. I also love to use a mineral powder, just wipe your face first with a tissue to remove any moisture, before applying the powder, otherwise you end up with a caked powdery mess on your face. I also prefer a gel or cream blusher, and not a powdered version. As I have found in the past that block powder products such as blusher and caked face powder are easy to break up and spill everywhere when you least want or expect and can block pores.
Although not technically in my toiletries bag, these are also worth a mention…
Prior to leaving it is advisable to buy travel insurance for the entire length of the stay, as it not only covers you in the event of cancellations, lost luggage and misplaced cameras, but also in much more serious incidences of health problems, injures, or even death whilst abroad. I have found www.insureandgo.com to offer excellent cover and good deals on pricing…. Take my humble advice GET SOME INSURANCE!
Before you travel to Jamaica it is advisable to check with your local G.P. of your cover for diseases including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Malaria, Dengue Fever and in some cases Yellow Fever.
There is a risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, so if you wish to get frisky and cannot be careful, be GOOD! Condoms are readily available, but may not have the British standard that we have at home, so if you that bothers you bring some with you.
The National Travel and Health Network Centre has full details of the precautions, recommendations and the latest updated information for Jamaica, and is recommended by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as the best source of data:
Whenever I travel to Jamaica there are some items that I religiously buy in the UK to take with me, I love to travel but I also want to look and smell good in the process and there are some things a woman simply cannot do without! These are my list of ‘Most Wanted’ items to put in the toiletries bag, no matter how long or short the trip to Jamaica.
As a point of reference, a friend of mine recently came round to try to persuade me not to emigrate to Jamaica and when he finally gave me a chance to speak after ranting for 20 minutes, I explained why his arguments were unfounded and that the longest I would be gone for was 6 months in one go. This seemed to soothe his fractured mind so much so that he replied “I feel much better now that I let you talk” (my eyes rolled) He then retorted with “If you do go to Jamaica you won’t turn into a hippy will you?”. I nearly keeled over laughing at this last remark, as that would defiantly not be happening anytime soon… I plan to be a Hot Gyal ’til mi dead!
A point to make for all those who plan to travel to Jamaica: Jamaicans look GOOD and invariably smell GOOD too, so if you want to fit in follow their example! They even sing about the topic, a case in point is the wonderful song by Red Dragon ‘ Hol a fresh’ this is the first chorus of the song:
And mi seh all who nuh bathe from morning run go hol a fresh! Go hol a fresh! Go hol a fresh! All who nuh bathe from evening run go hol a fresh! Go hol a fresh! Go hol a And how you wake up this morning and you don’t hol a fresh! Evening pass and you don’t hol a fresh! Water deh bout here, you is a dirty wretch water come now Tek up the rag, tek up di soap and run go hol a fresh! Come out a di dance if you nuh dead and run go hol a fresh!
What to Bring…
Top Tip! If you are going away for up to 2 weeks then stick to travel sized versions of your favourite products, which are readily available in most high street chemists (drug stores/pharmacy) in the UK or the airport. If your favourites aren’t there, or to economise a little, you can decant products into smaller clean and empty bottles.This will not only give you more space in your bag or case, it also frees up more of your (stingy) weight allowance for shoes and such like! Just remember to store them in a bag or tape the lid down well to limit the risk of messy explosions in your luggage.
If you have Afro-Caribbean type hair, you are spoilt for choice for hair products and most of the products from the USA and are readily available. Some larger chemists (pharmacy / drug store) and supermarkets sell familiar UK brands, but they are invariably very expensive. If you are of white heritage it is advisable to buy your favourite brands of shampoo, conditioner and styling products from the UK and bring them with you, as the majority of the products for sale in Jamaica are for hair of black heritage and maybe too oily for your hair type.
It is hot and humid so you may find your hair gets drier and more frizzy than usual especially after long periods in the sun and swimming, so buy your products accordingly. Hair serum or one of the Moroccan hair oil brands work well to calm most types of unruly hair. I also bring cans of Baptiste Dry Shampoo with me as this is great between washes to give your hair a freshen up, especially when you are in an area that has a shortage of water.
Obviously we do not usually only have hair growing on our heads, so I am going to tackle the topic of hair and its removal or freedom to sprout from other areas of the body! Many female Jamaicans, especially in the country areas do not shave their under arms or legs, so if you want to go natural you won’t be scorned in the same way that you would in the UK. However, if like me you prefer to stay hair free then I would advise that you either get a good wax before you come out, or as I do and invest in some razors and bring them with you as the better brands are expensive to buy. I prefer to use the men’s Gillette razor and bring multi-packs of the razor heads with me along with the holder and a tube of Nair cream for the bikini area. Please be warned, it is likely that you will produce more hair than normal so come prepared… it must be the weather!
A good face wash or scrub or even a face mask, if you are really adventurous works wonders to slough off old skin and keep that face looking fresh. It is hot in Jamaica, you are going to sweat, and your skin may get spotty and unattractive looking if you do not regularly give it a good wash! It is hard to keep make-up on your face as it has a tendency to slide off during the day, therefore fresh skin is essential if you want to get away with minimal cover up. Face cream / moisturiser is essential and your face will love you for it especially if it has sunscreen, no matter what skin colour you have. Unless you have oily skin being in the extremes all day will dry out your skin even more than usual so a good (not necessarily expensive) cream will do wonders for your skin tone.
I tend to bring soap and a bottle of shower gel with me so I have it available when I arrive, but when it runs out I buy ‘Irish Spring’ soap which is a popular brand available in the majority of the larger retail outlets for around $110 each. During the day I tend to use suntan lotion as my body lotion and then in the evening after I bathe I use a tan intensifier or a thick cream such as Victoria Secrets, which smells gorgeous and hydrates my skin and which I stock up on in duty-free.
This is not something many people want to talk about, much less have to inhale!… being called ‘green’ in Jamaica is not a compliment as it implies you are not very fresh smelling! Come on people, it’s hot and humid in Jamaica you are going to sweat, a lot, and on a regular basis, so some simple precautions can help you stay feeling fresh and clean all day long! Obviously regular washing (of at the very least your ‘crevices’) is the key to freshness, but using a deodorant or anti-perspirants helps massively… I tend to buy some roll on deodorant which I leave where I am staying and stock up on the mini travel versions of the spray deodorants, so that I can pop one into my bag in case of emergencies.
Small packets of wet wipes or baby wipes are also a good friend for a multitude of sticky situations (if you will excuse the phrase) and at a push can be used for a quick swipe of sweaty bodily places when on the go, followed by a blast of mini sized deodorant…. ah fresh again! Another tip is to buy a body mist (not the aerosol type) the more watery based spray type, which you can blitz yourself with when feeling over heated as they not only cool you down, but carry a sweet refreshing scent where perfumes are often too heavy (and expensive).
Women’s Hygiene Products
Many retail outlets do not have a wide range of internally worn protection, such as, UK known brands, Tampax or Li-lets, but they do tend to stock a range of sanitary towels. It is not often that you will see ‘thong’ shaped panty-liners for sale either, so if you prefer these types of products it is advisable that you bring them with you to be on the safe side.
My next post will have details of my other essentials to buy and organise before you leave to your trip to Jamaica….
(Please Note: This post has been revised and updated in February 2017)
What you should know before you go…. Airports
If you are travelling to Jamaica you will probably be arriving by air on a charter, or long haul flight. Jamaica has two International Airports, Norman Manley Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. The majority of holiday makers will arrive at Montego Bay airport, whilst Kingston airport is more popular for business travellers. This post will give you the lowdown on travelling to Jamaica and will guide you as to what you should know before you go!
Choice of Airline flying to Jamaica from the UK
Long gone are the days when you had a choice of long haul airlines to choose from and were allowed 2 bags in the hold, as was standard when travelling from London to Jamaica. Nowadays Virgin Atlantic is the ONLY provider operating the route to Montego Bay Airport (as of summer 2012) from the UK, with a one bag policy.
British Airways on the other-hand now presently ONLY fly into Kingston. The wonderful airline Air Jamaica unfortunately gave up the route from the UK to Jamaica, in 2007; but I managed to enjoy one round trip with them!
Charter Flights are offered by a few operators such as First Choice and Thomson’s, but I have always flown direct and long haul for a few reasons…. The luggage allowance on a charter flight is generally around 20 kg, which means 15 kg in the hold and 5 kg hand luggage, this is not enough for me. They tend to only fly in the high season and in school holidays, which does not suit my needs. I find that the price is in the same region as long-haul flights, but with none of the perks….
If you plan to travel to Jamaica as often as I do, it is a good idea to join a frequent fliers club as you will be giving the same airline a lot of custom unless they change their tactics again!
Virgin Atlantic Luggage Allowance
The current luggage allowance for Virgin Atlantic Economy to Jamaica is one bag weighing up to 23 kg (50 lbs) in the hold, plus on-board you can carry one piece of hand luggage (must fit in size guide rack at airport), or a Laptop Bag, plus a reasonably sized handbag. Premium Economy two bags, Upper Class three bags (I wish!), both are plus the on-board allowance mentioned.
Checking in a Wedding Dress on a Flight
If you have a wedding dress, smile sweetly and ask politely at the check-in dress if you can carry it on-board, rather than it going in the hold. I have heard of some women recommending looking for hostesses with engagement or wedding rings on as they may be more sympathetic to your dilemma! Either way it will depend on the room in the lockers made available on-board for the coats of the crew and premium seat holders. You have more chance of getting the wedding dress into a locker in the summer months, as naturally fewer people wear bulky coats on the flight to Jamaica.
When looking for your flight, check the price with the airline (website) but DO NOT automatically book your flight, as there are deals elsewhere for little hassle. Once I have found the ‘base’ price from the airline, I telephone up to four local agents and compare the prices before choosing the best deal. Make sure you tell the agent your preference for Montego Bay or Kingston, as it is easy to book the wrong airport. Living in South London I generally call: Sackville Travel, Norwood Travel, Newmont Travel and Southall Travel for good flight only deals.
Before you land – Immigration Cards
Non-residents will be handed an Immigration Card on the flight, which needs to be completely filled in and kept with your passport, ready to be handed to Immigration before landing. Make sure you fill in both ‘halves’ of the form, which includes the return / leaving part as you will asked to step aside and fill it in before they let you join the line for Passport Control. The boxes on the form and very small so do not forget your reading glasses!
TOP TIP! Bring a Black or Blue Ballpoint Pen (biro type)
Once you have landed
Sangster International Airport – Montego Bay
On leaving the flight you will have to walk a considerable way through the air-conditioned airport with your hand luggage and duty-free before you reach immigration and the baggage collection area. To keep you occupied and to enlighten you on the long journey, there are various works of art giving an insight into the history and culture of the country, featuring some outstanding work from Jamaican school children.
If your hand luggage bag is heavy you may something with wheels is easier to manage after a long flight. I whole heartedly recommend wearing flat comfortable shoes…. I can tell you from experience – DO NOT use this as a time to break in and show off new shoes as it is a very long walk and blisters are not a good look on the first day of your trip! Parents may find that ‘trunkie’ type wheeled hand luggage is useful as the children can ‘scoot’ themselves along keeping them occupied and out of your tired arms.
At the end of the long walk from the plane you will turn right and walk down a ramp where immigration officers will visually check that your Immigration Card is fully filled in. As mentioned before, they will ask you to step aside and fill it in before they allow you to join the Passport Control queue, so say yourself some time and do it on the flight. I have never had to wait longer than 30 minutes – 1 hour, to get through Passport Control as there are usually a high number of Officers checking your documents.
Visitors to Jamaica are required to present the following documents to the Immigration Officers:
Customs Declaration Form
Return Tickets (non-residents only).
Hand Luggage Recommendation
After many journeys and a multitude of different hand-luggage bags, I have gone full circle and reinvested in a wheeled cabin-sized suitcase. I tried a few different soft bags as they are lighter and generally give you a larger interior compartment to stow away things. But, I have found a massive bruise formed on my hip and shoulder each time I travelled with a soft bag.
I have to say my new wheelie case is a revelation, I could literally weep with joy when I use it. It is light and reasonably roomy and so easy to traverse through the airport with it. Plus I found a way of putting my handbag on top and using the longer shoulder strap to keep it steady, so I don’t have to carry that either! Genius.
Once you leave Immigration you will come through to the Baggage Collection Area, where you will find trolleys and the usual conveyor belt system. If you do not see your luggage, check the far end of the room before panicking as the Baggage Handlers usually take the cases off of the conveyor belt as they go round and stack them up. This is helpful in some ways, but you may find that if your case is at the back it is time-consuming when trying to retrieve it. If you use a smile and are polite you can persuade the handlers to get it for you!
Last Check (before you can leave the airport)….
Now this is the worst part of the journey for me. Wondering if I can successfully wheel my trolley through the last check point, without being called over to one side for the dreaded bag search. This is NOT because I am carrying anything illegal or immoral, but because it is a pain after a long journey to see your belongings pulled out when they have been packed so neatly and potentially having to pay tax on items you have already paid for.
I have found that I am more likely to get pulled to one side as I am travelling alone and I give a residential address as my ‘place of residence’ in Jamaica, plus I generally have two bags, plus hand luggage. Therefore, the customs staff (correctly) assume I will be carrying gifts or items for other people.
The Customs Declaration Form is easy to fill in and they will check what you claim to have in your luggage, before opening your bag and looking through it. The search usually only consists of a quick ‘dig and lift’ of the contents to see if you are stashing things you shouldn’t or have things that you haven’t mentioned on the form.
Bringing Gifts into Jamaica
If you bring gifts for relatives and friends, or carry large amounts of the same types of items customs may decide to charge you TAX on the items you are bringing into Jamaica.
This also applies if they feel you are over your allowance, and / or, are carrying items which you are intending to sell, or have items that are of any value; such as name brand clothing and shoes, electrical items and so on.
If you obviously try to mis-quote or lie about the amount, value or type of goods on your Customs Declaration Form customs may decide to charge you TAX on the items you are bringing into Jamaica.
Please Note:If you do not accept the tax payable, you will be expected to leave your goods at the airport where they may be destroyed. Alternatively if they are of value, you can arrange for them to kept by customs and you can collect them on your way home (by arrangement ONLY) to avoid paying the tax on them.
More Information: Thinking of Shipping Belongings to Jamaica – Check out our Guides to Shipping to Jamaica
Jamaican Baggage Handlers
You cannot take the trolleys outside of the airport doors at Montego Bay Airport. Once you go through the last Passport Control and through the doors you will be asked to leave the trolley in the lobby area and will have to carry your own cases the last few feet outside to your transport, or have some change ready to tip a Baggage Handler who will carry them for you.
They will expect a tip of about $400 (Jamaican currency) despite the short journey to the parking lot and (hopefully) your smiling friends and loved ones will be there to greet you on time!
Some of the Airlines and Destinations with Direct Flights to Montego Bay