Jamaican Postal System

Due to the logistics of Jamaica many addresses do not include a door number, street or road name, merely a district and parish. This makes it virtually impossible for post workers to circumnavigate the island delivering post to every individual residential and business place in Jamaica on a daily basis as we are used to in the UK.

I have to admit that was all I did know about the Jamaican postal system from my travels here over the years. But it wasn’t until I was looking on the Internet for a way to send something to the UK from Jamaica that I came across Jamaica Post, the Postal Corporation of Jamaica and was amazed at the reasonable postal prices and the amount of services it offered.

So in my quest to encourage everyone to  ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN!’ and raise awareness of Jamaica’s industries, companies, outstanding individuals and products, I present to you my first profile on Jamaica Post and ask,

“Instead of using that big foreign courier company, why not give Jamaica Post the business?”

Brief History of Jamaican Postal Service

Don’t get me wrong Jamaica does have a postal service, just not as we know it! Lets have a very brief condensed history lesson to get this straight….

 Way back in 1671, 31st October to be exact, Jamaica became the first British Colony to set up a Post Office in the then capital St. Jago De La Vega, or Spanish Town as it now known. The early settlers had complained that the mail delivery was too slow, so the Governor of Jamaica was instructed to open a Post Office to facilitate a more efficient service. Edward Dismore was eventually appointed as the first Postmaster General of Jamaica in 1754 and proceeded to widen the service by opening a series of Post Offices across the island, many of which remain today as Main Post Offices.

The main Post Office moved from Spanish Town to Kingston in 1776, and although it has moved sites several times it remains in the capital of Jamaica. In 1860 the biggest change occurred in the history of the Jamaican Post Office as it gained full managerial and operational power from the British and the first beautiful and distinctive Jamaican stamps were created and put into circulation. In the 1970’s a grand modernisation programme of the head office was instigated and since the 1980’s the main Post Office has boasted a modern facility with an automated central sorting office.

Mr Michael Gentles has been Postmaster General of Jamaica and the Chief Executive Officer of The Postal Corporation of Jamaica since 1st August 2006. He is much celebrated (and rightly so) as his many forward thinking advancements and modernisations to the Post Offices services and operations have in turn increased customer perception and satisfaction with the service. The Postal Corporation of Jamaica Ltd, has turned itself around and with Mr. Gentles at the reins it now offers more services and has improved dramatically, as you shall see for yourself.


Mr Michael Gentles Postmaster General of Jamaica
Mr Michael Gentles Postmaster General of Jamaica

Post Office Services

Jamaican Main Post Offices are open between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and offer a full range of postal services.

Whereas, the Postal Agencies only run on a part-time basis, offering a restricted range of postal services. The full range of services available include:

  • Sale of judicial and National Insurance Stamps (NIS)
  • Acceptance and delivery of letters and parcels
  • Sale of philatelic products
  • Sale & encashment of Postal Money Orders
  • Acceptance and delivery of Registered Mail
  • Express Mail (EMS)
  • Facilitating pre-paid postage
  • Provision of private letter boxes
  • Zip Mail
  • Advertising mail
  • Postal Order (Jamaican $)
  • Community Bulletin (Varies at each Postal Location)

For an up to date price list please check the Jamaica Post website rates. 

Agency Services

Now that PostCorp has made commercial agreements with other companies, the Post Office is able to offer a portfolio of added services enabling you to deal with many other personal administration tasks at the same time, including:

  • Bill payments
  • Document reproduction and facsimile services
  • Gaming products
  • Internet Kiosks
  • Water Coupon
  • Moneygram
  • Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation Smart Card
  • Cool Card
  • PATH
  • Newspaper sales
  • DHL
  • Automated Banking Machine (JN, BNS)
  • Jamaica National Small Business Loans (Varies at each Postal Location)

Collecting Mail in Jamaica

Unless you have a private mail box with your own key, or have an address that has a delivery service, you won’t know if anything has been delivered for you unless you go to the local Post Office and ask. Just tell them your name and address and they will look and see if anything has come for you. Don’t forget, if anyone plans to send something to you and asks for your address, make sure you tell them to include the name of the local post office on the address printed on the front of the article.

Sending Mail From Jamaica

If you want to send something either domestically (within Jamaica) or overseas, there are many services available from Jamaica Post some of which I have outlined:

Domestic Mail (First Class)

The First-Class Mail service can be used within Jamaica (from a Jamaican address to another Jamaican address) for sending letters, postcards, postal cards, greeting cards, personal notes, checks, and money orders. They provide other services for registered mail, restricted delivery, certificates of mailing and postal insurance; anything insured at first-class rate must only contain merchandise or material, not required to be sent as first-class mail. The Post Office aims to deliver First-class Mail within 2 days to local address and 3 days for other non-local (and some rural) addresses.

Registered Mail

If you are sending something of value (there is no limit to the value) within Jamaica it is best to use Registered Mail, as it provides limited indemnity in case of loss or damage.  This delivery type usually takes 2 – 3 business days. As this type of mail provides maximum security, it must be deposited as specified by the Postal Service. Additionally, this type of mail is forwarded and returned without any more charges. In you need to make a claim, compensation is given dependant on the value of the item at the time of sending; insurance is not available for articles of no value. When you send an article by Registered Mail you will receive:

  1. A receipt.
  2. A record of delivery, retained by the Postal Service for a specified period of time.
  3. When registered mail is undeliverable-as-addressed and cannot be forwarded, a notice of non-delivery is provided.

Zip Mail©

If you feel the First-Class domestic service isn’t fast enough for you, when sending correspondence, business documents, printed matter, and lightweight merchandise (e.g. product samples) then try the next day 24 hour turnaround service Zip Mail©.  As long as you get the mail to them before the cut off time and it is well labelled, they guarantee delivery by the next day, to addresses where they usually deliver mail, or to the local Post Office for collection. The largest size for Zip Mail© deliveries is 108 inches in length and girth combined, and the greatest weight is 20 lbs; your local post office will supply Zip Mail© stickers at no extra charge if you ask for them.

Sending Parcels Overseas from Jamaica

Jamaica Post also offers a worldwide parcel delivery service for packages up to 10 kilo. They have a smart rate calculator on their website where you can input the country of delivery and the weight and it will give you an estimate.

This link is for the Jamaica Post Parcel Rate Calculator. Where you can check out rates for other countries: http://www.jamaicapost.gov.jm/rates/parcelrates


Jamaica Post Express Mail
Jamaica Post Express Mail

Express Mail Service (EMS)

Jamaica Post also offers ‘Express Mail Service (EMS)’, a fast, cost-effective and secure international courier service. This service enables you to send packages from 1 once to 22 pounds in weight (dependant on the destination) and reaches destinations in 3-5 working days; flight schedules allowing.

Most of the Main and larger Post Offices across the Jamaica offer the service, where you can buy the distinctive orange and blue striped packages.

The closing times for EMS items can be obtained by calling 1-888-526-7676 or 922-9448.

The service is available to the following countries:

  • CARIBBEAN (ie. Antigua, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia)

Track and Trace

Jamaica Post offers modern parcel tracking for EMS parcels to the UK, USA and Canada. There is a link on their website to track and trace the journey of your goods from Jamaica to its final destination.

All EMS items can be tracked and traced in-house. Internet tracking via the Jamaica Post website is available on our home page for the following countries:

  1. United Kingdom (Royal Mail)
  2. USA (USPS)
  3. Canada (Canada Post)

Customers can track their items via these websites by using the “TRACK & CONFIRM” feature, or by calling the Customer Service Unit at the Central Sorting Office in Kingston, Jamaica, at Tel: 876-922-9448 in order to ascertain the delivery status of their items. In order to assist you when you call, our pleasant, helpful Customer Service Representatives will need to know the tracking (“registration”) number, so please have this information on hand.

The mail item will be checked for compliance with international security regulations and therefore must not be sealed prior to being submitted at the customer service desk.

Express Mail does not transport cash, dangerous goods, hazardous materials or any articles restricted by the country of destination.

All shipments must include addressee’s complete address, postcode, if any, and phone number.
To avoid any inconvenience, all items being sent for repair or replacement should be declared to the postal clerk before being sent abroad.

All non-documents (dutiable items) must be accompanied by a Commercial Invoice. These items are liable to customs clearance on arrival at the country of destination. This may also affect the transit time of the item.

Items Prohibited from Sending Through The Post

Although Jamaica Post does its best to serve its customers, they do have a list of prohibited items that it will not deliver for you, which I have copied from their website. These include:

It is prohibited to send by post:

  1. Dangerous articles (including explosives), inflammable, noxious, filthy deleterious or otherwise harmful substances; sharp instruments, not properly protected; Matches.
  2. Any indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithography engraving cinematographic film, book card, written communication or any indecent or obscene article.
  3. Any article having thereon on the cover there of any words, marks or designs of an indecent, obscene, seditious, scurrilous, threatening or grossly offensive character.
  4. Any article consisting of or containing opium, morphia, cocaine or other narcotics except those forwarded for medical or scientific purposes to countries which permit them to be sent.
  5. Any article containing medicine of any kind unless the formula or the content is printed clearly on the container in English or French. Medications intended for the external or internal treatments of venereal disease are not permitted even if they comply with this condition.
  6. Living animals except bees, silkworms and leeches packed in accordance with regulations
  7. Articles which from their nature or packing may expose postal officials or any other person to danger or may soil or damage other articles or postal equipment in the course of conveyance.
  8. Any article containing or bearing any fictitious postage stamp or counterfeit impression of a stamping machine; purporting to be prepaid with any postage stamp which has been previously used to prepay any other postal article or other revenue duty or tax; or having thereon or on the cover thereof any words or letters or marks (used without due authorisation) which signify, or imply or may reasonably lead the recipient thereof to believe that the postal article is sent on Government Service.
  9. Any article containing coin or gold bullion exceeding ten dollars in value except coins used or designed for ornamental purposes and declared as such.
  10. Any article prohibited by the postal, customs or other laws or regulations of the country or place the article is being posted to or which it is addressed or through which it must pass.
  11. Carbon soiled paper, liquid celluloid, oilskins and similarly oiled goods.
  12. Soil
  13. Perishable articles except when addressed to destinations within the island or when enclosed in a hermitically sealed tin.
  14. Liquid unless packed as provided within specified postal regulations.
  15. Articles composed wholly or partly thereof raw celluloid roll film and cinematography films unless packed as provided within specified postal regulations.
  16. Articles consisting of or containing two or more postal articles (of the same or different inscriptions) addressed to two different persons who are at different addresses.
  17. Articles infringing trademark or copyright laws.
  18. Articles having anything written, printed or otherwise impressed across the postage stamp thereon before posting.

Apart from the prohibitions mentioned above, many countries abroad for various reasons impose restrictions on the importation of certain articles. Prohibitions and restrictions for other countries may be found here:


Parcels containing articles known to be prohibited from importation into the country of destination are not forwarded but are returned to the senders; parcels declared to contain articles of which importation is permitted only under certain conditions will generally speaking be accepted and dispatched.

The onus of compliance with these conditions rests with the sender; and Jamaica Post and by extension the Post and Telecommunications Department accepts no responsibility for the return or seizure of any parcel through the failure of the sender or addressee to comply with the necessary formalities.

Montego Bay: 10 Harbour Circle (off Howard Cooke Blvd. between LOJ shopping Center and Pier 1)

To finish

I would like to once again urge everyone to use Jamaica Post, instead of one of the large international couriers. Why? Firstly, they give  great service, which is cost effective, safe and efficient. Secondly, in order to build Jamaica we need to use, publicise and generate customers to buy into all that is great in Jamaica, whether that be Jamaican companies, products, industries, individuals, brands or initiatives.

Jamaica Post has its ‘purpose’ written on their website which I believe sums it all up perfectly….

Our purpose is to provide every household and business in Jamaica with the ability to communicate and conduct business with each other and the world efficiently, effectively and economically.








Love Jamaica? Then you can help support the economy by purchasing Jamaican made goods and products…

This post is the result of an idea that has bubbled around in my head for sometime. How can I make a difference to Sweet, Sweet Jamaica, the land that I love? To travel here and enjoy all that the country has to offer, is one way of raising the Jamaican economy and profile, but I feel there has to be more to it than that. Jamaica is more than the sum of its tourist industry. What about the everyday Jamaicans that have probably never stayed in the big hotels they see springing up all over the island, how can we help to support them?

Employment Figures In Jamaica

The government statistics state that unemployment levels in Jamaica had risen to 14.3% in April 2012, up from 12.4% two years earlier. In order to curb unemployment levels and build the Jamaican economy we need to support home-grown manufacturers and producers of goods and products. This will increase demand and productivity levels, enabling the expansion of these companies, which will in turn increase demand for labour ~ and the employment of more Jamaicans. Simple Really.


“Jamaica needs to start at ‘grass roots’ level, meaning that we should practise what we preach.”

Be Proud Of Jamaican Made Goods

What puzzles me is that I have never met a nation that is so proud of their country as Jamaica and its people. Yet, there seems to be a strong desire among Jamaicans to have internationally branded products in their homes and workplaces, over and above locally produced Jamaican goods.

Additionally, it is all very well to publicise the desire to increase exports and decrease imports into the country,  whilst attempting to draw in overseas companies to set up businesses or invest in Jamaica. But, if you aren’t supporting your own, why would anyone else want to?

Lets Break it Down!

If every one of us living and working in Jamaica makes a conscious effort to buy Jamaican products, instead of the international imported brands it will make a difference to the country. How does this work? Simple…

If we all made it our responsibility to seek out and buy Jamaican manufactured goods it would raise the profile, manufacturing capabilities and employment figures of these companies. By being awarded bigger contracts these manufacturers are afforded the chance of investing money back into their companies, further increasing their production levels and creating new jobs for more Jamaicans.

To a certain degree any product is only as good as its marketing and branding strategies. The more people see and hear about a product being used by others, the more it heightens their belief and desirability levels for the product too, thus increasing sales. In other words it is the general public who buy into products and brands making them popular, because after all we all like to keep up with ‘the Joneses’ (with each other). If we as a collective whole make a stand and deem that Jamaican products are ‘trendy’ and desirable as displayed through our buying power, then they will be. Watch and See!

How We Can Make A Difference

People living and working in Jamaica and fans of Jamaica from overseas, can make a difference to  the economy by familiarising yourself with Jamaican born companies.  Start purchasing products that have been grown, manufactured, made or produced in Jamaica.

When buying grocery shopping, cosmetics / toiletries, or products for the home, look for Jamaican grown, made or manufactured products and companies, instead of international brands. Eat fresh locally produced foods that are in season, get back into eating ground provisions – good old ‘hard food’, instead of cooking imported rice or flour (dumplings and fritters) every day.

In the workplace, if you are in charge of purchasing goods, materials, and products seek out Jamaican producers, manufacturers and suppliers of the goods that your business needs.

There are many ways you can support Jamaican Manufacturers as they are highly skilled in many areas, such as:

  • Chemicals, Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals Products
  • Electrical, Electronics and Automotive Products
  • Foods and Agro Products
  • Furniture, Wooden and Bedding Products
  • Gold and Silversmith Products
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Minerals and Metals Products
  • Printing, Packaging and Paper Products
  • Textile and Sewn Products


Major Players In the Growth of Jamaica’s Economy

Apart the general public’s purchasing power there are other major players in Jamaica that can make a difference to the economy. That is the working public, at all levels of employment. Every business place in Jamaica has someone in charge of purchasing, whether that be the secretary that buys stationary and sends post, to the purchasers of raw foodstuffs and materials in manufacturing firms, to hotels and financial institutions that buy furniture, equipment and manufactured goods and products, and not forgetting the hardworking higgler or vendor that sells everyday products.
If you work in an ‘office environment’ it could be something as simple as offering genuine Jamaican bottled water, coffee, tea and snacks at meetings, purchasing stationary and furniture from Jamaican manufacturers, buying Jamaican paper products for the rest rooms and the printer and so on…
There is also a myriad of other Jamaican entrepreneurs who work in creative industries, such as, marketing and branding companies, website building companies, videography, cinematography, production, photography, printers and so on, give them your business…
If you work in a retail outlet, hotel or tourist site, buy, use and re-sell Jamaican made foodstuffs, furniture, stationary, uniforms, paper products, cleaning products, cosmetics and so on…
Use your imagination, set your children the task to look for Jamaican made products when shopping and buy them…

Major Jamaican Players That Can Make A Difference

As individuals we are more powerful when we come together to achieve something, but there are other mass purchasers of products and goods that have far bigger spending power than us. Who are they? Private and Public Companies. Let me introduce some of the major players who I feel should be more aware of their actions and ought to be taking the Jamaican economy seriously, by utilising Jamaican grown businesses when purchasing goods and products:

  1. Jamaican government bodies, including their  institutions, agencies, associations  and organisations, such as, courts, schools, hospitals, emergency services….
  2. Hotels and tourist industry businesses….
  3. Retail outlets, including supermarkets, department stores, boutiques and vendors….
  4. Financial and Insurance Companies….
  5. Overseas Companies with offices in Jamaica….
  6. Manufacturing and Processing Plants….

To Finish

In my quest to encourage everyone to  ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA BUY JAMAICAN!’ and to raise the profile of Jamaica’s industries, manufacturers, farmers, companies, outstanding individuals, products and brands, I shall be writing profiles on Jamaican people and companies big and small in the hope of making my ‘likkle’ contribution to Jamaica.

Remember, buying locally not only ensures the livelihood of Jamaican companies, it also assists in the creation of new jobs which helps to kick-start other areas of the economy as well. Think About It – Make Your Contribution.

Or, as they would say in Jamaica ‘one, one coco full basket’, in other words every little bit helps – if we all make a small contribution to something, it will succeed and overflow in the end!

Sweet Jamaica ~ Jamaica’s Sweet!

Who Really Discovered Jamaica?


The history of Jamaica begins with an indigenous Indian tribe called the Taíno, here you can learn the facts about Jamaica and all about Christopher Columbus and the part he played…

Who Came First to Jamaica?

This might be a controversial topic, but I think it is about time that the history lessons given in schools depict what actually happened in history. What is the point of teaching children (and adults) the history of the world, that is in-fact no more than a fabrication of the truth? When educated about the history of Jamaica we are taught about Christopher Columbus a Spaniard who landed on Jamaica in 1494… Ask yourself, how can you ‘discover’ a country that had already been habituated since around 700 to 800 AD?

Let me introduce you to the real history of Jamaica.  A group of indigenous Indians who had incredible seafaring skills moved through the Caribbean chain of islands way before Senor Columbus was even born, some say as much as, 2000 – 2500 years earlier. Ethnohistorians have called these people Taínos, and believe they came into existence at the end of the first millennium, reaching maturity around 1200. The Arawaks, from the Amazon were thought to be the ancestors to the Taíno people, and are sometimes incorrectly called the first inhabitants of Jamaica.

Ultimately the original people, the real discoverers of Jamaica were Taínos. A male and female Taíno are depicted in  the Jamaican Coat of Arms, where they stand proudly on either side of the shield; as shown above.

The Taíno

The Taíno were short and slightly built, with coarse straight black hair and wide flattish noses and copper coloured skin and they flattened their foreheads as a sign of beauty. They lived a traditional life building conical-shaped thatched shelters in communal villages all over the island, which consisted of several family groups headed up by a Cacique (chief). The Cacique had a larger dwelling with a porch like veranda, which was called a ‘bohío’. There were reports by Morales Padron and archeologists that the Cacique were handsomely swathed in feathered head dresses, with palm leaves on their bellies, wearing large amounts of adornments including gold discs in their ears, necklaces with marble beads and gold plaques and sparkling gem stones set into jewellery worn on the forehead.

The Taíno lived in organised societies with the Cacique making decisions including making and enforcing laws, settling disputes, land distribution, organisation of labour, planting and sharing of crops and religious ceremonies. The society had two classes the Nitaínos, or noblemen, which consisted of their family members, artists and warriors and the Naboría, or working class who were the fisherman, hunters and farmers.

The women gathered food and were expert spinners of cloth, whilst the men hunted birds with stone or shark tooth tipped spears, caught fish and turtles and worked the fertile land of Jamaica growing yams, beans, corn (maize), sweet potato, spices, cassava, cotton and tobacco. Their main dish was pepperpot, a meat and vegetable stew. Most settlements were near the plains, rivers and the coastline as those were prime food gathering sources, in places such as White Marl, St Catherine, Seville, St Ann, Jacks Hill, St Andrew, and Botany Bay, St Ann. They lived a simple existence without a written language, use of the wheel or beasts of burden.

Taino beliefs

The Taino myths place the origin of humans, the sun and moon in caves. This belief lead the Taíno to view caves with great importance. There are many examples of the recording of stories and events through petroglyphs (rock carving) and pictographs (rock painting). Caves were also used by the Taino for burials and as shrines and sanctuaries where ‘images’ that played a significant role in their lives where placed.

The Taíno had lived in peaceful existence in Xaymaca (‘the land of wood and water’) as they called it, for 700 to 800 years before the Spaniards got there. They were expert crafts people, the carpenters made rough seats from wood and potters made cooking vessels from clay which they baked in the fire to harden. They baked cassava on clay griddles and ate lots of sea foods. They wore strings of beads and shells and were excellent at spinning and weaving the wild cotton that grew in Jamaica into clothing which they wore in strips at their waist and for making hammocks which they slept in. Their carpentry skills enabled them to build huge canoes from Silk Cotton Trees to fish and circumnavigate the high seas, which is said, even Christopher Columbus was impressed with.

Early Entertainment in Jamaica

The Taíno are said to have enjoyed a party too, making beer from cassava (after the poison had been extracted) and another alcohol from maize. They also smoked dried leaves and snorted a powdered drug through a meter long tube called a tabaco. Their Gods were represented by Zemes, which were idols of people or animals and were said to control sun, rain, hurricanes and wind; when celebrating their Zemes they induced vomiting. They also used harvested rubber and made a solid rubber ball and devised games which they played on courts.

The Taíno believed that when they died they went to Coyaba, a place of eternal rest and tranquility, that is free from hurricanes, drought and sickness with an abundance of feasting and dancing.

The Taíno contributed to certain words adopted into the English language , including  ‘hammock’, ‘hurricane’, ‘tobacco’, ‘barbeque’, ‘cassava’, ‘guava’ and ‘canoe’.

What Happened to the Taíno?

When the Spanish arrived they shot bows and arrows and set fierce dogs on the Taíno that had initially tried to defend their homeland, both of which they had never seen before. Frightened the Taínos  backed down and eventually reappeared with peace offerings, supplying the Spanish with food and gifts for the duration of their first brief stay. As the Spanish took hold over Jamaica during further visits, they made the Taíno their slaves putting them to hard labour, making them carry out difficult tasks and bringing new diseases that the Taíno hadn’t experienced before. After about fifty years of harsh treatment and they had finally killed off the majority of the original inhabitants, the indigenous Indians;  the Spanish then replaced the Taíno ‘workforce’ with slaves from Africa.

Taíno Archeological Sites in Jamaica

There were many Taíno sites all over Jamaica, although unfortunately most of these sites have been destroyed through the combination of farming practices, building sites and the extraction of minerals.  The Jamaican National Heritage Trust has several sites on its website that can be visited, including the White Marl Taino Midden and Museum, which is located on the Kingston to Spanish Town highway, next to the White Marl Primary School. In 2007 a large Taíno site was found in Westmoreland, now headed by the Bluefields Archaeology Project which has uncovered many interesting finds from the discovery of a ‘midden’ or rubbish / garbage dump.

There are many cave painting or Petroglyph Sites across Jamaica, including:

  1. Dryland, St. Mary
  2. Pantrepant, Trelawny
  3. Windsor, Trelawny
  4. Mountain River , St. Catherine
  5. Two Sister’s Cave, St. Catherine
  6. Kempshot, St. James
  7. Canoe Valley, Manchester
  8. Cuckold Point, Manchester
  9. Gut River, Manchester
  10. Duff House, Manchester
  11. Coventry, St. Ann
  12. Chesterfield St. Ann
  13. Walkerswood, St. Ann
  14. God’s Well, Clarendon
  15. Jackson Bay Cave, Clarendon
  16. Little Miller’s Bay, Clarendon
  17. Milk River, Clarendon
  18. Jackson Bay, Clarendon
  19. Negril, Westmoreland
  20. Red Bank, St. Elizabeth
  21. Reynold Bent, St. Elizabeth
  22. Warminster, St. Elizabeth

Taíno Day

On 5th May 2007 the first ‘Taíno Day’ was unveiled by the Jamaican National Heritage Trust (JNHT)  to celebrate the earliest inhabitants of Jamaica with hopes of educating citizens about their various contributions to society. Each year’s celebration has a different theme, whereby the JNHT hosts a public lecture at the Institute of Jamaica located in Kingston, including a public exhibition of Taino artifacts.  The group also asks schools across the nation to take time out to remember the Taíno people whose history is often pushed aside in other national celebrations.

Previously, the day had controversially been called ‘Encounter Day’ which was  facilitated to commemorate the meeting of two cultures, the Spanish and the Taíno. But it failed to observe the fact it wasn’t a mutual, peaceful meeting and sharing of two cultures. What really occurred was the start of barbaric practises that wiped out the majority of the full-blooded Taíno in comparatively a nano-second of their earlier existence on earth.

There are many books that cover the history of the Taíno of Jamaica in much more detail including The Earliest Inhabit-ants: The Dynamics of the Jamaica Taino, published by the University of the West Indies Press (2006). It promotes Jamaican Tainan archaeology and highlights the diverse research conducted on the island’s prehistoric sites and artefacts.

The Jamaican National Heritage Trust (JNHT) website has many other interesting facts about Jamaican history and places and sites to visit: http://jnht.com/index.php

Gated Luxury Communities in Jamaica

What could be more ideal than to have your luxury Jamaican home ready to move into and in a secure and well-kept gated community? Maybe all is not as it seems in some of these ‘man-made’ communities as I discovered after staying with a returning resident friend in their beautiful home. I was amazed to hear about the comings and goings, politics, back-handers and more, it was easily enough drama for a Jamaican Housewives T.V. show to be made all about it!

I will spill and give you the best high(low)lights, but I will keep the development name and location a secret to protect my lovely friend from any more unfortunate incidences. Please note that this article is indicative of one individual persons experience of living in a gated development in Jamaica as told to me over two visits to their home.  For the purposes of the article I shall call my friend *’Ashley’.

I will admit to sometimes browsing through the adverts for gated communities in Jamaica, scanning the prices and looking wistfully at the beautiful properties imagining living there. But after my short stay in a gated residence my views have changed somewhat and the rose-tinted spectacles have been somewhat removed!

What are Gated communities All About?

Many people who dream of having a second home, or return back to live full-time in Jamaica decide to buy on or off plan from one of the developers that are springing up all over the island. This is usually for the Peace of Mind of:

  • living in a secure gated community.
  • not having to manage a building project whilst being overseas.

The developers show images and plans for residents living in luxury homes, on perfect streets with beautiful surroundings and communal areas for swimming, eating and meeting up. But the reality of the development that I visited was very different as it s-l-o-w-l-y filled up, residents started to come and go and the excitement of the initial opening  and interaction of the community drifted away. Some houses were taken by international music artists, whilst other houses were eventually bought, but left unkempt and empty.

What to Exect When You Move Into Your Gated Community

If you visit the site before purchasing a property you should be shown the ‘pegs’ that lay out the parameters of the Plots, including your garden area – make a photographic and signed record of this using fixed objects, such as, a lamp-post or fire hydrant to help accurately depict the location. Just in case they have magically moved decreasing the exterior land size after you have put down a deposit or paid in full.

The exterior of the house is unfinished meaning extra money was required for:

  • The driveway was a plain concrete screed, wide enough for one vehicle, and which stopped about 18″ (1.5ft) short of the ‘porch/front verandah’. You were free to tile, pave (and so on), increase the size to a double car width (eliminating your front garden) and ‘join’ it seamlessly to the front of the property.
  • The house has no physical boundaries present. That is to say there are no fences or gateways to the houses, creating private areas. Boundaries must be put up at a designated height and style to keep a uniform look.
  • The garden only consists of a lawn. You must plant your own trees, plants and shrubs.
  • Wooden carports and balconies can be added to the properties to match the style of the others already present on the site.
  • Other verandah type structures are permitted but must have the same type roofing as the main buildings.
  • The ‘grounds’ of the gated community are not overly planted and residents were gaining permission from the Office to add plants and trees.
  • The ‘corner’ properties had grass verges that some residents ‘captured’ and planted up to create larger front garden areas.

Who Lives in Gated Communities?

Jamaica has a melting pot of residents buying into the properties on gated developments, but most are bought by professionals or wealthy globe trotters. ‘Ashley’ commented that when they first moved in, primarily returning residents from the UK or USA bought up the properties. After 3 years of living there the shift of residents has moved to mainly Chinese and Indian business owners and professionals, with a smattering of American and European people joining them. This made distinct micro communities within the development and these different cultures kept themselves to themselves dissipating the ‘we are one’ village feel and making some residents feel isolated and unwelcome.

There is a universal hierarchy to the development too, with snobbery, constant one-upmanship and reverence given to residents that are doctors, lawyers and respected business owners over residents that worked as tradespeople or care workers. Persons who were deemed to be single, or non-married where also held with somewhat contempt too by the others. This favouritism can run to the point of preferential treatment from the office staff and the snubbing and belittling of the unpopular or unwanted residents by those wanting to be ‘in with the in crowd’.

Unfair Play and Back-Handers

One of the things that most amazed me about the development and ‘Ashley’s’ experience was that there were so many incidents of theft.  Unbeknown to ‘Ashley’ the Sales Office staff did not hand over all the sets of keys for the property when they first moved in.  So, every time ‘Ashley’ left Jamaica the Sales Staff were letting themselves into the house and basically helping themselves to whatever they wanted which, included pots, pans, other assorted kitchen items, bedding and even the shower curtain; which was what eventually gave the game away as it was so obviously missing and drew suspicions.

A garden hose, various small trees, palms, flowers and other planting was physically dug out of the ground and stolen from the front garden after Ashley bought it and bedded it in. Other established plants and trees were hacked by neighbours who were later oblivious to it ever happening despite it being blindly obvious who had done it.

When tradespeople came to do work on the house they rifled through draws and helped themselves to household items and bits and pieces of tools and other materials they could make use of. Jewellery was stolen right from under their nose, when some post building cleaning was being carried out in the house.

Poor workmanship was carried out when making repairs or snagging and it took ages and a multitude of missed appointments before the tradespeople turned up, if at all. This was potentially because the tradespeople seemed to all be friends of the Office Staff and back-handers seemed to be prevalent in ensuring the work was handed out to their preferred suppliers; even if this meant severe delays caused by the (over) workload. There was even an incident of catching one of the Office Staff watching porn when they claimed to be too busy to leave the office and do something within the grounds of the development!

As the development offered the service of finding tenants for certain owners and investors, there were incidences of properties being let out by the Office Staff without the knowledge of the owners and without them getting payment for it.

Piles of rubbish, garden waste and pruned trees would turn up on the grass verge outside ‘Ashley’s’ house which other residents have dumped and the Office Staff would make to complaints about it, despite it being nothing to do with them.

One of the other residents damaged ‘Ashley’s’ property and when it was reported to the Police it was ‘paid off’ and the incident never had a proper statement taken in order for it to stand to trial.

There were thriving clubs to join when the development first opened and a lively bar and restaurant, unfortunately three years down the line these facilities have closed down or diminished and the micro-communities have their own events and gatherings.

Things to Remember…

Security is one of the main reasons for living on a gated development, but sometimes the devil is among those who are supposed to be looking out for you. Change the locks when you move in and save yourself the headache of unwanted and uninvited persons from entering your home.

If you are to be away from the property for extended periods of time be aware that the house will not be ‘aired’ and the heat generated in the property will be immense, these factors can create all types of unwanted problems. Insect infestations, especially ants are common as they have all the freedom and uninterrupted time to make your home theirs, eating away at wooden areas and destroying the beauty of it. Your furniture will also swell and shrink in the changing temperatures of the property, which can even cause a 10ft solid wood dining table to warp and fabrics to ‘burn’ in the sun.

Be careful who you trust to come into your home to carry out work, or to manage it for you. Keep valuables LOCKED AWAY. Notice the bag that the person carries with them, is it noticeably fuller when they leave?! Try to supervise or get a trusted friend or family member to supervise them.

If you want to get on with your fellow residents try not to be too overtly anything! Most people like people who just agree with the masses and don’t cause too much drama. If you want to live peacefully try and pick your arguments (very carefully!) and only make people aware of you when it is really necessary.

It can get lonely if you come to Jamaica on your own. Despite the beautiful views and freedom that comes with chilling out in your own oasis, it is nice to have someone to share it with. Try and encourage friends and family to visit, if you don’t have someone special in your life to share all that Jamaica has to offer. Or get out there and make some new friends…

To Finish…

I am not dismissing the value of living in a gated community as to some the experience can be fulfilling and enjoyable, giving them the home they always wanted in beautiful Jamaica without the headache of having to manage the building phase from overseas. You also get the benefit of 24 hour security, grounds maintenance, on-site facilities and the companionship of the other residents, all being well.

If you aren’t planning on being there all year round do you really care enough to worry about whether you are keeping up with the Jones’s? Obviously theft and criminal damage and two things that you do not want to come up against, especially in the so-called confines of a secure development, but you can help to limit the risks by being vigilant, changing locks, keeping them locked and keeping things behind closed (locked!) doors when not in use.

The drive of some people (including me) to live and be in Jamaica, even if it is for extended visits at a time, can be so powerful we would put up with almost anything just to be here. My advice to you if Jamaica really is your feel good place than just enjoy yourself and chill out a bit when you are here. Yes, there are loads of things to really get on your nerves and things are done differently and at a different pace, but don’t give up your dreams due to someone elses small mindedness. If you let things get on top of you and give up going back overseas feeling disheartened it will put a bad taste in your mouth about coming back. Look on the bright side, bad stuff happens no matter what side of the planet we are on, I just prefer to be depressed and disheartened wearing shorts, eating fried fish, rice and peas with a cool natural juice and a beautiful view!

Peace – I Love Jamaica!

Looking for a gated community in Jamaica


The Art of Packing a Barrel Part Two…

The Art of Packing a Barrel Part Two… If you want to ship to Jamaica, there are eight easy steps to clearing the articles at the wharf.

Jamaica Wharf Process

After much anticipation my barrels have arrived at Kingston Wharf and I cannot wait to see them again. I decided to get the barrels shipped to Kingston rather than Montego Bay and collect them myself, as not only was it cheaper, more critically it was faster, shaving off at least an extra 10 days waiting time for the ship to offload at Kingston and then make its way to Montego Bay for its last unloading.  As I was desperate to get my things as soon as possible and I was staying half way between the two ports I decided it made sense and was just as easy to go to Kingston as Mo’ Bay to retrieve my much wanted belongings that I had bid farewell to in London on 17th August 2012.

There are 8 (eight) easy steps to follow for clearing a barrel in Jamaica…

1 – Arrange Transportation to the Wharf – ensure the vehicle is large enough to hold the items you intend to pick up. Remember your I.D., TRN Card and shipping paperwork.

2 – Make your way to your Shipping Agent Office which will be located near to the appropriate Wharf, pay your Landing Fees and get your Bill of Lading. Make sure you know which Wharf to go to.

3 – Head to the Wharf, go to the Main Building hand in your paperwork and pay your handling charge.

4 – Go to the Manifest Building hand in your paperwork and wait for more paperwork and directions of which berth to attend to clear your goods.

5 – Once at the berth number, hand in your paperwork and wait for your name to be called. On entering the berth you will be asked to unpack your barrels for customs to look inside and value the contents.

6 – Proceed to the Customs Cashiers Desk where they will finalise the value of the items and give you a Customs Import Entry Form (C78X).

7 – Take the Customs Import Entry Form (C78X) to the Payments Office, pay the required fee and keep your receipt safe.

8 – Show the receipt to the Gate Pass Office and wait to receive a Gate Pass. Go back outside and find your driver, approach the gate and show the paperwork and the driver will also need to show their Driving Licence.  Approach the loading bay near to the berth, show your paperwork and load your items into your vehicle. Drive back to the main exit, show paperwork and finally leave the wahrf.

How to Clear a Barrel – Step One

The paperwork that I carried with me to Jamaica from Kingsley’s Shipping in the UK had an expected date of arrival printed on it as 24th September 2012, and it instructed you to telephone the office if you had not heard from them by that date. I was surprised to get a telephone call from Kingsley’s Shipping, Kingston Offices on the 21st September advising me that the barrels were ready for collection, before I had the chance to call them. The staff were very friendly and polite and gave me the address to come to in Kingston to collect the ‘Bill of Lading’ paperwork for clearing the barrels at the wharf.

I chartered a lovely, experienced driver Fenton and his mini bus for $9,000 (including Gas) through a recommendation from a friend, to drive me to Kingston Wharf and return with the 3 barrels. Fenton arrived as requested at 5.00am before ‘the Cock(erel) had taken off his draws’ as my good friend would have said and we set out in the early morning darkness for Kingston clutching my personal identification, TRN Card, the paperwork from Kingsley’s Shipping, my C15 form from the airport and receipts for the majority of the items I had shipped in the barrels, as proof of the cost I had paid for them in the UK.

We headed through Ocho Rios and travelled east towards St.Mary, which was a more scenic and traffic free route instead of the more familiar journey through Fern Gully and Flat Bridge. Swiftly driving along the deserted A3 Highway we quickly reached Ian Fleming International Airport (formerly Boscobel Aerodrome) and continued eastward towards to Orcabessa.

Turning off the Highway and heading through the interior of the country as the sun was coming up the beauty of Jamaica was revealed in the lush green canopies of trees and the numerous hills, gulleys and riversides we passed on the journey. Our route passed Stoney Hill on the outskirts of Kingston which had a lushly covered hillside which looked serene and magnificent against the dense forest trees that covered most of the other peaks.

Step Two

We reached Kingston and made our way to Kingsley’s Shipping Offices at Shop 13B, 14-16 First Street, Newport West, just before 8.00am where I found they were open and welcoming despite it being before the listed opening hours of 8.30am. The staff were very friendly and professional and unusually for Jamaica they worked quickly and efficiently in getting your paperwork ready for you. I handed over my paperwork from their UK offices, ID, TRN Card and my C15 Form and they gave me the ‘Bill of Lading’ which is an essential piece of paperwork to carry to the wharf. The office was clean and had a free iced water dispenser and chairs for you to rest in whilst they dealt with the paperwork. There was a $5,400.00 fee to pay Kingsley’s Shipping for landing fees for the 3 barrels. Within about 15 minutes I was handed a small piece of card with instructions of what to do next and was directed to the Wharf.

Step Three

Back in the mini-bus Fenton drove us round to the Wharf’s main gate and paid a fee to one of the unofficial car park attendants to park up outside the compound where vendors sold drinks and patties. Only 1 person (whose name is on the paperwork) was allowed to enter the compound in order to process the shipment. After showing my ‘Bill of Lading’ paperwork and ID to the friendly but officious guard I was directed to Kingsport Building which was clean and air-conditioned to the point of wanting to wear a sweater. Waiting in the line of people to reach one of the cashiers I noticed that I was the only white person in the building and was drawing some attention. I waited no more than 10 minutes before reaching the front desk and had a $2,060.00 bill to pay to the wharf for Handling Charges for the 3 barrels. I noticed the receipt had recorded that the ship had arrived at the wharf on the 18th September and that I would have been liable for paying Storage Fees had the barrels not been collected by the 29th September.

Step Four

After leaving the Kingsport Building you are directed to the Manifest Building which is a short walk away; anyone who has managed to accompany you thus far is instructed to wait on long wooden benches as you have to show your paperwork and receipt for the Wharf’s Handling Charges and are guided through a guarded carousel gateway. Before you reach the Manifest Building entrance you pass some public toilets on your right-hand side which are cavernous and a little foreboding to enter on your own, but they were clean.

Once in the building you join the commercial or personal shipping line to show your paperwork to the courteous Customs Officers where they check your paperwork against their records and tell you the Berth where your goods are being stored. There is a small shop in the Manifest Building right by the entrance that sells hot and cold drinks, bagged snacks, delicious patties, bun and cheese and so on, you may find the sustenance welcoming (or at the very least a cold drink) as you may have a long wait to clear your goods.

Shipping DocumentsTax Jamaica

 Step Five

Once out of the Manifest Building you show your paperwork and go through another guarded carousel gateway, where they direct you deeper into the belly of the wharf to the Berth Number that holds your goods (which is printed on the document). The woman guard here was especially friendly and was the first many at the wharf to ask if I could carry her back to London with me! Crossing the busy wharf road and turning right I was amazed at the size of the vehicles that were traversing the roadways and that were capable of carrying and driving with a huge container in its pincer like arms. The walkway on the other side is at a raised level from the roadway, which not only means persons can safely walk away from the formidable road traffic but it also makes it easier for loading of goods into vehicles.

Once you reach the Berth Number you hand your documents to the guard sitting behind a locked gate and wait on long wooden benches for your name to be called once the porters have located your barrels. This is where the goodies bought in the little shop in the Manifest Building come in handy…. By the time I reached this point it was coming up to 9.00am and there were only about 5 other people waiting before me.

A woman who was waiting was commenting that she was returning back the States tomorrow and had been in Jamaica for 6 weeks. She had sent 2 barrels and when she came to collect them only 1 could be found which contained clothes and gifts, the other one containing foodstuffs could not be found. After much confusion at the wharf she was instructed to go home and wait to be contacted when the other 1 was located. Needless to say the wharf called her two days before she was leaving the island to come and collect the other barrel as it had now been found, but she was annoyed that she had to buy foodstuffs whilst on the island despite spending the time and effort to ship them.

It took about 15 minutes for my name to be called where I was ushered through the gate and directed to a table where my 3 barrels were all lined up. I have to admit I was relieved to see all three barrels and was encouraged to see that they had managed to get all the way from London intact.  The friendly and charming Customs Officials called over a wisely (but strong and fit) porter and he unfastened the lock that Kingsley’s Shipping had put on back in London with a huge pair of pliers. The same porter ‘helped’ to unpack the barrels by taking out about half the items in two of the barrels and just the ‘top layer’ of the last barrel setting them out on the long stainless steel table.

The Customs Officers quickly looked over the items already laid out and asked me to continue to empty the barrels; once I had nearly emptied the first two barrels they came back over. I was asked to open a large plastic container that I had stored dishes and glasses in and had to pull out a large box containing a paddling pool for closer inspection. Generally anything in a box or carton was of interest to them and when they spied a saucepan handle (pot handle) they verbally noted that I had a pot set. They also asked about the bottle of Hennessey and Champagne that I had listed on the C15 form, but when I pulled out the bubble wrapped bottles they didn’t seem overly interested as I assured them there was only one of each. I showed them the receipt for the paddling pool and they noted the cost.

None of the barrels were completely emptied although they did look inside all 3 vessels. Unfortunately I had a few casualties as one cup handle broke off and the two champagne glasses I had sent had both broken despite packing them in bubble wrap, but at least they went together!

Step Six

Once the Customs officials were satisfied I was instructed to re-pack my barrels and a very good-looking strapping porter came over and helped me to re-pack them which ended up with me standing on top of the barrels in order to fit the lids back on, much to the pleasure of the staff! Once repacked you go to the Berth Office, hand in your paperwork to the Customs Cashiers with the Customs Officers notes scribbled on it and they look up the items on the internet to check the value of the goods. As my TRN number was not on the system I had to go upstairs to the Supervisors Office where I was again dealt with by friendly and efficient staff.

Back downstairs, it took about 20 minutes to be handed back my paperwork which held the magic number on it… the amount of tax payable to clear my barrels. I searched the document with bated breath and was super relieved to see that I only had to pay $6,014.45 for all 3 barrels which was much less than the advised $18,000 ($6,000 per barrel) I was told in the UK. Please be aware the C15 Form was effective in lowering the amount of tax payable; therefore if you ship and do not have the Form or ship to someone else, you may be liable for higher tax.

Step Seven

Take the Customs Import Entry Form (C78X) to the Payments Office which is at the end of the walkway near to where you cross the wharf road, make your payment and get a receipt for your Tax Payment. Keep this safe!

Step Eight

Take the Receipt to the Gate Pass Office which is back up near where the barrels are located and hand in your paperwork to get a Gate Pass, so your driver and vehicle can enter the wharf and load your goods. Walk back outside the way you came in through the Main Entrance showing your paperwork at all the guarded gateways and find your driver. You are now free to approach the main vehicle entrance to the wharf, where again your ever-growing amount of documents are checked along with the driving licence of the driver. Drive Slowly (there is a 5mph speed restriction) to the berth where the barrels were checked and park up near to the loading bays. Show your paperwork to the guards, who stamp it and instruct a porter to bring the barrels to your vehicle. The wisely porter came back and loaded the barrels into the mini-bus and as I anticipated asked if I had anything for him and I slipped him a note.

Once the barrels were loaded we approached the main entrance and the Customs officials checked how many items we had in the vehicle against the documents, checked the driving licence and then took away all the paperwork except the receipts. We were finally clear to leave the compound and head back home to unpack the barrels. By just after 10.00am we had left the wharf and eagerly stopped at a patty shop before driving back home. Once we got out of the hustle and bustle of Kingston we stopped and got a cold beer and one of the bars and vendors near to Stony Hill before reaching back home near Ochi (Ocho Rios) by lunch time.

What I Thought About Kingston Wharf and Shipping Barrels

Following numerous horror stories about collecting goods from the wharf I was filled with anticipation about how long it was going to take and what the experience was going to be like collecting the barrels myself. In reflection, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and it was nowhere near as tiresome as everyone had told me. When I mentioned this to friends they retorted that Christmas and Easter were a different matter…

Arriving at the wharf early was key to my success in this operation as it meant  I beat the queues, try it yourself and you will be glad you did. Everyone at the wharf was professional but polite, friendly and (mostly) happy and were intrigued by my presence there. Bring proof of purchase in the form of receipts to show to the customs officers so that they can value your goods correctly. The best tactic in these circumstances is to be friendly and co-operative and that also means being patient when necessary… if you get ignorant with the Customs Officers you may find they get ignorant with you!

I highly recommend Kingsley’s Shipping service from London to Kingston and would not hesitate to use their services again as they were not only super professional and friendly, they were also careful with my goods.

Looking for a shipping quotation to Jamaica

The Art of Shipping a Barrel… Part One

The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part One

Shipping a crate or a barrel is not as hard as you think if you follow some easy tips and advice and with the great service at the wharf it makes it all the more enjoyable…

This is a two-part post on The Art of Shipping to JamaicaPart One includes advice and tips on everything that happens prior to the barrel leaving the Senders address. Part Two covers what happens once the barrel has arrived in the destination port of entry and requires clearing and transportation to the receiver.

How to Ship a Barrel?

It is a fairly simple process to arrange shipping for a barrel to Jamaica, as demonstrated in these three easy steps!

  1. Find a reputable local shipping agent and buy a barrel; usually at around £32.00 / $20 – $40 US, for a 210 litre / 55 Gallon plastic barrel, most agents will deliver sometimes for a small fee
  2. Pack your barrel with care! Wrap lids with brown packing tape and separate food items away from toiletries, soap powder and cleaning materials, so they taste and smell as they should. Bubble wrap fragile items and use towels, bed sheets and other soft items as protection.
  3. Arrange for collection from your shipping agent and make sure they put a ‘tamper proof seal’ on your barrel. Pay for shipping to either Kingston wharf, Montego bay wharf, or opt for home delivery. Get your Bill of Lading and keep in a safe place – you will need to take it to the wharf with you to clear the barrel

Finding a Shipping Agent

If you are thinking about shipping a barrel to Jamaica first and foremost you are going to need to find a shipping agent and locate somewhere that stocks barrels and drums.

The obvious place to try is local shipping companies and shipping agents in your area, many of which can be found when searching for ‘shipping services’ online, or in directories such as the yellow pages. If you give most shipping agents a call they may be willing to drop off an empty barrel at little, or no charge.

Alternatively, try searching online for ‘barrels and drums’ , ‘barrel’ or ‘plastic shipping barrel’. I have seen barrels for sale on eBay and Gumtree and through independent sellers, where they have plenty of choice and availability.

The most popular size of barrel holds around 210 – 220 litres, or about 55 Gallons are sold for about £32.00, or US $25.00 – US $40.00.

More Information: Want to learn more about Barrels? – Read ‘What are Shipping Barrels and Drums?’

Packing your Barrel

To ensure you items arrive in one piece and tasting as expected, you should follow some packing ettiquette tips. Sort items by type, wrap and seal them to plastic bags and containers and do your best to keep different types of items apart. I would recommend packing items you love and need and look out for bargains and deals to lower the cost of filling the barrel.

Barrels containing a mixture of food, household / kitchen items, cleaning materials, toiletries, used clothing and other sundry items have the lowest tax bracket as they are considered to be items for personal use. These types of barrel contents attract Customs Fees starting from JA $6,500 per barrel and up.

More Information: A guide to Picking and Packing a Shipping Barrel


Security of Barrels when Shipping

You may of heard rumours that items go missing from barrels, or that it is not a secure way to transport your goods to Jamaica.  But I would beg to differ. In my experience of shipping to Jamaica since 2008, I have never had anything go missing from any of my consignments.

Barrel Security is paramount to both the customer and the shipping agent. It would ruin a shipping agents reputation if they repeatedly raided their customers barrels, or where negligent when clearing items on a customers behalf.

The wharf is also a profit making business, bad customer feedback means less customers and less profit, so they watch their staff and have massively upgraded the facilities and security measures in recent years.

To ensure the barrels are secured the shipping agents attach a small tamper proof metal tag to the barrel seal. This is secured to the barrel before they even leave the senders location and are loaded onto the truck for delivery to the wharf. If you really want to have peace of mind you can write down the serial number and check it has the same serial / ID number when it reaches the wharf in Jamaica, if you are clearing the barrels and drums in person.

If you opt for home delivery, the barrel will be opened by customs officials in the presence of your shipping agent, in order for the contents to be verified and valued for customs duty. Please be aware that Kingston Wharf has cameras working in this area to film what is going on and to prevent the possible stealing or removing of goods from the barrels by the people working there.

This is also a way of catching contraband that is being packed into the barrels. The video evidence will show the sealed barrel being opened for the first time since it left the senders overseas location, incriminating them squarely.


Labelling your Barrel Correctly

The only way of distinguishing your barrel from the millions of other barrels at the wharf is the label, or to be exact the writing on the barrel itself. So be sure to take the time to do it correctly.

It is best to use a thick black permanent marker pen and write your name (or the receivers name) and address clearly on the barrels, so they are easily identifiable at the wharf. Don’t be shy, write in big block letters so it can be read from a mile away (not literally!), make it easy for the warehouse workers to find your barrel in the mellee. If the cover is made of metal write on that too, the more labels the better. The shipping agent will generally add their own sticker backed label as well, but it is best not to rely on it in case in falls off.

The correct way of writing the receivers details on the barrel is:


Receivers Name (first and last name)

Local Post Office

Address of Receiver

Parish of Receiver

Jamaica, W.I.


How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Barrel?

The cost involved in shipping a barrel is made up of two parts. The first set of charges will be pre-paid in the country of origin and the rest will need to be paid by the receiver in the destination country. The sender will need to take into account the cost of filling the barrel (the contents), buying the barrel itself and the cost of shipping the barrel from the country of origin to the port of destination.

To give an example: It cost me £96.00 in total for 3 barrels, plus a further £120.00 to collect the barrels from London, UK and ship them to Kingston Wharf, Jamaica.

There are other fees and taxes to pay in the destination country, when clearing and collecting the barrel. The fees vary dependent on the shipping agent, Customs taxes and fees incurred and whether you opt for home delivery in Jamaica.

Want to learn about the process of clearing a barrel and the charges incurred? Keep reading Part Two.

More Information: The Art of Shipping a Barrel –  Part Two

This Post was originally posted on 23rd November 2012 – Updated January 2017.

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JPS the Electric Power Provider in Jamaica

Jamaica was one of the fore runners in the use of electricity around the world, today JPS have the sole responsibility for the supply, but for how long?…

Brief History of Electricity in Jamaica

With all the hype you hear about the electricity service today in Jamaica you could be forgiven for not knowing that Jamaica was one of the first countries in the world to have an electricity supply in 1892, a mere 13 years after American scientist Thomas Edison invented the electric lamp. The same year the Jamaica Electric Light Company provided the first electricity service on the island from a plant at Gold Street, Kingston transforming the lives and work practises of many Jamaicans.

The West India Electric Company had a bigger influence when they established an office in Kingston at 151 Orange Street and extended the electricity service to other areas by way of a powerful 3 machine hydroelectric plant on the Rio Cobre River at Bog Walk in 1897. The Plant had the capacity to deliver over 300 kilowatts of energy enabling the company to introduce electric tramcars to the public (buses later took over) which replaced the horse draw cabs that Jamaicans formerly used to get about. A tragic accident on 24th June 1904 left many local families distraught as 33 men drowned whilst cleaning out the silt that had collected in the 8ft wide pipe supplying water to the plant from the Rio Cobre River.

The West India Electric Company became more effective in serving the public after the integration of the Gold Street station with the Bog Walk Supply system in 1907. This occurred after a severe earthquake damaged areas of Kingston and they were able to lease the property and business of Jamaica Light & Power Company Ltd, (formerly the Jamaica Electric Light Company) consolidating the two plants power together.

JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company Limited) is Formed

Although many towns had their own electricity companies supplying the local area in the early years several buy-outs, consolidations and amalgamations produced the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited as we know it today. JPS was registered as a limited business in 1923 and was granted an all-island franchise in 1966. Now serving over 585,000 customers JPS remains the sole public supplier of electricity in Jamaica.

Although JPS was originally owned by foreign shareholders, between 1970 and 2001  the Government of Jamaica acquired controlling interest. This control ceased in 2001 when the Mirant Corporation, a US-based energy service provider, bought 80% of the company with the government left with just 19%,  the last 1% was controlled by minority shareholders.

This partnership survived until 2007 when Mirant sold its majority shares to Marubeni Caribbean Power Holdings (MCPH) Inc, a subsidiary of Marubeni Corporation of Japan.

In early 2009 Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) of the United Arab Emirates, joined Marubeni as co-owner of JPS. Majority shares were therefore jointly held by Marubeni TAQA Caribbean.

This partnership was short-lived as in the first quarter of 2011, TAQA withdrew from the partnership with Marubeni in the Caribbean to concentrate on other investments. By the second quarter of 2011, Korea East West Power (EWP) entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Marubeni Corporation for joint ownership of majority shares (80%) in the company. Today, Marubeni Caribbean and Korea East-West Power Company Ltd are the majority shareholders in the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd.

Power Sources

JPS produces electricity by various methods across the island including, steam (oil-fired), gas turbines, combined cycle, diesel, hydropower and wind plants. They are encouraging the development of ‘green’ initiatives to cut the dependency on oil for producing power, including new wind turbine plants and hydro-power facilities (water).

How to Open a New Account with JPS

If you want to open a new account with JPS and you own the residence then you must either visit one of the island wide offices, or telephone them on (876) 225-5577 to make the first application. If a meter is already on your premises, the power supply will be connected within 5 working days of opening the contract. Interest is received annually on your deposits, which is applied to your electricity bill.

If you are moving or relocating then you must make sure that you apply for service 5 days prior to expected date of use to ensure power is available.

Newly Built Property 

Should you have a newly built residence it will need certification by the Government Electrical Inspector prior to being able to open an account, please remember to allow up to 15 business days for the certificate to be submitted to JPS.

Conditional Contract for Service

If you do not own the premises for which you need electricity service you can get a Conditional Contract for Service when you give JPS written permission from your landlord, or a letter of recommendation from a Justice of the Peace.

In order to open a new account for both types of service you will need to provide JPS with:

  • Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN)
  • Photo ID
  • Deposit of $1500 (included on first electricity bill for phone applicants only)

Reconnection of Service Due to Non Payment of Bills

If for any reason your service has been disconnected due to non-payment of bills you will be expected to settle your bill, pay an extra $1,500 + GCT reconnection fee and may also be asked to upgrade your deposit if it is less than the equivalent of 60 days previous usage. It is very important to make provisions to pay your bills if you are out of the country for any length of time as it can be expensive and inconvenient when things go wrong. The increase in deposit can be as follows:

  • 1st Incident – Deposit is upgraded by $1,500
  • Subsequent Incidents – Upgrade will represent the equivalent of 2 months’ usage

Terminating Your Electricity Contract  

If you wish to end your electricity contract with JPS you should contact them so they will come and take a meter reading and prepare a final bill; any deposit paid and interest due are applied to the final amount. Should there be a balance owing you will be required to settle the bill, however if JPS owe you money you will be expected to apply in writing at your nearest Customer Service Office to get a refund. 

In order to terminate your contract you will need to supply JPS with:

  • JPS account number
  • the ID you provided when you opened the account.
  • Remember, the electricity meter is the property of JPS, and must not be tampered with or removed.

Understanding the Bill

The bill that you will receive has many charges and GCT added which can considerably increase the actual amount due, so may want to prepare for a shock when it comes in! There is a Glossary on the back of the bill which explains what the various charges are for, although it doesn’t make the bill any easier to swallow…

My Bill Arrives

My last bill for a one bedroom apartment, which normally houses two people was for $6,952.37 for the month, but I ended up paying $7,008.00 when the GCT and service charge from Bill Express was added. My apartment has an electric oven (which I do not recommend as it eats electric) and a fridge / freezer, I use my laptop on a daily basis (work, Internet, listening to music and movies) but plug it out, including the modem when I am finished with it, I try not to use the fan and AC unless it is really necessary, I do not have a washing machine or drier, do not have masses of ironing (pressing of clothes) every week either and try to remember to turn off unnecessary lights around the house.

Payment Options

There are various ways of paying your JPS bill:

  • Visit JPS customer service offices across the island and pay in person
  • Telephoning JPS Customer Care Center on (876) 225-5577 and pay using Visa or MasterCard
  • Pay at the following authorized merchants:
  • Bill Express * No transaction fee required for payment of JPS bills ONLY in the JPS offices
  • Prime Trust Cambio – Half Way Tree
  • Paymaster * Transaction fee require.
  • First Caribbean Bank
  • Jamaica National Building Society

JPS Reputation

To be honest JPS have a pretty bad reputation in Jamaica with many people feeling displeased with the service, but as there aren’t any competitors Jamaicans are tied to the company whether their experience is good or bad. There are frequent power cuts whereby the lights generally flash on and off twice before it completely shuts down, for how long? No-body knows. You just wait and hope it isn’t too long and start lighting candles. The longest power cut I have experienced is 6 days after Hurricane Sandy and it wasn’t fun. At all.

The company has to tackle communities and businesses where there are losses as residents steal electricity by hooking wires up to the main supply cables that stretch across the country to ‘bridge’ the current by-passing the meter. Many people believe the high cost of bills is due to paying customers covering the cost on non-paying customers further increasing the resentment.

Some people have generators that ‘kick in’ when the mains power is interrupted for a certain length of time, restoring power and enabling them to get through the power cut without too many problems…. unless the generator is out of fuel of course! Another method of reducing electricity consumption that is gaining popularity, especially from returning residents that build in Jamaica, is the installation of solar panels.

A Schedule of Rates for 2012 can be found here, which explains costings for the coming year: http://www.myjpsco.com/_pdfs/2012_Rate_Schedules.pdf

The latest Schedule of Rates as of December 2014 can be found here: http://www.myjpsco.com/wp-content/uploads/2013_rate_schedule.pdf

Further information about JPS can be found at their website: http://www.myjpsco.com/

Thinking of moving to Jamaica

Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

If you are considering moving to Jamaica don’t be fooled into thinking that it is cheap to buy groceries and household items, because the cost of living and everyday items is somewhat shocking. As I walk around the stores I find myself checking the price of the items I am putting in my basket, as it is all too easy to get a fright at the till when the cashier informs you of your balance. I am sure the reason they don’t start packing the groceries until after you have opened your purse and handed over the money is in case you need to retrieve something and put it back!

Cheap Imported Foods

Don’t get me wrong the cost of food shopping in the UK, or specifically London where I come from, isn’t exactly cheap. But we have an influx of what is universally known by the British as ‘pound shops’, where everyday items can be picked up for, you guessed it, £1.00. European supermarkets also flood the local high streets with knock-down prices on a wider ranges of foodstuffs, helping the working classes to get by on lower incomes.

But this isn’t really the case in Jamaica, as the equivalent $100 shops do not exist. The smaller supermarkets edging in on the market share are mainly Chinese owned and they are highly unlikely to give you a dollar off the going rate, much less create a price war with their competitors. Most basic staple food items, such as sugar, flour, rice, bread, oil, meats, fish and vegetables seem to have a ‘going rate’ at any one time in Jamaica and you will be hard pushed to find a vendor that will go below this current market rate to make a fast sale.

Price fixing as such, is normal so you just buy what you can afford. Simple. But it occurs to me time and time again, how everyday Jamaican people are managing these expenses on their incomes?

There is an influx of imported goods into Jamaica, and believe it or not this also includes things like sugar, bananas, onions, and coconuts. Locally grown and raised produce is often more expensive than its imported counterparts and so the reliance on imported goods perpetuates.

Buying Household Goods in Jamaica

The choice, price and quality of household items found in Jamaica, is likely to very different to what you can find overseas. Whilst there are low-cost items found all over the island, they are often imported from China and are made of cheap flimsy materials which do not last. This makes them uneconomical to buy, as they have to be replaced so often (you buy cheap, you buy twice).

Good quality, modern looking soft furnishings, such as curtains, nets, cushions, blankets, bedding, towels, bath mats, shower curtains and rugs / mats are generally expensive in Jamaica, as the majority are imported.

Kitchen ware, such as cutlery, utensils and pots and pans are also expensive and the choice of brands can be somewhat limited.

Decorative items, such as pictures, ornaments, vases, wall hangings and picture frames are also limited and can be very expensive for the sort of attractive contemporary pieces we are used to seeing abroad.

You may prefer to bring these type of items from overseas and most items can be easily packed into a barrel.

Buying Local – Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!

There are more and more entrepeneurs springing up all over Jamaica offering a plethora of items for your consuming pleasure! Whether it be furniture or interior design products, gourmet foods and drinks, or beauty and jewellery lines. Supporting these individuals and small businesses helps to build Jamaica and its people. If you want ideas of who, where, how and why you should get involved, read the ‘Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!’ series of posts featuring some of the best and boldest companies that Jamaica has to offer.


Living Expenses of Visitors and Returning Residents to Jamaica

The cost of living expenditures, such as groceries and household items, needs to be factored into the budget when thinking about moving to Jamaica, or when retiring there. As visitors and returning residents we initially start by translating the prices back into our native currency and compare how it equates to living back there, but that isn’t realistic in the long-term.

If you do not work in Jamaica, or have an income stream feeding you from overseas, you may find it gets exhaustive stretching out your hand to pay for things, but getting nothing back in the other hand to replenish it.

If you are considering moving to Jamaica it is a good idea to ‘grow what you eat’ where possible, if you have any space available to do so. There is nothing better than popping outside your very own doorstep to pick and collect the fruits of your labour and it tastes so much better too; especially if grown organically.

Save Money on Groceries – Ship a Barrel to Jamaica!

If you don’t know what a shipping barrel is, it may be worthwhile reading Barrels and Drums – The Basics. As I recommend stocking up and shipping a barrel or two when you can.  Barrels and drums containing food items, cleaning materials, toiletries and household goods, help to cut down on what you have to pick up at the stores in Jamaica. You also have the benefit of having all your favourites to hand, plus items that are non-existent or expensive to buy in Jamaica.

More information: Shipping to Jamaica.


Looking for a shipping quotation to Jamaica

The Cost of Groceries in Jamaica

I initially published this post in November 2012 and I listed the cost of some items that I had bought in Hi-Lo Supermarket in Ocho Rios. Looking back at the 2012 prices I am amazed at how much some items have raised since! This is proof in point of why it is so important to consider your outgoings when moving to Jamaica, or visiting here for an extended period of time.

The 2012 receipt has a small selection of ‘non-essential’ items, such as, cigarettes, cakes and beer, but also has everyday items, such as, bread, toilet tissue and fresh seasoning for cooking included to give a wider indication of the price of popular items.

Today’s currency exchange rate can be found courtesy of www.xe.com I have itemised the receipt with the price shown in Jamaican Dollars, UK Sterling and USA Dollars to give an example of a small basket of items from a Jamaican supermarket as of 1st November 2012:

Hi-Lo Supermarket Receipt…

  • Giant Hard Dough Bread: $240.00 JA, or £1.64 UK, or $2.64 US Dollars.
  • 2 x tin Grace Vienna Sausages: $153.12 JA, or £1.05 UK, or $1.69 US Dollars.
  • 2 x Hi-Lo Flaked Tuna Fish: $157.10 JA, or £1.08 UK, or $1.74 US Dollars.
  • Red Stripe Beer (un-chilled): $99.89 JA, or £0.68 UK, or $1.10 US Dollars.
  • Dragon Stout (un-chilled): $118.87 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
  • 2 x small chubby soda(un-chilled): $44.60 JA, or £0.31 UK, or $0.49US Dollars.
  • Betty tinned condensed Milk: $159.39 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
  • Bulk Margarine: $80.16 JA, or £0.55 UK, or $0.88 US Dollars.
  • 2 x Chippies small Banana Chips: $84.50 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.93 US Dollars.
  • Local Onions loose: $84.05 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.58 US Dollars.
  • Honey Bun Pineapple Cake: $76.00 JA, or £0.52 UK, or $0.84 US Dollars.
  • Honey Bun Cheese Bread: $95.00 JA, or £0.65 UK, or $1.05 US Dollars.
  • Scott Bathroom Tissue Roll: $53.78 JA, or £0.37 UK, or $0.59 US Dollars.
  • Garlic Loose 1 Head: $16.80 JA, or £0.12 UK, or $0.19 US Dollars.
  • Plum Tomato Pre-packed: $73.56 JA, or £0.50 UK, or $0.81 US Dollars.
  • North Coast Times Newspaper: $43.00 JA, or £0.29 UK, or $0.47 US Dollars.
  • Dunhill lights 20 cigarettes: $621.50 JA, or £4.25 UK, or $6.86 US Dollars.
Sub Total: $2,221.32 JA, or £15.21 UK, or $24.52 US Dollars.
Tax: $294.84 JA, or £2.02 UK, or $3.25 US Dollars.
Total: $2,516.16 JA, or £17.23 UK, or $27.78 US Dollars.

This receipt is representative of just a small basket of items and cost just over $2,500 and does not include a single complete meal, the tax alone is nearly $300. I appreciate the alcohol and cigarettes bump up the price and cake is not an essential item, but these are the sort of things we treat ourselves to when popping to the local shop in London and wouldn’t think anything of buying them.

In Conclusion

It’s not nice to work hard for a ‘dream lifestyle’ somewhere hot and beautiful like Jamaica, if you spend your nest egg in the first couple of years of coming to live here. Unless, you have an endless supply of money and can afford to spend like there is no tomorrow – Start thinking like a Jamaican.

Remember that although it can feel like one endless vacation (as who is to complain) when living in Jamaica, it will soon turn into a nightmare if you do not take into consideration the everyday things such as, Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

More information: Want to learn more about all aspects of Shipping to Jamaica?

 Thinking of moving to Jamaica

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Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

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Hurricane Sandy Hits Sweet Jamaica

On Tuesday night we went to bed with the wind howling and the rain lashing down and woke in the morning to more of the same, but we had no power. With only the radio on our mobile phone to get information about the storm, we listened keenly to the news bulletins and heard that Tropical Storm Sandy had turned into a Category One Hurricane.

The opinion was that it was going to hit Jamaica’s South coast on Wednesday 24th October 2012, travelling through the country and leaving on the northern coast near to Ocho Rios. Schools and airports have been closed and many areas were on curfew until Thursday evening. Wondering what was happening and if it was likely that my roof would be torn off, I rang my sister in the UK and asked her to find out what was happening! Luckily she was able to look online and kept me posted long into the night about what was going on (God Bless You Emma!). Hurricane Sandy made landfall and hit Kingston in the evening at speeds of 80mph /  125kph and rushed over the eastern side of the country. My sister even let me know when the worst was over as Hurricane Sandy had left Jamaica and was picking up speed towards Cuba.

[text_left]JPS lose Power[/text_left]

It hasn’t been easy the last few days as like 70% of the country we have no power, so that means, no light, no phone, no internet, no cooking – as I have an electric oven and no fridge or freezer, so most of the fresh food you have stored spoils in front of your eyes….

By the time Wednesday night came I wanted something hot in my belly and came up with an ingenious way of making a cup of tea using a punched metal tea light holder as a stand, on which I placed an enamel mug filled with water. It took about 30 minutes for the water to be hot enough to draw tea, but I can tell once the condensed milk went in and I tasted that first mouthful, it tasted like the best cup of tea ever!

Incidently we finally got power back yesterday (29th October 2012).

Night time Hurricane Sandy Jamaica
Night time Hurricane Sandy Jamaica

[text_left]Major Towns on Lock Down as Police Impose Curfew[/text_left]

Most of the island affected by the Hurricane are on curfew as the police try to prevent looting of business places until power has been restored. We would have been dead for hunger if it wasn’t for the bread, crackers, tuna fish and Vienna sausages in the cupboard which barely lasted us until the curfew was temporarily lifted in the evening on 25th October 2012 and we could leave the house to seek hot food in the town, where the larger stores or those lucky enough to have a generator are trading. The town was eerily scanty with hardly anything open and only a few people milling about which was unusual for Ochi.

All the larger chain food stores were open and taking in a tidy trade as locals seeped into the early evening and darkness of the night looking for something hot to eat and somewhere where the light worked.

The large supermarkets took advantage of the trade as people came into town to stock up on dry goods and candles. The small and medium-sized businesses either get by with a few random lightbulbs to guide customers and an increase of staff to keep a check on thefts, or they simply take orders from the door and retrieve the required items themselves.

As night started to come down some people seemed fearful of walking home alone and waited in the fast food chains for relatives to meet them to accompany them home. We decided as we had a 15 minute walk we too should make our way back home and started to walk up the dark main road stepping over debris and trying to avoid large puddles in the darkness.

We heard that the curfew was to be extended as the main grid was down and the police presence on the road was easy to see as night came down. When we got back home we actually sat outside for quite a while as it was a clear bright night with lots of moonshine and it was definitely brighter than the candle light we depended on indoors.

[text_left]Heading to the Hills[/text_left]

By Friday we had enough of staying along the coast and decided to travel into the countryside of St.Ann to stay with friends for a few days. After walking into town we saw the fast food restaurants full up and long lines of people waiting to use the ATM machines at the 2 main banks, as the stand alone cash dispensers still weren’t working. The police were in force again and we noticed the numerous Guardsman trucks with their armed guards that seemed to be working overtime, as they frequently stop and jump out of their truck, diligently surveying the vicinity as they collect money from business places.

As we drove along the main road we noticed men working on the power lines that were on the ground near to Dunn’s River, but there was no sign of any of the street lights working.

We saw pockets of power along the road towards Runaway Bay, although it was mainly dark and lonely looking on the streets. As we turned off at Runaway Bay and into the interior of the country we didn’t see any street lights working and most of the houses were in darkness, it didn’t seem to slow down the bus though as it tore down the roads at the usual breakneck speed!

A few business places were open along the way and were reasonably full as residents came out to socialise and get out of the house for a while. Many people I spoke to in the countryside of St.Ann had commented that they had lost banana and plantain trees, yam canes had been blown down and other delicate crops had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy. I heard of one person whose roof had been torn off and house had suffered extensive damage in the storm and I offered them what help I could.

The hills of St.Ann were in darkness and just one house and one bar had power where I was staying, whereby everyone nearby would come and ask to charge their phone.

Hurricane Sandy Ocho Rios Jamaica
Hurricane Sandy Ocho Rios Jamaica

[text_left]Back to Town… Power Is Back…[/text_left]

After staying the weekend it was impossible to get a taxi down to the next big town on Sunday as many people weren’t working and I had to wait until early evening on Monday before I could leave out to head back for the coast. We had heard that power had been restored in Browns Town, Alexandria (Charlton) and St. Dacre and we saw a JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company – Jamaica’s sole power supplier) truck come up to Grants Mountain on Monday before we left, but still no power in the hills.

By the time we reached Ocho Rios in the early evening it looked as if power had been restored to the town centre and we headed out of town we were pleased to see that JPS had restored power in our residential area.

Unfortunately I had to throw away nearly all the fresh food as the power had been off for 6 days by the time I managed to get home. But at least I could cook, have cold drinks to enjoy and use the light, charge my BB and use the internet!

[text_left]God Bless Portland, St. Mary and St.Thomas[/text_left]

Although I had heard that most of the worst damage was felt in Portland, St. Mary and St.Thomas, it was only on looking on the internet today that I realised the full extent of the damage in Jamaica and felt so grateful for just losing power and a few fresh goods in the past week.

One man lost his life and I saw pictures where people lost their houses and were standing in the shell of their home looking at what could be saved. Many trees fell down and power lines were ripped from the ground leaving residents without power up to now.

[text_left]Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller Response[/text_left]

The  Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced on Tuesday that 71 houses have been found totally destroyed and 348 were severely damaged in eastern parishes raked by the hurricane; she is determined to fast track the building legislation to prevent houses being built in unsafe areas again. Heavy damage to livestock, peppers, coconuts, bananas, and the island’s Blue Mountain coffee, has also been felt with early estimates of the financial aftermath of the Hurricane coming in at least $16.5 million.

The Jamaican prime minister states has there have been pledges of support for storm recovery from Germany, Japan, France, Trinidad & Tobago and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Jamaica is also trying to forge a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund and went on to say:

“Even before the hurricane we faced serious economic challenges. This has been made worse by the passage of Hurricane Sandy,” Simpson Miller said.


My heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy and I hope that power is restored soon to the island to help bring back some semblance of normality and so that people may go back to work. May family, friends and neighbours come together to help one another at this time of need.

[text_left]Charity Efforts[/text_left]

YB Afraid Foundation – The first charity efforts in the Portland region was by Yohan Blake’s YB Afraid Foundation working alongside Food For the Poor whereby they distributed supplies to about 700 striken residents.

Digicel – I also have to say a big up to Digicel as they kept their promise and enabled those in Jamaica to keep in touch with friends and relatives both in Jamaica and a foreign throughout the whole week by keeping the phone system working. They have also been giving emergency supplies packages to about 3000 residents in the Manchioneal and Annotto Bay area after making an aerial assessment of the worst affected areas of the island. A representative stated:

“In times of natural disasters I think it is important that we move quickly to help the most vulnerable in our communities, and today thousands came out and collected relief packs in the Manchioneal and Annotto Bay area today. We toured sections of the most affected communities yesterday and decided that we were not going to wait to help. And so we partnered with ODPEM and the Salvation Army to swiftly undertake this relief effort today,”

he went on to say:

“the need is great out here. With no electricity in most areas in Portland and St. Mary, some persons haven’t gone back out to work as yet and so these rural communities are really in need. That is why Digicel decided to undertake this relief effort by not only providing charging stations in various areas but also basic food items to assist with day to day living.”shared Digicel Jamaica CEO Andy Thorburn.

Jamaica National Building Society – has slashed it remittance fees by 50% as part of their efforts to help in the national recovery programme after the passage of Hurricane Sandy. The offer extended to Jamaicans in the Diaspora remitting funds to local relatives and friends. The discount is aimed at facilitating the response to relatives and friends, particularly persons in the parishes of St Thomas, Portland and St Mary, who were significantly affected by Sandy.

Tropical Storm Sandy approaches Jamaica

Tropical Storm Sandy made contact with Jamaica, as the rain and wind lashed the island it soon turned into Hurricane Sandy, this is how it began…

Hurricane Warning issued for Jamaica

On Tuesday morning Jamaica was on Hurricane Warning as the country awaits the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the southern coast on Wednesday (see image above) morning. The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicts will reach hurricane category One (1) status, on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, with winds topping out at 80 mph (128 km).

The centre of the storm was about 260 miles (420 km) south-southwest of Kingston, the Jamaican capital, on Tuesday evening and reached top winds of 50 miles per hour (85 kph). The ‘eye’ of the storm is predicted to hit the capital before moving across the country up to the popular tourist resort of Ocho Rios dumping as much as 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) of rain across parts of Jamaica.

Where I am staying near to Ocho Rios the rain has fallen very heavily since this morning, except for short intermittent times where there is a lull and it falls lightly. On the other hand I have heard that apart from a small amount of rainfall this morning Montego Bay was dry for the rest of the day and into the early evening.

There hasn’t been a direct hit from the ‘eye’ of a hurricane since Hurricane Gilbert which caused considerable damage across the island in 1988 and many islanders are stocking up on food and re-enforcing roofing and other unstable areas of their homes and properties in preparation, as the acting Prime Minister Peter Phillips says that

“all Jamaicans should take the threat of this hurricane seriously”

The Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has cut short a 5 day visit to Canada to return to the island as authorities in Jamaica are jumping to prepare for the arrival of the hurricane.

Ministry of Education

Under recommendation from The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) the Ministry of Education has decided that schools should be closed on Wednesday and will be re-opened once it is deemed safe to do so. Many schools have been listed as disaster relief centres and have officals been advised to put away all important and expensive educational materials. The education ministry has instructed all schools to activate their emergency plans immediately.

Jamaican Airports on Lock Down

All flights from Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston have been cancelled from 10.00pm on Tuesday night when the last flight leaves Jamaica; this closure will be in effect until the storm passes.  Travellers have been advised to contact their travel operator for more details, the website has updated information: http://www.nmia.aero/news_events

Sangster International airport, Montego Bay has halted all flights from 8.00am on Wednesday, until the storm has passed over the island. Travellers have been advised to contact their travel operator for more details, or check out the website for more details: http://www.mbjairport.com

Tropical Sandy Graphic
Tropical Sandy Graphic

Curfew Orders in Place

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting has issued curfew orders for selected areas effective from 6 p.m. Tuesday; the curfew orders would stay in effect until Thursday  morning and would be enforced by members of the Police Force and Military. Only persons who work in the emergency services, those who deliver newspapers and late night workers will be allowed access in and out of the areas under curfew if they are in possession of proper identification. The curfew has been put in place in order to curtail the looting that has been known to be carried out during these types of circumstances.

The affected areas for the curfew are:

Area One 
. Montego Bay
. Lucea
. Savanna-la-Mar
. Falmouth
. Duncans
. Clarkes Town
. Wakesfield
. Albert Town
. Grange Hill
. Darliston
. White House
. Hopewell
. Sandy Bay
. Green Island

Area Two 
. Ocho Rios
. Port Antonio
. Port Maria
. St. Anns Bay
. Brown’s Town
. Annotto Bay
. Highgate
. Gayle
. Buff Bay
. Oracabessa

Area Three
. Mandeville
. May Pen
. Chapelton
. Lionel Town
. Frankfield
. Crofts Hill
. Christiana
. Spalding
. Porus
. Santa Cruz
. Black River
. Junction
. Balaclava
. New Market

Area Four
. Downtown Kingston
. New Kingston
. Half Way Tree
. Industrial Estate
. Winward Road
. Rockfort
. Rollington Town
. Vineyard Town
. Franklyn Town
. Mountain View
. Harbour View
. Port Royal
. Bull Bay
. Cross Roads
. Papine
. Liguanea
. Three Miles

Area Five
. Spanish Town
. Portmore
. Linstead
. Spanish Town
. Morant Bay
. Constant Spring
. Old Harbour
. Stony Hill
. Bog Walk
. Yallahs
. Seaforth
. Port Antonio
. Port Morant
. Bath
. Golden Grove
. Red Hills
. Barbican
. Golden Spring
. Lawrence Tavern

Evacuation Orders

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has issued mandatory evacuation orders for at-risk communities situated in low-lying areas of the country and those near to the coast or other areas that are prone to hits from hurricanes. Fisherman on the cays have been told to return to the mainland, although there are reports of about 100 fisherman that are stranded, as they do not have enough fuel for the return trip.

150 shelters have been identified across the country which people are being encouraged to move to for their own safety. Many people refuse to leave their homes as they are more concerned about looters coming in and stealing things whilst they are not at home.

Mandatory Evacuation Areas

Kingston and St Andrew

  • Hope River Valley to include Kintyre, Tavern
  • Bull Bay to include Taylor Lands, Weise Road, Cane River Pen and Caribbean Terrace


  • Alley and Portland Cottage

St Catherine

  • Nightingale Grove
  • Sections of Lauriston closer to the Rio Cobre, Thompson Pen, Dam Head, Fairview, St John’s Road, Frazer’s Content and Hellshire Fishing Beach.

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Advice

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office web page for Jamaica, which gives updated and in-depth information about Jamaica can be found here: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/jamaica

  • There is a Hurricane Warning in place for Jamaica. Tropical Storm Sandy is likely to be at Hurricane strength as it passes over Jamaica on Wednesday 24 October. Tropical Storm force winds are expected to start affecting Jamaica on the evening of Tuesday 23 October. Visitors to Jamaica, or those intending to visit, should monitor media for updates and keep in touch with tour operators or travel service providers. You can find advice on preparing for a hurricane in Jamaica here: http://ukinjamaica.fco.gov.uk/en/help-for-british-nationals/travel-advice/how-survive-hurricane
  • The hurricane season in Jamaica normally runs from June to November. You should monitor weather updates.

The website for the U.S. National Hurricane Center for the latest details and diagrams of the progress of the storm can be found at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at3+shtml/203623.shtml?3day#contents

Turtle River Park – Ocho Rios

Turtle River Park is worth a visit if you are in Ocho Rios, the beautiful landscaped park right in the middle of the town centre covers 3 hectares of land and offers a few surprises for visitors young and old.

Giving Jamaican’s and visitors a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the town and sit and relax in peaceful tranquility, the park is free to members of the public and open every day of the week. The park was opened on 18 June 2004 by  Prime Minister P J Patterson (PM of the time) after the (UDC) Urban Development Corporation decided the old bus park was ideal for redevelopment.


Turtle River Park Facilities

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  • Free Entrance to members of the public
  • Open all week
  • Clean Toilets
  • Snack Outlet
  • Childrens Swing Area
  • Seating areas / Picnic Tables
  • Landscaped Gardens
  • Ponds and water features
  • Parking – fee payable; free parking spots are available down the end of the road past the main entrance on Milford Road (do NOT park where you see yellow lines or  parking restrictions!)
  • Security – Wardens patrol park ensuring park rules are upheld


Are There Any Turtles? 

Due to the name of the park I was intrigued to find out if there were turtles lurking anywhere, so I made two visits to look for them as it was too dark to fully investigate the park the first evening. I did notice on the first visit that there was a  barrier set across a bridge which gave access to a central island, which contained a smaller pond in the centre… I would have to investigate further in the daylight to find out why the barrier was there and if there were turtles here somewhere.

The second time I walked through the park I made sure it was daylight hours so that I could get some pictures and investigate the ponds when it would be easier to spot turtles if there were any to be found.


Palm Lined Walkway

After walking in the large main entrance on Milford Road, there is a long walkway which gives a glimpse of the ponds at the end.

The walkway is lined with palm trees and small hedges to either side, halfway down the walkway a central water feature starts to bubble and flow down towards the ponds.

Manicured lawns to either side of the walkway carry numerous ‘keep off the grass’ signs, which  I can only assume to keep the lawns in their magnificent state of lushness!


What is available at the Park?

There are gazebos scattered around the park, where groups of people sit quietly or talk, sing and recite from the bible, lovers young and old share a tender word and touch and everyday people just sit and chill out. Palm trees, bushes and planting leads you along pathways cut through the beautiful lawns to other areas of the park.

There is a children’s play area which has a couple of playhouses on stilts and some swings, although when I visited only a few of the swings had seats, but the children there enjoyed themselves none the less.

The turtle theme carries on through the park and I saw these cute little turtles sitting in a row across the lawn, maybe to create a division from the children’s area behind it. I noticed a trampoline with an enclosure, but  couldn’t see anyone attending to it and I assumed it wasn’t free to use.

Along some of the pathways there is a turtle emblem stamped into the concrete to break up the blandness and continue with the turtle theme.

Scenic Ponds and Waterways

 The park boasts a large man-made pond which is beautifully designed and has large specimens of what look like coy carp fish swimming in the  shallows.  Large trees, palms, clipped bushes, flowers and rockstone are tastefully scattered around to create a natural looking atmospheric area, which doesn’t look overdone.

A small bridge carries you over the larger pond that creates a moat effect, as there is an island in the centre which also has a pond with smaller fish swimming amongst the lily pads. A pathway leads you around the pond to an even smaller pond that had a fence around it….. Mmmmm what was in there?


At Last I found the Turtles!

There is a small waterfall that cascaded into the last pond and a small grassed area with rocks near to the water’s edge for the turtles to sun themselves on, or have a break from the water. A second waterfall left the pond and flowed down into the central pond, although a grill across the waterfall prevented the turtles from escaping any further into the other ponds.

A tree at the back of the enclosure provided partial shade to the pond giving the turtles some respite from the scorching Jamaican sunshine.

There were at least 10 turtles in the pond and one in particular took an interest and came out of the pond to walk over to the fence to see what was going on. The others looked on in mild interest and scattered if they felt frightened when you moved too quickly. The shells of the turtles were covered with a green algae but it didn’t seem to bother them as they looked happy and healthy swimming or lolling about in their watery enclosure.

As the fish in the ponds looked like fresh water fish I can only assume these specimens must be a form of fresh water turtle. There were small fish bundled up on the bottom of the pond, but it didn’t seem to be the turtle food? I did wonder what they fed them on though as there was no sign of food anywhere.

I spent a while with the turtles but as the night came down the park wardens came over and put the barrier back over the small bridge and ushered people back over into the main areas of the park before it closed shortly afterwards. I was happy that I found the turtles and that the park’s namesakes really did reside in the park’s ‘river’.

On leaving the park we walked through the entrance on Main Street which has the wardens hut and public restrooms, which I found to be clean and tidy, but lacking tissue, soap and hand towels!

All together the park is a nice attraction and looks as though it is manicured on a daily basis, as it is so beautifully kept. I would recommend a visit to the park especially if you want some peace and quiet, or if you have young children who would enjoy the turtles and play area provided.

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.


Parking Rates: J$50 per hour and J$150 daily

Contact Information:     
Turtle River Park
Main Street
Ocho Rios, St. Ann
(876) 795 0078, 974 5015, 974 2612
Telefax (876) 974 2731

Dengue Fever in Jamaica Continued….

Dengue Fever is still posing a risk to Jamaicans and visitors to the island as the recorded cases of the illness are continuing to rise, with 5 suspected deaths to date.

The rain that is pelting the country may provide new breeding grounds for the Aedes Aegyti mosquito which transmits the virus as new vessels and containers fill with water. Efforts to disperse areas already containing stagnant water are now also put at risk as people are encouraged to stay indoors due to the Tropical Storm Sandy which is threatening to lash the island from tomorrow.

To give an update on my friend who contracted Dengue Fever, they have finally recovered from Dengue Fever after 2 weeks, although they are a little slimmer! They feel fit and healthy again and do not complain of aching anywhere in the body, bones or head, their appetite has come back and their body is functioning normally again. Which is a big relief.

Nowadays I religiously burn destroyer coils and wear mosquito repellant on exposed skin everyday,  I also sleep under a mosquito net every night, just because the worst is over for my friend it does not immunise anyone from contracting the virus again…. And they say prevention is better than cure.

The latest news in Jamaica is that of 23rd October 2012

The Jamaican Information Service is recommending and reminding persons who are suffering from severe symptoms of Dengue Fever or Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) to visit the nearest health facility immediately. The whole article can be read here: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32062

The Health Minister The Hon. Dr Fenton Ferguson is dedicated to tackling the problem which is getting worse and comments:

He noted that so far some 450 communities have been fogged; over 3,500 premises visited and approximately 5,000 containers inspected. “All containers found to be breeding sites for the aedes aegyti mosquito, which transmits dengue, have been treated,” the Minister said.

He pointed out that the intensified programme is expected to last until December 2012, but will be continued beyond that date if the need arises.


The Minister confirmed an increase in dengue fever cases for this year, noting that as at September 29, there were a total of 1,215 suspected cases, of which 345 had been confirmed. This compared to 887 cases in 2011 and 3,202 in 2010, which had been regarded as an outbreak year.


There have also been five suspected deaths associated with the disease, with one confirmed case, via autopsy. The victim was a 15 year-old male of Kingston and St. Andrew, who also had the sickle cell disease.


Dr. Ferguson said all parishes have been affected to date, with Kingston and St. Andrew showing the highest incidence of the disease, with 599 or 50 per cent of the cases.


The breakdown of suspected cases in the other parishes include: 71 cases in St. Catherine; six in St. Thomas; 19 in Portland; 36 in St. Mary; 67 in St. Ann; 20 in Trelawny; 66 in St. James; 38 in Westmoreland; 24 in Hanover; 30 in St. Elizabeth; Manchester, 128; and Clarendon, 82. There are an additional 29 cases for which no parish has been designated.


Read the full article from the Jamaican Information service at: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/32050

Dengue Fever in Jamaica!

Don’t get caught out Dengue Fever is a serious disease that can make you feel terrible for weeks, take precautions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos when travelling.

I have to admit that as I regularly travel I like to make sure my inoculations for diseases that are prevalent in the country I am travelling to are up-to-date, although I decided against anti-malaria drugs due to the side effects and likelihood of getting the disease whilst in Jamaica. I am also aware of the risks to health in Jamaica and even wrote a post about it, but although I do sleep under a mosquito net I don’t regularly spray myself with mosquito repellant, until now…

Dengue Fever is alive and well in Jamaica current as of October 2012, although the worst recorded epidemic was in 2010, there have been many cases recorded in the local press including 5 reported deaths. A close friend of mine was diagnosed with Dengue Fever last week and I can tell you it is painful and not at all pretty to watch someone with the virus trying to fight it off.


How You Can Prevent the Spread of Dengue Fever:

  1. Spray yourself and your children with mosquito spray containing DEET, or wear clothing to cover the body.
  2. Cover windows and doors with a mesh to prevent mosquitos from entering your premises, as the mosquitos that carry the virus feed mainly in the daytime.
  3. Empty or pierce all containers and vessels that contain stagnant water to limit the breeding grounds for mosquitos.
  4. Sleep under a mosquito net.


Dengue Fever Symptoms

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  • Headache in the front forehead area
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Hard to keep eyes open
  • No appetite
  • Back Ache
  • Whole body aches
  • Want to sleep
  • High fever
  • Feel the need to vomit
  • Stomach Ache, cannot pass bowels
  • Extreme cases: Nose Bleeds, or blood from other orifices GO TO HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY



Treatment for Dengue Fever

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  • Panadol, or Paracetamol based products ONLY
  • DO NOT TAKE IBUPROFEN based products as it can cause the patient to bleed
  • Keep cool with wet flannel / rag
  • Drink fluids
  • Bed rest with mosquito net cover



Dengue Fever


Day One…

One evening my friend first complained of a headache in the front forehead area and pain behind the eyes, making the eyes feel weak and which even after taking pain killers would not subside. After lying down for about 45 minutes they were encouraged to drink some peppermint tea and eat something as it may ease the headache, but they had no appetite and barely ate a few mouthfuls of food before saying their whole body ached and they wanted to sleep. A few hours later they woke up and had the onset of a high fever, a terrible headache and felt like they wanted to vomit, which again painkillers would not ease.

Day Two…

In the morning as they seemed worse with a very high fever, headache, could barely open their eyes, feeling weak and aching all over, so they were taken to a medical centre and paid $2,500 to see a Doctor, which consisted of a visual check over, blood pressure test, taking of body temperature and a pin prick finger blood test. They were then advised it was possible that Dengue Fever was the reason for the illness and that the test to confirm would be an extra $3,700 which included a blood platelet count test. After waiting about 30 minutes it was confirmed that they had Dengue Fever and was advised as there was no ‘cure’ or anti-viral treatment and that the body generally fights it off within a week to 10 days, although it can take up to a month to feel better. I hurried to the pharmacy and additionally bought mosquito spray and destroyer (mosquito coils) as the only advice was to get a prescription for Panadol which could be taken 2 tablets 3 times a day, to get bed rest for 2 weeks and drink plenty of fluids, oh, and if they had blood coming out of their facial orifices to go to the hospital immediately…..

As soon as we got back we searched the Internet for information as the last piece of advice really scared us, where we found out there were 3 different types of Dengue Fever and you could tell it was getting worse if they started loosing blood from the nose, gums etc as it was the blood capillaries bursting. We also found out that it is spread by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito which feeds mainly in the daytime and is attracted to lay her eggs in stagnant water, which contains dead leaves and plant matter. So that meant if another mosquito bit them whilst they had Dengue Fever, which then bit anyone else it would be passed on and the 2nd person and they too would have Dengue Fever, or worse still if they were bitten by another mosquito which carried Dengue Fever they could develop a worser strain of the virus.

Shortly after they were put to rest under a mosquito net, kept cool by constantly replacing cold wet rags placed over the head, back of neck or chest and encouraged to drink water at least once an hour, even if it meant they had to be woken up to be made to drink. They drank a little fish tea (soup) and went back to bed. The second day was fretful as they kept waking up in pain, coughing and feeling like they wanted to vomit, burning hot like you could fry and egg on their skin and generally in a bad way with a stomach ache. After asking for some oats to drink (oats, water, vanilla essence and nutmeg) around midnight they laid down and almost immediately went to the bathroom to vomit, whereby they said it eased off the stomach ache a little. Afterwards they laid back down and slept restlessly.

Day Three…

This morning they looked a little better and after being bathed in cold water and given pain killers they rested again and felt well enough to eat a little rice and peas and fish and the fever seemed to ease. After going back to sleep again and waking up in pain with high fever, they were put in a bath of cold water to lie down for a while which again eased the fever. The pain in their back was really bad which we felt was caused by lying down for so long so we tried a back massage which relived it a little, but there was nothing we could do to stop the stomach ache including drinking milky drinks such as Lasco and Nutriment to try and get the bowels working.  Another fretful night followed with high fever and stomach and back pain which seemed to get worse.

Day Four….

After staying up late and looking on the Internet the worry set in as it mentioned that if the patient develops more symptoms such as stomach ache it could be due to a worser strain of Dengue Fever and they should be taken to the hospital. So we decided it was best to get a further check so they were bathed in cool water again and dosed in DEET Mosquito Spray. We packed a bag in case they had to stay overnight before making the 15 minute journey to St.Ann Bay Hospital. Although we arrived at about 9.30am the hospital was packed full of people, including many children with their parents. There seemed to be a high level of people with suspected Dengue Fever and we waited to see the staff at the Information desk first where they listened to your symptoms, took your temperature and blood pressure and gave you a document to take to registrations. After queuing again at registrations they gave you your medical records (if you had been to the hospital before) and you then had to take them back to Information desk where you put them at the bottom of the pile of records to wait for your name to be called. Whilst waiting they went to the toilet and at last they had a bowel movement!

We waited for about  1 1/2 hours before about 10 people’s name were called and we were all ushered into another seating area in a corridor to wait to be seen by the doctor. After another wait of about 1 1/2 hours they were seen by the doctor were a blood sample was taken and a rather large injection of penicillin was received in the batty cheek (bottom) which proceeded to give them a new source of pain in the way of a dead leg! We were told to expect a 3 hour wait for the blood test and they were given 2 glasses of electrode salts to drink to prevent dehydration and to replace natural bodily salts lost through sweating and fever.

We decided to wait outside and after waiting about 3 1/2 hours with no news we went inside to find out what was happening. It actually took nearly 6 hours to be seen by the doctor again to get the results….. it appeared that we had not heard when they called our friends name and if we had not persisted to get seen by the doctor again we would have probably been waiting all night! Needless to say we were told to go home and continue with the same care and return on Tuesday to have another blood test to check the platelet count.

The night followed with fever and back pain and a somewhat restless night, so the cold rags (flannels) were used to keep them cool.

Day Five and Six…

Although they feel a little better than before and the fever isn’t so high they still look sick and get tired easily, their appetite hasn’t increased much and they prefer to lie down rather than sit for long periods of time. They are having regular bowel movements and sometimes cough until they nearly vomit. Tomorrow we go back to the St.Ann Bay Hospital for the 2nd Blood Tests at the Lab…..

What is being done by the Government of Jamaica?

Associated Press has put out an article about Dengue Fever which was based on a conversation with Jamaica’s Health Minister Fenton Ferguson. The article claims that fumigation trucks have been dispatched to try and control the spread of the epidemic across the island and school children are being encouraged to disperse stagnant water in small vessels and containers. The story was took up by businessweek….

Jamaica is stepping up mosquito eradication across the island and urging school children to stamp out breeding grounds to combat an epidemic of dengue fever, the Caribbean country’s health minister said Thursday.

Health Minister Fenton Ferguson told reporters there have been five suspected deaths from the mosquito-borne virus in Jamaica so far this year. Only one has been confirmed with an autopsy.

There have been more than 1,200 suspected cases as of Sept. 29, compared to 887 during the same period last year. About half the cases have occurred in the southern capital of Kingston. However, this year’s cases are far less than in 2010, an outbreak year.

Officials have dispatched fumigation trucks to spray roughly 450 neighborhoods and teams are clearing storm drains that are clogged with debris. Thousands of premises have been inspected, Fenton said….

The full article can be read at: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-10-12/jamaica-steps-up-efforts-to-combat-dengue-fever


This information about Dengue Fever which is specific to Jamaica is from the NaTHNaC Website:


Dengue is a systemic viral disease.

Risk assessment
  • Epidemiology – Dengue is known or has the potential to occur in this country.
  • Exposure – Dengue is transmitted via the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes feed predominantly during daylight hours and are most abundant in urban or peri-urban settings. All travellers to dengue areas are at risk.
Risk management
  • Travellers should take mosquito bite avoidance measures. Aedes mosquitoes feed predominantly during daylight hours.
  • There is no vaccination or medication to prevent dengue.
  • A previous dengue illness with one of the four dengue virus serotypes does not confer immunity to other virus serotypes.
  • Infection with a second dengue serotype may be a risk factor for the development of dengue haemorrhagic fever.

The Full information about Health Risks is Jamaica can be found at https://www.nathnac.org/ds/c_pages/country_page_jm.htm

Jamaican Cook Shops

Cook Shops are establishments that usually serve hot food and cold snacks, as an alternative to a fast food takeaway / eateries, although the food is rarely fast and is invariably much more healthy and tasty than the local burger or pizza joint! Each has their own specialities and popular dishes they like to offer, but you can often find them open from early in the morning until late at night serving delicious cheap food.

Continue reading Jamaican Cook Shops

Jamaican Local Shops

If you are out and about in Jamaica check out one of the locally owned shops and bars if you are feeling thirsty or want a snack. The prices are slightly higher than the supermarket, but they are nowhere near as expensive as the tourist places and you will get to mingle with the locals. You can easily spot them from the hand painted designs, customised illustrations and invariably the Jamaican Flag or colours proudly represented in the design. It is popular in the smaller shops that the merchandise is kept behind the counter with a mesh screen rising to the ceiling, the small ‘hatch’ at the front enables the customers to order and pay for the goods and to be served. You can find these establishments scattered all over the island, on or around the land where the vendor lives, by the roadside, or any other ‘profitable’ location that can be found.  They serve passing trade and the local community, when a bigger supermarket is unnecessary or too far away. If you are on the road and want a snack and a drink, this is what you can expect to find and pay inside:

Cost of Food and Drinks

Average Prices of beverages:

  • Soda / Fizzy drinks (large personal sized), such as Bigga, D&G are approx. $80
  • $70  Soda / Fizzy drinks (medium-sized), such as Bigga, D&G are approx .$50
  • Soda / Fizzy drinks (small child size), such as Likkle Bigga, D&G are approx. $40
  • Fruit drinks, such as Tampico are approx.$100
  • Bottled Water, such as WATA or Catherine’s Peak, are approx. $60 – $70
  • Cranberry water are approx. $70 to $80
  • Nutritional drinks, such as Supligen are approx. $180
  • Energy Drinks, such as Boom and Red Bull are approx. $150
  • Bag Juice, flavoured water that is often frozen / chilled are approx. $20 – $40
  • Beer and stout, are approx. Red Stripe $160, Dragon Stout $170 and Guinness $180
  • Wines, are approx. Magnum $200, Red Label Wine $140 to $300 for a large size.
  • Liquor, such as a shot of Wray & Nephew is generally $100 rising to $150 if ‘chased’ with soda or juice (you might be required to buy the can / bottle of chaser).
  • Liquor, such as a ‘flask’ (UK quart bottle) of Wray & Nephew is generally $450 – $500 and works out most cost-effective if you are planning of drinking more than 2 shots.
  • Please note international liquor such as Brands of Brandy/Cognac sold in the UK are as much as $500 for one drink/glass… and that doesn’t usually include a chaser – so be warned!


Average Prices of Snacks:

• Bun, Individual round fruit bun $70 or cheese bun are generally $80 – $90

• Bag snacks, such as Cheezesticks $10, Tigers Cheese Snacks $35, Cheezees $40

• Banana Chips are approx. $50 and Plantain Chips,  are approx $70

• Bulla, (try with ripe banana or pear/avocado) are approx. $45 – $50

• Sweets / Candy starts from $5 to $15, bon bons (lollipops) are approx. $15 – $20

• Bread (or mongoose bread, because it is long and thin), small long sweetish tasting baps are approx. $130

These Prices are Correct as of June 2013 and are based on average prices collated from in and around rural St. Ann’s.

PLEASE NOTE: All monetary values in this article using the ‘$’ sign as a pre-fix; refer to the Jamaican National Currency of Jamaican Dollars.

Building Materials

Local shops are ‘self- made’ by the owner and built with their friends and family giving a hand, or if the construction is beyond their own capabilities someone will be paid to build it . If you want to build your own shop, or lend a hand to someone else, you will need the following materials:

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  • Ply board or ‘planks’ of wood for the roof, walls, floor, windows, doors, display shelves and counter
  • Hand-cut thin young saplings for the framework and posts, counter, door and window openings
  • Zinc (corrugated metal sheeting), flattened metal drums or containers to cover the roof and the sides
  • Wire mesh for the counter grill
  • Tarpaulin or ‘crocus bags’ (empty rice or flour bags) to line the inside
  • Linoleum for the floor and countertop.
  • Screeded cast floor with rocks mixed in for strength


  • Should more money be available to invest in the construction then blocks (thermalite or breeze block style) would be used to make the walls
  • Roof and floor would be cast or decked (screeded) in concrete
  • Tiles are often used on the floor

Coming from a construction background I am always AMAZED at the tenacity Jamaicans show in building shops (and houses, but that’s another story!). Not only in terms of where you wouldn’t think it was possible, petering on the side of hills and rock faces, the length and breadth of roadsides, on stilts with gangways and generally anywhere they are able to get a foothold, but also the use and recycling of materials is undeniably ingenious!

Stocking the Shop

Local shop owners buy products and merchandise from wholesale vendors in the larger towns, whilst others feel they can get more choice or better deals by travelling to Montego Bay or Kingston to buy their stock. There are also Goods Trucks in certain areas which circumnavigate the small country roads serving communities and vendors that are unable to travel to buy goods themselves, or those whom prefer the ‘home delivery’ method; this service provides a valuable resource and can cut travelling / sourcing expenses for some traders.

Sometimes the owners may raise livestock, such as chicken for meat and eggs, hogs (pigs), goats or grow produce which they sell as their sole product lines, or as an addition to complement the purchased stock. The owners will often start selling a small range of products that are readily required by the local community, such as, food stuffs, cosmetic and personal hygiene products, clothing, cleaning products, farming supplies, cooked food and invariably liquor and beverages.

The more fortunate are able to make enough profit to extend their business in some way, such as investing in wider product lines and a fridge or freezer to accommodate chilled and frozen products. A television, DVD player and / or a hi-fi (sound system) is also a popular investment that is blasted loudly to attract customers to stay longer (and hopefully spend more!) Some of them may increase the size of the shop, or upgrade the construction type in time. It is likely that you will pay a little extra for goods bought from these vendors compared to the larger supermarkets, as they do not have the same leverage and dependant of the size of the shop there might be a limited choice of items. I have to say though that I am always amazed at how many products these canny vendors manage to fit in their shops and I like to support them too.

Local Shop St. Ann Jamaica
Local Shop St. Ann Jamaica

Source of Income

The owners of these establishments often rely on the sale of goods as their sole source of income, which invariably includes their cost of living, sending their children to school, healthcare and so on, so the passing custom is a welcome addition to the local community trade. I have yet to find a miserly shopkeeper and the majority are rightly proud of their achievements in opening their business places, no matter how ramshackle it may seem to those accustomed to the local ‘corner’ stores in their home country. Please bear in mind that they need to sell 24 sodas to make around $400 or 24 bottles of beer or stout to make around $1,000 profit, which is hard work. So please stop, treat the owner with respect, greet them with a smile and a cordial greeting using Miss, Madam or, Sir especially to those who are senior to you in age and experience the warmth of the locals and help support them in their endeavours.

A point of note:

Be wise and respectful. You may find yourself centre of attention if you waft in with a fistful of notes or a bulging handbag or purse and your latest mobile (cell phone) in your hand when purchasing a drink or snack, and the locals may think you are acting ‘bosey’ (showing off) if they do not have that amount of cash readily available. A $500 bill, or a few $100 bills are suffice if only buying a few snack items. Carry Jamaican cash with you, it’s the national currency after all and it isn’t that hard to decipher the exchange rate. Plus, you are more likely to find it easier to use than UK Stirling £ and USA Dollars $ especially in smaller rural areas, whereby it will be harder for you to receive the correct change (which will nearly ALWAYS be in Jamaican Dollars $).

Don’t Worry Be Happy!

Sometimes if there are locals around they will stop and have a chat and share an anicodote or two, which can be very amusing. Children are often more intrigued by the new face and as is usual for children, they may either openly stare at you, or may hide and peep at you wanting to take in the new sight. I have never met any hostile response to my arrival and one of the most endearing experiences had been a small toddler who came over to touch my leg as she thought I looked like a dolly!

I generally try to break the ice by simply treating people with the respect they deserve; smiling or nodding my head whilst looking the person directly is usually enough to break them out in a warm and responsive smile. Although it will be seen as seriously strange and humorous behaviour if you start walking around manically nodding and smiling at everyone! If the mood takes you it never hurts to show a random act of kindness, buy a handful of sweets / candy and hand them out to the children…. think about it.

Jamaicans are proud people, and rightly so, they do not let many things hold them back from eking a living somewhere. If you only stop and look, you will also notice the enterprising ways in which they make ends meet. Although you may get better deals and choice at the larger supermarkets in the towns, you will invariably need to buy a few supplies, or at the very least buy a drink or snack (bun, banana chips, cookies and so on) whilst driving through the interior of the country, so don’t be shy get out there and frequent these shops. You will be pleased you did!

Yardies, Rent-a-Dreads and Marijuana in Jamaica

The first time I planned to travel to Jamaica in 2006 it amazed me how many people (from all different races and heritages) had a negative opinion about the country and were concerned for my welfare, but few had actually ever been there to give me first hand experiences. The misconceptions about Jamaica were rife, accusing and sometimes just amusing where the ‘non believers’ would give tales of Yardies, Rent-a-Dreads and Marijuana and not much else.

On the other hand my Jamaican born friends who now lived in the UK gave me a very different insight. It generally consisted of them initially telling me that they ‘grudged me’ as they weren’t going and went on to the fact that everything tasted sweeter, it was more beautiful and clean, the nightlife was better and often ‘out a door’, the roads and drivers were bad (and I mean the dictionary definition!) and if you had money to spend you could ‘fulljoy’ yourself in Jamaica. The story telling and reliving of memories would go on long into the night to relive and detail all that great, good and better about Jamaica.

Negative Attention

I have long thought that the media has a big part to play in helping to create the negative opinions of the general public in the U.K. and the wider world, as newsworthy stories about Jamaica often feature coverage of explosive events with a criminal content.  The fragrant use of the word ‘Yardie’ to depict gangsters and drug cartels portrays the country in a negative light making potential visitors question the safety of travelling and living there.

The travel industry also has its part to play, as it is widely considered that the large hotel groups in Jamaica recommend that guests should stay on the complex and promote and organise excursions to keep the money rolling into their pockets. Thus giving tourists and visitors to the island the impression that warfare is going on in Jamaica if you are not in the confines of high hotel walls and transportation system.

And the most amusing assumptions that I heard was that rasta’s were walking around everywhere either selling and smoking copious amounts of Marijuana on a daily basis, or offering themselves in the rent-a-dread fashion on the beach. Woyeee!

Putting all the negative opinions of others aside I thought to myself before leaving, what is there not to love about this island that has so much to offer? From the people, weather and the food, to the music, scenery and the beaches, my immediate thought was that Jamaica has it all and I couldn’t wait to get there.  As I planned to eventually live there, these differing opinions not only intrigued me, but also became a source for feeding my love of knowledge and new experiences. If I was going to travel there as a pre-cursor to living there, I was going to immerse myself in everything to make sure I could manage it. I wanted to see, hear, smell, taste, feel and experience what the real Jamaica was all about for myself.

Well, I found out…. and I want more!


To answer readers search queries and questions about this post title…

What is and where can I find…?


[text_justify]A terminology born from the media where Jamaican criminals are referred to as Yardies. To avoid bad situations and unsavoury characters in Jamaica, my best advice is to use your common sense, keep your wits about you and do as you would in a unfamiliar area back home – take precaution. Leave the jewels at the hotel, or better still at home and do not get a false sense of security because you are off of your home turf enjoying a tropical holiday. Yes, there is crime in Jamaica, but it is mainly gang based violence in areas you won’t be going to and crime against tourists is few and far between. Don’t let it ruin your stay worrying about it, remember you can find criminals in your own garden back home, as unfortunately they are everywhere.


A man who usually hangs around the tourist nightspots and especially the beach, looking for foreign women to ‘liaise’ with. They will usually have dreadlocks, are full of charm, will hold your hand and will tell you anything they think you want to hear for the duration of your stay. The exchange is simple – A good time for the woman with (invariably) a young good-looking and shall we say ‘fit’ Jamaican stud. In return for ‘looking after’ the man by being expected to pay for drinks, meals, days out and sometimes expensive clothes, gifts and accommodation. These meetings sometimes last for many years with the tourists coming back to Jamaica for another vacation and meeting up with the man for another round of mutual indulgence. In case you are wondering men visiting the island are also catered for, although I haven’t seen any women with dreads offering their ‘wares’!


Marijuana is illegal in Jamaica and you can be imprisoned, deported and banned, or at the very least fined for being found in the possession of drugs of any kind. It is frowned upon by many people, you cannot drive and walk around the island freely smoking it and the island is NOT overrun with weed smoking Rastas who turn a blind eye. However, if you do choose to buy it you will find it is widely available and if the seller doesn’t totally rip you off with tourist prices, it is incredibly cheap compared to the UK with a small bag being between $50 – $100 (Jamaican). Be mindful of undercover police and the fact that it may be stronger than what you are used to. Please remember Marijuana is illegal in Jamaica and I do not advocate it. Do not attempt to carry any off of the island with you, the ports and airports have stringent security and if caught, they are less likely to be sympathetic to your naïvety than some of the police.


Wow your nails look pretty!

Before I travel to Jamaica I have to find time to get my finger and toe nails ready too…. a tropical climate needs a hot and colourful mani and pedi!


Lovely things feet, take you everywhere you want to go, and they will not only get a daily airing (that those from the UK can only dream about), they will also get a fair bit of wear and tear in the process. I tend to spoil myself with a pedicure before I leave the UK and get my toenails painted in bright colours as they will be on show on a daily basis in slippers (sandals / flip-flops to us in the UK). Dry cracked heels and manky looking toenails are so NOT a good look when your feet are on show so take note!

I buy the foot scrub blocks from the chemist (drug store / pharmacy) to give my feet a quick once over when I hit the shower to keep the rough skin at bay, and if I am totally honest to scrub the red dirt (many regions in Jamaica have red earth) stain off of my feet! Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your feet when out in the sun as they burn too and cover them in cream in the evening to stop them looking dry and pitiful.

When in Jamaica…

You can get your pedicure refreshed in many establishments or by local mobile technicians throughout Jamaica and in most larger inland towns, such as Browns Town in St. Ann’s, you can expect to pay about $600 this includes applying tips on your big toes; but you will find the price goes down to around $500 for the more rural areas. A bright nail pattern design which is often hand-painted or airbrushed and stencilled with outrageous creativity is included in the price. It is popular in Jamaica to wear long extensions on the big toe, but I am too scared that I will knock them and rip them off, so I stick to my natural toenails! I usually tip the technician up to $500 if they have done a good job and I am feeling flush.


I tend to have nail extensions applied in London before I leave the country and as with my toenails, I have them painted in bright colours to fit the bright sunny mood of Jamaica. Many Jamaican women love to wear extra long nail extensions, which to those who are familiar with the process, are often worn at the longest length possible. Nail extension application is big business in Jamaica and the creativity of the nail technicians is outstanding. I have personally seen flowers and curled horn like adornments created out of the product used in the process of nail extensions. Equally the colours and design work carried out with the nail polish (nail varnish) is unrivalled by most of the London-based technicians I have come across and is often drawn freehand or airbrushed with stencils.

When in Jamaica…

You can sometimes expect to pay a different price for your nail extensions based on the length of the nails you prefer. In most of the larger inland towns, such as Browns Town in St. Ann’s you can expect to pay about $1,500 for even the longest nails; you will find the price goes down to around $1,000 to $1,200 for the more rural areas. I usually tip the technician up to $500 if they have done a good job.

Please be warned, my first experience of a Jamaican manicure was when I went to have my nail extensions replaced and I was alarmed (and in pain) when she literally started picking the old nails off with a credit card, instead of the usual soaking in acetone or filing that I was used to in London. You also may have to wait sometime for your turn, so make sure you make eye contact with the technician and let them know what you want when you arrive and take notice of how many other people are there before you. Be patient! It is worth it when you look down and admire your beautiful new nails. WOW!

The Basics Before You Go….Bugs, Medicines and Travel Insurance

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.

My toiletries bag essentials can be found here: https://sweetjamaica.co.uk/toiletries-bag-essentials/

But, these are some other essential items that I pack when coming to Jamaica……

Bug Repellent

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).

General Medicines 

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).

I 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…

[text_left]Travel Insurance[/text_left]

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:


Find out more about travelling to Jamaica from this Post about Airports…. https://sweetjamaica.co.uk/what-you-should-know-before-you-go-airports/

Please see my posts on Dengue Fever as there is a near epidemic in Jamaica as of October 2012…. https://sweetjamaica.co.uk/dengue-fever-in-jamaica/ and continued at: https://sweetjamaica.co.uk/dengue-fever-in-jamaica-continued/

So Fresh and so Clean – My Toiletries Bag Essentials

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.

Body Odour!

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….

What you should know before you go…. Airports

(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

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:

  • Immigration Form
  • Customs Declaration Form
  • Valid Passport
  • 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.


Baggage Collection

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)….


Customs Checkpoint

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

Air Canada

  • Montreal
  • Toronto
  • Winnipeg

Air Transat

  • Montreal
  • Toronto

American Airlines

  • Los Angeles
  • Charlotte
  • Miami
  • Philadelphia
  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Dallas

Caribbean Airlines

  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Kingston


  • Frankfurt

Copa Airlines

  • Panama City


  • Atlanta
  • Detroit
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Minneapolis


  • Stockholm


  • Milwaukee

Inter Caribbean

  • Kingston

Jet Air Fly

  • Brussels

Jet Blue

  • New York
  • Orlando
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Boston


  • Milan
  • La Romana

Southwest Airlines

  • Baltimore
  • Orlando
  • Houston


  • Fort Lauderdale


  • Montreal
  • Saulte Ste Marie
  • Toronto

Sun Country Airlines

  • Minneapolis


  • Manchester


  • Houston
  • Newark
  • Washington

Virgin Atlantic

  • London Gatwick

West Jet

  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Winnipeg
  • Toronto


  • St. Louis


Thinking of moving to Jamaica


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Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bless up, Jules

Keep the Conversation Going….

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Share your experience and join the Comments Below….


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My First Post!

Welcome to Sweet Jamaica!

This website is all about Sweet Sweet Jamaica. A collection of posts, pages, videos and photographs from my personal experiences of the island, with the twist that comes from it all being from a Londoners point of view.

Continue reading My First Post!

Start your Jamaican journey here….

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