* Make a photo copy of your passport and pack it somewhere separate from your passport. If your passport is lost or stolen this copy and help expedite the process of getting a new one or getting out of the country.
* Take a few zip lock bags, they come in handy for wet swim suits, collecting sea shells on the beach and more.
* If you are checking your baggage, take a change of clothes and/or a swimming suit in your carry on bag. This way if your luggage gets lost you can at least hit the pool when you arrive at your hotel or have a change of clothes for at least one night.
* When packing your clothes, you don't want to neatly fold them individually as you would in a dresser. If you do, they will crease when compressed. Try rolling your clothes or folding clothes two or more together, stacked unevenly to avoid creased lines.
* Leave enough room in your luggage for souvenirs, or bring an extra bag for them.
* Don’t pack or wear the flashy jewelry that draws attention to you. It’s best to just leave the jewelry at home.
* Don’t forget any medications.
While your packing it might be a good time to check out what items you are allowed and not allowed to take through customs and duty free allowances in Jamaica.
* Most ATMs will dispense Jamaican Dollars, however some are starting to dispense in USD as well.
* Most restaurants and shopping centers take credit cards.
* You can use US Dollars in most places but you will probably not get the best exchange rate. And remember that you will get your change back in Jamaican Dollars. For street vendors and in the outdoor markets you should use Jamaican currency.
Use this currency converter to find out the exchange rate into Jamaican Dollars.
* Don’t forget your pen so you can easily and quickly fill out your customs form on the plane before arriving in Jamaica.
* A good rule of thumb is to tip porters (people who help you with your luggage) at the airport about .50 per bag.
* Liquor bottles are no longer allowed as carry on. Be prepared to pack them in your checked luggage. Stores are starting to sell special bags so these bottles don’t get broken.
* Eat at local restaurants not trendy touristy restaurants.
This tipping etiquette will hopefully give you a general idea of the standard tipping rate for different stops along your journey. I know everyone has a different idea about tipping etiquette and this is just meant to be used as a guideline.
* Have some $1 bills ready in your wallet/purse so they are handy for tipping porters, taxi car drivers, bellman, etc.
* Upon arriving at or leaving from the airport or train station, tip the standard porter rate of $1 per bag; more if your luggage is very heavy. Typically, a $1 tip for hailing a taxi is appropriate for doormen. However, you may want to tip more for special services, such as carrying your bags.
* Tip the taxi or limo driver. Ten to 15 percent of your total fare is usually expected. If you drive your own car, give the valet parking attendant $1 to $2. If you take a shuttle van or bus, tip the driver $2 per person.
* The bellman, who will be more than happy to assist you with your bags and the door, should receive $1 to $2 per bag. Tip when he shows you to your room and again if he assists you upon checkout.
* If you're taking a tour and a tip is not automatically included, tip a local guide $1 per person for a half-day tour, $2 for full-day tour. Tip a private guide more.
* Although excellent service calls for 20 percent of the total bill, or in the least 15 percent as the standard tip. Some restaurants will add an automatic tip onto the bill, so be careful, especially for parties of 6 or more.
Safety in Jamaica
Jamaica is not the crime ridden, "danger lurking around every corner" island that it is so often painted out to be. Visitors (especially first time visitors) are often warned by others to not venture off the confines of their resort. To not do so would be to miss out on the opportunity to really see and experience the wonderful and diverse culture that thrives in Jamaica.
So are all the scary crime stories true or false? Really it’s a little bit of both. There are problems with gang violence but for the most part that is most prevalent in the Kingston area. And, believe it or not, drug use is illegal in Jamaica. Drugs may be readily available but the use and possession are still illegal and come with severe penalties when caught. Be aware that road blocks and random searches are common.
General Safety Tips:
1. When offered something you are not interested in a firm and simple “No Thank You” usually does the trick.
2. Do not carry large amounts of cash on you.
3. Do not wear expensive jewelry (better to leave the gemstones at home).
4. Don’t travel alone, especially at night.
5. Make a photo copy of your passport and pack it somewhere separate from your passport. If your passport is lost or stolen this copy and help expedite the process of getting a new one or getting out of the country.
6. If driving yourself, do not give rides to strangers alongside the road.
7. Most important, use your common sense and go with your gut.