Strolling along stretches of white sand beach beside turquoise waters while a pulsating reggae beat plays in the background is what first comes to mind when many people think about vacationing in Jamaica. While discovering the unexpected can be a memorable part of any trip, it’s always good to get a clearer idea of the ins and outs of any country you may be visiting. Here are 5 myths about travelling to Jamaica that may surprise you.
Myth: Don’t Travel to Jamaica in Hurricane Season
Actually: If you like to save money, this is one of the best times to travel to Jamaica. Yes, there's some risk of rain during hurricane season, but the odds are pretty slim that you'll actually get caught in a tropical storm or hurricane. Many travel agencies offer hurricane insurance for your trip and most islands get many days of warning before a system even approaches, giving you plenty of time to hop on a plane. Even when a storm is hitting one island, the weather can be bright and sunny in all the others across the region. Also, some islands rarely ever get hit by hurricanes. What many people don’t realize as well is that, when a hurricane isn’t present, the island offers up some of the most glorious beach days.
Myth: It’s Dangerous to Leave the Hotel Grounds
Reality: Jamaica has a bit of a reputation for being a violent country or more dangerous than most yet the truth is that, like most places in the world, the possibility of a visitor being subject to anything more than petty theft is slim to none. Almost all the news items that are talked about are, just like other countries, more focused within neighbourhoods that a tourist may never lay eyes on, much less visit. Travellers to the Caribbean are rarely the targets of violent crime. From New York to Kingston, although theft is not unheard of, most incidents can be prevented if you take some common-sense precautions, like remaining aware of your surroundings and abstaining from walking by yourself on dark streets or leaving your purse, an expensive smartphone or simply carrying money in a front pocket. Most Jamaicans are friendly, and busy living their own lives and you're missing out on a great cultural experience if you spend your whole trip hiding behind your hotel walls.
Myth: Large Affordable All-Inclusive Chain Hotels Don’t Feel Jamaican Enough
Actually: There is a consistent look and feel with certain hotels across several countries to allow a sense of guarantee and peace of mind for their visitors, however, there is an idea that once you enter the gates, you could be anywhere in the world with a pretty beach. Although there is something to be said about an all-inclusive boutique resort as a unique experience, they can be a little more costly and a chain resort can offer a heavenly tropical getaway for a great deal. What is becoming more common is to craft an affordable all-inclusive experience while embracing and promoting each countries cultural flavours. With nationally themed beach barbecues, patois, dominoes and dance lessons, strolling musicians and more, Jamaican flavour is around every corner. Many resorts also offer great deals to their guests with local tour operators, to help explore all the unique attractions across the island so; you get a great deal on a holiday and still experience all of the best Jamaica has to offer.
Myth: You Don’t Need A Visa To Visit Jamaica
Actually: Many passport holders from other countries are indeed allowed to visit Jamaica without a visa, however many come with stipulations. For some it is straightforward, others have some fine print attached. Beyond the obvious such as not being allowed to work on the island and having a return ticket to present to the customs officer when you arrive, a few entries are granted for 30 day periods only or with proof of certain vaccinations. There are other countries that do require their citizens to have a visa to enter Jamaica, yes, even if you just want to lie on a beach for a weekend. So make sure to check with the Jamaican consulate or website to see what the requirements may be for you to travel to Jamaica.
Myth: Marijuana is Legal in Jamaica
Actually: This is a tricky one, most recently there was an adjustment in the law regarding people having marijuana for personal use. Many people then claimed that ganja is now completely legal in Jamaica, this is not true. Under the new law, possession of up to 2 ounces (or 56 grams) of marijuana is a petty offence punishable by a maximum fine of about US$5. The law also allows the cultivation of up to five marijuana plants per household (for personal use only). Adults who practice the Rastafari religion are also now permitted to legally use marijuana for sacramental purposes. The growing, sale or purchase of ganja otherwise is still illegal unless fully licensed by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), this includes medical marijuana use. There is no license to sell ganja for recreational use only and remains illegal in Jamaica.
Under the law, visitors who are ill or have a medical marijuana prescription from their home country will be able to purchase a permit at the airport for a few dollars that will allow them to consume marijuana. Patients who have a medical marijuana prescription will have to show a prescription from their doctor. Check out Kaya on the north coast, a new legal dispensary. Another popular tourist activity in Jamaica is taking a tour of an outdoor marijuana farm. This activity comes highly recommended and many companies can coordinate these tours for you – you’ve never seen anything like it! Make sure to smoke all your herb or gift it to a fellow tourist before you leave the country – it is still illegal and considered drug trafficking to leave the country with marijuana.Extracts and tinctures may be exported and imported only with the approval of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), but nothing of the actual plant. Although the law does allow for the import and export of ganja, international rules on trade in ganja are very strict as ganja is a controlled substance and is officially classified as particularly “liable to abuse”.