Area Code -- The area code for Jamaica is 876.
Business Hours -- Banks are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Store hours vary, but as a rule most business establishments open at 8:30am and close at 4:30 or 5pm Monday to Friday. Some shops open Saturday until noon.
Currency Exchange -- There are Bank of Jamaica exchange bureaus at both international airports (near Montego Bay and Kingston), at cruise ship piers, and in most hotels.
Doctors -- Many major resorts have doctors on call. If you need any particular medicine or treatment, bring evidence such as a letter from your home doctor.
Drinking Laws -- These are not rigidly enforced but patrons of bars should be 18 years old.
Electricity -- Most places use the standard electrical voltage of 110, as in the U.S. However, some establishments still operate on 220 volts, 50 cycles. If your hotel is on a different current than your U.S.-made appliance, ask for a transformer and adapter.
Embassies, Consulates & High Commissions -- Calling embassies or consulates in Jamaica is a challenge. Phones will ring and ring before being picked up, if they are answered at all. Extreme patience is needed to reach a live voice on the other end. The embassy of the United States is located at the Jamaica Mutual Life Building, 2 Oxford Rd., Kingston 5 (tel. 876/929-4850). The High Commission of Canada is situated at 3 W. Kings House Rd., Kingston 10 (tel. 876/926-1500). The High Commission of the United Kingdom is found at 28 Trafalgar Rd., Kingston 10 (tel. 876/510-0700).
Emergencies -- For police and air rescue, dial tel. 119; to report a fire or call an ambulance, dial tel. 110.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Stations are found at regular intervals along the coastal road, but be prepared to pay more per gallon than you would in the United States. Gasoline prices are soaring, and who knows what petrol will cost at the time of your visit. If you drive inland, plan ahead as stations are few and far between.
Holidays -- Jamaica observes the following public holidays: New Year's Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday, National Labour Day (late May), Independence Day (a Monday in early Aug), National Heroes Day (3rd Monday in Oct), Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
Insurance -- Because of the high crime rate in Jamaica, it is prudent to carry insurance for your personal property. Hotel rooms are sometimes robbed of personal possessions, and luggage is often stolen at the airport. In the unwise event that you take valuable jewelry into Jamaica, it definitely should be included in your insurance policy. Expensive electronic equipment is also a target for thieves.
Internet Access -- Access to the Web is usually arranged through your hotel.
Language -- English is the language of the land, but Jamaicans have invented their own patois as well, with a series of constantly evolving idioms. You'd really have to live in Jamaica and become Jamaican -- for example, women are commonly referred to as "him" -- to fully understand the local language. If your beauty is being complimented, a Jamaican might tell you -- "tree nag grow in yuh face."
Legal Aid -- Legal aid is granted only in criminal matters. For most foreign visitors, the majority of charges filed are for use or possession of illegal drugs. In Jamaica, the Legal Aid Council administers legal aid across the island. The staff has two clinics, one at 131 Tower St. in Kingston and another at 17 Orange St. in Montego Bay. For more information check www.moj.gov/jm/node/view13, or call tel. 876/906-4923.
Lost & Found -- Forget it, especially the lost. In this poor country, Jamaicans seem to feel that "finders are keepers."
Mail -- Instead of going to a post office, you can, in most cases, give mail to the hotel reception. Most hotels also sell stamps. Allow about a week for an airmail postcard or letter to reach North America. Increases in postal charges may be implemented at any time, so ask about the current rate before depositing mail. For mail to any business listed in this guide, remember to include "Jamaica, W.I." in the address. Call tel. 876/922-9431 in Kingston with questions. For important items, consider a courier service such as DHL (tel. 876/922-7333) or Federal Express (tel. 876/952-0411).
Newspapers & Magazines -- Jamaica supports three daily newspapers (Daily Gleaner, The Jamaica Record, and Daily Star), several weekly periodicals, and a handful of other publications. U.S. newsmagazines, such as Time and Newsweek, as well as occasional copies of the Miami Herald, are available at most newsstands.
Nudity -- Nude sunbathing and swimming are allowed at a number of hotels, clubs, and beaches (especially in Negril), but only where signs state that swimsuits are optional. Elsewhere, law enforcement officials won't even allow topless sunbathing.
Pharmacies -- Prescriptions are only accepted by local pharmacies if they were issued by a Jamaican doctor. Luckily, hotels have doctors on call. If you need any particular medicine or treatment, bring evidence, such as a letter from your own physician.
Police -- Dial tel. 119.
Smoking -- Smoking rules are relatively relaxed. The moment you arrive at an airport in Jamaica, you are likely to smell the aroma of ganja in the air. Although Jamaicans smoke more pot than any other island in the Caribbean, know that the government views it as an illegal substance and you can be arrested. Otherwise, the smoking of regular cigarettes is not allowed in restaurants or hotel rooms. However, smoking is permitted on terraces and open-air cafes, among other establishments. As a general rule, avoid smoking in any public place that is enclosed.
Taxes -- The government imposes a 10% to 15% room tax, depending on your category of hotel. You'll be charged a US$37 departure tax at the airport, payable in either Jamaican or U.S. dollars. There's also a 20% government tax on rental cars and a 20% tax on all overseas phone calls.
Telephones -- The island's phone system is expensive for overseas calls but local calls are inexpensive unless your hotel decides to impose an unreasonable surcharge. Ask when you check in. Some hotels impose a 1,000% markup on overseas calls. With some exceptions, all Jamaican phone numbers have seven digits. To place a local call, simply dial the number. But if you're calling, say, Kingston from Montego Bay, precede the number with a 1. To call the United States from Jamaica, dial 1 and then your desired number.
Telegraph, Telex & Fax -- Even the island's smallest hotels maintain their own fax machines. For telexes, contact the local branch of Cable & Wireless Jamaica, the country's telecommunications operators. In Kingston, its address is 47 Half Way Tree Rd. (tel. 876/926-9700).
Time -- During the winter, Jamaica is on Eastern Standard Time, the same as New York and Toronto. When the United States is on daylight saving time, however, it's 6am in Miami and 5am in Kingston; Jamaica does not switch to DST.
Tipping -- Tipping is customary in Jamaica. Typically 10% or 15% is expected in hotels and restaurants on occasions when you would normally tip. Most places add a service charge to the bill, but a little extra (3%-5%) is often expected for good service. Tipping is not "officially" allowed at all-inclusive resorts.
Toilets -- Don't expect to find convenient toilets if you're traveling around Jamaica. If you're in need, you may have to do as the locals do and take "to the bush." Even in built-up resort areas, public toilets are not always available, and cleanliness can be an issue. In resorts, toilets are found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, bus stations, service stations, and at the airport. Fast food restaurants generally have clean facilities. Toilets in restaurants and bars in some resorts may be reserved for patrons.
Useful Telephone Numbers -- Ambulance, tel. 110; fire, tel. 110; police, tel. 119; time, tel. 117; toll operator and telephone assistance on local and intraisland calls, tel. 112; overseas calls operator, tel. 113; Post and Telephone Department, tel. 876/922-9430.
Visitor Information -- Before you go, you can get information from the Jamaica Tourist Board at 5201 Blue Lagoon Dr., Suite 670, Miami, FL 33126 (tel. 800/233-4582 or 305/665-0557).
In Canada contact the office in Toronto at 303 Eglinton Ave. E., Suite 200, Toronto, ON M4P IL3 (tel. 800/465-2624 or 416/482-7850). Brits can contact the London office: 1-2 Prince Consort Rd., London SW7 2BZ (tel. 020/7224-0505; www.visitjamaica.com).
The Internet is a great source of travel information. Jamaica is on the Internet at www.visitjamaica.com; www.jamaican.com; www.jamaicatravelnet.com; www.jamaica-guide.info. In addition, Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), Excite (www.excite.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), and the other major Internet indexing sites all have subcategories for travel, country/regional information, and culture -- click on all three for links to travel-related websites.
Other good clearinghouse sites for information are Microsoft Expedia (www.expedia.com) and Travelocity (www.travelocity.com).
You might also check out "The Unofficial Website on Jamaica" (www.jamaicans.com), the best all-around site, with some good pointers, cultural tidbits, a patois primer, and plenty of humor. This is one of the few Jamaica Web pages that isn't either a blatant ad or just somebody's home page with a few vacation pictures.
Water -- It's usually safe to drink tap water island-wide; however, it's prudent to drink bottled water, if available. We do.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.