Hustle the tourist
My husband and I visited Negril late last month and had a good time for the most part. First off let me mention that we are black and therefore I would imagine that we would get hassled a lot less than whites visiting Jamaica because until we open our mouths they don’t know if we are local or not. We stayed at a beautiful hotel right on the cliffs and found the strip that our hotel was on very safe for walking. We walked on the roads and visited local stores for supplies and did not encounter any problems at all. The one thing that left a sour taste in my mouth was the way the locals hassle you to buy things that you don’t want or need. If you go to touristy places in Negril, they will hassle you whether you are black or white. It takes about 5 No’s to get them to leave you alone. Also, beware, if you are taking a cab, which is the primary form of transportation there, ALWAYS ask how much it will cost to take you where you want to go. Ask this before the cab pulls off. There are not any meters and the driver can demand any amount they want once your ride is over. We got a cab to the beach and paid $5 one way. On the way back the driver, knowing we were going to a luxury hotel and were American, charged us double the amount just because he could. I was so pissed and told him that we paid half that amount on the trip to the beach. His response was “well different strokes for different folks”. Keep in mind that the locals that get into the taxi only pay about $1 for a trip. We did not encounter anyone cheating us out of change from converting US dollars to JA dollars but you should probably watch that anyways. I still have not figured out how that works.
- Budget Travel
The previous poster, chaves4, echoes my experience in Jamaica. I visited Negril about 10 years ago and it sounds like that it has not changed. The country is beautiful and scenic, but many people are poor and desperate. I can only warn travelers of the Obeah practitioners in the country. Obeah is the practice of harnessing supernatural forces and spirits for one’s own personal use. It is an ancient African folk magic, sorcery, and religious practice derived from West Africa.
During the busy season, locals by the hundreds come to Negril beaches to solicit tourists to buy merchandise, drugs, and yes, magic. Obeah practioners are desperate for money. They roam the beaches looking for vulnerable tourists with problems that they would like to “solve” be it personal, business, health or family. Like fortunetellers, Obeah salesmen give tourists insights into their problems. But these people are after one thing-money. There is an entire network of these salespeople who work behind the scenes with the Obeahmen, the actual priests who are performing the rites. It is a dark underground network that few people know about.
This practice is common in the Caribbean and is called Shango in Trinidad, Santeria in Cuba, Vodun or Voodoo in Haiti, Ju-Ju in the Bahamas, and Obeah in Jamaica. While the religious practice originated in West Africa, it was transplanted into the New World by slaves who had been brought to the Caribbean as tool to fight the Whites. So powerful was the religion that it was a force in the slave revolts of the 18th and 19th century. The religion has been concretized with Christianity in modern times. The religion predates the slave trade and was used by the Ashanti of West Africa to enslave captured people of neighboring tribes.
The first thing that the practitioners seek out is to find out whether a tourist has money or comes from a rich family (a potential heir/heiress). They will sound very innocent and will ask the tourist for his/her name. Tourists should be very wary about giving the spelling of their name. When a tourist gives his/her name, it is akin to giving his soul and identity away to the Obeahman. In fact, it is taboo in Jamaica for locals to give their true first and last name to anyone. With the name alone, the Obeahman can start his witchcraft of mind control. The Obeahmmen can conjure both good and evil omens and give the tourist a sense that he/she is on a dream quest. The Obeahmen control their hosts by catering to people’s secret desires and dreams. People are led to pursue foolish dreams. The mind control can go on for years. The catch is that the person who is caught up on the dreamscape has to keep paying the salesman and his/her Obeahman to keep that dream going. It is like getting hooked on psychological cocaine. Before long the host becomes a slave and can be led to financial ruin.
Little did I realize years ago from my trip to the island that a chance encounter by a local on the beach could change my life. The woman found me sitting on the beach alone and asked for the spelling of my name. From that question, she mysteriously “divine” through her Obeahman to figure out my problems at work and home. Two months after visiting Jamaica, I mysteriously lost my job. After the humiliating loss, I was forced to move to another town. One day I received a call from the Jamaican woman from my new place. She knew what had happened and offered to “help” me get another job. Little did I suspect then that she was the person who had caused me to lose my job in the first place. From then on it was as if my life and the local’s life have intertwined in a creepy way. My work life has never been the same. For the last ten years, I have been forced to help financially support this woman and her family through the cyclicality of the tourist season in Jamaica. She has taken me from job to job, vocation to vocation, summer to summer, “dream” to “dream.” She has fooled me into thinking that she cannot work. She lives off of her Obeah practice. By controlling my ability to work, she controls me. She has cut me off from friends and family. If I were to refuse to pay her an allowance for one month, she can cause catastrophic problems at work. This may sound fantastical and imaginary. But it is real. Bad luck or whatever, this is a form of spiritual slavery.
Tourists who come to Jamaica are unaware of the stark poverty on the island. Locals who know how to make arts and crafts sell merchandise to tourists. Others become vendors. Unbeknownst to many are some who rely on Obeahmen for survival. The cult of Obeah is strong in Jamaica. I was clueless what this was all about, thinking it might be something like a form fortune telling. Obeah is a form of spiritual possession and mental control. It robs you of your identity as it robs you of your name. A good article of the problem of Obeah was written by a local writer in 2005, which I found out after visiting Jamaica and returning to the United States: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20040619/%28spirit%29/%28spirit%292.html
Tourists should be aware that the practice of Obeah is illegal in Jamaica.
More information about Obeah can be found at Wiki. A network of Obeah practionioners is out to profit from naïve tourists. No information about this is mentioned in the travel books. Like the slave revolts of the 18th and 19th century, these people are out to get even with whites, tourists, or whomever has money.
Tourists beware. Jamaica is a beautiful country but a poor one. The desperation is pronounced and tourists need to aware of the dangers. Inexperienced travelers would be advised to keep Jamaica off their places to visit.
My friend and I just came back from Negril, I am so thankful that we stayed at the west end by the cliff side since we didn't nearly got as bugged as a lot of people that stayed on 7 mile beach. I am so glad that I picked the cliff side, we stayed at XTabi which was amazing, I highly recommend it, the staff was great and they have a great location with easy access to the ocean. They also have a free shuttle that goes to 7 mile beach or catch a cap for $10. Whenever we went to 7 mile beach we got supper irritated at the fact that everyone is trying to make a buck out of the us, it is so annoying, we tried to walk and at least got stopped 50 times, it is ridiculous, it is a beautiful place but Jamaican's desperation is apparent at this place, they won't leave you alone, and they get all up on your personal space. Be careful on the tours that you take, people will try to charge you more, we got screwed a couple of times, and it ended up being a much more expensive vacation than what we thought!
Beautiful place, but good luck saving money!!! Will not go there for a long time...much rather visit other places where you can have some peace and quiet like Belize (san pedro and Placencia) oh and watch out for the hookers they are everywhere, and the locals that take you around expect for you to pay for everything and when I mean everything is EVERYTHING...so watch out for that, they expect for you to pay for their beer, entrance to clubs, concerts etc...DON'T FALL FOR IT!!!! They all do it!!! I hope this helps!
It's been a couple years since I was in Negril but when there I hung out with some locals (friends of JA friends). The rumors there are that the all inclusives are about 25K to go to. The imagine we are EXTREMELY rich compared to them. That is in fact true, but not to the degree they perceive.
When people ask where you are staying pick a CHEAP place. Say Shields or the Yoga place. They are sizing you up. and if you met a billionaire coming to your island, using their beach, being annoying you might want them to throw a penny or 2 their way, too.
That said when approached by a local offering something (drugs, etc) I never said some lame excuse -- oh i dont have time or money. These guys are smart and will remember you. Be up front. I told them the truth but was extremely respectful. I looked them in the eye and said things like "No thanks, I have a hook up for pot", "no thanks, I dont smoke", "no thanks- I really can't spend any money for souvenirs". "thanks for the offer".
I was a little blond girl. I didn't feel intimidated by anyone at almost ANY time. I went to many many local reggae shows when I was the only white girl their. ONE time there was a drunk dude that asked for a guinness in Sav La MAr at a show and he was a dick but it was just some drunk ass.
Anyway- tourists pay more. For cabs, etc. I am ok with that. Find out the going rate for things before you buy.
But respectful and firm.
Use your common sense. Maybe it's because I'm from NY, so I'm naturally suspicious, but our trip was lots of fun. Yes it's true that the peddlers are like seagulls after a french fry but I was advised to politely ask the person their name and then say "Joe (or whatever their name was) no thank you" and it usually worked - of course it depended on your tone. They are always dogging your woman.
But the Red Stripe was always cold, Rick's was always fun, Hedonism was a trip, Jenny's was a good first stop in the morning - but you need to double-up to get a nice buzz, the commercial weed was just that but a Rasta would get you some fine herb. The coke was cut with baby laxative but the music was magic. (most of the peddlers were selling reggae music and all I had to say was "I don't like reggae" and they'd look at you funny but walk away. (btw, I love reggae)
But everything, I mean everything is done in slow motion down there. If your hotel AC breaks down relax, it will be fixed by tomorrow (or the next day).
Lot's of Europeans. I was surprised. Heineken was the same price as a Bud. And no one, I mean no one, wanted payment in Jamaican dollars, which are pretty much worthless.
We flew into Montego Bay and all you heard was people singing "Montego Bay". A guy approached us to buy weed on the bus to the hotel! It was commercial, tourist crap. Be nice to your maid, they can get you anything (within reason).
- School Holidays
- Family Travel
Great Negril trip
We spent a week in Negril. We chose that to get away from the gringo of Montego. Stayed in a quiet breakfast-paid resort, offseason, last week in April. The locals are relentless, but each encounter can be ended with a reprimand from the male in the travelers' group. They don't seem to take 'no' from females very well. I, (the male) traveled with three attractive women, one 40, two late teens, and they of course attracted a lot of attention, but not more than when we travel in even Portland or Denver.
We had a 'driver' assigned to us for the week, and asked about the incessant car horns, which we are very un-used to, coming from rural Oregon. He honked at parked cars, walkers that he thought might step into the road at an unwise time, or just going around a sharp corner. The 'cab drivers' did get annoying, but after about three days we simply learned to ignore them.
I kept careful (but not hovering) track of the females, and found that they often enjoyed talking to Jamaicans, who ubiquitously think of themselves as irresistable male examples. But my girls had a code word they said when they got uncomfortable, at which point I intervened, and was never ever challenged. I never felt threatened, and am satisfied that the locals can be handled with firm speech. When that fails, simply flip them off and stop listening, exactly as you might do to a rude person stateside. Worked for us literally dozens of times. Don't let the few locals spoil the wonderful place for you.
We tried to stay away from the white tourist places, and went down the dark streets. They seem scary, and if they were in Portland or Denver or Boston, I would not feel comfortable even with armed escort. But I think it's just because they are so poor, and we only see that in US in the ghettos where it really IS unsafe for whitefolk.
We think the vendors in Jamaica are much less of a hassle than those of Cozumel, Los Cabos, southern/central Chile, or Fiji (at least on Viti Levu, not the rest of Fiji). All the locals at each seem to think Gringos have money (relatively speaking, even poor gringo travelers are wealthy) and will part with it if they are troubled enough. JUST WALK AWAY and you'll be just fine.
I don't think my three women would find life so easy if not accompanied by a capable male, tho and would recommend against women traveling, even in a group.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Just wanted to share a photo of downtown Negril, taken from inside the ATM booth at the bank. This is the main road in Negril, right down town.
Anyway, as you can see, this is what you don't see in the travel brochures. Also, the area North of the bridge is a shanty town and is kind of rough from Norman Manley Park downwards. Lonely Planet and other books will say you can walk from your hotel to town... well, yeah, theoretically you can. Just be aware.
Negril: Totally awful vacation in a gorgeous place
My partner and I stayed in the North part of Negril. We've traveled extensively and have lived in NYC. Negril had a beautiful beach, but overall, this was the worst vacation we've ever been on due to the higglers and general hostility.
We stayed for ten days, right on the beach, but not at an all-inclusive. Although the all-inclusive's weren't our thing. Why stay somewhere that is walled off? The beach is beautiful, the sand is perfect, the water is totally amazing. The all-inclusives seemed sleazy/fake to me.
However, the harassment was indescribable. Not only did locals literally shake our feet and even sit on our chairs every twenty minutes (at best) while lying on the beach to try to sell us stuff ranging from carved masks to CD's to drugs, but we were screamed at, called "racists" and "clots" and told we "hated Jamaicans." A man also called me an "***" for not buying something for him -- and I'm a gal! It was impossible to walk on the beach at all without being hassled by higglers about every minute to two minutes. I also had an old man grab a bottle of juice out of my hand in downtown Negril. And we don't scream "tourists." Maybe this worsened it. Hard to say because the tourists seemed to like being zipped back and forth from the all-inclusives to Rick's, which isn't how we like to travel. All I know is that it was a very bad scene for us.
The other incredible nuisance is if you try to walk anywhere, cars... not just cabs... but people who want to play cab driver (anyone will take you anywhere for a fee, pretty much) honk at you and pull over. Sometimes every few minutes.
Now, I thought we met some truly wonderful people too. There were really sweet people at many of the restaurants where we ate, which were all budget, local-type places, patty shacks and such. The food was delicious. It was beautiful. Music was great. Some people are just amazing and will go out of their way for you too, really wanting to talk in earnest. Also, the price was decent for shoestring travelers. But we won't go back because of the hostility and name-calling from the higglers. Jamaica is a poor country, and I'm truly empathetic about this, but it's not economically helpful to take it out on broke backpackers.
Really, really glad I left my child back with his grandparents. I can't imagine taking kids there.
Glad to Go Home
Negril is a very beautiful town and the staff at our resort treated us like family. That being said, the vendors were relentless and there was no relaxation as they interrupted every few minutes while you're on the beach. My husband and I tried to go for a late night stroll along 7 mile beach and we were offered everything under the sun for sale. They got pushier as we went along and even called us disrespectful if we didn't buy from them. There was no venturing into the actual town at night either as the prostitutes are everywhere and can be just as relentless. The sad part is that they're pushy because so many tourists do buy the drugs and pay for hookers. Also, if you're having any kind of even there make sure to get every little agreement in writing. The way of life there is to get more and more money from tourists and they accused people we were with of cheating them out of money when we knew for sure that they paid double for what should've been a relatively cheap meal. Then they also brought they're own friends, got high, drank our booze, and then tried to start a fight.
Needless to say we were really glad to get back home. The beach was beautiful and the we were able to drive around the countryside which is breathtaking. Just wish our stay could've been more peaceful. Can't say that we'll be planning to go back any time soon and we're really glad we did not take our pre-schooler.
- Spa and Resort
Nothing terribly dangerous, just more along the lines of irritation. Of course, if you delve into the drug scene, you may get what you deserve. Most tourists are merely irritated and inconvenienced, with only a few put into difficult spots by aggressive sales tactics. For instance, there are many beach vendors buzzing around the tourists, selling anything from black coral necklace carvings (actually a dark wood with shoe polish or some other finish, and it burns, unlike coral!) to any number of local artistic crafts. The irony of the situation is that the pieces are cool and most people would buy them anyhow, and most people know there's no way black coral is getting sold at such low prices. But the beach vendors are relentless and pesky. Some vendors were selling crushed aspirin for cocaine we heard from other tourists. You have to be an idiot to deal in drugs anyhow. Local teens were taking tourists for rides on mopeds into the mountains for jungle tours. All came back OK, but the risk! Yikes. We heard of a few guys that went on a trip by canoe to an island and had a great time exploring. When it was time to come back, the "guides" insisted they had only paid for a one-way trip. It's a long swim - shallow and beautiful - but long. Finally, stay out of the local bars in towns. Stick to the resorts. This is especially true during times of political unrest and elections. Tourists are rarely bothered and somewhat protected. Just be smart and follow precautions that make sense in any place in the world. Don't worry. Be happy.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Spa and Resort
- Study Abroad
Rough Seas for swimming at the Cliffs
Some months are more so than others, but sometimes the water at the cliffs' edge can be pretty rough. Getting into the water is no big deal---you just dive in, but most cliffside resorts have metal ladders that you use to get out and back on land, and when the water is rough, it can be hard to time your exit with the waves. You don't want to smash up against the ladder! Those days, I suggest taking a cab down to the beach or just laze around on the cliffs. Some resorts, such as Xtabi, have easier access to the ocean with low lying platforms close to the waters edge where it is easier to get out, so check them out as well---no-one minds if you swim there---just get a beer or coke while you are there.
- Water Sports
- Diving and Snorkeling
Sketchy shopping alleys
Our hotel had a 'shopping trip' planned for 2 hours that dropped us off at a shopping center/market area. My husband and I saw a market right across the street that looked like there would be some pretty authentic art work which we were looking for. As we were heading over, a Jamaican guy immediately started talking very friendly to us and proceeded to accompany us assertively the entire way to the market. He was overly friendly and so I was a little suspicious at what his intentions were. As soon as we got to the market, the Jamaican man took my wrist and started to tie a bracelet around it. I said no thank you but he continued. Then he insisted that my husband pay him for the 'beautiful bracelet' that he had 'just given me'. I thought that was pretty shady. He then left. Then, as we tried to browse a few pieces of artwork in the market we were immediately swarmed with a vendor here and there demanding that we check out their work. They are very aggressive and sort of sweep you inside to look at their merchandise. It wasn't until we left soon afterwards that I realized how easily we could have been cornered in one of the rooms and robbed. A fellow hotel guy told me that this had happened before. Anyway, moral of the story, don't go anywhere unless you are with a group of fellow travelers even if you think its harmless shopping.
Rob and I like to go walking around and getting familiar wit a place. On the beach at 7 mile, Negril it is nice and beautiful but its hard to just walk in piece. We were constantly being approached to buy weed, buy other drugs, to shop, to just look at something..etc..... It just didnt stop. You dont want to be rude but sometimes a " No Thank you" just didnt seem to work. Rob is always too nice. The first day in Negril was alittle overwhelming for me. I wasnt prepared to be harrassed so much. When we got off the beach and walked towards Ricks Cafe it was so much nicer.
Some people said that they were harrassed alot, others say not so much. I would say that the vendors were somewhat aggressive. This is probably the one thing that I didnt care for in Jamaica.
Chiggers, Sand Flies, & Mosquitos!
Along with your sunscreen, make sure you keep a healthy dose of bug spray at all times and apply often. Considering the climate and population of wild animals (mostly dogs, cats, and goats), you'd be best off if you avoid trekking through overgrown grasses or laying out at the beach without bug spray. I obtained a horrrrrible case of chigger bites after a VERY short walk through some grasses - the bites and infection lasted 10 days and were incredibly unsightly on my legs, which can be enough to make a lot of people not want to lay out at the pool or on the beach. Don't let this be you.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Jenny’s Favourite Cakes
Jenny’s is a small and unpretentious-looking café on the West End Road, about a mile from town. Chris had read in the Rough Guide that as well as the usual café offerings (coffee, cold drinks, light meals), Jenny also sold ganja cakes, and he determined to try one. So after a sandwich lunch here one day, he asked for a cake to take away. It cost US$10 and looked much like a brownie. I’d assumed that this would be a relatively “safe” way to try the infamous local product – make the tourists pay over the odds for what is basically a cake with a few bits of herb in it. How wrong could I be!
Having enjoyed most of the cake with his afternoon coffee (I ate just a couple of mouthfuls) Chris was unable to go out that evening because the effects lasted around seven hours. His best efforts at describing the sensation included “everything seemed shifted” and all his senses were heightened.
Despite the disconcerting sensations, he was glad he’d had the experience. I however was not too pleased at missing our planned evening out and going without dinner – especially when I read the guide-book for myself and spotted the advice he had missed: “Jamaican ganja packs a mightier punch than anything you’ve probably experienced before, so don’t plan on doing much if you decide to partake.”
As part of this warning I should also point out that despite the casual acceptance of this ganja culture by many locals (and tourists), it is illegal in Jamaica, although there are indications that it may be legalised in the future. So if like Chris you decide you’d like to sample it, do so with discretion - and time it so that it doesn’t interfere with any other plans you may have for the day!
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