One thing you have to accept if exploring Jamaica, it seems, is that tourist attractions are a bit too neatly packaged for some tastes. On the whole I was happy to live with this, but here at Outameni I felt the packaging went too far, and our visit here left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.
We were the only two people on our tour of the “Experience”. This probably made it worse, as there was an element of forced fun which seemed incongruous to say the least, e.g. joining in with our guide (or as she insisted, our “Time Traveller” as she sung her way from one scenario depicting Jamaican history to the next.
These scenarios covered Taino native peoples, a Spanish flamenco dancer (who claimed to be a descendent of Christopher Columbus), a British colonial village, a slave’s hut, Indian and Chinese immigrants and present-day Kingston. I have to admit they were quite well-staged, each with an actor (sometimes more) who would explain a bit about life in their time before a video with more info was shown. But each time there was something we were expected to join in with, such as worshipping a tribal statue, or a maypole dance in the British village. Particularly excruciating was the slavery scene, with a ship of dead bodies, a “blood-stained” noose and an actor who cowered from us in fear. I was left feeling very uncomfortable by this attempt to turn the experience of slavery into entertainment.
The least bad elements were the video sequences, which showed a more rounded view of each period and were well filmed – it was good to see Spanish Town from the air, for instance. But another disappointment was the promised food sampling – a square of chocolate fudge in a plastic seal, another of a coconut sweet, a bag of salted peanuts and so on – where I was expecting fresh local fruits and other produce.
And all this disappointment and discomfort cost us $36 per person – in my view you should save your money!
Unique Suggestions: ... check out the website first so you know what to expect - I wish we had!
Although Dunn's River Falls may be one of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica, it suffers from over tourism. Many cruise passengers visit Dunn's on day trips from both Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, it may very well be the #1 day trip from the resorts so I imagine there is always a crowd.
We visited Dunn's on our first trip to Jamaica in 2002 on an excursion with a mini bus full of people. We engaged in the obligatory hand holding up the falls, in our group was a woman who was not physically able to climb the falls (she got out at the first place she could), a man who climbed the falls in his blue jeans (imagine what they weighed at the end) and several people that had ill fitting shoes that were constantly floating back down the falls.
On our recent trip to Jamaica (Feb 2005), Dunn's River Falls was included with our resort package so we decided to go again. This time we were there on a non cruise ship day so we were the only group but we still had the obligatory hand holding which actually makes it much more difficult to climb, a lady who fell twice and much waiting for photo ops as there were 30-40 in our group.
Unique Suggestions: If you really want to see the falls, try and hire a private guide that should be able to get you to the falls on a day when there are no ships in port and perhaps even get you there before the herds arrive or go on your own if you are driving. If you go in a smaller group, the climb up the Falls is more enjoyable as you don't have as large of a human chain or have to wait for everyone to get their picture taken.
Fun Alternatives: There are several other nice falls to visit, see my tips for YS Falls and Mayfield Falls.
Jamaicans are all about making money - but who isn't? Make deals everywhere you go. If you don't think they gave you a good offer on ANYTHING, then tell them that you will go next door and see what they will give you, and watch them come WAY down on the price. Usually, if you name your price, they will be happy with it. Sometimes they throw in free items just for shopping with them.
Now ladies...especially those with long hair, as I have long hair. You will constantly be yelled at "Gurl...let me braid your hair" - I went from 30 dollars all the way down to 5 dollars for someone to braid half of my hair. But still tipped the lady 20 dollars, only because she was so nice.
My advice is to bargain, bargain, bargain - no matter what you buy or where you go!!!
Be ware of the natives asking you to purchase "ganja" - if you don't know what it is...just know that it's ILEGAL in the United States...and just walk away from them.
Also...Beware of Taxi drivers...they will literally rip you to shreds with their prices...but like I said, bargain!!!!
Fun Alternatives: Interact with the locals, try to speak their language - they will be happy to help you out in that area...not to mention those that you get to know will tell you where to buy things and where to watch out.
Just as every 'perfect' place has a con hiding somewhere, so does Jamaica. Wide spread poverty on this island has driven folks to some amazing lengths. To all the salesmen with small gift shops on surf boards, we salute you. This takes balance, skill, I have never seen anything like it.
Unique Suggestions: But, hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, so at least be polite. They will not care you are on vacation, that you paid a lot of money for a slice of peace and quiet. They are at home, and have kids who gotta eat tonight. Give the locals some cash, some respect, and they will take good care of you too. They really do like tourist there, they are the meat and potatoes of this island.
Fun Alternatives: There is no way around the sales pitches, stay behind resort walls and miss the essence of the island if you are a chicken. (Speaking of chicken, do not leave this island without eating some jerk chicken)!!!
As you get on the shuttle from MoBay enroute to Ocho Rios, the driver will stop at a place on the side of the road where there are restrooms, food, and drink. What he doesn't tell you is that there are a few shops there. When the bus stops, the locals gather around the door of the bus just waiting for you to get off. As you exit the bus, one of them will approach you and say, "Welcome to Jamaica! We have some pipes over here if you are interested in taking a look. Come! I will show you." (This happened to me, by the way). Just politely say, no thank you and walk off. They will be persistent, but DO NOT give in. Remember, these "pipes" are illegal in the US! There are other things there besides pipes, so use your discretion if you want to go and look. Try not to go alone.
Unique Suggestions: Like I said before, if you are not interested, just say "no thank you." and walk away. This goes not only for this particular place, but for ALL shops! You will find the locals to be very persistent to get their hands on American Money (which they will only take, by the way. You can pay by Jamaican Dollars at regular stores). I had a guy at Dunns River Falls try to reach in my pocket to get money out. Be sure you keep your money, wallet, and most of all, your passport in a safe non-accessible place.
Fun Alternatives: Just sit down at a table, get a bottled water and a pack of crackers. Hang out until it is time for the bus to leave.
If you are with a tour guide, especially at Dunns River Falls, DO NOT go the way he tells you...it is a trap to send you back into a section of shops with very questionable people. If you want to get a couple of souveniers, it's OK to go, but if you don't feel safe or like haggling, do not go. Please, DO NOT GO ALONE! It's not as safe as you may think, and they will take advantage of you any way they can.
Unique Suggestions: Stick to your guns..if you think it is worth $3, don't give in. Tell them it's $3 or you walk.
Fun Alternatives: NEVER go alone!
Breezes Montego Bay. The place is overpriced and the accommodations would be beneath the standards of a Motel 6. Security is also completely lacking as the resort is open to the entire community in the evenings and people are allowed to roam around the premises without any security. Not a good idea for single women traveling alone, as my friend and I did.
The exchange rate for US dollars is about 10% less at the Montego Bay airport than 5 minutes away in town in 2008. The rate at the Kingston airport was 7% less than in town in 2009.
In June 2009 the rate was 86 Jamaican dollars for one USD.
Unique Suggestions: Since it is a rate and not a commission, change just enough to get into town or just use US dollars for the initial transportation cost.
Jamaica's citizenry are a friendly bunch but there are a few errant souls that will sell you swamp land if you let them. At the markets it is common to haggle with the vendors. I hate haggling but this is acceptable practice in many countries and Jamaica too. Shop around before buying because alot of the vendors sell the same items, just different prices depending on the day and your ability to haggle.
The Dunns River Falls is a lot of fun, HOWEVER, when your visit is over be sure to leave the Park through the entrance. DO NOT FOLLOW THE EXIT SIGNS. It takes you through an area where all the merchants harass you to buy JUNK. They are very forward and do not respect the words No Thank You. I even bought a $10 bag of Coffee from one merchant to be nice and he turns and tries to screw me by quickly (10 seconds) carving my wifes name into a wooden statue while I'm paying for the coffee and says I owe him $40 for it. A BIG MESSS that will ruin your visit.
These falls are one of the best known places in Jamaica (for good reason, they're beautiful)but because of that they are pretty much ALWAYS crowded. If you're seeing it, be prepared for the never ending streams of tourists.
Unique Suggestions: GO EARLY!
You are not really encouraged to go out and explore on your own, so there are organised excursions for everything, including shopping...this trip visits about 3 areas, one of them is the craft market but to be honest...it's hard to tell the difference. Everyone is selling t-shirts, simple beaded jewellery, woodwork and offering to braid your hair, and are not always pleasant about you saying 'no thanks'.
Unique Suggestions: Visit the duty free shops, they're air conditioned and the staff are not too pushy or rude and do not physically grab you to look at their stock (even thought it's exactly the same as everyone elses and there's only so many t-shirts and wooden giraffes you can feign interest in!)
Fun Alternatives: Actually, the airport shops are really good (but a little expensive!) and worth the extra money as the staff are not dragging you into their pitch to have a look.
The snorkel part is 5 min from where they moor the boat. coral is dead.
Dunns river is not that interesting. dolphincove is poorly run and laid out strangely.
Tour bus guide will try to take you shoppinglate in the day (6PM) even tho the hotel says its a non shopping tour
Fun Alternatives: stay at your all inclusive
First time of our visiting to Negril for seeing most beautiful Sunset, after2 hrs. of waiting we've seen this Sunset.
So if you're coming to Negril just for watching the SUNSET you might be disappointed.
If you want to be bugged, harrassed and feel guilty about not parting with your hard earned money (at crazy prices) then go here!
Unique Suggestions: Get in and get out. You can buy some unique things there, but your gonna pay!
Fun Alternatives: Go to the Wednesday market in Falmouth. This place is for locals, but it's cheaper and you can bargin, use this rule of thumb ...
Bargin down about 30%, pay in US dollars if you can (make sure you know the value)
went on the 15-21st of may. Today i find out im overdrafting and i got a call from fraud alert....more
We got married on the beach at the all inclusive Couples Tower Island on 10/2/10. I cannot say...more
I got to stay one night (only one night boo!). We arrived at night and left after breakfast. I did...more
More Regions in Jamaica