August marks the recognition of Emancipation Day, a day that slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire. Celebrations are held throughout the Caribbean. Jamaica’s National Day also falls during this time and is typically celebrated the first Monday in August. August 6th 1962 is the date that Jamaica officially achieved independence from Britain. Take a look below for a brief primer on Jamaica.
In the province of Ontario, Canada, August 1st has been dedicated as Emancipation Day.
See Emancipation Day Act, 2008 on the Ontario Government website.
The annual ‘Caribana parade’, the penultimate event in Toronto’s annual Caribbean Carnival festival, takes place the first Saturday in August to coincide with this date. You will see lots of Jamaican flags in the crowd as Toronto is home to a sizeable population of Jamaican migrants.
The Jamaica Experience
by me aka The Itinerant Introvert
What I learnt of Jamaica
The 5 senses
heat from fiery scotch bonnet peppers; juicy tropical fruit; squishy ackee
lush green interior; tropical trees; turquoise water and white sand beaches
blaring reggae music; pick-up lines in Jamaican patois
the sea breeze and soft sandy beaches
Weal World Souvenirs from Jamaica
pimento (aka allspice)
Did You Know?
TIPS & STUFF
• Jamaica is said to have the most amount of churches per square mile than any other country in the world except the Vatican.
Read article in the Jamaica Observer
• Ganja or marijuana is illegal in Jamaica. However, this does not stop people from smoking it openly or locals from trying to sell it to tourists.
• Tourists who come here may be rich by local standards; there are a number of poor people in Jamaica. Hustling happens; be aware.
• The electrical outlets are the same as North America.
• If taking a taxi in Montego Bay, make sure you get one with red plates. They are regulated, therefore less hassle in price and service.
• Burger Kings and KFCs abound but there are no McDonalds in Jamaica anymore.
• Digicell is the local cellular network.
• Jamaica, Kingston in particular, has one of the world’s highest crime rates. It is wise to check travel advisories prior to planning your trip.
• The National Motto is “Out of Many, One People”
The JAMAICA Experience
WHERE IS IT?
Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea. Surrounding islands include Cuba, the Cayman Islands and Hispaniola (i.e. Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
WHY GO THERE?
• Jamaica has natural beauty, history and an irie island vibe. People often come for the beaches but fondly remember the food and the people.
• Highlights include Dunns River Falls, The Bob Marley Museum, Negril beaches, the Blue Mountains and outdoor activities (i.e. water sports and golf). For more details:
Official Website: Visit Jamaica
Lonely Planet: Jamaica
WHAT IS IT?
• Jamaica is a democratic nation that follows a constitutional monarchy structure. It gained independence from Britain in 1962 and is now a member of the Commonwealth (a club, if you will, of former British colonies). The capital city is Kingston.
• Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes and each parish into counties.
• The currency is the Jamaican dollar.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE?
• The original inhabitants were the Taino who called the island Xaymaca. Over the years the Spanish, British and West Africans came and left their mark.
• The main language is English while Jamaican patois, a creole, is widely spoken as well.
• The predominant religion is some form of Christianity.
WHEN TO GO?
• Jamaica generally is sunny and warm year-round but it is wise to avoid travel during hurricane season (June-November). Depending on geography, some areas experience cooler temperatures and higher amounts of rainfall.
• Tourists spots are generally safe while there are often warnings for travel to Kingston.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Jamaica has 3 international airports: Sangster, Montego Bay; Norman Manley, Kingston and Ian Fleming, Ocho Rios. Sangster is usually the busiest.
Arriving by boat to Jamaica is also an option. Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are port ready for cruise ships.
No vaccinations are required but standard up-to-date vaccinations are recommended.
CDC website: Health Information for Travellers to Jamaica
Wifi is available and usually reliable if somewhat slow-perhaps operating on island time.
Flush toilets are generally in decent condition and toilet paper is very available.
ATMs dispense cash in US dollars and local currency. Most ATM booths feature a lock on the door so you can withdraw your money in relative security. There is no shortage of Scotiabanks and RBCs with a few CIBCs thrown in for good measure (all Canadian banks). The local bank NCB also has a prominent presence.
*Information is accurate at time of original publishing (January 2014). Various sources used include guidebooks, tourism authority and local guides.