My trip to Montego Bay as Destination Experience Representative for WestJet Vacations was a wonderful experience that allowed me to discover—and fall in love with—Jamaica. That is why, since I got back last year, whenever someone says they are thinking of vacationing there, I share some tips with them. Want to hear them? Here are a few.
First, before you even leave the house, go online and get yourself a Club MoBay pass for a great start at the Montego Bay airport. Why? This pass allows you to bypass the sometimes long customs and immigrations lines, thus providing faster access to the luggage claims area. Furthermore, you can stop by a lounge offering all-you-can-eat food and unlimited drinks before taking a bus or cab ride to your hotel. Renting a car? Driving in Jamaica is an adventure in itself. Make sure you drive on the left side of the road! Being an old British colony, on this island, people drive on the same side as in the United Kingdom. Also, don’t bother getting Jamaican dollars at the airport’s currency exchange office. Instead, bring U.S. dollars—they’re accepted almost everywhere on the island.
Once at your hotel, drop your bags, slip into a bathing suit, slather on some sunscreen and hit the beach. Jamaican beaches are simply breathtaking. Relax to the sound of the waves and go for a dip in the warm clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. The sun and heat do get intense in the afternoon—you may be tempted to sip on a few refreshing Margaritas. Excellent choice, but remember to also drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Many think that the tap water in Jamaica is safe to drink. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, opt for bottled water—you will find some at your hotel. Speaking of hotels, WestJet Vacations offers great vacation packages for Jamaica, including non-stop flights from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg.
You like to eat? In my seven months as a Destination Experience Representative, I have never once heard any of our guests complain about the food. Coincidence? No way. In Jamaica, the food is simply delicious. For breakfast, try ackee with salted fish—popular local meal—and of course, a delicious cup of Jamaica’s pride: Blue Mountain coffee. If you are staying anywhere in Montego Bay, you have to go to Scotchie’s. Trust me! I’ve been to this nice outdoor local outdoor jerk joint at least 50 times. It offers typical Jamaican meals such as fish, chicken sausage, and of course jerk pork and jerk chicken, to which you can add a side of festivals—small long plain doughnuts. And it’s all affordable. Mmm… Now I’m hungry! And of course, you should try a Red Stripe—the island’s famous national beer.
I am often asked if it is safe to venture outside the resort. Well, I’ve covered about 17,000 kilometres of the island as part of my work, and I’ve never feared for my safety. So the answer is yes, but within the tourist areas, where you will feel safe. If you do decide to leave the resort, you should still be cautious: leave your valuables, such as jewellery, in the hotel safe and do not carry too much cash with you. Many stores accept credit cards. If you plan on paying for your purchases that way, you will need to show picture ID, such as a driver’s license, to use your card. By the way, if there’s an emergency and you need to contact police—not likely, but just in case—dial 1-1-9, not 9-1-1. That’s right! That’s how they roll in the land of Bob Marley.
Various exciting excursions are offered outside your resort. Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios is a safe bet. Once up there, you can cross the jungle Tarzan-style, zip-lining through and bob-sleighing on a track! Dunn’s River Falls is a popular tourist attraction in the area. However, I much prefer the YS Falls in Negril. The backdrop is heavenly. These falls are also a lot less packed with people. If you go, you should stop by the Appleton rum factory in the same region. It’s a very interesting tour, even for those who do not drink. Appleton has been making their famous rum here for more than 250 years. Finally, end the day with a stop at Rick’s Café, in the Western part of the island, for a breathtaking view of the sunset! You will also see daring divers jumping from towering heights. During your stay, ask your hotel staff about the various excursions offered in this country.
Unfortunately, vacations don’t last forever—you do eventually need to fly back home. Do not panic. Relax and think of all you will bring back with you (and not necessarily in your luggage). Once home, you will remember Jamaica and its rich, tasty food, its beautiful sunny beaches and its luxurious landscapes. You will probably already be planning your next getaway. Who knows? Maybe you too will have tips for your loved ones or you may try to convince them to go too?