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  • Writer's pictureManuela Lenoci

Travel to Jamaica, "One Love" land of reggae, sea, myths and ganja

Discovering with "Viaggi Avventure nel Mondo Tour Operator" a Caribbean island with a thousand extraordinary peculiarities starting with its people

The right approach for those visiting Jamaica for the first time is to know about customs and traditions of the locals.


The philosophy of life in Jamaica is "don't put off until tomorrow what you might very well put off until the day after tomorrow." This phrase explain the lifestyle of the reggae land, characterized by a very leisurely pace, no stress and hustle, slow... "no problem." So if you go somewhere to eat, keep their lifestyle in mind without playing the role of "il milanese imbruttito" after they make you wait barely an hour for the meal you ordered. Rule of survival in Jamaica: order a fantastic "chicken jerk" (a staple dish of the local culture) and wait for them to bring it to you while you drink a mango Daikiri on the beach. They will come to find you when the dish is on the table. Meanwhile on the streets they will offer you "ganja" (or try to sell it to you), in the name of brotherhood and the "Rastafarian" mood that pervades the island. Even if you are pro-weed or not, ganja, weed for short, in Jamaica while illegal, is literally part of the culture, as well as a fundamental element of the religion, a way of life according to the people who populate it.


The rastafarianesimo as a way of life was also professed by Bob Marley and is rooted in history. For many, rastafarianism may simply mean moving to the beat of reggae music, but its expression of love, hope, anger, and social discontent is the real meanning of Jamaica, at least modern Jamaica, a densely populated and impoverished country, trying to redeem itself from its addiction.


THE MOTHER TONGUE

“Waah gwaan” was the key word of the #ioviaggioavvenure vacation. And one that I will never forget! It is difficult for foreigners to understand Jamaicans right away. They speak in slang "Waah appn'?" or "What gwaan?", Creole variants of "What's up?" or "What's going on?" both of which can be translated as "How's it going?"

They are pronounced with a very strong accent and accompanied by an equally strong physical stance. Although English is the official language, they speak this Creole-English dialect "the patwah"-(broken English-) a term derived from French patois that has African (Akan and Yoruba), Spanish, Portuguese, French, Amerindian (Arawak) and Asian influences.

It is important to keep in mind that the Jamaican population consists mainly of descendants of slaves from West Africa (76.3% of the total). This is followed by mixed African Americans, mainly descended from the African and European branches (15.1%) Asians (Indians 3.2%; Chinese 1.2%; Lebanese 0.1%), Europeans (3.1%).

Therefore "this is a black continent" in the heart of the Caribbean, the main characteristic to remember when choosing to come here.

DOVE SI TROVA LA JAMAICA


Jamaica is not just a Caribbean island to visit. It is a voyage of discovery, a journey to be fully experienced by contaminating yourself with the locals. It has a its own dimension of life, completely disconnected from the reality to which we are usually accustomed.

This island, is completely different in customs, traditions and landscapes from other Caribbean populations. When Cristoforo Colombo landed on the island in 1494 at Discovery Bay, between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay he described the new discovery as "the most beautiful island that human eye has ever seen."

Although very small, under 3 million inhabitants, as large as Rome 2.8 mln, slightly larger than Paris 2.10 mln, and slightly smaller than Naples, 3.02 mln, Jamaica is an island with bad road conditions, with an almost total absence of properly made roads, equally used to reach the island's locations, but making travel difficult and slow.


It has an its own state, with its own government, laws and currency, It is a British colony. An Independent country since 1962. The head of state is King Charles III of England.

This land in the common imagination is the home of Bob Marley, of Reggae music. Jamaicans will be forever grateful to Bob. Walking the streets, the myth of the king of reggae, is well alive. A religious symbol of the possibility of redemption for all Jamaicans. The First World Star to emerge from the Third World at least until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then the phenomenon exploded Usain Bolt (but more commercial) and after that the Jamaican artist Shagghy who in 1995 with his track "Boombastic" won the award for Best Reggae Album in 1996.


In addition to Jamaica, there are truly many Caribbean islands to visit: Barbados, Cuba, Anguilla, St. Martin, Aruba Island, Martinique, and Santo Domingo. Precisely, Jamaica is located 630 km from the Central American continent, 150 km from Cuba to the north and 190 km from the island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located, to the northeast. HOW TO REACH

From Bari/Brindisi Obviously there are no direct flights you have from Rome or Milan.

In any case you can reach both Rome and Milan from Puglia: by train consulting all trains from the website of Frecce di Trenitalia by plane (su Fiumicino con Ita) consulting all trains from the website of Aeroporti di Puglia From Milano or Roma To get to Jamaica there are no direct flights from either Milan or Rome.

You must always make at least one stopover and in the worst case even three, considering a trip that can take from 17 hours to more than 30 hours. The main airports of arrival in Jamaica are Montego Bay and Kingston. Stopovers usually take place in New York, as in our case from Rome we traveled by United Airlines direct flight to Newark. Or stopovers in Miami with also other airlines such as American Airlines, Air France, British Airways and Caribbean Airlines.

From major European capitals.

There are no direct flightseither although many European cities are well connected to Kingston and Montego Bay. The cities from which to depart and reach Jamaica in less than 20 hours are Frankfurt with Lufthansa (World Adventure Travel's preferred choice) London with American Airlines, Madrid with Iberia, and Amsterdam with Delta Airlines, making one stopover in Miami, Atlanta or New York.


JAMAICA MOOD

Its mood is "Out of Many, One People" - "ONE LOVE" taken from Bob Marley's song for "goodbye." It refers to the universal love and respect for all people, regardless of their race, creed or color that contributed to the creation of the Jamaican people. The phrase began in Jamaica among Rastafarians, but has since spread around the world and is used in reggae and hip hop communities as a way of saying "goodbye."

HOW TO MOVE.

We landed in Montego Bay, which is a mess. I have Never seen an airport so packed, it couldn't hold the people. From here there are several alternatives of touring. (see map below)


Begin the journey toward Negril, or stay north by moving toward Ocho Rios and continue to the northeast area of Port Antonio. Either way, you need a driver or for the brave, rent a car (not recommended choice). You drive on the right but because of the nonexistent roads and unmanageable traffic this is not recommended.


For the entire vacation our personal driver was Mr. Othoniel Brown, aka O'Neill. A reliable, serious, good person with excellent taste, but above all, calm. He was able to advise us, taking us to exclusive above-average places (restaurants, markets, bars, hotels) capable of combining Western taste with Jamaican style. He was punctual and that was enough to choose him. He definitely made the difference in our vacation, acting as a mediator whenever misunderstanding (in heated tones) occurred with the locals.


You will notice that Jamaicans shout, get angry, are proud and they may seem aggressive. Only to realize that theirs is just fear, lack of confidence, or perhaps a defense mechanism they carry with them from history. The two loudest women in Jamaica we met in Ocho Rios. They were shouting and railing at me, never looking at me in the eye, shouting at my date. Anyway, I leave you the contact of Mr. Othoniel Brown - aka O'Neill - if you come this way, email him before you arrive - othnielcbrown@yahoo.com - and give him my regards. Services: He provides transportation from all the vacation, for round trip to the airport, and also makes himself available for hotel reservations and suggests great restaurants.

Instead, I booked from Italy the transfer service from the airport to Negril by Dudley Warren - duds24@hotmail.com A big big man with a good face but very very stubborn. He made us wait 3h at the airport in Montego Bay, because of traffic "he said", howewer risked lynching by my group because of him. He is very helpful


He provides transportation and also makes himself available for hotel reservations, which he booked for us while we were still in Italy, but which you always need to verify with written email from the hotel manager, despite his intermediation.


During our days in Negril we also met an Italian guy from Novara transplanted to Jamaica - Francesco Tour Jamaica - very nice and with a dreadlock. Married to a Jamaican and who has "totally changed his life" integrating perfectly. He organizes excursions and experiences for Italians going to Jamaica . His mood "Discover the face of the real Jamaica, make the vacation within the vacation."


BASIC/PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS


Despite its economic backwardness, Jamaica shocked me with its high cost of living. Very high. They have a local currency, the Jamaican dollar, but prefer to be paid in U.S. dollars. In fact, prices in major tourist centers are comparable to some cities in the United States or Europe.

I suggest bringing from Italy, only a few hundred U.S. dollars by booking them in advance from your bank. For current expenses, however, I suggest to pay in local currency. Behind the usual clichés, however, it is not about the carefree island.

It is possible to withdraw from an ATM in Jamaica, or, very important, when you pay by credit card in a restaurant ask specifically to pay in Jamaican dollars. For all other expenses such as excursions, you need to have exact amount for paying, otherwise the change becomes "tips."


WORD OF ORDER: bargain, always, everywhere, with everyone.

TIME ZONE There are 6 hours less than in Italy.

Free WIFI, everywhere but bad. I personally bought a local DIGICEL card at Montego Bay airport with 22 USD I had internet all week

VISA If you have a stopover in the US you need to arrange for ESTA: it is done online and expire in 2 years from issuance and is about 24 USD. New regulations require, for those who have traveled in the last 2 years to Cuba Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen an entry visa to be obtained from the US consulate or embassy in Italy for the modest fee of 180 USD.

CLIMATE Tropical. Temperatures never too high during the day 25 to 30 degrees, fresh air in the evening. The best time to vacation in Jamaica is from December to April (Sun sets early at 6 p.m.) although you can visit year-round.

ELECTRICITY Indispensable adapter.


ITINERARY

29.12.2022

My trip to Jamaica began with a direct intercontinental flight from Rome to New York-Newark with an overnight stay in NY - THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEP


30.12.2022 - 03.01.2023

We landed in Montego Bay at 1:00 p.m. and it was really frenzy. A traffic jam that forced us to revise the schedule. Initially we were scheduled to visit Montego Bay, take a dip in the crystal clear waters of Doctor'Cave and then bioluminscence from Waters Luminous Lagoon.


Traffic out of the ordinary led us to change our plans. We went to relax at the beach, first end-of-year swim since Tropical Beach Montegobay and here we order the first Jerk chicken of the vacation, at the Chiringuito on the beach with a Daikiri cocktail.

Clear sea and white sand. We were exhausted after 78h non stop and here we started to relax.


Immediately after sunset we go for a hike from Glistening Waters Lagoon . It was described as an unforgettable experience. In reality the blue luminescence is not very noticeable, for the cost per person (Usd 25 pax) it should have been at least as blinding as the Northern Lights. They offered a drink and then let us boardinng on a boat The excursion is to take a tour of this lagoon and the bravest take a swim in the dark. The bottom is marshy. As you move your arms and feet, the water changes color, The changing color is very slight. If you can bargain on the price, then fine. Otherwise I would skip it.

FIRST STOP NEGRIL

In Negril you find the true Caribbean sea with blue water, almost always clear skies and a dreamy sunset that falls into the sea, visible only on this side of Jamaica..

Negril is considered the mecca of local tourism with many accommodations and small restaurants on Seven Miles beach: the longest and most beautiful beach on the island with more than 10 km of boardwalk and many small restaurants where you can enjoy your vacation taking care of your self- Hakuna Matata.

In this part of the island your life takes place on the beach, barefoot, and it is incredibly rejuvenating to abandon all means of transportation except the boat for a few days. Here I suggest staying at least four days and unplugging. Enjoy lobsters, swimming and walking.


We stayed at the Shield’s Negril Villas a 3-star hotel located at the beginning of Seven Miles right by the sea. Very minimal in everything but it allowed us to have breakfast every day on the sea view terrace. This was the reason I chose it.


However, I also suggest keeping an eye on other accommodations that I discovered during my stay while walking on Seven Miles that are also more comfortable for the same price, affordable, and offer more services:


- Legend Beach Hotel Very nice hotel. On the beach. Good rates at all times of the year except New Year's Eve


- KUYAKA The hotel is on the beach and is fabulous very original. They have created a microcosm of the forest with wooden rooms. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and was also excellent.


- Negril Beach house Condos, very cool little apartments on the beach

- Barry rooms IrieStyle, very Jamaican style an experience not to be missed

- Yellow Bird sea, quiet, surrounded by greenery but sea view, the hammock on the beach is the beginning of the dream


- Fun Holiday Beach Resort Negril - An all-inclusive family hotel. It's pretty simple, nice and small but on the beach. With what Jamaica costs, I would think about it. The important thing is always to make arrangements before you arrive.


- Rondel Village, has 56 rooms each named after a Jamicano fruit. It is grand class and the economy version costs 140 USD per night for a double room


- SANDALS RESORT- A place where your dreams come true. With an ambience that melds relaxed tropical luxury with barefoot elegance in Jamaica,


In Negril we spent New Year's Eve.



For dinner, the guys in my group choose a very nice little bar to eat lobster the KAMARA’S RESTAURANT. For New Year's Eve, there is no Western-style celebration, but the atmosphere was equally very nice. Dinner and after dinner on the beach. Large bonfires had been set up on the sand. The various little bars at Seven Miles were playing reggae music and it was possible to stop and drink at any of them. A group of Americans were having fun with lantern lights throwing, and we asked to do that too. At midnight, Negril greeted the New Year with fireworks and it was very romantic indeed.

Among the activities not to be missed in this part of the island were the drinks at Rick’s Cafè.



Ideally, you should arrive by boat before sunset. A boat to take you to Rick's is also easily found on the beach. I suggest returning by BUS by arranging with driver for a pick up after sunset (it sets at 6 pm). The atmosphere is nice and staying for dinner is also very pleasant. Go there in costume bringing a pareo. The great thing is that as soon as you arrive, you see lots of people diving off the cliff and you think you want to do it too.



There are various heights or watch for others to dive while waiting for the sunset. I dove from a medium height cliff while a daredevil in my group from the highest cliff.

Great burgers and fries 15 USD fabulous mango daikiri 12 USD


Jamaica is also famous for waterfalls as well as reggae and the sea. There are several of them. In this area we have been to YS FALLS , very very nice little ones, a sampling of the higher-ups like BLUE HOLE (ocho rios) and SOMERSET FALL (port antonio) which are sensational.



We took an excursion to the small island of Bobby Cay, opposite Seven Miles.

You arrive by boat, they cook for you a barbecue of Lobster, chicken jerk, rice and Red Stripe. Dudley had provided us with Captain Mickey's contact information. We had a great time and the lobster for all of us in the group was one of the best we had and is perhaps the only reason this excursion is really worth doing: Mickey'barbecue lobster. Negotiate on the price (cost $65 USD per person) otherwise get a boat taxi and go there just to take a swim and go eating in the on of the restaurant listed belove.

Because of I am a sea lover, together with two friends, equipped with mask, tube and fins we took a long (fabulous) swim with snorkeling in which the reef was visible and swam to a private beach, gorgeous till the private beach of Point Village Resort.



On the way back from Bobby Cay, we stop for an aperitif at MARGERITEVILLE. (see video above) A beachside bar where we drunk a daikiri and admired one of the most beautiful sunsets of the vacation. Any little can be perfect. at that hour with some music and drinking. No place is ever particularly crowded. Frequented mainly by Jamaicans . Amazinf frozen cocktails.

We ate in lots of restaurants in these 3 days, we discoverd really interesting ones and we loved them all. We stayed in all of them. The menus are varied, from fish salads to chicken to chips and shrimp. Many dishes are coconut. All good. Prices from as low as 25 USD to as high as 35/38 USD.


RESTAURANTS IN SEVEN MILES AT THE BEACH (preferably for lunch)


The menu is really varied. From fish to meat to salads. Great breakfasts if you want to try a typical Jamaican breakfast. It is a breakfast bar


One of the best alternatives to chicken jerk and fried chicken. Vegan Restaurant. Light, vegan and really TASTY dishes. Big and rich. Eat food accompanied by mango or papaya DAIKIRI. Great


One of my favorites. Local food in a typical Jamaican atmosphere, so very spartan.

No reservations necessary, go just before dinner and let them know you will be going for dinner at 7:30 p.m. max 20


If I return to Jamaica I will try to come and stay at this place. Really cozy in its simplicity. Cozy place and great food, sophisticated dishes. I really enjoyed the crab cooked souffle-like with the crust around it. The atmosphere was lovely. Compared to other places they really care about the presentation of the place with dim lights and candles.


This beach restaurant has the BEST lobsters on the island (it keeps them alive on the shoreline). Lobster are big and tasty. After you try them, you won't be able to do without them.


A taste of Italy in Negril that never hurts. At this venue we only stayed for a drink after dinner at Corner Bari's


Crowded but always organize some live concert



RISTORANTI PER ESPERIENZA UNICA NELLA NEGRILDELL’ ENTROTERRA


A cross-section of Jamaican life. Take-out food (mostly chicken jerk or fried chicken) to eat on the tables outside. It's really minimal throughout but the food is good. It is frequented only by Jamaicans. A must-do experience.


TREASURE BEACH

We leave Negril with regret and we moved in the direction of Tresasure Beach. (Intermediate stop).

It takes 3h by bus the roads are bumpy so it is difficult to be able to keep a certain schedule. It is always subject to change depending on traffic or potholes in the road or missing signage.



We stop along the way for a guided tour by APPLETON RUM ESTATE

The house of the world's finest rum distillery, purchased by the Italian company Campari and employing more than 2,000 Jamaicans. We took a 3h tour with tasting and leave there drunk. (35 USD per person) but satisfied. Obligatory stop at the shop, obviously very expensive but a few rums in mignon version we managed to buy for gifts


Moving around by bus on this day was a tragedy, we arrived at TREASURE BEACH after 6 p.m., after sunset and went straight to dinner at JACK SPRAT The food was great seafood and if you miss Italy and want to get the PIZZA really good for 20 USD .


After dinner we go the hotel, we stayed at IRIE REST GUEST HOUSE We arrived at 10 p.m. We were warmly greeted by the owner's nephew, Chin, a young boy, very helpful he told us all about his life and gave good suggestions. Curly hair, tall, barely 18 years old but he was very helpful. As a type of facility very nice, I would say cozy, minimal though with large rooms. Surrounded by trees and greenery, close to the sea, which is "apparentely" fabulous. Unfortunately, too much vegetation leads to cockroaches in the house. Each of us found at least 1. The air conditioning was not working. Best of all, it was a stone's throw from the sea and breakfast was good. It was fine for one night.


Before we leave Treasure Beach, we go in the morning by boat to see the Floyd Pellican Bar, a hut in the middle of the sea that we unfortunately didn't get to see at sunset (where I red before it's amazing because of the color of the sun enveloping you)


By 8: 30 we were in the water bathing from BILLY’S BAY BEACH, 5 minutes walk from the hotel. There is a cool little bar that indicates you have arrived and there are colorful little moored boats . At 9:30 we are ready to set sail for the Floyd Pellican Bar . A cool place to go there I repeat only by boat at sunset. To Jamaicans cool means it makes you money because loved by western people. It looks like a hut in the middle of the sea, styled after the adventures of the mutant Kevin Costner in Waterworld, looking for the last patches of land in a waterlogged world. They advertise descrive as the coolest bar in the world, I guess if you go there at sunset it is really a wonderful place because the red of the sun conquers everyone and they make a really good chicken jerk. The background music is always that reggae music. But the hut when you get there can be disappointing. With a small tip, you get your initials on the wooden beams of the hut and it is difficult to find a small space


Look at this video promo


OCHO RIOS (Tappa intermedia)

At 1 p.m. off the forecast, we got into the bus and set off for OCHO RIOS with the knowledge that this day would be tiring, and it really was because it was almost always by bus. From Treasure beach to get to Ocho Rios, we crossed and cut the island centrally. We covered just 70km, it took us 5h.



Midway and highly anticipated stop on this vacation, 9 miles, il mausoleo di Bob Marley, Capitan Loco, a real lunatic, showed us the place where Bob Marley was born, lived 13 years (they showed us his bed and the little room where he grew up) and was buried together with his mother. Getting this house was the real journey. It closes at 5 p.m. Tickets you can buy at the ticket office on site. Cost 30 USD per person


At 6:40 p.m. we get back in the bus toward Ocho rios where we arrive directly at dinner time, our driver O'Neill thankfully suggesting a nice place MONGOOSE RESTAURANT . Very nice, cozy, spacious with background music and good food. Friendly staff.


We spent the night in Ocho Rios staying at MARINA VIEW . The hotel was old but clean. Breakfast was not included. The two owners were really out of their minds. They Shouted. In any case, we had a good time.


I report other interesting and affordable hotels that I really liked and can be a viable alternative in this location.



Before we leave the next day, let's take a tour to the beautiful waterfalls of BLU HOLE really an experience to remember especially for the dives from great heights into the icy waters They are really fantastic and unmissable. We had a great time and were in touch with nature. You pay the 10 euro ticket per person at the entrance. Leave tips for the guides are discretionary, but HERE tips are important. Rock shoes are required. Immediately afterwards we go for a walk in downtown OCHO RIOS and for a quick stop at the market to buy some gifts and get something to eat. Lively and extremely popular. Much more modern than the previous Tresure Beach.