22 things to know before going to Jamaica: etiquette, safety and epic nightlife


Pulsating reggae and dancehall beats aside, Jamaica’s natural beauty – gorgeous beaches, jungle-covered mountains, tropical waterfalls – and world-renowned culinary scene is what sets it apart from other islands in the Caribbean. 

That said, the island’s fame as a musical powerhouse goes hand-in-hand (at times) with its reputation for gang violence. As someone who worked in Jamaica for a year as a paralegal for an NGO, spending much time in Kingston’s neighborhoods and prisons, there are many things I wish I’d known before arriving. 

Learning the nation’s unspoken rules and etiquette goes a long way toward helping you understand what makes Jamaica such a remarkable place. Here are our top tips to help you make the most of your visit. 

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Planning your trip to Jamaica

Which part of the island is best for me? 

Jamaica is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean, so where you decide to stay depends on what you’re into. For beaches and water sports, Negril and the north coast are your best bets. 

Montego Bay and Ocho Rios combine excellent dining scenes with proximity to natural attractions and buzzy nightlife, though when it comes to the Jamaican music scene, Kingston – the capital – is king. 

Treasure Beach (south coast) and Port Antonio (north coast) offer a taste of low-key, laid-back Jamaica, while those interested in traditional Maroon culture can reach the two Maroon towns from the west…

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