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The third-largest island in the Caribbean offers excellent tourist facilities. It has wonderful white sand beaches, mountains, waterfalls, wildlife and the best coffee in the world. The island’s luxuriant tropical and subtropical vegetation is probably unsurpassed anywhere in the Caribbean. Kingston is its lively capital, surprising visitors with elegant, old colonial houses against the stunning backdrop of the Blue Mountains. Jamaica has gained a reputation for violence, and there certainly are no-go areas in Kingston, but most Jamaicans are overwhelmingly friendly and fun-loving. The two main tourist resorts are Negril and Montego Bay, Jamaica’s second city - known to one and all as Mo’ Bay.

Practical Information

Area: 10 991 km² (4 244 miles²)

Capital: Kingston Population: 660 000

Population: 2.7 million

Currency: Jamaican Dollar (JMD symbol J$) = 100 cents

Government: Constitutional monarchy. Gained independence from the UK in 1962.

Tipping: Most Jamaican hotels and restaurants add a service charge of 10%; otherwise 10 to 15% is expected.

Legal drinking age: 18

Time zone: GMT - 5

Languages: English

Additional descriptions

Jamaica: Social customs

Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. As tourism is a major industry in Jamaica, the visitor is well catered for, and hotel and restaurant staff are generally friendly and efficient. Outside Kingston,Read more the pace of life is relaxed and people are welcoming and hospitable. Normal codes of practice should be observed when visiting someone’s home. It may be common to see signs on the island referring to ‘Jah lives’, Jah being the name given to God by the Rastafarians. Casual wear is suitable during the day, but shorts and swimsuits must be confined to beaches and poolsides. Evening dress varies from very casual in Negril to quite formal during the season in other resorts, where some hotels and restaurants require men to wear jackets and ties at dinner. Possession of marijuana may lead to imprisonment and deportation.

Jamaica: Food and local specialties

Jamaican food is full of fire, taking advantage of pungent spices and peppers. Things to know: Bars have table and/or counter service. There are no licensing hours and alcohol can be bought all day. TheRead more national specialties are: ‘Rice and peas’, a tasty dish with no peas at all but with kidney beans, white rice, coconut milk, scallions (spring onions) and coconut oil. Salt fish (dried cod) and ackee (the cooked fruit of the ackee tree). Jamaican pepperpot soup (salt pork, salt beef, okra and Indian kale known as callaloo). Chicken fricassée Jamaican-style (a rich chicken stew with carrots, scallions, yams, onions, tomatoes and peppers prepared in unrefined coconut oil). Roast suckling pig (a three-month-old piglet which is boned and stuffed with rice, peppers, diced yam and thyme mixed with shredded coconut and corn meal). Jamaican rum is world famous, especially Gold Label and Appleton. Rum Punch. Rumona is a delicious rum cordial. Red Stripe beer. Tia Maria (a Blue Mountain coffee and chocolate liqueur).

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