Between the sway of the palm trees, the sizzle of jerk chicken, and the electricity of the music, there is a magnetism and allure to Jamaica that cannot be replicated. The island captures all the best aspects of the Caribbean and it is a backpacker’s dream thanks to the abundance of affordable adventures and laid-back tempo of the lifestyle.
But you will need to get a bit creative to avoid the slew of all-inclusive resorts that Jamaica is best known for. Staying on a $50-a-day budget isn’t impossible but you will need to follow a few tips to make sure you don’t break the bank.
Let me hear it from the millennials in the back: “Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s [Jamaica] time!”
How to Get There
The shortest flights to Jamaica are from Florida with most flights originating in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Low-cost carriers like Spirit and JetBlue often have round-trip tickets for as little as $100 but in peak season you can expect to pay upwards of $500. You can also fly directly to Montego Bay or Kingston from Gatwick, Birmingham, and Manchester.
Only a handful of travelers from Africa and the Middle East will need a visa to enter Jamaica. The rest simply need to complete the Jamaica C5 form online and present it upon arrival.
Once you are in Jamaica, you can rely heavily on local taxis and public transportation. JUTC buses in Kingston cost less than $1 and will take you all around the city and minibusses are also rampant. You also won’t have a hard time finding local taxis. You will pay around $3 for trips in the city and under $10 for rides between towns. These rides might be a bit more “adrenaline-fueled” than private cars but see it as a bonus adventure and you will quickly appreciate the experience.
Where to Stay
You can’t toss a coconut without hitting a swanky all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. This makes it a little tricky for budget-conscious travelers to find accommodation. But all hope is not lots!
There are many hostels and local guesthouses that will put a roof over your head. If that sounds basic, it is because it is- a taste of the real Jamaica. Many will charge extra for amenities like hot water but with the Jamaican humidity always gripping you in a warm embrace, who needs it?
The trick is, many of these places do not advertise on your tried-and-trusted booking platforms. You will have to put in the legwork once you get to the island. Word of mouth is your best source for cheap accommodation.
What to Do
Jamaica is a treasure trove of adventure and there are tons more to do than just enjoying the sun, sea, and surf. But with the ever-growing market of resort-goers infiltrating the island, you must beware of some heavily inflated costs for some activities.
One of the biggest shocks to broke backpackers might be the culture of charging for beach access. Iconic beaches like Doctor’s Cave and Frenchman’s Cove are not free and you will need to look for less touristy areas to enjoy free beaches. On the plus side: these are less touristy areas! So relish in the obvious absence of holidaymakers and enjoy the true spirit of Jamaica.
Montego Bay is the most popular destination in Jamaica but you will be doing yourself an injustice by trying to squeeze a budget holiday out of this polished enclave. Negril and Ocho Rios are also extremely touristy and you have to pay taxes just to breathe resort air there.
Instead, set your sites on Kingston to really sink your teeth into Jamaican life. Port Antonio and Treasure Beach also offer authentic experiences at a fraction of the cost. Jamaica’s interior is also a nature lover’s playground with areas like Cockpit Country bursting at the seams with plant and animal life. Look for rural villages here and around the Blue Mountains to dig into Jamaica’s wild side and save some money at the same time.
What to Eat
Everyone loves Jamaican flavors and this cuisine has a reputation that precedes itself. But just because you have a hankering for Jerk-everything doesn’t mean it will be cheap when you get to the homeland. Locals know this is what you have come for and will pay anything to get it.
You will be better off trying other local specialties like saltfish or beans and rice which will only cost you around $2. Save the jerk dishes and elaborate seafood feasts for special occasions. A good rule of thumb for saving money on food is: if it is in a guidebook, stay away. Eat where you see scores of locals drumming together to know that you are getting quality without being extorted.
Susan Noel is an experienced content writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips with the audience.
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