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Yello’s Bite-Sized Guide to the Caribbean: Jamaica

by Karen Rollins May 9, 2022

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A beach in Jamaica

Yello knows the Caribbean! We are based in 20 countries across the region, and each one of them is quintessentially Caribbean while also offering visitors a one-of-a-kind cultural experience.

Our British, French and Dutch colonial past can be seen in our food, art, fashion, music, and languages. Yet as a region, we are also slowly developing our own unique Caribbean identity based on our distinct geography, values, and experiences.

It’s time to appreciate our shared Caribbean culture and learn more about the countries in our region – let’s fly over to Jamaica.

Independence Day: 6 August 1962

Capital: Kingston

Background: Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean Sea after Cuba and Hispaniola.

Christopher Columbus first sighted the island in 1494 and called it Santiago, but the indigenous name of Xaymaca (or Jamaica) has remained. The island was originally inhabited by the Taino people, but they were wiped out by the Spanish colonisers.

England invaded the island in 1655 and expelled the Spanish. The English settlers immediately began bringing over a large number of enslaved people from Africa to work on sugar cane plantations. The vast majority of the Jamaican population today is descended from enslaved Africans.

English is the official language, but Jamaican Creole is also widely spoken. Jamaican Creole is a distinct language with vocabulary, phrases, dialects, and grammar derived from England, West Africa, Spain and France.

Getting around: The easiest way to get around Jamaica is by taxi. Official taxis are operated by the Jamaica Union of Travelers Association (JUTA) or Jamaica Co-operative Automobile & Limousine Tours (JCAL).

Buses operated by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company are the cheapest way to travel, but they are unreliable and uncomfortable.

You can also hire a car to explore but road conditions are challenging because of potholes and erratic local drivers.

Must-see place of interest: Dunn’s River Falls and Park in Ocho Rios is one of the most popular waterfalls in Jamaica.

The 180ft high and 600ft long landmark is one of the few travertine waterfalls in the world, which means it is made up of step-like geological formations carved out over thousands of years. The bottom ‘step’ leads to a beach where the water from the Falls joins the Caribbean Sea.

Thousands of visitors go to Dunn’s River every year. You can choose a ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ climbing experience, although you can only reach the summit by getting wet.

Must-do annual event: Reggae Sumfest started in 1993 and is now the biggest music festival in Jamaica. The week-long event is held every year in mid-July at various venues in Montego Bay and features some of the best reggae, dancehall, and international artists in the world.

Motto: ‘Out of Many One People’

Unusual fact: British writer Ian Fleming wrote all his James Bond books at his ‘GoldenEye’ home in Oracabessa Bay on the northern coastline of Jamaica.

Jamaica is welcoming visitors. The official Visit Jamaica website has up-to-date travel information on COVID-19 protocols for anyone planning a trip to the island.

Sources: Britannica.com, U.S. News and Caribbean Warehouse.