Friday, March 2, 2007


Here you will find tips on what you need to do before coming to Jamaica: You can also post your name and a message so everyone will know who is coming to Jamaica!


(We will be staying at the RIU OCHO RIOS Resort: The following was written by someone who was on vacation at the resort last summer)

If you haven’t already received it, you should consider getting the
Hepatitis A/ B Twinrix vaccination. Once you have it, it’s good for 20 yrs. However, it takes 3 vaccinations, and two of them need to be administered before you leave, each a month apart.
The water in the resort is all purified, as is the water in the ice makers, and it is safe to drink, brush your teeth with etc. Off the resort, always use bottled water, and stay away from ice.
Chances are you will not get sick, but it’s always good to be prepared.
You may want to get a Tetanus shot too.


The staff at the resort work very hard all day long, so a small tip for hard work is always appreciated. Tipping at the hotel is not mandatory, but the drivers to and from the airport, and certainly tour guides almost always expect a tip. We always tipped our maid everyday a few USD one’s just to be nice. So try to bring a bunch of USD one dollar bills with you, as well as some fives. We brought 100.00 USD last year and burned through it quickly in a week. We’ll leave it up to you to decide how much to bring, but I would suggest 150.00 USD cash minimum. Again, it depends on how many excursions off resort you do.

If you wish to rent snorkel equipment or any other kind of water sport stuff that is not included at the resort, they usually want a USD deposit/ and or cash payment. Last year they did not take credit cards as a payment form, however they had just opened the business on the beach so it could be different this year.

Traveler’s cheques are accepted at the resort for tours. However, if you wish to cash a USD Traveler cheque at the front desk, you will get Jamaican dollars back, not USD.

Jamaican dollars are acceptable to use, however like most vacation spots, they all want USD.
There was an ATM in the hotel that dispensed USD, but the service charge to use it was 6 USD!!! Ouch.

Credit cards can be used for paying for golf, tours etc with no problems at all. All of the shops in town take credit cards as well.
But you will need you passport in the resort gift shop to verify your actual being. It's very annoying.

On Thursday nights the resort has the “local vendor” night. There are wonderful arts and craft type of things to purchase, and of course you should barter barter barter! Again, USD is preferred, but they will take Jamaican. Just make sure you know your conversion rate before you bargain, otherwise you may end of paying more in Jamaican dollars. As of this writing,
1 USD = 67 Jamaican dollars!

Each Room at the Riu has its own private safe for you to lock up your passport and money etc. it’s not huge, but can fit lots in it. You will get a safe key when you check in. Don’t lose it, as it is a 50 USD fee to get another one. We brought a small change purse with us to take in our beach bag that would carry our room key (yes it’s a key can you believe it?) and our safe key. Then I tried to hide it in the bag/ CD case etc. If we did not want to bring our safe key with us to the pool/ beach, we often hid it in an item (like golf club bag) in our room. But we never, ever had a problem with stuff going missing, even when I forgot to lock the safe one day. Oops.

Bus trip from the airport:
If you suffer from motion sickness, then sit at the front of the bus if you can, and pop a gravol before you hit the road. The road can be windy at times, and bumpy. This is a 2nd world country after all, and the road to Ocho Rios has been under construction for 2 years now, and still is not finished. It’s a beautiful journey, right bedside the ocean, so relax and enjoy the scenery. It s a 90 minute trip ( due to road conditions) and they make a pit stop half way for a bathroom and beer break at this wonderful clean rest stop beside the ocean. The bus is big and air conditioned, with the driver telling interesting facts along the way.

The Resort:
The resort is huge. There are 3 buildings, with the restaurants in the middle building with the lobby. There are two pools to enjoy; the one by the suites is definitely a little more quiet than the other one. The pool water is not heated, so it can feel a bit chilly. The beach is sandy white, and the water is turquoise clear. The water is warm, and there are slight waves only. Be warned, there are vendors standing in the water trying to sell you stuff. They have to have their feet in the water, if not, a security guard tells them to back off. It’s some crazy Jamaican law, water is not private property, only the beach. Just be polite, and say no, and they will back off. You can walk the beach for a while; it is safe and very nice. There are palm trees on the beach for shade, and lots of pool loungers to go around. You can rent kayaks, go parasailing, set up diving trips or snorkel right off the beach. There are three gift shops selling just about anything, but prices are inflated. I wouldn’t suggest wandering off the resort by yourself at night, or down the beach either. There are no streetlamps off the resort, and definitely not on the beach. It’s a safe place, by why invite trouble?

Ocho Rios:
The town of Ocho Rios is a port stop for the huge cruise ships. Try to avoid the town when the ships are in port. (You can see them from the resort, so you can tell) There is a main shopping area which is overpriced for cruise ship passengers, but there is a small little market down the main street that has great local crafts. But be prepared to be harassed and to bargain for your goods. Be aware of the “island Shop area” it’s so expensive and Americanized, as it was constructed for the Cruise Ship passengers really! It’s where Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” restaurant and Bar is.
There are banks in town that change traveller’s cheques and there is a pretty strong police presence around, so it is safe to wander around. Of course, you should always keep your money belt close by and leave all necessary documents at the resort. If you are looking at buying Rum, don’t buy it in Ocho Rios. Wait until you leave, and pick it up at Duty free at the Montego Bay Airport. It is way cheaper there; a 26 oz bottle cost me 8 USD last year.

Food and drink:
Basically, you could eat everyday at every hour if you wanted. The breakfast restaurant is called St. Ann’s. It is a buffet style, with about 18 buffet counters to choose from. You can get waffles, eggs, fruit, pancakes, smoothies…need I go on? On busy days you might have to wait 5 minutes to get the eggs refilled, but we have never had a problem. You cannot wear just your bathing suit inside, you need a cover up and shoes.

At lunch, we always hit the Jerk shack on the beach for some BBQ. Was it good, if you like spicy food. You can supplement it with buffet lunch at the Plantation restaurant that has salads, fries, burgers, local Jamaican delicacies etc. St Ann’s restaurant is also open for lunch as well. No wet bathing suits and bare feet are allowed.

Dinner has lots of variety. There are “specialty” restaurants that you must make a reservation for the day of. It forces you to line up for an hour, but it’s not too bad. I beleive they have revamped the reservations system now. Sir Richard’s gourmet restaurant is very fancy, and the food is quite good. The Asian restaurant is great, and for those of you with a suite…lucky you, you can go to the Japanese restaurant. There is also a steak house, and of course St. Ann’s restaurant as well. The dress code for the specialty restaurants (and dinner in general) is no shorts for the men. Pants and collar shirts are required. Women should look nice, can wear dressy shorts, but not wear beach wear.

After dinner they always have entertainment shows, which are kind of cheesy, but hey, you’re on vacation so does it matter? The bar is close by, and the drinks are anything you can imagine. I personally recommend the “Miami Vice”. It’s yummy. The disco opens at 11 pm, and closes at 4 am!!! I think. Actually, I can’t remember.

Off Resort Activities:
There are so many things to do in Jamaica, it’s impossible to list them all. You can basically sign up for any type of activity offered at the Sunquest desk in the lobby. Canopy jungle zip line tours, ATV rides, river rafting, Plantation tours, go see Bob Marley’s birthplace, mountain bike tours… you name it. All trips are in USD, or Jamaican, and are not cheap. The average price is 55.00 USD and up. It depends what you want to do. They will take Visa and traveller’s cheques though. In the past, I have gone on trips and signed up for so many activities, that I come home and need a vacation from my vacation. Try to space them out if you are planning on doing some. I highly recommend the canopy Junglel zip line tour! It's awesome. And if you are a golfer, they have amazing courses to play. But it's not cheap.

The Jamaican Culture:
Just like Canada is known for Hockey and beer, Jamaica is famous for Bob Marley and marijuana. You will smell it in the air, and may even be asked if you want to buy it (in a non threatening way). Please don’t be offended. A smile and a polite no will send them along their way. It’s just such a part of the Jamaican lifestyle, that the people think nothing of it. If someone is very persistent be firm and walk away. If you walk down the beach away from the resort property, you will most likely be offered “ganga”, but don’t be afraid.
Jamaican’s speak English, but also have a language called “patua”, which is a mixture of English and island slang words. Don’t even try to decipher what they are speaking…it’s that crazy! In general, we found the people very friendly and pleasant, and never felt threatened or scared when we were off the resort. Remember, tourism is Jamaica’s #1 form of income, and the residents know it! Cars drive on the left hand side (British influence) and it’s quite hectic. If you can avoid driving yourself, it might be wise.

Items to think about bringing:
Go Cups- I always bring an insulated “go cup” down with me. The plastic cups the bar gives out for your beer, fruity cocktails are quite small, and they melt and get warm in the hot sun very fast. The bar staff will make your drink right in the go cup, so why not? My drinks stayed nice and cool that way. Less trips to the bar!

Immodium- We have never gotten sick while staying at a Riu resort, but you never know. Get the fast dissolving tablets.

Water shoes- The legendary Dunn’s River falls are right down the road, and if you want to climb them (which I highly recommend), then you need a water shoe with a grip. You can rent them outside the falls for about 5 USD, or just bring a Teva Sandal or water shoes with you. Walmart sells the slip on water shoes; aka Aqua Socks, for cheap.

Underwater camera- There is great snorkeling nearby, and if you do climb Dunn’s River Falls then you will want your picture taken! The resort charges a fortune for the underwater cameras at the gift shop, so make sure you get one before you leave.

Sunscreen- Again, the resort charges a fortune for this type of stuff, so bring it with you.

Jewelry and Expensive Items- We advise you don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose. You don’t want to encourage petty theft, so leave your valuables at home for piece of mind!

Hope this helps you out. And remember, if things aren’t the same as home, relax. It's Jamaica, and they move to their own time frame.