Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jamaica - Thinking Outside The Resort

As promised, let me share with you my thought on a few activities you can do while vacationing in the beautiful island that is Jamaica.

I have to admit, I was planning on staying on the resort the whole time we were there. Why? Well I thought since Jamaica is the capital of the crime world that it would be unsafe, period... and it's funny because I don't come from the safest country either if you read Canadian Border Services advisory (Belarus, my country of birth, not Canada). Let me just say - I WAS WRONG!

Now, I'm not saying you should just wonder out of the resort and walk about town, no. But since there's not much to buy (other than some rum if you're thinking of bring it back) I suggest spending the money you bring on some wonderful excursions. According to some reviews I've read, there are a few private/independent companies that offer great tours; but since we didn't take much time to research that we just booked our outside trips with what they had available at our resort (which was just fine).

Here are the tours that people from our group went on (in different combinations): Dunns River Falls (apparently, a must!), Dolphin's Cove, ATV off-road adventure (the boys love this activity), Zip-lining, Bob Marley Mausoleum, Montego Bay Shopping. I don't know if I'm forgetting anything...

Personally, I only ventured out twice: the Montego Bay Shopping & Sightseeing and the Bob Marley Mausoleum.


I think this "tour" was something like US$60, but honestly, there wasn't much sightseeing... Basically, the driver talked a little bit about the things we were passing while driving (like, "oh look, there are banana trees on your right"). So if you choose to take part in this tour, think of it as a group cab ride to the market with the bus driver coming to get you should the locals try to devour you!

TIP #6: don't recommend this trip if you're not into haggling at all.

Anyway, the shopping itseld was alright - you'll likely make 2 stops - one at the store with "good deals" where you'll REALLY have to haggle your way, and the second stop at something that looks like a crafts market.

Stop 1 - before buying anything, take a walk around your resort's gift shop and take note of what you'd like to buy and how much it costs there. You should use that as a benchmark. For example, I bought a shot glass for US$5, which I haggle for - original price was US$10; only later I saw the same shot glass at our gift shop for US$4! The "good deals" store will either have items with prices that are just ridiculous or no prices at all. You'll have to haggle your way down. I was able to get the shop owner from US$196 to US$130 (I bought shot glasses, magnets, postcards, t-shits and a baseball hat).

Stop 2 - the crafts market... This basically looks like a mini village of attached little huts that pretty much have the same things inside each one and a hut owner that begs you to come in and look (because they don't charge for looking!). Unless you are willing to buy something (and there are a few nice things in there, such as jewelry made of natural materials), DO NOT ENTER the hut! :)

TIP #7: Bring lots of small bills (1s and 5s) because you will not get change! What they will try to do is to get you to buy something from their friend's hut.

I gotta say, I'm alright with this sort of thing; from time to time we haggle in our markets in Belarus, but some people that were on the bus with us couldn't handle this and didn't like the experience that much. To each their own, I guess.

Here are some of the photos from that trip outside of the resort:
Now, I know it's hard to see it here, but this is their local REHAB...
also known as the liquer shop and pool hall!
At the crafts market
Some local entertainment spots on Gloucester Avenue

Gloucester Avenue

See that Margaritaville on the corner? There is a free shuttle that will take you there (I think you need a reservation though)

What you'd see standing next to Margaritaville... ahhhhhh...

right across from the crafts market this beautiful tree grows...
Coming up next, I will tell you all about our visit to the Bob Marley Mausoleum!

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