Travel Tips & Features

9 Best things to do to Experience the real Jamaica

Written by Denise Clarke

For some tourists who visit Jamaica, their only experience of the local culture is the live entertainment at their hotel. Seasoned visitors know that staying at an all-inclusive and a one-day excursion to a tourist attraction is not enough to give a true picture of the Jamaican culture. If you want to interact closely with Jamaicans and have your own unique experience of Jamaican culture, here are a few activities you should try.

Go to a high school sporting event – Jamaica is the home of the fastest man in the world and known for its dominance of track and field but Jamaican sports is much more than that. Sports is a popular past time here and a great way to experience the local culture and enjoy quality time with locals. For the full experience, go to a Manning/DaCosta Cup Football Match, the annual soccer championships where high school teams compete vigorously for a coveted title. Better yet, the annual Boys and Girls Championships (known locally as Champs) has gained international fame as the leading sports event for high schools in the Caribbean and it`s where you will see many of the next generation of star athletes before they hit the world stage. In fact, even the great Usain Bolt himself competed at Champs for his high school team.

Photo Credit – Instagram | @coach_coley

Visit a political rally – If you think that the US elections are dramatic, you`ll be intrigued by the atmosphere at a Jamaican political rally, a fascinating mix of puns, innuendos, and verbal jabs at opponents punctuated at appropriate intervals with slices of reggae/dancehall music to which supporters clad in party colours dance and cheer on their candidates.

Photo Credit – Instagram | @mariesugarplum

Go to a Jamaican party – It`s no secret that Jamaicans tend to party with a ‘go hard or go home’ attitude. At the same time, there are marked differences between the way persons who are well off (referred to locally as uptown) and the party style of ordinary Jamaicans (downtown). If you have the time, grab a local friend and swing to both an uptown party and a downtown party, then compare them for yourself.

Sit and reason with a Jamaican Rasta – Rastafarians have a long and interesting history that is embedded in much of Jamaican music and culture. A `reasoning` with an authentic Jamaican Rasta will expose you to completely different perspectives on Jamaican history and culture as well as surprisingly candid and profound views on local and world politics and current affairs.

Photo Credit – Instagram | @kingofengland2017

Take a trip on the local bus – The experience of travelling on a Jamaican public bus is not one you`ll soon forget. At first, it may seem a bit overwhelming to see many people crammed into the vehicle trying to get to work or go about their business. Once inside, however, you`ll marvel at the incredible blend of characters you encounter, from the loader man to the conductor`s gimmicks to the belly-busting humour of passenger banter.

Visit the local market on a Saturday – It may seem intimidating at first but the local market is where you`ll find the freshest goods at the best prices. Saturday is usually the busiest day in most towns and vendors are ready to haggle with you for bargain prices on local fruits, vegetables and ground provisions. You may also encounter some unique finds like hand crafted items or clothing. Tip: Bring a local friend to help you negotiate discounts.

Photo Credit – Instagram | @marciawebley

Visit a Jamaican church – The majority of Jamaicans are Christians but within that religion is a wide variety of denominations ranging from the traditional Roman Catholic to African inspired Pentecostal sects. Each offers a unique experience but one thing that they all have in common is a family atmosphere. Don`t be surprised if you are immediately invited for lunch or offered a special prayer for guidance during your visit and safe return home.

Photo Credit – Instagram | @tiediknot

Visit a Jamaican Barber shop or Hairdresser – The gossip and community vibe that these establishments are known for elsewhere spikes ten-fold when a Jamaican flair is added into the mix. This slice of the culture will give new meaning to your Jamaican experience as you enjoy the service punctuated with discussions on the latest TV show, commentary on local and international news, and of course, jokes, jokes and more side-splitting jokes.

Jamaican Rum Bar – The rum bar is by far the place where you`ll meet the most eccentric characters during your visit. The more these men imbibe the more raucous and open the discussions get, and before long, you’ll find yourself

About the author

Denise Clarke