General

Shopping, Jamaica Style

Two approaches are available here, depending upon where you shop. Certain shopping areas—City Centre, Half Moon Shopping Village and Holiday Village Shopping Centre in Montego Bay—are ‘fixed price areas,’ meaning prices are static and no bargaining is required to make your purchases. Most purveyors of goods, however, want to haggle a little with you before settling on a final price. While rates are a bit higher at the fixed price locales, it saves the time of bargaining with vendors if that’s not something you consider a good time.

If you like the challenge of bargain hunting and negotiating, then hit the Jamaican markets, where you will find some great mementos. There is an etiquette involved here, so be sure to follow the local customs.
–Approach a vendor only if you are sure you want to buy a particular item.
–Ask the price, then act disappointed and begin to walk away. If the vendor wants to lower the price, he or she will suddenly arrive at a discounted price, perhaps because you are a visitor to the country.
–Decide how much you want to pay for the item and suggest a price slightly lower than that. Eventually, you and your sales associate will reach a compromise somewhere in the middle. Have fun!

Worth the Negotiation
You will certainly find treasures worth bargaining for in Jamaica. Shoppers will find beautiful crafts from local artists, ranging from paintings of local scenery to wood relief carvings of the local sights. Another must-have treat is the famous Blue Mountain Coffee known around the world as some of the finest you can buy. Locally grown and harvested, the coffee is expensive in the U.S., fetching prices about twice as high as those on the island. You’ll find duty free shops in international airports selling the coffee for about $1 US per ounce. For even better pricing, seek out coffee stands in local markets. Sometimes the streetside vendors sell coffee that is not truly Blue Mountain, so buyer beware.

Look for high-quality woven crafts in Montego Bay’s Craft Market, or along the streets from smaller markets. You will find baskets, purses, hats, and many other handcrafted items in bright colors, especially the Rastafarian colors of yellow, green and red.

Duty Free
Duty-free shops are abundant throughout Jamaica. U.S. visitors can save 25 to 30 percent on items such as brand name crystal and china, watches, perfumes and leather products. If a designer label is on your shopping list, this is the way to go. In order to qualify as duty free, you must pay in foreign currency. American dollars are accepted almost everywhere, as are major credit cards.

Leave these Behind
Some items are illegal under current Jamaican law because of the damage to the environment caused by their popularity. Coral and turtle products are strictly off limits. While shoppers may find these items available, problems will likely be encountered in going through customs. Another no-no is the popular Cuban cigar, which will surely be confiscated by U.S. customs. As a visitor, you’ll likely be approached regarding a “special purchase” offered by local drug higglers (dealers). Marijuana use is widespread, but strictly forbidden by Jamaican law. Just offer a firm “no thank you” and offer a stern look, which should be enough to send drug peddlers on their way.

Treasure Galore
Whatever sets your heart aflutter, you will likely find it while on your vacation in Jamaica. Whether you decide to skip the bargaining process or embrace it to its fullest, you’ll surely find plenty of fabulous souvenirs for family, friends, and—of course—yourself.

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Staff Writer