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Living as a Local in Jamaica

by Monday, February 15, 2016

Every time I talk about my vacations to Jamaica, the FIRST question I’m asked is: Oh where did you stay? I’ve been researching resorts….

The truth is, I’ve never truly been a “tourist” in Jamaica.

I couldn’t tell you which resort to head to, where the best jerk chicken restaurant is in Montego Bay, or what it’s like to jam out in Margaritaville in Ochos Rios.  Why? Because living as a local in Jamaica makes my island heart happy.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the perks of an all inclusive resort, but if you choose to enjoy your island vacation off the beaten path, here are some tips to remember.

 

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Front yard view of my grandma’s Jamaican rental home.

Embrace the “Island Life”

  • Turn off your cell phone, your internet won’t work anyway and the last thing you need to worry about is checking how many likes your last beach photo that you tried to upload got.
  • Don’t set an alarm, let the waves crashing against the beach & birds chirping in the trees wake you up when your body is ready.
  • Forget the schedule, try to soak in your quiet mind, meditate, breathe in the salty air without running to your next scheduled event.

Indulge in the Local Cuisine

Sure you’ve probably heard of jerk chicken and pork, but what about the fresh fish, seafood, festival, fried chicken rice and peas, spicy bun.. need I go on? The cuisine in Jamaica may just make your waistline a little larger when you leave than when you arrived, but it is phenomenal.  Don’t worry about your diet while you’re there and just take every savory bite in.

Hire a Local Resident to Accompany You

Wherever you choose to vacation there is always that concern of going “off the beaten path” right? Well, in truth, Jamaica is no different… yes, there is crime and I want you to stay safe! It is always a good idea to have a local Jamaican resident to be with you in your rental home, accompany you when you walk through the neighborhood (especially at night), and help you to suggest places to eat and visit.  Many times if you decide to rent a home in Jamaica out of a resort, you are provided with a cleaning and cooking staff.  This is a great opportunity to talk to him / her to assist you along the way.

 

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Our beloved Gully & his special goat Yankee.

Support the Local Economy

When you’re vacationing in a small area outside of tourism in Jamaica you will find many of the Jamaicans are selling their products and services.  Just as you may provide a product or service, this is their entire livelihood. Take the time to talk with them, look at their merchandise, barter with them on price, and take something home with you from Jamaica.  The wood carvings are absolutely astonishing, the food is amazing (yep I’m saying that again LOL..) and the fresh fish caught that day…. #NoBrainer

 

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Fresh out of the water Jack for dinner 

Be Safe & Smart

Again, because we need to reiterate the fact that you are not on a locked down all inclusive resort, you are subject to crime.  PLEASE KNOW that this is not to scare you or frighten you out of living the “island life” in a non-tourist area, because I don’t think I could ever go to Jamaica now and stay on a resort.  But, here are some key things to remember:

  • As I mentioned earlier, don’t walk alone, especially at night… ask a local Jamaican resident to accompany you
  • Keep your personal possessions like wallets, money, passport, cameras, cell phones, etc.  away from doors and windows and in a location not directly in your suitcase.  If there were a break-in it could be as easy as someone reaching into a window or going right to your suitcase to find valuables.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the locals that you meet about someone that makes you feel uncomfortable.  Chances are, if the person is lurking around and isn’t respecting you they are not normally in that area and the locals will want to be aware as well.

Meet & Spend Time with the Locals

This trip was my 3rd time to Jamaica and it is a town that my grandma has vacationed in the winter at for 25 years.  Needless to say, we have become pretty close with the locals in her neighborhood.  Each person has an open heart to help, share what they love, take you in as you’re their own… Each person has a story to tell… Each person is in a different place in their life.. Each person has similar struggles, and differing struggles… These are the people that you need to meet, learn from, talk to, understand.  If you take this time to really have a conversation, look around and see what their life is like, you are going to go home with a bigger heart and a deeper appreciation for what you have, I can PROMISE you that.

Steer Clear of the White Rum #wink

Enjoy the Red Strip (Jamaicans like it warm, you should probably try it, but I don’t recommend it LOL), enjoy the sweetness of a small glass of Rum Punch, and sip on the Rum Cream (amazing nightcap); just do not think you’re a local and start drinking the white rum and water.  You’ll thank me (or say, I should’ve listened to you Brittnae) for this last tip. #WriteThatDown

 

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Best kept secret tide pool.

I hope that you can put these tips to use and decide next time that you’re planning a vacation to try something different and Live as a Local in Jamaica (the food is better and the drinks are stronger anyway #Wink).   Comment below and let me know if you’ve stayed somewhere “off the beaten path” on a vacation and what you thought about that verse a resort!

If you’re interested in learning more about where you can rent a home in the area that I stay in Jamaica (Fisherman’s Beach / Duncan’s Bay in Trelawny Jamaica) I recommend speaking with Angella Stuart from My Vacation Escape Services.  She is an amazing woman that can get you set up with a private rental home in Silver Sands.  

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