How to See Jamaica In A Low Budget
February 7, 2019
by Alexandra Oancea
The Caribbean Sea has a lot of great islands to be visited. One of the most unique in the world, it is, for sure, Jamaica. I’ve been there few times, but latest was in October 2018. This trip was research for a possible life there, which is something I’ve always dream for. I am from Romania, so I do need a visa. In this way, I was allowed to stay up to three mounts. If you want to pay less choose to go from May to late October. It is the rainy season, but we enjoyed a nice wheater.
The Capital city of Kingston
Kingston is the largest city of Jamaica, crowded and full of color. In each of my trip to Jamaica, and mostly now, I understood Jamaica is about people. Their way of being, the natural way of embracing their problems, their positive attitude „no matter what” is fascinating.
How to get to Kingston
We booked our ticket for October and we chose to fly to Montego Bay. It took us a lot of hours from Rome and we arrive in MoBay(local way of saying it) in the evening. We realized that after 6 it is already dark during this time of the year. As we booked an apartment in Kingston capital, we had to take the bus there. The only option we knew at the moment was Knutsford Express, a private company that has regular, big busses. The price was around 30 US dollars for a person. We found out later that there is a cheaper way to do this trip, but not with all the comfort, of course.
Where to stay
We booked online a one-room apartment from a local, in the Mountain View Neighborhood. Some would say that this is not a place to be, but the people there were something we really loved. Don’t always expect to have a place in European or American style, especially if you pay less. In this way, we really understood how people are living, their necessities and their struggles. Walking around we were saluted respectfully by everyone in the neighborhood. They helped us, teach us. What we did was acting like normal, common people. You have also a lot of hostels as a low-budget option.
How to move around
In the beginning, we choose the bus for which you pay 100 Jamaican Dollars each time you’re in. Sometimes is very crowded and sometimes you are waiting a lot, cause Kingston can be a busy city. But we learned about taxis. You should only try the cars with a red license plate, paying like for the bus. And be prepared to stay inside a car with more people that are legally permitted. This was sometimes funny, also because we understood the necessity of it.
What to see in the city
Walking around is an experience itself. You will feel the vibe of the city, the noise, the smells, their special language. And you are always surrounded by the beautiful Blue Mountains. Kingston has two City Centers. Downtown is a huge street Market, close to the seaside. Walking, you can arrive at Trench Town, where they say that Reggae Music was born. You can buy fruits and vegetables, fish or eggs from locals but also from some small traditional shops. It is definitely a place to see and observe. The other City Center it is up to the hills, at the Halfway Tree. Here you find both street vendors, but also shopping centers.
Even if you have a small budget, Bob Marley Museum is a must. It cost 25 US, but you will get a guide and it is a beautiful place to be. In the area, you can also walk to see the Devon House, a restored Great House from Jamaica’s colonial past. Or you can walk in the Emancipation Park, marked by a fountain statue of two slaves.
What to eat
All day long you can eat inexpensive street food like the traditional beef Pattie, for 100 J$ or sausages. You will fell the good smell of the famous Jerk Chicken or Pork all around the city and you should try it at least once. Kingstone has few (real) supermarkets and a lot of grocery shops. You will understand that life in Jamaica is expensive, no matter if you go to a local market or a supermarket. And yes, you pay for the basic things and much more if you want wine or coffee. Local fruits and vegetables are delicious and you can bargain with the vendors.
Where to go Around Kingston
Even though we were in the city, the house was very close to the forest and the mountains, surrounded by fruit trees.
One of my favorite places to walk around or watch the people was Papine Square, close to the mountains and Hope River. From here you can take a taxi or a bus for Gordon Town, the only point in the Blue Mountains you can get by public transportation. It can be a one day trip, as from here you can start your walking through the rain forest. It was safe and beautiful, with amazing views. Up the way, you will get to meet locals that are living there and you can also see coffee and cacao plantation, fruit trees and sometimes the colorful hummingbirds. We stopped at the Hope Waterfall where you can have a bath or a picnic.
The Best Beaches Around
Another day trip can be Bob Marley Beach. It is less known so you may end up being alone or with some locals around. You can take the bus and go off at the Bull Bay and then walk. We had some rain, but the water is beautiful. We had a fresh fish on the beach, as there is a local nice family that can cook for you. Bring your own beer and water to avoid paying double.
More famous, bigger beach is Hellshire Beach. You can also get by bus there. It is like a small village, with a lot of fisherman’s places and restaurants. Was interesting to pass from inside one of those places directly into the sea and walk. Later on, we found out that actually, it is one of the beaches that are disappearing as the years are passing. The water is blue, with soft sand and nice views around.
Kingstone is a place full of contrasts, full of life and colors, a city of people. They make the place beautiful so as the country itself.
It is a fascinating place to explore, and much more is to be said about Jamaica…