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I took a 2 week trip to Jamaica in January 2014, my first visit there.
Started from zero, no contacts and just a bit of research online to get a cultural primer and find a place to stay for first night.
In this thread, I will share some of my impressions and observations from the trip along with images.
That's a big negative. A lot of towns don't seem to have anything. With Mobay, the very budget end on rooms is nearly $65 and that's a non-shared room at a hostel. More typical prices are over $100 and the most budget hotel rooms start around $70.
But, I managed to find a lady who's been running a souvenir shop along the strip for like 50 years with upstairs A/C rooms w/ensuite bathrooms she lets out for just $50 each. And the common area they all share has a separate side entrance. That was by far the best value for money deal in town so that's where I stayed during my days in Mobay.
She likes to lecture sometimes and is set in her ways. But she's honest and connected with the police so her place is considered quite safe. In one of the images below (turned sideways), you will see her shaking hands with Fidel Castro when they were both much younger.
After 5 days in Mobay, I hit the road. Main cities visited - Ocho Rios, Spanish Town, Kingston, Mandeville, and Santa Cruz - a route which took me on a nice circle of much of the island.
The only shared hostel I know of is Reggae Hostel with one location each in Kingston and Ocho Rios. They are both well located, modern, with bed space starting at around $20 in an 8 bed room. This is where I stayed my one night in Ocho Rios.
In Kingston, you have more options. If you search hard enough, there are some local style guest houses which have rooms priced more in the range of $25-40 depending on location and whether its A/C or fan. If you go for something like this, make sure it's in a reasonable area of town, not a very bad area.
The other towns are hit-and-miss from what I could see. Mandeville has a nice mansion of a guest house run by a middle aged couple, both British Jamaicans who speak very prim and proper style English. His place is like an ongoing work in progress but the finished sections are wonderful and the estate has some nice views. Unfortunately, it's located on the outskirts which makes it not so convenient. $50 per night per room single occupancy, $55 for double.
Similarly Santa Cruz had a mansion style guest house, this one a lot more modern, just outside of town where I stayed one night, also for $50. Owner was a very strange combination - middle aged Jamaican who had lived in UK for some years and was clearly wealthy judging by all his vehicles, large land plots, imported furniture, and state of his mansion. But the guy was one of the few Jamaicans I met who seriously had a hard time with English and would constantly revert to Patios. His wife and son both speak it much better but are a lot shyer too.
Easy for an American. US$1 worth around 104 Jamaican dollars so you just need to divide local prices by 100 to know the rough US$ equivalent.
Tourists are generally expected to take private taxis wherever they go. In any tourist area, you will frequently get offered rides by taxis. But the rates are a rip-off, like US$5-10 for very short rides.
A small minority, myself included in that group, figure out the route taxi (fixed route shared taxi) system and use it to get around. It's generally 80 Jamaican a ride in Montego Bay Area (roughly 80 cents US$) and to go to towns as far as an hour away, it might run about 300 Jamaican.
Mini busses are similarly priced for distance travel but they pack you in like sardines and you have to wait onboard for bus to fill-up.
Jamaica is a small island which can be crossed in like 3 hours. But if you hire a private car to take you around or even join some tour group in Mobay, you are gonna spend $50-200 depending on distance and number of people. Learn the route taxis and busses. Even from the Mobay Airport you can walk down the street a bit and catch a route taxi right to Hip Strip (where most visitors will wanna stay).
Jamaica is a relatively light traffic country. It's not hard to get around the whole island at high speeds.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2TFA7vp ... detailpage[/youtube]
Traffic jams mainly happen in greater Kingston area during early morning and end of workday periods and are very miniscule compared to the almost constant stop-and go gridlock you get in Metro Manila during the week.
Last edited by Rock on February 21st, 2014, 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Economy and Tourism
On paper, Jamaica looks downright respectable - GDP per capita $9,029 PPP / $5,402 nominal. But in reality, so much of that money is from tourism and goes mostly into hands of all inclusive resort beneficiaries, cruise ship companies, and connected government officials. Vendors, assorted hustlers, drivers, and gigolos get a few scraps here and there. This is a country where the number of annual tourist visitors is on par with it's total population - 1.9 mn land visitors and 1.1 mn cruise ship visitors in 2011 vs. native population of just 2.9 mn.
So most people in the country are a lot poorer than the figures might suggest. It's not just a lack of money similar to what a lot of people in say Philippines suffer. Prices are much higher there, even at poor end. Route taxi ride at 75 cents vs. 18 cents for a Manila jeepney ride, 45 cents/KwH of electricity vs. 36 in Phils. (and 10 in China or Taiwan), rent, grocery, and consumer price indices 2.4x, , 1.7x and 1.8x, respectively that of Phils. (numbeo.com).
As a tourist, even a black American one of Jamaican descent, you are gonna be recognized as such. If you are white, or other non-black, you will just be all the more obvious. In tourist areas (primarily big areas of Negril, Mobay, and Ocho Rios), you will fit in and feel comfortable. But anywhere else, you are gonna stand-out even blocks away. Kingston has a small resident white population and throughout the island, you see Chinese run grocery and variety stores as well as some businesses run by Indians. Many of them have only been in country a few years or less but there are also some who've grown up there and are like Jamaicans in body language. Locals can tell the difference I think. There were days when I went around the island where I didn't see any non-blacks save maybe the Chinese at the back counter in a grocery store.
Most tourists stick to the cruise ship trek or the all-inclusive resort packages. They will venture into tourist areas of those cities mentioned and may hire a driver to take them to the most popular attractions. All this involves a relatively large amount of money and short amount of time (a few days to a week or 2 at the outset). Visitors are generally very afraid to get off the beaten track and locals will feed into this paranoia.
Risks and Danger
Jamaicans are not Filipinos.
They are bigger, stronger, faster, and not shy about direct conflict. They can be quick to anger and may move to escalate things if you openly disrespect them. So you got that.
Then there's the very high assault and murder rates. If you look at intentional homicide stats, Jamaica still ranks in global top five at 41 per 100K even though it's been trending down. That compares to 5 for Phils. and USA and 22 for dangerous DR.
As an obvious tourist, you're gonna be considered relatively rich and vulnerable. So it all looks bloody dangerous. The feeling of traveling around there as a non-black is much different than anywhere in Asia save perhaps Papua New Guinea. Likewise, most of Mexico, DR, and bulk of Latin America feels safer to much safer.
So how does one mitigate this risk to make it all doable, even the part where you go local style?
1. Be respectful and nice to everyone, behave. Don't be condescending. All very easy.
2. Don't go out and get drunk without a sober guardian to get you back to your room in one piece unless you stay in immediate area.
3. If you stick to tourist strips and behave, you are gonna be pretty safe. Security is well enforced in those areas except perhaps way past midnight when street walkers might try to pickpocket you. From what I've been told, the cops and security don't mess around. It's ok for touts to pester and engage in hard sell. But if someone dares assault you, I wouldn't be surprised if the cops shot em on the spot or at least hauled em off and made sure they never came back. Now some of the daytime female tourist police can provide nice eye candy too lol.
4. If you wanna go beyond tourist world, you've gotta prepare better. Local Jamaicans tend to give the following advice:
a. Do city-to-city travel during daylight hours.
b. Learn to walk in pace with the locals (slow), even with a bit of swagger, act confident. Carry yourself like you are a familiar resident. If you really get good, you can learn to great certain people in the stalls and shops as if you know them and have been around a lot. Don't ever look lost or nervous. That may attract unwanted opportunists.
c. Avoid all those who approach you on the street or in other public venues. By avoid, I don't mean show fear or dodge them. You just tell them something like, "Sorry mon, I'm in a hurry, meeting someone, gotta get somewhere, don't have time to talk now, etc." while going on at your pace and if they are too persistent, then you amp up the rejection. But don't be rude or jumpy, just firm with no fear or nervousness.
d. If you are going to someone's house in a neighborhood, make sure it's someone you know reasonably well and trust enough. Independently inquire with other locals about the area and whether or not it's safe to visit as an outsider. If it's not, you will need to have your friend pick you up, accompany you, and make sure you get back to familiar area (downtown or where you are staying) before dark. Kingston, Spanish Town, Mobay area, and perhaps even Ocho Rios have a lot of dangerous no-go neighborhoods.
e. Don't take unmarked route taxis.
f. Beware of anyone who angles to befriend you. With regular people who don't have ulterior motives, you are going to have to put in some work to get to know them over time. Don't get played.
5. The good news is that a high percentage of Jamaican strangers outside of tourist areas will try to help you and keep you safe with nothing expected in return.
These 2 students who I happened to get smashed next to on the back of a mini-bus from Mandeville to Kingston were concerned that I would not be safe walking alone with my bags at the main Kingston bus terminal stop right downtown. So they volunteered to walk me away from the area so I could get a car where there were less people and confusion. I snapped this shot right in front of a police station where we were going to hail a route taxi. Hey Winston and Falcon, don't they look so friendly and approachable?
Funny thing is, right after I took this shot, one of the officers came out of the building and suggested we wait inside as it would be safer
Generally, people are very forthcoming about giving directions and proper advice on what is and is not advisable in a given area at a given time. If anything, they tend to error on the side of caution. I think many honest Jamaicans feel the reputation Jamaica has abroad for danger is unfortunate and hope to help prevent crimes against tourists. Jamaica has a lot of bad apples including bands of teenage thug killers and death squad police teams. But it seems majority of local people strongly resent those elements.
6. Another thing I noticed sometimes with Jamaicans is that they can be pretty rough with beggars, scold them, and chase away the more persistent ones. Very different from Philippines in that regard too. I would say those types are more of a nuisance in certain touristy areas of DR than they are Jamaica.
Yes, yes, and yes! A very high percentage of them speak and understand English extremely well. And my American accent does not seem to throw them off at all. It's certainly much better there than even Phils. in this regard. And Patois, which to the uninitiated will sound mostly like gibberish is much easier to pick-up given it's English base than a pure foreign language. Patois is really a type of pidgin English. But I digress.
I met a few Jamaican returnees and visitors from USA and UK. Some could speak decent Patois and others could not. But most chose to speak just English with Jamaican local residents. When I asked them why, they would give reasons such as Patois not so necessary for them, they felt more comfortable in English, they thought speaking in English would be interpreted as being more educated and well spoken, etc.
Some locals I met or observed seemed to speak English most if not all the time while others spoke more in Patois. Sometimes I even sometimes noticed big differences among same generation members in the same family in English vs. Patois usage habits.
Racism against whites and other non-blacks
This was another area I got a positive impression. Many of the people there look an awful lot like regular black Americans to my eyes, more so than locals I saw in Haiti, Kenya, and Cameroon on previous trips. But the vibe I felt in non-tourist crowded areas where I was usually the only non-black was very different than what I remember from visits to all black neighborhoods in the States though the differences are still hard to notice at first glance.
I went to school for a couple years on the south side of Chicago and would sometimes go into adjacent all black communities during daytime, even project communities. Nothing ever happened besides occasional glares my way or people sometimes trying to bum some change off me. But I still felt awkward and nervous even though I found them at the same time to be fascinating excursions.
In Jamaica, I quickly got used to being the only whitey and felt people seemed to treat and perceive me normally, as if I was just another stranger, albeit a tourist. I thought all that might be in my head so I emailed JamaicanInChina about it and this is what he had to say:
That's not your imagination. The racial divide is NOT there.
And for the record, gut feelings make the world go 'round, and are often more
reliable, more nuanced, and accurate than hard facts.
It's frightening and aberrant the degree to which racial issues play a role in American life,
and by extension, how Americans view the world and how much
they believe it plays a role in life in other places. That's why I escaped from
America, and why--no offense--I typically don't find myself able to
relate well with American tourists and many expats abroad--both black and white.
You'd have to live there a long time
to really "get" it, but the unifying thing is simply being Jamaican.
Even now, if I were to imagine a white Jamaican and a white American, I
imagine two distinctly different human beings-- one with whom I have
an affinity, and one with whom I don't, respectively--simply by virtue of being
from different cultures. Some of it comes from being on an island.
I experience much of the same here on Saipan.'
"*sure, remnants of British white-supremacist colonialism still exist there,
but they are not part of the everyday person's experience.
Just thought of this as I write: gut feelings make babies, and therefore societies. Families
are not created from hard facts! "
I'm sure some Jamaicans specifically hate or at least strongly dislike whites or other non-blacks. I've even heard other visitors complain about being discriminated against there in some ways. But I suspect the pure racial divide there - blacks vs. non-blacks - is much smaller than it is in the States as per Jamaicaninchina's response.
Last edited by Rock on February 21st, 2014, 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
At Da Club
The largest clubs in tourist cities such as Mobay and Negril tend to attract a mixed crowd of locals and tourists from the nearby all-inclusive resorts or even docked cruise ships. Sometimes the resorts will even bus them out and back. I only went out one night - to Pier One, the to-go place in Mobay on Friday nights late.. Entrance is 500 Jamaican or just under US$5.
Locals probably made up over 85% of the crowd. I just walked around, took photos, and chatted to a few people. Some of the tourists were white girls with their local dates and not all of those were as old or bad looking as we might have imagined.
It really gets going after midnight and is supposed to stay strong all night. I left at about 3 am. It's best to arrange a driver in advance because it's not safe to walk back to the tourist area from there at night and drivers standing in wait know you have no way back and will exploit your inconvenience with inflated asking fares of maybe $10 or more. But I just had a local guy walk me to a busy street where I was able to get a route taxi back.
Here are some of white girls with local guys.
This one was waiting for her local date to come back. She had the big behind I think a lot of guys there might like.
So as you can see, not all the white women who date local guys in places like Jamaica are obese or cougar types.
This girl wearing the white blazer was probably the hottest local girl in the club. And with her heals on, she was at least 6 feet tall. I talked to her a bit.
But her friend was bitchy and would not even let me get a clear shot of my target's face.
Those 2 didn't seem to talk to anyone else the whole night. They just chilled by the bar, sipped their drinks, and danced a bit together.
To be fair, a lot of Jamaicans are not keen to have their photos taken by strangers. Many seem quite leery about that.
Now the general vibe in the place seemed ok. I didn't approach girls so I don't know how that would have gone. Also, any working girls inside would have to be super subtle cus I was told management does not welcome them.
This girl noticed my flash when I shot this photo, turned around, and smiled.
Later when I went for the exit to go home, she followed me out and asked if she could come with me. I guess it's ok for them to approach once they get outside. I was with my local friend and declined her. I will discuss the types of girls you are likely encounter as a tourist in Jamaica in a separate post.
Try to approach some women and let us know how it goes for you. What is the difference between Jamaican women and US black women? Most of the women in your pictures seem to be a bit on the overweight side and not very attractive.
So far, from what you describe, I think I'll stick to Asia.
Begin with the end in mind
Hey man, thanks for commenting. I was beginning to think nobody even read my thread
I will add more and discuss the women. If you find some black American women attractive, then you will also find the same in Jamaica. If you don't like girls of primarily W. African ancestry, then you're not going to find very much to your liking there.
I don't have real experience dating black American women so I can't speak on it first hand. But of course I've heard and read a lot about them and observed them a lot first hand so I will try to discuss what I suspect to be some general similarities and differences between these two sets.
Yeah they look sweet and approachable. The one on the right looks like she's blushing almost. I've never seen black American girls look like that.
I've forwarded this thread to Walt Goodridge, who is Jamaican, to see what he thinks. Maybe he will post a reply.
Also, since you put so much work into this report, I'll send it to my mailing list too.
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Like that girl with the yellow shorts. See plenty of that in South London where I'm now living
Thought the seafront didn't look too much different to beach road in Pattaya.
So male sex tourists go to Thailand and females go to the Caribbean?
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I can imagine ContrarianExpatriate's and The_Adventurer's reaction to this thread:
At least you are a man of your word: you like 'em tall.
Were there a lot of tall women there?
I have a slight feeling that that woman blocking the pic was a feminist-in-training.
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I was only there two weeks and don't recall knowing any Jamaican girls ever before. So I'm out of my depth writing about this topic. But still, I tried very hard to figure things out so maybe I did learn a thing or two. Anyway, here are some of the impressions I got.
1. Looks: Overwhelming majority of locals there are of predominantly West African descent, sometimes with a bit of European or Indian blood mixed in. So to get an idea of how people look, you can start by looking generally at black Americans or Brits. As with African American communities, chubbiness and lots of b***y meat are common with a significant percentage of the women.
This was the first Jamaican girl I noticed. She was checking-in to the same flight as me in Fort Lauderdale (the one going to Mobay).
Later on in the trip, this girl boarded my route taxi along the road and when she later alighted, I captured her in a photo as she was walking away.
You will also see some who are predominantly Indian, especially in Kingston area.
Example of a girl with some Indian blood.
Here's an example of a girl who rates at least a solid 7 in my book who most of you guys will probably write off as a 2 or 3 lol. She stands 5'10" in flats.
One more tall chubby type.
But I would say overall, there's a higher percentage of slim to average built women in Jamaica than in the black American community. Some of the slim ones still have curves while others don't.
2. Approachability: Women there do not generally seem fearful or timid of strangers. They can look you straight in the eye without blinking. But if you go to crowded areas away from tourist zones, you may be intimidated by the hard looking, serious, or preoccupied facial expressions and body language many of the gals display. It's nothing like the welcoming smiles and even playful flirtations Winston talked about experiencing in Russia. Given their default style, it will require some balls on your part to approach cold, at least before you get acclimated to the scene there.
However, I've been told by several people there that it's actually quite easy to approach random girls in public, chat-them-up, and get numbers and positive follow-up. So just because they might not look approachable on first glance doesn't mean they will shoot you down rudely for trying.
An even easier and safer (less rejection prone) method as a tourist is to walk around and just look and smile at women who suit your particular fancy. Chances are that once in awhile, someone will smile back and show interest. Then you've got full license to go up, chat, get a number, and likely follow-up with date in the near future. There are a percentage of girls there who would be keen to date a tourist or who might just be attracted to your particular type whatever that may be. During my time there, a few girls flirted with me or even expressed interest in going out with me.
Staying in the same souvenir shop in a different room was a short and slim older British Jamaican guy who would come every year to stay for a month for his holiday. He emigrated to UK at a fairly young age and could speak Patois but would mainly stick to English with the locals. He told me he would go out and often pick-up girls he met in public, date them a bit, and sometimes bring them back to his room. He was super positive and made it sound so easy. But, I never actually saw him with a girl.
I would at least say supply-and-demand will favor the tourist male out to meet local girls. Jamaica just does not attract nearly as many western guys (including black ones) hoping to meet local girls as nearby countries such as DR or Colombia do. For dating, Jamaica seems to be more on the map with female tourists lol.
Falcon happens to be visiting today so I will stop this for now to meet-up with him and add a section about the types of girls in Jamaica and relationship potential with them later.
I would say about same height as black American women. The average seems to be around 5'6"
Yes about the lady blocking my camera shot. If it had been about anywhere else, I would have figured they might be lesbians. But in Jamaica, gays are ostracized, especially the males.
Since she's 5'10", I'd f.uck her - especially if she has hair on her poom-poom. I&I yeh stretch her bwattyhole out, mon. She's about a 3.5 almost 4 - all jokes aside. She's the best-looking woman out of all the ones you have posted thus far in this thread.
If you wanted to score with her, you should have brought up what she thinks about Vybez Kartel and the murder trial [http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/2 ... or-guilty/]. He's a contemporary dancehall artist...very big in Jamaica. He's up in talent like Mr. Vegas, Beenie Man, Bounty Killa, Lady Saw, etc.
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The responses and seeming lack of interest in this thread is confirming something I suspected a lot before - large majority of W. African blooded black girls are not generally considered very attractive by most men (esp. non-black men) unless they have a lot of some other ethnicity/race mixed in ala many gals in DR. Even E, the man willing to shag BBWs, giants, and midgets only finds the top one in this group borderline doable lol. It seems with blacks, men have much higher hetro sexual market value than do the women. Perhaps there is no need for me to discuss the types of girls there and relationship potential as I had originally planned.
For me the girl E singled out is a solid 7 due to height, body shape and skin quality. Her actual facial proportions and even symmetry are fine. Since her face has an abundance of fat, it looks distorted now. But as she grows a bit older and sheds the baby fat of youth, her face may mature quite nicely. And I predict she will maintain a very youthful appearance into 20s, 30s, and 40s.
I also quite liked gal in white blazer at the club but her face didn't show-up well in the photos.
And I think the taller girl who helped me out in Kingston bus station is cute too.
Anyway, it's not a bad thing if I can find girls attractive who most others feel are maybe not even doable. Falcon sure seems to enjoy that kind of situation with his Indonesians lol.
I am on the process of developing yellow fewer. Maybe in some years when I have some energy left I might try black though their T-Level might be higher than mine till then. They might ride me to death. lol.
Rock, go for the black. Some of us man are weak asses. So more more power to you
Indonesia got hyped recently. Maybe Indonesia should be more taken in account though itÂ´s muslim but who knows. Xsplat looks quite happy there.
With the black chics some crazy dancing would be intresting. ThatÂ´s something I am looking forward.