Monday, February 9, 2015

What Money To Bring To Jamaica? US Dollars Or Jamaican Dollars?

Which type of money or currency should you bring with you on your Jamaican vacation? US Dollars or Jamaican Dollars? This is a common thing tourists wonder about when planning their trip to vacation.

If you're going to Montego Bay, Negril, or Ocho Rios you will definately be able to get away with bringing US Dollars. Probably through most parts of the island you would be fine bringing US Dollars with you. If you're planning on venturing outside of the tourist areas however it may be a good idea to have some of the local currency.
jamaica money for vacation
Should I Bring Jamaican Dollars Or US Dollars To Jamaica?
There are a few reasons I like bringing Jamaican Dollars to Jamaica or the local currency period to a country and that is it shows your more saavy than others so people may give you better prices. I also notice just period, you tend to pay 10% to 20% less when you pay in local currency. As in Jamaica or Mexico or anywhere they tend to give a poor exchange rate to tourists when paying in US Dollars. Another reason I like the local currency is you don't really have to figure exchange rates as much. Sure you want to do a rough calculation in your head to make sure you're not paying $10 for a bottle of water but when paying in the local currency if someone tells you 200 JA your not trying to figure out how much US Dollars to give them. Lastly, I think using the local currency shows respect and that your making some effort. Granted in other countries they do take dollars but imagine if someone walked into a retail store in the US and tried to pay with Canadian Dollars or Euros? It wouldn't work. I think making the effort to get the local currency shows some respect for the people and shop owners.

So which is going to be financially smarter to do US Dollars or Jamaican Dollars? If you wind up getting your currency from a currency exchange you probably come out about even. As I said you tend to get better prices in Jamaican Dollars however if you go to a company like Travelex and pay a 15% margin on your currency plus a $9.95 service charge your pretty much giving away any savings to Travelex. There are cheaper places to exchange your money however. If you go through your own bank back home you will pay a margin and may have to order anywhere from a few days to a week in advance, however you will get a better rate than a currency exchange at the airport. There are Hi-LO grocery stores in Jamaica which oftentimes have great exchange rates as well. Lastly using your own ATM card is normally 3% plus an ATM charge from the machine and possibly your bank. Yes it will add up if you make a bunch of transactions of $20, but if you take out the max probably $400, you will still come out ahead of using a currency exchange.

Hope that helps give you some advice on tips on which currency you should bring on your Jamaican vacation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now on Twitter @jamaicabound123123

Just a quick blog to say you can now follow the jamaicabound123123 blog at Twitter @ jamaicabound123, Be a follower.

By: Twitter Buttons

Monday, August 2, 2010

Which Currency Should I Bring To Jamaica? Where Should I Buy My Currency?

A common question asked when planning a trip to Jamaica is which currency should I bring? Jamaica has their own currency and it's the Jamaican Dollar. Jamaican Dollars come in denominations of 50, 100, 500, and 1000. While on the topic of denominations; the 100 note looks somewhat similar to a 1000 note. When it's not your usual currency your used to, and especially after a few Red Stripes, you can sometimes mix them up, so pay attention to this when paying for your drinks in the evenings.

A common question asked by travelers on the Trip Advisor Forums is which currency should I take? It's always best to use Jamaican Dollars, you'll find you generally pay around 15% less when paying in the local currency as every vendor is going to use their own exchange rate and they will always use an exchange rate that favors them.

That said pay attention to how good of an exchange rate you're getting when you exchange your money. If your paying a 15% mark up on the currency your really not saving any money by exchanging. Your best bet for getting a good rate is to check with your local bank. Because your bank makes money off your checking account, debit cards, mortgage, etc they are making money off you in other ways and don't need to nickel and dime you over currency where as a currency exchange makes all their money exchanging currency and will tend to have higher mark-ups.  Many banks however no longer do foreign currencies and others will only do Euros and Pounds but first check with your local bank. Also, because the Jamaican Dollars isn't a very common currency plan ahead as your bank may need to order it for you several days in advance.

If your bank doesn't do foreign currency whatever you do, do not exchange your money at the airport. Airports are notorious for having poor exchange rates because by the time you get to the airport you have no other options. 

The best rates can be gotten either at a Cambio in Jamaica or  by using your ATM card. Specifically in Negril there is an ATM at the round about downtown Negril. Most ATM's will give you the option of taking your money in USD or JMD. When getting money from ATM machines try to take a substantial amount of money each time instead of hitting the ATM everyday for small amounts of money. Each time you use your card you will most likely be charged a fee by your bank, a fee by that particular ATM machine and a conversion charge, generally around 3% though it can range from 2%-6%.

Jamaica also has a large number of Canadian and European visitors. Another question commonly seen on the trip advisor travel forums is which currency to take when comming from Canada or Europe. Oftentimes people ask if they should take US Dollars or JMD? 

You never want to trade your Euros or Canadian Dollars for US Dollars. Every single time you exchange currency you are going to pay a fee in some form or another be it a mark up in the rate or a commission or service charge. If you switch your money into US Dollars you are going to again have to exchange it in Jamaica and will be charged another service charge or you will use the US Dollars an get an unfavorable exchange rate with vendors or at restaurants so this is a bad idea. It would be best to bring our Euros or Canadian Dollars to Jamaica and exchange them at the cambio or you could just use ATM machines.

Hope that helps answer the question of which currency to bring. Feel free to ask any questions down in the comments section. If you have any suggestions or questions on topics you'd like covered in a future blog just mention it in the comments section. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Banana Shout Book Review

Banana Shout - Book Review

If your anything like me you can't stand the typical book review where the reviewer seems to be more interested in showcasing their writing skills than just giving you a quick synopsis and telling you whether it's worth reading so this will be short, sweet, and to the point. 

 If you enjoy reading stuff from the True Crime section of your local book store you'll love this book. If you enjoyed the movie Blow, you'll love this book. If you enjoy reading about action, adventure, crime, and smuggling, you'll love this book. And finally, if you've traveled to Jamaica and are familiar with Negril you will love this book.

To give you a quick synopsis a young draft dodger plans on fleaing the states. He heads down to Key West and after a long night of drinking finds himself on a ship bound for Negril with a somewhat crazy captain. Upon his arrival in Negril he buys a small plot of land on the West End, this is long before the commercialization of Negril when it was just a small fishing village. The story continues to follow Tavo's adventures on the Island.

If your at all familiar with Negril when reading this book you'll find that Tavo's neighbor and rival opens up a place which is supposed to be Rick's and Tavo winds up starting a small resort which is supposed to be Banana Shout, though there's no mention of whether this is just happenstance or whether this is supposed to be even loosely based on a true story.

This book is a fun read, and would be great to bring as beach reading on vacation in Jamaica though you don't need to know anything about Jamaica or Negril to enjoy this read. 

If this book catches your interest look at the left side of this page at the widget with the scrolling amazon products and you'll see this book. It can currently be bought for around $5 used on amazon.com.

If you enjoy this type of reading I'd also highly recommend Snow Blind by Robert Sabbag, The Jamaican Triangle by Donal James Black, 21st Century Pirate by Sean O'reilly, and Contrabando by Don Henry Ford Jr.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What Should I Pack?

One topic often neglected by travel books, online forums and blogs is the question of "What should I pack for my Jamaican vacation?" For that reason here is a list of items you should pack for your Jamaican vacation...

Rubber Sandals - Canvas or leather sandals are great but take a long time to dry tend to collect sand. A cheap pair of $5 Wal-Mart sandals will be easy to wash when putting your feet under a water spicket and won't get ruined walking in the water and along the beach.

Suntan Lotion - Obvious, the sun in Jamaica is strong and you spend all your waking hours outdoors so suntan lotion is a must.

Aloe - A good idea just in case you get sunburned. If you forget to bring aloe or want something a little stronger than your bottle of Walgreen's brand aloe the massage ladies along the beach usually have fresh aloe leaves they will cut open and spread on your burn.

Running Shoes or Water Shoes - Gym shoes or water shoes are a good idea to bring. If you do an excursion into the mountains, to one of the waterfalls or just take a walk along the cliffs it's a good idea to bring a pair of gym shoes or water shoes. If you have an old pair of gym shoes bring them, if they get dirty or wet you can leave them behind. If they are name brand shoes it's not uncommon for someone to inquire about them; you could possibly use them to barter with. Something you may be interested in picking up both for your trip and for home is Vibram 5 Finger Shoes. A little on the expensive side but very cool....

Snorkel & Mask - Not a necessity but can be fun to use to hunt for seashells or look at fish.

Camera - You definately want to have some pics to remember your trip by.

Ipod - Good to bring on the airplane, while waiting at the airport and some tunes while sitting on the beach is always nice. If you have a docking station that takes batteries and won't take up too much space consider bringing it. Music for the room or to listen to on the beach.

Bandaids - Never know if you cut your foot on a seashell or rock, good idea to pack a few band-aids.

Passport - Obvious, can't leave the country without it.

Copies of Documents - While on the topic of Passports you should bring a copy of your passport to either have a travel partner carry or leave in a hotel safe just in case you lose yours. Not a bad idea to bring a copy of your birth certificate as well. If your credit card company provided you with an international customer service line bring these numbers as well just in case you have problems with your cards not working or lost cards. When packing all these things also take any unecessary items out of your wallet such as insurance cards, credit cards you don't need, etc. You won't need them and it's one more thing to lose or get wet.

Pen - You need a pen to fill out customs forms on the plane and they are hard to come by so pack a pen.

Bug Spray - For being a tropical climate surprisingly bugs aren't all that much of an issue in Jamaica but depending upon the season or after a long rain you may have a few mosquitos or sand flies and bug spray helps keep them away.

Benadryl - Good idea to bring for bug bites and other issues.

Map & Info - Bring a map of Negril like the one below. Better more detailed maps can be found on the internet by doing a simple google search. After reading guide books, travel blogs, and travel forums you'll have a number of places you want to check out. Bring info on restaurants and bars you want to see, a list of what bars have live music on what nights, and a map so if you overhear someone talking about the delicious snapper in coconut milk they had at Chill Awhile you'll be able to find it.

Backpack - Nice to bring on the plane but also nice to have for the beach and day trips to the waterfalls, mountains, etc. You may want to bring a change of clothes, bottle of water, camera, a snack, and a backpack is the perfect thing to carry these items in. Especially nice are the one strap "sling" style backpacks, very easy to get things in and out of without taking it off your back. Can't say enough about how convenient this style of backpack is when your constantly going into it for passport, digital camera, water bottle, etc. So much easier than a regular backpack where you feel like a turtle on your back when it comes to trying to get your stuff out. Columbia is a personal favorite for this style but check out the amazon widget to the left with teh scrolling products. There is a great slingshot style backpack in the scrolling products.

Advil - Good for those mornings after a few too many Red Stripes.

Tums - Always a good idea to have while traveling.

Money Conversion Chart - No one wants to do math on vacation, bring a conversion chart so you can quickly and easily figure out what your paying. You can get an chart up to date with the current exchange rate at www.oanda.com. It will look something like this below.

10 = 0.11 100 = 1.15 1000 = 11
20 = 0.23 150 = 1.72 2000 = 23
30 = 0.34 200 = 2.30 3000 = 34
40 = 0.46 250 = 2.87 4000 = 46
50 = 0.57 300 = 3.45 5000 = 57
60 = 0.69 350 = 4.02 6000 = 69
70 = 0.80 400 = 4.60 7000 = 80
80 = 0.92 450 = 5.17 8000 = 92
90 = 1.03 500 = 5.74 9000 = 103
FXCheatSheet for Travelers
© 1997-2010 by OANDA, Corp.
600 = 6.89 Interbank rate
Jamaican Dollar (JMD)
US Dollar (USD)
July 27, 2010
700 = 8.04
800 = 9.19
900 = 10.34
Put it into your wallet before you travel.

Epi-Pen - If you have food allergies, the closest hospital is Montego Bay which is about an hour and a half away and ambulance service isn't something you should count on.

Small Bottle of Iodine or Vinegar - Normally jellyfish stings aren't an issue but depending upon the time of year there's a chance of a sting and Iodine or Vinegar will take the sting away. Before you start worrying they are really small jellyfish and don't hurt much more than a mosquito bite.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Arriving in Jamaica ; How to get to Negril

So you're either considering a trip to Jamaica or maybe you've already booked and are doing some research for the trip. Often times we look at what restaurants we want to try, who we want to use as a tour guide, where we want to go for nightlife but we overlook the simplest of things like..."How do I get to Negril from the airport?"

Most tourists going to Negril will be landing at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. The airport is about an hour and a half from Negril. Upon landing you will exit the plane and proceed to immigration where you'll get your passport stamped, and then proceed to pick up your baggage at baggage claim.

Once you have picked up your baggage you'll proceed to customs. One tip is have a pen on you, most likely you will forget to check something on your customs form which you'll have to correct so it's nice to have a pen, so you're not scurrying around looking for one. Customs generally moves pretty quickly and after clearing customs you'll move on to the area near the exit of the airport where Mento Bands will be playing and you'll find desks for the various taxi companies and tour buses.

You have a few options when it comes to getting from the Airport to Negril. If you booked through Apple Vacations, Air Jamaica or other package deals a shuttle from the Airport to Negril may be provided for free.Many repeat Negril travelers would advise against taking this option. You will get onto a giant tour bus where you will have to wait for other passengers planes to arrive before leaving. After leaving the airport you will stop along the way to drop other travelers off, not just in Negril but all throughout Montego Bay, oftentimes a stop about midway at Lucea and again throughout Negril. This can run up to several hours which is the last thing you want to do after a long day of traveling.

As far as free rides, it's possible if your staying at a higher end All Inclusive that they will send a bus to get you . Most likely you'll have few if any stops along the way. While on the topic of All Inclusive resorts many repeat Negril travelers would recommend staying at a smaller hotel over an All Inclusive but that's a topic for another post.

Not knocking Apple, they have some fantastic deals and it's a great way to book your trip. It's nice of them to provide a shuttle for free, and for someone who is traveling to Negril for the first time and unsure about how to get to Negril from the airport it's a nice option.  However it's not the most convenient or pleasant option. Below is a photo of a typical large Apple or other tour companies bus....

You're next option which is both affordable and more convenient than a large tour bus is a JUTA bus. A JUTA bus usually is a large van or possibly a small shuttle bus, similar to what hotels use. On a JUTA bus you will generally ride with other passengers but most likely everyone will be staying in Negril meaning you will make a few stops on the same road as where your staying, not dropping people off along the way. The JUTA buses do tend to stop about halfway to Negril so you can use the restroom, grab a Red Stripe and maybe even some Jerk Chicken. The JUTA bus will cost about $18 per person as of the summer of 2010. Below is a photo of a typical JUTA bus...

Another option is to hire a private driver. This is a little more pricey but very convenient. As with many things in Jamaica the rate is negotiable. If this is your first trip this is still an option for you. Check out www.tripadvisor.com or www.negrilonestop.com for the forums. You can search previous posts about driver recommendations or post a question yourself if you have a specific question about a large number of travelers or an air conditioned vehicle if you have an older relative traveling with you or anything else specific to your situation.

If you're a return visitor you may have found a driver or tour guide on a previous trip and would like to use them for your airport transfer in the future. Just give them a call or shoot them a text and let them know to pick you up.

The nice thing about having a personal driver is you can leave for the airport on you're departure later and enjoy some extra time on the beach because you don't need to wait for, drop off, or pick up extra passengers. Also, if you have a nice driver he may have a Patti, some CoCo Bread and a Red Stripe waiting for you in the car when he picks you up.

 One final option you have is instead of driving from Montego Bay to Negril you have the option of flying. Timair flies from Montego Bay to Negril, it cuts the hour and a half drive to about a 15 minute flight. People on various internet travel boards who don't mind spending the extra money seem to love this option. You get a great scenic flight and see things you would otherwise never see. You will hear different things in terms of pricing, you can negotiate depending on how busy they are and how high fuel prices are at a given time, etc. You will hear everything from $75 to $210 per couple one way to $410 per couple round trip. Your paying more than you would even for a private driver but the plane is waiting for you when you land and your cutting an hour and a half drive down to a between 12 and 15 minute plane ride. Plus on top of just being transportation your also essentially getting a scenic tour of the west part of the island of Jamaica all along the coast.

In closing the recomendation is not to take a large tour bus, yes it's free, but its worth at the very least $18 per person to take a JUTA bus. You will not sit in a stuffy bus waiting for others planes to land after you have been traveling all day and just wanting to get to the beach. JUTA is affordable and convenient. A private driver is a little more expensive but much quicker to and from the airport, and if you want you can stop anywhere you want along the way to shop at a roadside stand, grab a snack, or check out a beach along the road. Timair is another option, yes it costs a little more but just think of it as your not just paying for a ride, your also getting a bit of an excursion as well.

Hope these tips helped. Enjoy your time in Jamaica. Ya mon!!!

For More Negril info, pics and videos check out the jamaicabound123123 youtube channel at....