Roots, Rock, Reggae. Not The Only Three Reasons To Visit Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

by Kerwin McKenzie on August 29, 2014


EKIN Airport TagMBJ Airport Tagveryone wants to go to Jamaica! Well, it seems that way .

 

People like the food, the music, the beaches and the Jamaican accent among other things. I’m originally from Jamaica, so I’m biased, but I’ve met many people who have been there and they echo the same sentiments.

 

Montego Bay is the country’s second city which is located on the north western coast. This is the tourist capital and where most tourists flies into who are visiting Jamaica.

 

The largest city, the capital, is Kingston, this is where I was born, but I grew up in the country in St, Elizabeth, which by the way has some of the best food in the tiny island.

 

If you decide to head to Montego Bay, Jamaica, here are some things to know:

  • American Airlines (AA) Boeing 737-800 at the gate in Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)Scheduled/Charter Service Airlines Serving Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ): AeroGal (2K), Air Canada (AC), AirTran (FL), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Caribbean Airlines (BW), Cayman Airways (KY), Condor (DE), Copa Airlines (CM), Delta Air Lines (DL), interCaribbean (JY), JAF, JetBlue (B6), KG, Southwest Airlines (WN), Spirit Airlines (NK), Sunwing, Thomson, United Airlines (UA), US Airways (US), Virgin Atlantic Airways (VS), WestJet (WS), WHT.
  • Scheduled Service Airlines Serving Kingston, Jamaica (KIN): Air Canada (AC), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cayman Airlines (KX), Caribbean Airlines (BW), Copa Airlines (CM), Delta Air Lines (DL), Insel Airlines (7I), interCaribbean (JY), JetBlue (B6), Spirit Airlines (NK).
  • Best Tip: Sunscreen is required as its “96 degrees” in the shade as a famous Jamaican song says. Also, drink lots of water as the sun will dehydrate you.
  • Jamaican Mini Van Montego Bay, JamaicaAirport To The City: Transportation – You can take the local taxis. They will charge you a lot  as much as the locals unfortunately, but its still cheaper than taking a JUTA taxi. Just stand on the main road and you will see them coming by. Be sure to only take the ones that have red plates. Those are the ones who are properly licensed to carry passengers. The ones that have the white plates with blue lettering are running what is called “Robut” in Jamaica. It means they do not have a license to carry passengers so you are taking them at your own risk.Don’t be alarmed if the cars carry two passengers in the front left seat and four in the back. It’s just the way it works in Jamaica. When you are ready to get off the, just say “one stop driver!” You have to be authoritative though :-).If you want to get to other parts of the country, you can take a minivan. This is quite the experience and inexpensive. Imagine a vehicle designed for 11 passengers carrying four extra passengers. I can tell you where the bus depot is located, but I suggest you ask someone locally to tell you exactly where it is. This could be the lady who makes up your room or another hotel employee. Don’t ask random people on the street.
  • Club MoBay VIP Lounge Montego Bay, JamaicaAirport Lounges
  • Airport Hotels:
    • MBJ – There are several hotels within a few miles of the airport. Here are a few:
      • Hip Strip Hotels: Altamont Hotel, Doctor’s Cave Beach Hotel, Gloucester Hotel
      • Other Hotels: Half Moon Bay, Holiday Inn, Ritz Carlton
    • KIN – There are no hotels at the airport as its actually on a peninsula. You have to head into New Kingston for a hotel.
  • Currency: Jamaican Dollars (JMD). Do not use non-Jamaican dollars for transactions as you may be charged more than if you use Jamaican dollars. Use ATMs to convert your currency. There is one outside the Arrivals Hall to the left as you exit; its run by the bank NCB.
  • Language: English. There is a local language called Patois (pronounced Patwah). It is like broken English.
  • Visa Information: No visa required for Canadian, U.K and U.S. citizens. Here is some additional information for U.S. citizens from the U.S. State Department. Other citizens can check visa requirements here. You will be required to fill out a landing card on the airplane ride down. Ensure that you make no mistakes and fill in every piece of information that is required. This is extremely important as if you don’t you cannot get in the queue to the Immigration Officer. Instead, you are directed to a desk so you can fill in the information. Typically all the flights arrive at the same time, so you will have about a 30-45 minutes wait in the Immigration line.

 

Here is some additional information when traveling to Montego Bay, Jamaica:

  • Communication – Get a local SIM card from provider Digicel; its quite inexpensive to make local calls and you get 2G of Internet for 7 days for only 775 JAD which is a total steal or just get 500MB/day for 100 JMD/day.  Whichever floats your boat. There is a place close to the airport on what is called the Hip Strip. It’s next to a little grocery store as you enter the Strip when coming from the airport.
  • Jamaican Fruits Montego Bay, JamaicaFood – You cannot leave Jamaica without sampling the local cuisine; you just can’t. I can tell you that the street food is usually good as Jamaicans are very fussy about food and are very cleanliness conscious. They also use a lot of spices so that protects your stomach as well. Here is a list of food items to try; it is by no means exhaustive:
    • Ackee and salted fish – you may have to acquire a taste for ackee, it actually looks like eggs if overcooked.
    • Bammy (made from a root called cassava, this is peeled, grated and pressed. the milk is used to make starch and the grated pieces are used to make the bammy. It is baked and due to the properties of the cassava, it comes together like a slice of bread but better; there are no additives. The only ingredient is the cassava root.)
    • Banana chips
    • Boiled green bananas
    • Boiled and/or roasted breadfruit
    • Corn pone (pudding made primarily from cornmeal; the cornmeal is usually made from grated dried corn)
    • Drops (coconut or peanut made with a sugar paste)
    • Dumplings (boiled and fried)
    • Escovitch Fish at Borders,  JamaicaEscovitch Fish (highly seasoned fried fish)
    • Fruits (mangoes, ripe bananas, sugar cane, water melon, etc.)
    • Fish Tea (this is really soup made from fish)
    • Oxtail (yes, this is the tail of the cow)
    • Fried PlaintainsPlantains (the ripe ones are usually fried, but can also be boiled in the skin. The green ones are usually crushed and fried, but can be baked as well)
    • Rice and Peas and OxtailRice and peas (this is really red beans cooked with white rice and highly seasoned)
    • Stew Peas and rice (salted beef, pig tail, unsalted beef made into a stew with white rice or rice and peas )
    • White yams (boiled)
    • Yellow yams (roasted with salted fish or boiled)
  • Restaurants – Here are a few places to try:
    • Borders – located at the border between St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland, you can get fried fish, bammy and soup. The sellers come running as soon as you pass by. The fish is caught that morning and seasoned and fried, then sold to you.
    • Pork Pit Jerk PorK/Chicken Montego Bay, JamaicaThe Pork Pit – In Montego Bay on the Hip Strip, you will find the best place there is for authentic Jamaican food (Jerk Chicken/Pork); its the Pork Pit. The prices are very reasonable as well. Plus the Red Stripe beer is also cheaper than the tourist places.
    • Scotches – Another place for authentic Jamaican food.
  • Attractions – Here are a few noteworthy attractions:
    • Dunns River Falls – This is the one that most everyone hears about as its located in the parish of St. Anns and much closer to Montego Bay and easier to get to.
    • Fern Gully – Located in   (here you can buy local fruits from the surrounding neighborhoods)
    • Holland Bamboo – located in Lacovia/Middle Quarters area of the parish of St. Elizabeth, this 2.5 miles drive is decorated by bamboo plants on each side that overlaps to form an arch.
    • Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, JamaicaSam Sharpe’s Square – Located in the center of Montego Bay, it showcases some of Jamaica’s history.
    • YS Falls – Located in YS, St. Elizabeth which is very next to Middle Quarters. I’ve actually never been to this place although I lived very close to it when I was growing up. I’ve seen the smaller rivers that feeds it though :-). I do know though that it is worth your visit. So on your next trip head over there.

 

What have you found on your visit to Montego Bay, Jamaica? Or if you live here, what say you? Please leave a comment below.

 

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