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Beyond the palm trees and the dreadlocks, some random but practical points of fact to dip into, which — you never know — just might come in useful sometime.


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THE CLIMATE

The Jamaican climate is tropical with little change all year round. Daytime temperatures average 27-30°C (81-86°F), dropping to 20-23°C (68-73°F) at night. The north coast, exposed to north-eastern trade winds, gets more rainfall — see the raging gulleys! — but downpours soon pass and the pavements dry off very quickly.

And lest we forget…

HURRICANE SEASON

Those evil cyclones of tropical terror from the Atlantic are most likely from August to October. If they hit, ‘batten down the hatches’ and keep candles and batteries (and beer) handy before evening curfew and power shutdown kick in. Expect torrential rain, palm trees swaying at 45°, flying goats and large chunks of corrugated zinc blowing up the street. Stay in!

WATER SUPPLY

It should be perfectly safe to drink, wash and do any of your ‘morning things’ with Jamaican tap water.

If you are staying in rural areas, water is often stored in stagnant rainwater drums so it’s wise to take some bottled or bag water for drinking or attending to personal hygiene (unless brushing your teeth in Pepsi or Ting is your idea of fun).

Even in the Jamaica heat, standing under a morning freezing cold shower pipe will literally take your breath away.

Getting away from town there is always a river or pool to plunge into to purge yourself of dust and sweat — and who needs a shower pipe with the natural power of a waterfall on your back.

WHEN NATURE CALLS

Planning comfort breaks around your natural rhythm is the key to harmony, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. You will find few public toilets for the use of but these are mostly best left alone except in main ‘touristy’ areas.

Toilets in the regular bars often fall below a reasonable standard (the sticky keys for starters when the WC is padlocked).

Restrooms in the restaurants should be at least half-decent but are generally for customers only so you will, not unreasonably, have to make a purchase. Go on, have a beer.

Regardless, be on the safe side and always carry some anti-bacterial hand gel with you. And for extra points, having your own wet wipes will help maintain your natural sparkle south of the bellybutton.

ELECTRICITY

Many still refer to the electricity supply as ‘light’, perhaps a throwback to the old 1892 Jamaica Electric Light Company (now JPS).

The supply on the island is 110 Volts (alternating at 50 Hz). Should you bring a laptop, curling tongs or phone charger that does not run at this, you will need a voltage converter. (Wilson daringly plugged in his Euro-spec iMac without any noticeable ebb in performance, but do err on the side of caution.)

Power sockets are Type A (as North America) and Type B (with the additional grounding pin), so procure a suitable adaptor.

PHONES

If changing your SIM card for your stay, the main networks on the island are market leader Digicel, and FLOW (formerly LIME).

The FLOW shop is at the Island ‘Burger King’ Plaza, but you cannot ignore the pervasive red Digicel brand — their main shop is at the Gordon Centre on Evelyn Street but their agents are everywhere.

For top-ups, listen out for the street sellers’ cry of “Phonecaad, phonecaad, cigarette, phonecaad…”

INTERNET & WI-FI

All resorts and hotels and many bars and restaurants offer free wi-fi to guests and customers.

Though the need for internet cafés has dwindled since the rise of smartphones, they are found in towns and villages dotted along the coast but you will have less luck if venturing out into the interior or up into the hills.

Expect to weather the odd wi-fi offline spell or powercut anytime and anywhere on the island. But wherever you go to browse online, always keep a watchful eye on any belongings you have with you.

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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN 2020

The major public holidays observed in Jamaica are listed below. Note that banks, offices, etc will be closed so your movements may be restricted — but who cares about that when the bars are open, so you can still go palance to excess!

New Year’s Day — Wednesday, 1 January

Ash Wednesday — Wednesday, 26 February

Good Friday — Friday, 10 April

By now all good Jamaican households should have stocked up for the Easter weekend with ‘Bun and Cheese’, which is almost a religion in itself!

Easter Monday — Monday, 13 April

Labour Day — Monday, 25 May

In memory of a 1938 labour rebellion that led to Jamaican Independence.

Emancipation Day — Saturday, 1 August

Marks the end of slavery on 1 August, 1834 throughout the British Empire.

Independence Day — Thursday, 6 August

National Day of Jamaica, celebrating Independence from the UK in 1962.

National Heroes’ Day — Monday, 19 October

Commemorates the seven National Heroes from Jamaican history: Nanny of the Maroons, Samuel Sharpe, Paul Bogle, Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley, Sir Alexander Bustamante and George William Gordon.

Christmas Day — Friday, 25 December

Boxing Day — Saturday, 26 December

MEDICAL HELP

So you’ve been butted by a goat or a backstreet domino game has gone badly wrong.

The nearest hospital to Ochi is at St Ann’s Bay, about 11 km to the west. Hospital resources are limited and stretched, queues are invariably long, so prepare to wait around for a few hours.

Doctors’ surgeries and medical centres are not too difficult to find. To consult a doctor, you are required to pay an up-front fee as well as for any treatment administered. You did remember to take out travel insurance, didn’t you?

If medicines are the order, there are pharmacies a-plenty in the plazas in the town, selling branded and generic items. Everyday medicines such as pain relievers and certain ‘personal items’ can be readily picked up at general stores, gas stations, etc.

And we can’t ignore our friends…

WIGGLY BUGS

If you've ever stood barefoot on a cockroach in the dark, our Wiggly Bugs page is just for you.