Visiting Jamaica

Me with a local "Jack of the Forest" in Ferngully, Jamaica
Me with a local “Jack of the Forest” in Ferngully, Jamaica

Jamaica is a fairly dangerous place in some ways, especially for a white skinned traveller.  With some common sense though, it’s possible to experience the real Jamaica and be completely safe.  There are huge resorts with lavish details as insane as nude beach weddings, in fact many of these resorts are walled in communities with malls, beaches and everything a person could want inside.  The locals are simply servants to the white tourists in these places.  Meanwhile outside of these fairytale getaways, many local Jamaicans work incredibly hard for a pittance in industries like fishing.  The resorts pollute the ocean, often flushing sewage straight into the sea and promote the idea of a tropical paradise on an island where the national flag includes black as a symbol of poverty.  Home loans are virtually non-existent in Jamaica and half finished houses are common, with people adding on to them as they get money.  It can be dangerous for a white person to wander around Jamaica alone, you can get some very dirty, threatening looks and robbery isn’t unheard of.  I don’t think that’s a good reason for a person to not get out and explore Jamaica though.  Just consider the viewpoint of the locals, how would you feel if your nation was full of large, rich gated communities full of drunken tourists looking to get high on the beach while you lived in poverty.  I think the more people try to see Jamaica with a sense of curiosity and empathy, the safer it will become and the better it is for the local people.  Lots of resorts aren’t owned by Jamaican locals, but by foreign companies and do little for the economy besides supply a few low paying jobs while polluting it’s oceans and exploiting it’s sunny weather.

Jamaica offers delicious food, such as jerked goat or chicken that you can find grilling over 50 gallon drums on the street, unsurpassable rum, world-famous music and stunning natural beauty.  It’s all there and relatively cheap for a tourist willing to explore.  My advice is find a local homestay or wwoofing position online, maybe a couch surfing host and ask them what’s safe and what’s not.  Hire a driver or ask a local to go with you if you’re concerned for your safety but don’t miss out on seeing a unique, amazing place.  It’s too good to spend your whole trip drunk on a protected beach

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