Living like a local in Jamaica is a must if you really want to see the country and meet the local people. I had been to Jamaica before, but I stayed in an all-inclusive, and I did a few tours. However, I realized on this visit that though I had been to Jamaica, I had never seen Jamaica, and I certainly didn’t experience it.
So…what does living like a local in Jamaica look like? This involves you living in a private residence versus a hotel, shopping at the local grocery store and cooking or having a cook prepare food for you, doing activities independent of a tour group, and hanging out in areas that do not sell souvenirs.
1) Find yourself a good driver.
Hiring a driver for the time you’re in Jamaica is often less expensive than renting a car or using tour company for your excursions. Drivers know all the best local haunts, and hiring a driver allows you to explore the island on your own. It’s the best way to have a local experience, and discover the best hole-in-the-wall Jamaican food. For example, you can get on a tour bus to go to Dunn’s River Falls, but a tour bus is not going to stop on the way back to the hotel and let you discover the best roadside jerk.
2) Rent a villa or private residence.
Get out of the all-inclusive and go into the communities. Depending on the length of time being spent in Jamaica, a villa rental is often cheaper than an all-inclusive and will typically come with a household staff consisting of a cook, housekeeper, laundress, and groundskeeper. The deal gets even better if you go with a group of people and split the cost of the villa rental. This is the best way to start out if you want to live like a local. Locals don’t go to an all-inclusive unless it’s to work.
3) Be friendly and open.
When you meet people, smile and say, “Hello,” you’ll be amazed. Do not be afraid of the people. Jamaicans are friendly. When you’re friendly, and they’re friendly, this is a great time to ask questions regarding other local hangouts.
4) Do your souvenir shopping, but try to limit time in places that tourist frequent.
When you’re at home, do you hit the heavy tourist areas? Probably not, unless you have out-of-towners visiting. Take the same view in Jamaica. Get off of the Hip Strip (a tourist shopping area), and get onto the side streets. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
5) Meet the People Program.
Jamaica Tourist Board established the Meet The People program in 1968 to allow visitors to meet local people and explore the culture, traditions, and customs of Jamaica. The Jamaica Tourist Board’s coordinator will identify individuals who share your interests, and will get in touch with you shortly after you arrive in Jamaica.
Newman is a lifelong resident of Jamaica, and has been a local driver for over 30 years. If you would like to hire Newman, you can reach him at +1-876-809-9905.