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A veritable treasure of general information and other stuff 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 quickly.


HURRICANE SEASON

Those evil cyclones of tropical terror from the Atlantic are most likely between August and October. Hurricane Red Alert is time to ‘batten down the hatches’ as the evening curfew and electricity shutdown kick in. Expect torrential rain, horizontal palm trees, and large pieces of corrugated zinc blowing up the street. Stay in.

WATER SUPPLY

It is usually perfectly safe to drink, wash and do any number of ‘morning things’ with Jamaican tap water. Standing under a freezing cold shower pipe will literally take your breath away.

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).

Being Jamaica 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 power of a waterfall on your back.

*Although avoid the Black River if you should ever visit St Elizabeth unless you want to end up in the belly of a crocodile.

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 the WC for starters). Restaurant restrooms should be at least half-decent but are generally for customers only so you will, not unreasonably, have to make a purchase.

Regardless, always carry some anti-bac hand gel with you. And 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 always 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 “Phonecard, phonecard, cigarette, phonecard…”

INTERNET AND 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. And, wherever you go to browse online, always keep a watchful eye on your belongings.

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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

The 2019-20 major public holidays observed in Jamaica are listed below. Note that offices, banks, etc will be closed so your movements may be restricted — but, on the good side, the bars will be open so you can still go palance to excess!

2019

  • Emancipation Day — Thursday, 1 August
    Marks the end of slavery on 1 August, 1834 throughout the British Empire.

  • Independence Day — Tuesday, 6 August
    National Day of Jamaica, celebrating Independence from the UK in 1962.

  • National Heroes’ Day — Wednesday, 16 October
    Commemorates 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 — Wednesday, 25 December

  • Boxing Day — Thursday, 26 December

2020

  • New Year’s Day — Tuesday, 1 January

  • Ash Wednesday — Wednesday, 26 February

  • Good Friday — Friday, 10 April

  • Easter Monday — Monday, 13 April

  • Labour Day — Saturday, 23 May (Holiday Monday, 25 May)
    In memory of a 1938 labour rebellion that contributed to Independence.

  • Emancipation Day — Saturday, 1 August
    Marks the end of slavery on 1 August, 1834 throughout the British Empire.

MEDICAL HELP

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

Call 110 for emergency assistance, though response times vary. 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 centers are easy to find around town. If you do need 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 pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers and certain ‘personal items’ are also available readily at most general stores, gas stations, etc.


WIGGLY BUGS

For anyone who’s ever stood barefoot on a cockroach in the dark, see our page of crawly things to watch out for.