How to backpack in Jamaica

Ocho Rios, Mr Thomas

Sunny, happy Jamaica sounds like the perfect place for a budget traveler – who needs luxury resorts when there’s all that natural beauty and friendly people surrounding you? But as much as a backpacker is open to foregoing luxuries, it is not always possible to travel around a country on a tiny budget. Luckily, in Jamaica’s case, backpacking is very much possible, but there are some precautions that a solo backpacker should take in order to enjoy their experience as much as possible. But using your common sense and knowing some inside knowledge will allow you to have as much (if not more!) fun than someone staying in a luxury all-inclusive resort. Here are some tips on how to backpack in Jamaica.

Safety

One of the chief concerns of many first-time travelers to Jamaica is safety, because the country sadly has a rather bad reputation when it comes to violence and crime rates. But you only need to exercise the same degree of caution as in any other foreign country: don’t venture alone into the seedier parts of a town at night, keep  to well lit streets and don’t flash you valuables too much, especially in rural areas. If you make friends with any locals, ask their advice on where it’s safe to go and which areas you should avoid.

Accommodation

photo by Sarah Ackerman on Flickr

At the first glance it might seem that most of the accommodation available for tourists is in all-inclusive beach resorts, but if you backpack then you can find regular hotel rooms in Kingston, Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Guesthouses, hostels with dorm rooms and basic but clean hotels are not too difficult to find. Camping is another option seeing as the weather is warm, but there are few designated camping spots in Jamaica, but you can either camp in the wild, or on hotel properties where you can either set up your own tent or rent one from the hotel, and benefit from basic facilities.

Transport

Although Jamaica has quite an extensive railroad network, few of the lines are functional, and even so they are mostly used by freight trains. By far the most convenient way to get around the country as a backpacker is by bus, which is cheap and reasonably comfortable. Local buses run throughout the country,and while the trip is no luxury, at least you get to see some stunning landscapes. Local taxis, also called route taxis (as opposed to the much more expensive tourist taxis) are also a convenient means of transport, if you can spot them. These are private cars that go between fixed destinations in cities, and are one of the most common means of transport for locals going to work, school etc.

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