Jamaica is the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean, stretching 146 miles from east to west. The country’s name is derived from an Arawak (aboriginal Indian) word “Xaymaca”, meaning “land of wood and water”. And so it is. With waterfalls, and springs, rivers and streams flowing from the forest-clad mountains to the fertile plains, Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the region.
The island offers a feast of contrasts. The north coast, with its popular resort areas of Montego Bay, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, features fine coral beaches and broad plains where sugar cane, coconuts and citrus fruits are grown. On the western tip of the island is Negril, once a remote, swampy outpost but now a beachcomber’s paradise. The southern region of the island offers a rugged coastline where majestic mountains plunge into the sea – like the inspirational Lover’s Leap in St. Elizabeth, a 1500-foot cliff of romantic legend.
The center of the island is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, spotted occasionally with small mining towns and villages. The central mountain range, dominated by the 7,402-foot Blue Mountain, divides the south coast of the island from the north and extends from Half Moon Bay to Portland. This great variety of terrain and climate allows virtually everything to grow here, including the famous Blue Mountain coffee.
Jamaica is located in the Caribbean Sea at a latitude of 18 degrees N and a longitude of 78 degrees W of the capital, Kingston. It is about 1127 km (700 miles) south of Miami, Florida and 145 km (90 miles) south of Cuba, its nearest neighbour. The island has an area of 11453 sq km (4411 sq miles). It is 235 km (146 miles) long from east to west, and 82 km (51 miles) across at its broadest point, from St Ann’s Bay in the north to Portland Point in the south.
Jamaica is divided into three counties – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey – and further divided into 14 parishes. Kingston, the capital and commercial centre of Jamaica, is situated on the southeast coast of the island. Montego Bay, located on the north-west coast, is the island’s second city.
Jamaica has a warm, tropical maritime climate. The average temperature on the coastal lowlands is 26.7• Celsius (80•F). There is a difference of about 5•C (34•F) in the average temperature between January-February and July-August (respectively the coldest and warmest periods of the year). There is an estimated fall in temperature of 16•C (4• F) per 1000 foot increase in altitude; the average temperature at Blue Mountain Peak, the island’s highest point, is 13•C (56•F).
Average annual rainfall for the whole island is 195.8cm (77.1 inches). Rainfall peaks in May and October, and is at its lowest levels in March and June. The Blue Mountain range and the northeast coast receive the highest annual rainfall, the average being about 330 cm (130 inches). Jamaica lies in a hurricane zone; the hurricane season lasts from June to November.
As a rule, rainfall is much heavier on the North Coast of Jamaica, which receives the relief rainfall provided by the mountains running from west to east, than on the south coast, which receives chiefly convectional rain.
Jamaica has two rainy seasons, the first in May and the other in October and November.
Jamaica has a history of hurricanes, and an active hurricane season each year. A hurricane is a storm revolving around a centre of low pressure which contains almost no wind and are invariably accompanied by driving rains.
The hurricane season is between July and October, though a hurricane may occasionally arise in June or November.
Jamaica Economy At-a-Glance
The world knows Jamaica for the vibrant culture and creativity captured in the mystical music of icons like Bob Marley, and its broad footprint in sport has been charted by legends such as Usain Bolt.
As an economy, Jamaica operates as a mixed, free market economy with state enterprises as well as private sector businesses. The economy is dominated by the services sector, with other major sectors being agriculture, mining and tourism, which account for more than 60% of GDP.
The country’s economic development strategy is supported by strong political commitment to free enterprise, a strong national brand identity, and a strong international profile. Since the early 1990’s, the Jamaican government has pursued a programme of economic liberalization and stabilization through the removal of exchange controls, reduction of tariffs, stabilization of local currency, by reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment.
The official currency is the Jamaica Dollar (JA$), but several other currencies such as the US$, the Euro, the Canadian dollar and British pound are freely traded and accepted “over the counter.”
Jamaica currently ranks 20th as an inward investment location, 12th in terms of FDI technology transfer, and 10th in terms of the ease of regulations for doing business. Jamaica’s strength as an investment location is grounded in a number of factors namely its large English speaking population, competitively priced labour force, accessibility to a diverse labour pool and it is ideally located for trading with the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Its proximity to the United States, its historic and emerging relationship with the Latin American bloc and its proximity to the Panama Canal are noted as advantages. Additionally, the island is served by an abundance of natural resources and a well developed infrastructure.
Jamaica subscribes to a liberal trade regime and together with the generous fiscal and market incentives available has proven attractive to investors. There are no restrictions on the movement of capital, profits and dividends. There are virtually no exchange controls and no approval is required for repatriation of profits and dividends. Agreements involving the payment of technical assistance fees, royalties, management fees, and trademark and patent fees must reflect arm’s-length consideration for tax deduction to be available.
Population and Language
The population of Jamaica is approximately 2.9MM, the majority of which is of African and mixed African origin. Other major ethnic groups represented in the island are East Indians, Chinese, and Europeans. There is much intermingling of races and nationalities in the society which leads to the country’s motto “out of many one people.”
English is the official language in the island, although an English-based Jamaican Creole called “patois” (pronounced patwa) is the dominant “language.”
In Jamaican, religion comes in all sizes. There’s something to fit nearly everyone. If we can’t find our size, it seems we just go out and start a church to suit our needs! Indeed, the country is widely held to have the highest number of churches per capita in the world! In Black River for example, a small town with a population of less than 5000, there are 13 churches!
Religion forms an integral part of the Jamaican culture, with the dominant religion being Christianity. Throughout Jamaica you will also find Rastafarians, and a smaller number of Jews, Hindus, and Muslims.
The style of worship in Jamaican religion varies from very reserved to non-stop action! Despite male dominated leadership in most churches, congregations are predominantly female.
Although the Seventh Day Adventists (who worship on a Saturday) are the largest denomination, they are far outnumbered by Sunday worshippers, most of who belong to the Pentecostal movement. The non-fundamentalists such as Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Moravians, Baptists, Methodists and the United Church still maintain a strong presence.
Jamaican religion today, as far as Christianity goes, is a true lesson in diversity. It has played a pivotal role in Jamaica’s history and continues to influence our society today. For example, despite the presence of capital punishment on the statutes, there has been no public execution in Jamaica for the last 30 years.
The Jamaica legislature comprises an executive branch, headed by the British monarchy which is hereditary. The monarchy is represented by a local governor general. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives is appointed Prime Minister.
The legislative branch of government comprises the Senate (21 members), and the House of Representatives (63 members). The Judicial Branch of government comprises the supreme court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. Jamaica is a signatory to the Caribbean Court of Appeal as a final appellate court but this has yet to be promulgated.
Travelling to Jamaica: Visa Entry Requirements
All visitors to the island must comply with the following:
• Be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months
• Be in possession of a valid visa (where applicable)
• Have sufficient funds to support him/herself and other dependents for the duration of stay in Jamaica
• Itinerary or ticket showing travel details
• Must be of sound mind
• Must fulfill any requirement prescribed by the Jamaican Immigration Authorities
If you’re a Cruise Ship Passenger, you are NOT required to hold a passport as long as you:
1. Remain in the island during the stay of the vessel you arrived on and…
2. Depart Jamaica on the same vessel you arrived on.
Visitors from the following Commonwealth Countries MUST present a valid visa to enter Jamaica:
All other Commonwealth Citizens do NOT require entry visas for Jamaica.
Reason why a foreign visitor might be refused entry into Jamaica:
• If a visitor is in possession of a medical certificate claiming he/she is suffering from a disease that makes it undesirable for them to land, entry will be prohibited
• If a visitor has been sentenced in a foreign country for a extradition crime falling within the Extraditions Acts of 1870 and 1906
• If the visitor is the subject of a deportation order in force under the Aliens Law
• If visitor is prohibited from landing by the Minister of National Security and Justice
Passport holders of the following Territories will be treated according to the country under whose jurisdiction they fall:
BERMUDA UNITED KINGDOM
FRENCH GUIANA FRANCE
FRENCH POLYNESIA FRANCE
GIBRALTAR UNITED KINGDOM
MONTSERRAT UNITED KINGDOM
ST. MAARTEN NETHERLANDS
ST. MARTIN FRANCE
TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS UNITED KINGDOM
US VIRGIN ISLANDS UNITED STATES