I’m forever telling people not to listen to the media/others and to go see a country for themselves- most places are safe if you use common sense. But when a guy I know asked why I was afraid to go to Jamaica I realised I was being a hypocrite. So last week, when I saw a cheap flight from Montreal to Montego Bay, I thought let’s do this. This is the conversation I had with my mum when I told her…
I landed at the airport around 1pm yesterday. After some serious questioning from the immigrations officer, I was ushered into one of the side rooms when I said I hadn’t booked my return flight yet. I was scared I was going to get deported or fined or something and sat there worrying for 5 minutes until she came back. She just told me I had to book my onward flight which I did then she let me go. They were super friendly about it too. Thank god.
So off I went to collect my baggage. I waited… and waited… then the carousel stopped. My bag wasn’t there. I thought to myself “not again” but tried not to panic. Thankfully when I went to the Westjet desk to tell them, my case was there waiting for me. Phew.
I then went in search for a taxi. My hostel sent an email prior to my arrival giving me various options for transportation to get there. I decided I’d take a shared taxi as it was the cheapest at 100 Jamaican dollars (about $1 US). I was warned I was likely to be told a higher price but I should pay no more than 100 JMD. I asked an airport worker where I could find these shared taxis- he told me he’d call one for me and it would cost $600 because I’m a tourist. He actually said that, haha. I told him it was too much so he said “go wait over there then” and walked away. I asked someone else and he stopped one for me. The driver told me it was $150 but accepted my offer of $100 without too much of a fight. I felt proud of myself as haggling is so not my thing. I got into a minibus full of Jamaicans and felt like a local as I handed over my $100 with everyone else.
I got dropped off in a part of downtown which was terrifying. It was really rough and dirty. Everyone was staring at me and I felt extremely vulnerable walking up the street on my own with a massive suitcase, especially as a 16-year-old-looking white female. I had no idea which way I had to walk to my hostel (neither did the taxi driver) so I had no choice but to ask the men staring at me. They pointed me to the street I needed (after asking if I wanted them to take me there in their car) but didn’t know of the hostel. I kept walking and thank my lucky stars it was only 2 minutes away. However, the front gate was locked and there was no buzzer. Shit.
I couldn’t use my UK phone to call them so I just stood there waiting for a while (and freaking out) until a random guy came over. He started banging on the gate and shouting to get attention from inside but there was no answer so he left. After about 5 minutes this little sweetheart old man asked if I was ok and as soon as he came over I felt safe. He called the hostel to tell them I was waiting at the gate.
The owner, Adam, came round to get me and as I looked around the hostel grounds I really felt like I was in Ghana again. When inside though, it was the cutest little house which had two private rooms and 1 dorm room. Adam made me feel so welcome and introduced me to the two guys who would be my new roommates- one from England and the other from Arizona. I’m also sharing with two older women who arrived later. As the hostel is so small, everyone is like a family which I love so much. The guys immediately invited me to the beach so we took the 20 minute walk there. Within an hour of arriving I was snorkelling at Doctors Cave beach around lots of beautiful coral and fish. What a life.
We stayed there until sunset then went to eat at this side-of-the-road restaurant that the guys loved. I ate chicken for the first time in 10 months because I really wanted to try jerk chicken. I had it with “festival” which is a deep fried dumpling thing that tastes like churros. After that we went back to the hostel to change so we could go out for drinks. I showered then passed out at 9pm because I was so tired so I didn’t make it to the bar. Classic me.
We’ve been offered weed by almost every man we pass and I’ve already had two marriage proposals but the guys aren’t pushy at all like they are in other countries I’ve been to. Whilst I still wouldn’t be walking around after dark if I was alone, so far it is so much safer than I expected. I’m glad I came here and got to see what it’s like for myself. I’m so excited for the next 10 days!