Shopping in Jamaica
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Shopping is not really one of Jamaica's high points, though you will certainly be able to find things to buy. Good choices include Jamaican crafts, which range from artwork to batik fabrics to baskets. Wood carvings are one of the top purchases; the finest carvings are made from the Jamaican national tree, lignum vitae, or tree of life, a dense, blond wood that requires a talented carver to transform it into dolphins, heads, or fish. Bargaining is expected with crafts vendors. Naturally, Jamaican rum is another top souvenir—there's no shortage of opportunities to buy it at gift shops and liquor stores—as is Tia Maria, the Jamaican-made coffee liqueur. Coffee (both Blue Mountain and the less expensive High Mountain) is sold at nearly every gift shop on the island as well. The cheapest prices are often found at the local grocery stores, where you can buy coffee beans or ground coffee.
Unless you have an extremely early flight, you'll find plenty of shopping at the Sangster International Airport, which has one of the largest shopping malls in Jamaica. Fine handmade cigars are available there, or at one of the island's many cigar stores. You can also buy Cuban cigars almost everywhere, though they can't be taken back legally into the United States.
As a rule, only rum distilleries, such as Appleton's and Sangster's, have better deals than the airport stores. Best of all, if you buy your rum at the airport stores, you don't have to tote all those heavy, breakable bottles to your hotel and then to the airport. (Note that if you purchase rum—or other liquids, such as duty-free perfumes—outside the airport, you'll need to place them in your checked luggage when returning home. If you purchase liquids inside the secured area of the airport, you may board with them, but, after clearing U.S. Customs on landing, you will need to place them in your checked bag if continuing on another flight.)
You can find Jamaican and even some Haitian paintings in galleries around the island. There are many other locally made goods available in the crafts markets in Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. Reggae CDs that are locally recorded are often touted by aspiring artists. Finally, liquor and tobacco products can be good buys.
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