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Jamaica: self-drive with small children or too dangerous?

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Dec 24th, 2011, 06:56 AM
  #1
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Jamaica: self-drive with small children or too dangerous?

We would like to go to Jamaica to travel around, preferably by a hired car. But we hear negative stories, so we do not know if this is a good plan or not. We would like to go around the island and then at the end stay a few nights in, I think, Negril.
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Dec 24th, 2011, 12:52 PM
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travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1147.html
details all risk mostly in dodgy big cities and the south
North shore touristy areas are fine. rockhousehotel.com roundhill.com 2 of my favs.Have personally circumnavigated the island in the pastquite dodgy in Kingston and the south would not risk itespecially with small ones.Trident Villas nice for mein Port Antonio too but Negril my fav or MoBay for
climbing Denns River Falls. www.bookit.com good options

Good luck!
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Dec 25th, 2011, 09:39 AM
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I mostly agree with qwovadis. The only problem is that if you get lost you may end up in parts of towns/cities, where you won't feel very welcome. I would definitely avoid Kingston, but this can happen in almost any other town, too. If it were just you and your husband, I'd say go for it. Not sure I'd give the same advice to a young family.
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Dec 26th, 2011, 04:50 AM
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i've not been on jamaica at all. that said i'm very curious to understand why you (weadles & qwovadis) feel that children make the difference. do you think that jamaicans would harm children as opposed to adults? would the children see things they should not?? help me understand please.
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Dec 26th, 2011, 05:27 AM
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virginia,

I have to preface this by saying that I love Jamaica and have been going there since 1982, many of those visits with my kids. But I have also had many uncomfortable moments off the beach where we/I've wandered into neighborhoods where we were clearly not welcome. I have to add that I've also experienced this in plenty other places, including some here at home in the U.S, where I would not choose to travel with my kids.

This is a sensitive issue to discuss here since I don't want to give the wrong impression. So many people who don't know Jamaica already think of it as a place filled with violence, drugs, and extreme poverty. While no doubt there is plenty of poverty, instances of serious crime outside of Kingston are very few and far in between, especially in the tourist areas. Still, as you would in any place that you don't know well, it's best to exercise common sense and caution.

That being said, Jamaica holds a special place in our family's heart. I would never even remotely suggest that Jamaicans would "harm children as opposed to adults". That couldn't be FURTHER from the truth. But might the kids see some kinds of extreme poverty and have some kinds of experiences that they have never had before? Absolutely. But isn't that the point of traveling?
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Dec 26th, 2011, 02:29 PM
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Having just returned from Ocho Rios a couple of weeks ago and staying in Negril a few years prior, I personally would not feel comfortable driving around Jamaica myself. On both trips we either used tours, taxis or hired a private driver to escort us to the places we wanted to see/do while on vacation.

Jamaica is a beautiful country and should be seen/explored, but with caution as with any unfamiliar area. Though many Jamaicans are wonderful, friendly people there are others that are overly aggressive and opportunistic. We had a couple of minor issues in Ocho Rios (read my trip report) that we did not encounter in Negril. Some people are not comfortable in handling such situations should they arise nor do they want to subject their children to it.

With that said, we don't rent cars and travel around by ourselves at any of the numerous destinations that we have been to. That includes the US and outside of the US. On a return trip, we might consider after getting to know the area first. We would never travel around Mexico in a rental car either and have been going there for the past 10 years.

I guess the answer lies in what you are comfortable dealing with after your completed your research.
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Dec 27th, 2011, 01:48 AM
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Having visited Negril earlier this year, we do regret not having rented a car and would do so next time. Compared to other islands that we've been to, the road from MBJ airport to Negril was good, however we did find the rental charges quite expensive, when we enquired locally.
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Dec 27th, 2011, 07:27 AM
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Thank you all! We do not want to take the risk, because of the small children. I"ll look for an other caribbean destination.
My husband and I have travelled together in all sorts of countries, but with children, it's different. Thanks for the advice!
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Dec 27th, 2011, 07:32 AM
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We have rented cars in Mexico, Thailand, Namibia, Botswana, Cuba, Alaska (we are from Europe, not US) and Costa Rica. And of course a lot of countries within Europe. So we know something about driving ourselves. For Jamaica, I hear different stories.

And staying in a hotel in Jamaica and make (organized) day-trips? Is that nice?
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Dec 27th, 2011, 08:42 AM
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Negril is a beach destination. One of the longest and most beautiful that I have ever seen. But "organized day trips" from Negril would mostly involve water activities ( snorkeling, scuba diving, river or deep sea fishing) and parasailing. Just outside Montego Bay, there's river rafting, and of course Ocho Rios is home to the famous but way overrated IMHO Dunn's RIver Falls. There are also side trips you can take into the Blue Mountains and other areas, although we've never done that. Since you have small children, not sure what you're looking for?
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Dec 27th, 2011, 08:43 AM
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"And staying in a hotel in Jamaica and make (organized) day-trips? Is that nice?"

Absolutely, we have been to YS Falls, Mayfield Falls, Black River, Appleton Rum Factory, craft market, Rick's Cafe, Margaritaville in Negril and Ocho Rios, Dunn's River Falls, Shaw Park gardens, Mahoe Falls, Coyoba Gardens, Scotchies jerk stand, Glistening Waters Restaurants/Luminous Lagoon and rafting down the Martha Brae.

You can still see and do things without renting a car. There are numerous recommendations out there for hiring a private driver. On our trip to Negril we did tours offered by the hotel, but in Ocho Rios, we hired a private driver. We made our own schedule and places we wanted to see/do and he took us there. It was kinda like renting a car but someone drove it for us. He was real knowledgable of the areas and able to also provide us with stories and history.

I have to say, and some people may not agree, but I sometimes feel that being an American and having the negative, inaccurate stigmata we do have by some foriegn countries, we sometimes get treated differently away from the US than people from Canada or Europe. I am extra cautious when traveling. And most people can tell that I am American from my very strong Texas accent.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 06:57 PM
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With regard to the "especially with little ones" comment that confused another poster..."Will Jamaican's treat children worse than adults" - I think the suggestion is that parents with their children often feel more mindful of travel and safety...senses are heightened and sometimes exaggerated and how horrible would it be to find oneself in a situation WITH a child or children...would it feel worse...yes I believe so.

I can't imagine a normal Jamaican ever going out of their way to hurt a child...but anyone in a place where they are compelled to crime or inclined to it is unlikely to take care of a child...so why put someone vulnerable in more of a risky situation.

I have travelled to Jamaica with my son and I would return with my son and my new younger son...but at this point in my life I would not rent a car and traverse the island...it is a wonderful island with wonderful people but it continues to experience unique challenges and complicated circumstances...and as a tourist you may feel at greater risk. I might - with a child I don't want to...Go and enjoy! I will...and will rely on the luxury of a planned tour to enjoy the sites of the island!!
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Jan 8th, 2012, 09:03 PM
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"SuzanneQ on Dec 27, 11 at 10:32am
about driving ourselves. For Jamaica, I hear different stories.

And staying in a hotel in Jamaica and make (organized) day-trips? Is that nice?"

That would be a good idea - I second Negril and it's wonderful beach. If you stay at Coco La Palm? You'll be in the center of the beach, they have 2 swimming pools (nice for the kids) and you can take day tours from there.

Please don't decide not to go to Jamaica just because you can't drive yourself. My DH has driven in most European countries (even Rome) and on Nevis but wouldn't dream of hiring a car on Jamaica - then again we don't tend to leave the beach
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Mar 21st, 2012, 11:12 AM
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Having visited Jamaica several times I must say I love the Jamaica and reggae, however, it's not worth risking my safety. At the time I had no kids so even then it was quite scary. I stayed at a 24/7 manned with armed security guards at the front entrance hotel in Montego Bay so I did hire a "taxi" to take me to the flea market in town. I didn't realize until it was too late this was the ride of my life. The "flea market" was a ramshackle maze of cardboard partitions that once I passed a vendor and didn't buy anything that vendor just followed me. I turned back to see 40 vendors demanding I buy their wares so my instinct was to run! I was the only customer along with my boyfriend in sight.

The "taxi" driver once he brought us back to the hotel bickered with my boyfriend for the fare so it got real ugly. The prices were as steep as the hotel so I learned my lesson the hard way. On the ride over I felt in danger so I couldn't relax.

There is a guarded secret that once your plane lands in Jamaica they tell you AFTER not to leave your guarded hotel grounds. I like roaming a country free not to be caged in even if there's a beach.

My best suggestion next time is to book a flight to the Cayman Islands where you may walk around day or night without any fear. At least you will be safe plus get to snorkel at the best reef right off shore. In Jamaica the locals kill all fish and coral so there is nothing to even look at under the sea.

I now listen to reggae online in Hawaii.

Aloha

ms kailua kona
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Mar 21st, 2012, 07:29 PM
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I can't respond to the specific incidences that happened to the poster above. But many of the other iterations are just pure nonsense. Especially the supposed "guarded secret" when your plane lands. And the suggestion that "there is nothing even to look at under the sea." Hog wash!!!
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Mar 21st, 2012, 08:46 PM
  #16
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"There is a guarded secret that once your plane lands in Jamaica they tell you AFTER not to leave your guarded hotel grounds."

I agree pure Hog Wash. Looks like someone didn't do their research before planning a trip. I've toured many places in Negril, Ocho Rios, and Falmouth. Including one of the craft markets in Negril with no problems. Guess I didn't get that "secret" message.

I wondered where this person acutally stayed. The hotels I've stayed in Negril and Ocho Rios there were no armed guards. Interesting. I guess i Just stayed in nicer hotels than they did, which didn't need that kind of security.
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Mar 22nd, 2012, 08:47 PM
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To [email protected]
Hawaii 3 times , Jamaica 10 times not to mention a long list of other visits. A flight from where I live (Western Canada is shorter to Hawaii but I obviously prefer Jamaica) says all you need to know. I appreciate Hawaii for what it is but to spite you I will say it is an overpriced, plastic facsimile of what it used to be. People like you make a calm guy like me have a rant like this but I almost get the impression that you have never been, just passing on impressions you have heard from cruise ship passengers stopping for 6 hours in Ocho Rios.
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Mar 23rd, 2012, 09:51 PM
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I love Jamaica. But I just fly into Montego Bay and use a shuttle service to get out to Negril and stay there the entire time. It's absolutely incredible.

My concerns for renting a car and driving around aren't about personal safety but just things are fairly rustic and not all that easy for that type trip. Not something I'd want to do with little kids in tow for sure.
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