Can Jamaica Draw Backpackers?

Everyone knows about Jamaica and what it has to offer, or at least they think they do.  The Caribbean island country is famous for its beautiful sand beaches, pristine waters, and reggae vibes.  However, what most don’t realize is there is simply way more to Jamaica than that.  This country is deep in culture, and well it will most likely always be flocked to by sweet pairs searching for romantic getaways at couples resorts, I believe there’s a place for the budget traveller in Jamaica as well.  So let’s have a bit of a look at what this island could have to offer backpackers in particular.

When looking at a destination and trying to decide if it can be a draw to tourists, there’s almost a formula that you can write.  Basically, a destination gets points for different things that attract tourists.  A destination also loses points for things that might dissuade tourists.  For backpackers, the formula is slightly different but still breaks down almost the same way.

jamaica

Should Backpacker’s Visit Jamaica? The Benefits.

Cost Affordability

Backpackers have to be budget conscious, for the most part backpackers live on budgets of around 50-60USD a day.  Now, well Jamaica gets most of its publicity for its amazing 5-star resorts, it does have the potential to cater to backpackers too.  There just simply aren’t enough backpackers at the moment.  Still, as long as they are willing to make compromises in regards to location and quality, there are plenty of guesthouses available that fit into the backpacker budget.

When it comes to food and drink, there are options as well.  The truth is that Jamaicans don’t eat at these resorts, so anyone on a budget needs to eat what the locals do.  The good news is that the local Jamaican food is amazing, and actually far better than you’ll find in the resort.

Transport too isn’t overly expensive in Jamaica, and with somewhat short distances, using public transport wont cut too deeply into your budget.

Conclusion: Jamaica can be a budget travel destination. But it will take some effort.

Natural Beauty and Adventure

There’s no doubting the natural beauty of Jamaica.  Beyond the stunning beaches of places like Montego Bay, there are also mountains and rain forests to explore.  Well many people just stick to the sand well in Jamaica, the adventure ready backpacker might wander into the hills and explore some of the rural villages and hike some of the rain forest.  There are plenty of opportunities for adventure in Jamaica and again, you’re not likely to find that staying at a resort, but off on your own at a more local type accommodation.

Food and Culture

Probably the part of Jamaica that goes so often undiscovered by tourists is the local culture.  Those who stay in resorts will likely joke about “highlife” and reggae, but what those who stay off reservation find is that there is a real Rastafarian culture that exists in Jamaica, and it’s incredibly interesting.

Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, Jamaica cuisine is unreal.  Even simple meals like paddies in Jamaica come out with such incredible flavour you just want to keep eating and eating.  Of course, most backpackers are also looking for a bit of drink and the Jamaicans know how to party, I assure you.  Get some rum in your system and hit the dance floor.

jamaica

What is Holding Jamaica Back? Why Backpackers don’t come.

Press for the Tourism Infrastructure

The tourism infrastructure for backpackers in Jamaica is far better than people think.  Thus, the problem isn’t really the tourism infrastructure itself but the fact that there is no press at all advertising Jamaica as a destination for backpackers.  A simple search of the hostel booking sites will show you that there are multiple options in big destinations like Negril and Montego Bay for about $20 for a dorm or $35 for a private room.  These are the same sort of prices you’ll get in South America.  But if you ask people about Jamaica and why they don’t backpack there it’s because they still see it as a destination where you have to stay at a resort.  This is a big reason why backpackers don’t come to Jamaica that often.

Drug and Violence

Jamaica has a drug and violence problem.  Now, that problem is fairly restricted to Kingston where tourists rarely visit anyways, but it’s still a problem.  Tourists see the numbers as feel there is a risk to stay outside of he resorts in Jamaica.  This part of the image needs to be cleaned up.  Well there are obvious issues, it’s not something that should affect tourists.  Most of the violence is drug-related which shouldn’t affect tourists at all.

Conclusions

I think that Jamaica has a huge amount of potential to draw backpackers.  However, I don’t know if they will ever come.  When Jamaica can draw the massive crowds of tourists from around the world that are willing to pay top dollar, I can’t see the country having any desire to draw backpackers and budget travellers.  Still, the potential is there.  I also think backpackers could really enjoy Jamaica, it’s almost as if they would get an off-the-beaten-path experience from one of the busiest travel destinations on the planet.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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3 Comments

  1. good observations on the conditions in jamaica. I am Jamaican with property in st Elizabeth and mandeville. Close to ocean.rivers cliffs.trails etc. Wants to attract international backpackers as business venture.would like to consult with you for your opinion .advice or involvement.

    Post a Reply
    • Feel free to shoot me an email Eric.

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    • Thanks for this article

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