Conduct and Customs


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Etiquette and manners are taken very seriously in Jamaica, although there's a lot of variation when it comes to individual concern over proper etiquette. Some people are so proper they might as well be the Queen, whereas others lack manners entirely. To a more exaggerated extent than many other places in the world where the same holds true, manners, etiquette, and speech in Jamaica are perceived as directly correlated to upbringing, socioeconomic class, and social status. Therefore it's important to be aware of the impression you make, especially with language. Cussing, for instance, is scorned by many educated Jamaicans, especially devout Christians. Meanwhile, as is the case everywhere, many people couldn't care less about the impression they make and speak quite freely and colorfully.

Photographing people in Jamaica can be touchy and should be done only after asking permission. That said, media professionals are highly respected and if you are walking with a camera, people will often ask you to take their picture regardless of whether they will ever see it. It makes a nice gesture to give people photos of themselves and is a great way to make friends. Photographing people without asking permission will often garner a request for monetary compensation. Asking permission often gets the same response. If the picture is worth it, placate your subject with whatever you think it's worth. Money is rarelyturned down.


Begging in Jamaica is an everyday affair, from people voluntarily washing car windows at stoplights in Kingston and Mobay, to friends asking friends for money for this, that, or the other. It's important to balance altruism in providing whatever contribution you are able to offer based on your means with the practicality of perpetuating a dependence on others for monetary gifts. The truth of the matter is, underemployment is severely underreported in Jamaica and unfortunately poverty will not be eradicated anytime soon. Nevertheless, in tourist areas begging can be a nuisance, and it's best to discourage beggars by donating your money instead to a local organization or charity.


Tipping is common practice in Jamaica to a varying degree of formality depending on the venue, from leaving a "smalls" for the man who watched/washed your car while you were at the club, to more serious sums for the staff at your villa. It's important to help those on the receiving end differentiate between a tip and a handout, however, as Jamaica suffers from a lack of productivity in part due to handouts, whether in the form of remittances, political favors, or petty change. At the same time, it's also important to acknowledge the fact that typically those who provide a service are working on a salary and don't see the cash you are paying for the service rendered, no matter how expensive it may be.

Many of the more formal restaurants include a service charge in the bill, in which case any further tip should be discretionary based on the quality of service provided. At inexpensive eateries tipping is rare, while at the more upscale restaurants, it is expected. The amount to leave for a good meal at a mid-range to expensive restaurant follows international standards, or between 10 percent and 20 percent depending on the attention you received.

Most all-inclusive hotels have banned tipping to discourage the soliciting that makes their guests uncomfortable. Where anti-tipping policies are in place, it's best to adhere to them. At European-plan hotels, a US$5\10 tip for the bellhop is a welcome gesture.

Staffed villas usually state that guests are to leave the staff a tip equal to 10 percent of the total rental cost. This consideration should be divided equally amongst the staff who were present during your stay and given to each person individually.

Tipping is also common practice at spas, where a US$20 bill on top of the cost of treatment for the individual who provided the service will be well received.

Tour guides at attractions, even when included in the cost of the tour, greatly appreciate a token tip.