Coronation Market: Tips for Surviving Jamaica’s Best Market
“Watch it browning!” yelled the smiling handcart man as the wheel of the wooden cart narrowly missed my ankle. My toes were snug against the blue tarp laden with green bananas. There was nowhere else for me to go and make room for him. So I sidestepped between the bananas and yams straddling the produce until he passed. The handcart man nodded at me and deftly maneuvered the narrow alleyway teeming with people.
Coronation Market is where Jamaica’s vendors converge in a point of trade and commerce. Located in downtown Kingston, the market has an energy of its own and if you don’t go with the flow, then you will get run over. It’s dizzying, loud, fast paced energy is not for the faint of heart. Underneath blue tarps held up by bamboo sticks that mimic ocean waves, are the true heart of the market, the higglers (vendors). Their calls of “Banana hundred dolla ah dozen!” “Fifty dolla a pound for yam!” lure you to their produce where you can sample an orange, a tangerine, or even a piece of melon. I distinctly felt a true sense of community among the higglers. As I walked in the market I overheard them asking for change from other vendors and quite a few times when someone ran out of something I was looking for, they were quick with a recommendation of who had it in the market, complete with directions.
Every week, higglers from the farmlands in the country come down to the market on Pechon Street to sell produce. They spend a few days there until all the produce is sold or it is time for them to pack up and go back to the country. Saturday is the biggest day at the market as most people do their shopping for the week on that day. Although fruits and vegetables are the primary items sold, spices, clothes, housewares are sold as well. You can get items much cheaper at Coronation Market than in supermarkets and other markets uptown. Patrons can haggle for a better bargain or ask for brawta– a little extra on goods purchased.
Tips for Surviving Coronation Market
- Wear sneakers or comfortable closed toe shoes. Sandals or flip flops are not advisable because of the dirt roads and muddy spots along them in the market.
- Carry tote bags or purchase a market bag for JMD $70 to carry items.
- Try to have small bills.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. Vendors can knock off JMD $50 off certain things.
- Taste fruits before you purchase. In fact, it is encouraged.
- Be mindful of setting down your market bag away from you. You will be cautioned to “Mind your bag,” as someone can easily grab up your bag and get lost in the market.
- If you are buying a lot of produce, then hiring and handcart to follow you and collect your purchases is best.
- When you see a handcart coming, get out of the way.
Have fun! The market is an opportunity to connect with Jamaicans on an authentic level who are only too anxious to share cooking tips on their produce.