There are numerous ways to get around the beautiful island of Jamaica. From buses to cabs or route taxis, you’ll find a large number of transportation options – many of them informal.
Here’s all you need to know about getting around Jamaica.
Is it safe for tourists to drive in Jamaica?
Jamaica’s 4200 sq miles are well connected and easily navigated by car. All major towns have paved roads, albeit with varying degrees of potholes. Any foreign visitor should remember two essential tenets of driving here: everyone drives on the left, and motorists (especially taxi and bus drivers) are more aggressive on the road and use a “defensive” style of driving.
Jamaica is not a particularly walkable country, with major towns or points of interest quite spread out. For example, the 35-minute walk from Liguanea to Half Way Tree in Kingston is challenging in the blazing Caribbean heat, with security factors to consider if you walk at night.
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Are rental cars expensive in Jamaica?
If you plan to do lots of sightseeing in Jamaica, renting a car is ideal. Unfortunately, car-rental prices in Jamaica have lately skyrocketed, and are among the highest in the Caribbean. It’s easiest to rent your ride at the airport (most companies offer unlimited mileage), where you’ll find both established local companies like Island Car Rentals alongside international players like Hertz and Avis.
If you don’t want to take the wheel, you can charter your own driver for your trip (best arranged through your hotel). Another option is the Knutsford Express, an extremely popular and affordable private bus service that connects major towns and tourist spots across the island.
A network of buses links cities and towns throughout Jamaica, providing a budget-friendly transport option © Getty Images / iStockphoto
Is there public transport in Jamaica?
Yes. Jamaica’s public transport system consists of a network of buses and cabs that link towns large and small across the island. There is, however, no set timetable or schedule for when they arrive – you just have to embrace island time and wait for the next departure (on average, you can expect to catch a bus or taxi within 15 to 20 minutes). Most major towns have designated bus parks or transport centers.
Tip: in some towns, including Negril, motorbikes are a popular form of public transport. They act like route taxis and take passengers to and from specific points around the town.
How do I pay for public transport and cabs in Jamaica?
Paying for public transportations in Jamaica depends on whether you are taking the national JUTC bus, a private cab or a route “coaster” bus.
JUTC bus is the national bus system that can be found in the major cities of Kingston and Montego Bay. You can pay with cash or purchase a top-up transport card at various spots islandwide. If you take a taxi, whether a charter cab or a route taxi, you pay your fare at the end of your journey in cash.
Coaster buses form the wider bus network in Jamaica, often filling gaps where JUTC buses don’t go. There is usually a conductor on these buses who collects fares from each passenger. Either wait for the conductor to request all fares in cash at once, or pay just before you exit at your stop.
Is public transport safe in Jamaica?
Public transport in Jamaica is relatively safe and affordable. Just remember to always board public transport at main bus parks or terminals, be careful at night and make sure you have cash in small denominations rather than larger bills. For route taxis, avoid taking empty cars and try to travel with a mix of men and women as passengers.
Are cabs expensive in Jamaica?
It depends. There are two types of cabs or taxis in Jamaica: charter taxis and route taxis. Operated by taxi companies, chartered cabs are more expensive. You call ahead to book (charter) a cab, with the fare set by the company before your ride arrives. By contrast, route taxis run like buses and are the much cheaper option, with a fare only slightly higher than the bus.
Is there Uber in Jamaica?
Uber does exist in Jamaica, but it’s not as widespread as in the USA. Drivers are concentrated in cities like Kingston and Montego Bay. Keep in mind that where there is Uber coverage, it’s certain there will be a (cheaper) bus or taxi option.
What’s the best way to get around Jamaica?
If you’re planning to travel around the island, the best way to get around is by car or SUV. Consider renting a vehicle from one of the many reputable rental companies across the island. While you don’t need a car to travel around Jamaica thanks to public transport options, your own ride will be far more convenient and comfortable.
Accessible travel in Jamaica
While many hotels, parks, cruise ports and buildings across the country can accommodate people with mobility issues, there are unfortunately few accessibility options related to transportation. The best option is usually pre-booking a charter taxi or a private tour to get around the island.
On public transportation, accessibility is extremely limited, with buses unable to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs. Even if you’re able to get on the bus, there are almost no designated areas for your wheelchair. The rapid speed at which route taxis load and unload with passengers makes it very challenging for persons with accessibility needs.
Some charter-taxi companies, however, can provide accessible options; be sure to mention your specific requirements when you arrange the ride to ensure they send an appropriate vehicle. Additionally, some private tours provide accessible transport options, with tourist attractions around the island welcoming visitors with accessibility needs to varying degrees.