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Jamaica Driving Guide

Jamaica Driving Guide

Explore Jamaica by driving when you get International Permit

2021-01-09 · 9min read
driving in Jamaica guide

Welcome to Jamaica, a country mostly popular in many songs. It’s the home of Reggae music and the fastest sprinters in the world. With beautiful beaches and reggae music to match, Jamaica is the best place to unwind and relax from all the stress at work, school, or even your relationships!

So, if you want to make your visit worth it, driving around the location is highly recommended over using public transport. That’s why we, the International Drivers Association, bring you this legitimate driving guide through Jamaica’s roads and experience a one-of-a-kind Caribbean road trip.

General Information

Jamaica is a tropical Caribbean island famous for its beaches, summery vibes, and its natural wonders. This paradise of a country is truly a hodgepodge of nature and culture and there is no better way to appreciate it than by going on a road trip. A Caribbean adventure by car is the best way to make your Jamaican experience more memorable.

The best way to get around in Jamaica is by renting a car. Having your car to drive gives you more control over your itinerary, eliminating all waiting that comes with public transportation. An International Drivers Permit is a must-have when driving in Jamaica as this shall serve as a translation of your native driver’s license and would be essential when renting a car. With your vehicle and an IDP, driving in Jamaica can be a breeze.

Languages Spoken

The majority of Jamaicans speak English, even having it as the country’s official language. Creole, another dialect, draws influence from Spanish and French languages, is commonly spoken in Jamaica. Since English is a primary language, Jamaica’s vocabulary and grammar structure is based largely off the language.

Renting a Car in Jamaica

The best way to get around Jamaica and to experience its beautiful scenery is by way of driving. There is nothing better than a road trip with the lush Caribbean horizon in full view. Before you get all worked up over the idea of a road trip, you first have to know the basics about renting a car in Jamaica. Here is some useful information on car rentals in Jamaica.

Car Rental Companies

While traveling by commute seems like a spontaneous adventure, it is much easier and much more flexible to get around by car. Renting a car can be done online at your convenience or you can visit a car rental company in the country. You'll find major international car-rental companies in Jamaica. Some rental car companies cater to the traveling needs of tourists as most of them are situated near the airports or in the capital such as:

  • Island Car Rentals- Norman Manley International Airport’ Kingston, Jamaica
  • National Car Rentals-Kingston, Jamaica
  • Apex Car Rentals- Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Avis Rent A Car- Kingston, Jamaica
  • Hummingbird Tours and Car Rental Services-Spanish Town, Jamaica

Documents Required

Renting a car in Jamaica is quite easy since most can be done online. It can also be found at the major tourist spots and in airports. Requirements for renting a car include:

  • Must be 25 years of age
  • Has a valid license from the native country (at least a year)
  • Pay with a credit card
  • Rented within 24 hours
  • Must come with coverage charge against theft

Vehicle Types

You can practically rent any sort of vehicle that suits your needs for driving, be it vans, SUVs, buses, and cars. There are some requirements regarding the age of those who can operate these particular vehicles. For car drivers, the required age must be between age 21-75, while for buses, vans, and luxury SUVs, the age must be between 25-75.

Agencies would allow you to rent any sort of car for your traveling purposes ranging from Hondas, Toyotas, Mazdas, and other brands of your preference. Certain agencies often prohibit cigarette smoking in the car. Small cars are preferred if you're driving in small distance only.

Car Rental Cost

Car rental fees in Jamaica depend on a lot of factors such as the type of vehicle, seating capacity, and the payment method of the agency. The most typical prices of cars and their models are as follows:

  • Economy-$25/day
  • Compact-$26/day
  • Economy- $25/day
  • Compact-$26/ day
  • Intermediate-$30/day
  • Full size-$45/day
  • SUV- $50/ day

As per rental agency Jamaica Car, these vehicles are equipped with unlimited mileage, automatic with air-conditioning, and theft waiver. These are only the rental fees of the said models as some rental fees of the vehicles as some car rental companies do not cover insurance, except for those above that have a theft waiver. You may incur additional fees if you add extras for your rental car.

Age Requirements

To be able to drive in Jamaica you must abide by the country's rules and regulations for who is allowed to drive. The following must be taken into consideration:

  • A passport may not be required of you however it is a must to always bring a copy of it
  • A domestic driver's license valid for at least a year or two and an International Driver's Permit
  • 18 is the minimum age for driving, but renting a car] would require you to be 21 years old
  • Extra charges would apply to those under the age of 25 who are seeking to rent a car

Car Insurance Cost

The rental insurance isn’t always covered by the rental company, so there might be a need to have insurance handy before renting a car. 

  • Loss/collision damage waiver- This is the kind of insurance that covers you if you were in an accident, a stolen or vandalized vehicle, or loss of use. Deductibles or the amount you pay for damages before insurance coverage takes place depends on the company.
  • Liability Insurance- may also be known as supplemental liability insurance that covers damage to other vehicles that were involved in an accident caused by the renter, usually encompassing medical expenses and would cost about USD 7-USD 15
  • Personal effects coverage- An inexpensive coverage priced at around a dollar to five US dollars which protects your belongings when they are damaged or stolen.
  • Personal accident insurance- Also around a dollar to seven dollars depending on the agency, as this will cover the medical costs should an accident happen to you and the passengers of your rented car.

Road Rules in Jamaica

Driving can become even more smooth sailing if you know the rules beforehand and abide by them. Knowing the road rules is helpful, especially in the main cities of Kingston. And remember to always use Google Maps, as it will make your trip easier.Here are some tips to help make your road trip fun and safe.

General Standards

The most common vehicle in Jamaica used to be manual cars, but automatic cars have recently taken the lead amongst drivers. Make sure that your car is in tip-top condition. Before getting in your car, walk around it to inspect tires to see if they are well vulcanized, check for any obstructions that might hinder the wheel from turning. The use of cell phones is also prohibited.

Once you’re behind the wheel first things first: fasten your seatbelt and adjust your mirrors. Wearing seat belts is a must in Jamaica. Most rental cars have seat belts for every seat so make sure to use them when on the road. Keep your eyes on the road and block out any distractions that could hinder your focus such as loud music or cellphone usage. Pay attention to traffic signs and lights on the highway and be mindful of the speed limit. Park in well-lit areas and keep the doors locked and do not leave any valuables in the car. Turn off the engine and keep your car keys with you for safety purposes.

Speed Limits

The speed limit varies depending on where you are. Urban areas have their speed limit at 50 kph while it is 110 kph on the highway and 80 kph in rural areas. Since urban areas have more people and more establishments, there is a need to exercise care and control in driving and speeding up. Urban places such as Kingston would require you to drive slowly enabling you to gaze and marvel at its culture.

If a rural adventure or driving on country roads is what you’re in for then you can go a bit faster compared to the urban areas since the speed limit is at 80 kph since there aren’t that many people and infrastructure around. However, driving on an open road is not a pass to exceed the speed limit. 

Traffic Road Signs

If you are unfamiliar with driving in foreign countries it would be advisable to inform yourself about this first before driving as road signs are important, so you don’t get lost or get into trouble with the law. However, in places like Montego Bay and Ochos Rio, there are very few traffic lights, and their main roads tend to get crowded.

Legal Driving Age

The legal driving age in Jamaica varies depending on the vehicle. The youngest permissible age to drive is 17, but the minimum age to rent is 21. For rented cars, car drivers must be 21-75 years old while for buses, vans, and luxury SUVs, the age for driving them must be 25-75.

Laws on Overtaking

While there happen to be no distinct laws about overtaking, Jamaica has some rules regarding overtaking to make it safe for motorists. Overtaking must only be done on the right, and it isn’t allowed at pedestrian crossings and railways, at road junctions, curves, and bends. Do not overtake where there is a single or double white line on the road and when someone is about to overtake you, move to the left and do not increase your speed.

Driving Side

Like most countries in the world, Jamaica drives on the left side of the road, which means that their steering wheel is on the right side making it easier for visitors from places such as the UK to drive. This can pose a challenge to those from countries like the United States who drive on the right side.

The Driving Etiquette in Jamaica

Driving in Jamaica can be an entirely different experience for travelers. For starters, the wheel is on the right-hand side of the car and driving is on the left side which can make it quite confusing and new to tourists from the right-side driving countries. 

As alluring as beach nightlife and partying might sound, take extra caution as Jamaica has a significantly alarming crime rate and nighttime driving is highly discouraged especially outside of the capital Kingston and other tourist destinations. 

Car Breakdown

Car breakdowns are unexpected and unfortunate but are a reality especially when driving in the summer with the heat bearing down on you. Should this happen to you, stay calm, don’t panic, and keep these things in mind:

  1. Do not get out of the vehicle or attempt to fix the situation on your own.
  2. Get the vehicle to a safe location such as the side of the road before getting out of your car.
  3. Have marker triangles ready to mark your location. These triangles will also serve as an indication of an emergency.
  4. Turn on your hazard lights.
  5. Call for assistance, should you need any.

Police Stops

If you get stopped by a police officer, be it for a misunderstanding or a traffic violation, remember to cooperate with the authorities. Here’s what to do when you get pulled over while driving:

  1. Pullover to the side of the road and turn your hazard lights on.
  2. If asked for certain documents like a native driver’s license or an IDP, always have them ready to present.
  3. Cooperate with the officer’s instructions if they decide to take it to the police station.

Checkpoints

Checkpoints usually involve random checking for drugs, drunk driving or checking the documents of the passers-by to make sure that the safety precautions are being followed while driving. Usually, at check points, officers would ask the drivers for identification so it is best to have your driver’s license and your International Driver’s Permit ready just in case they are asked of you along with other documents like a passport and car insurance.

What if You Get Involved in an Accident?

Should you find yourself in a road accident, do not panic. Remain in your car and call the emergency hotlines or ask for assistance. Police officers are responsible for filing an accident report which your car insurance company will receive. In case of accidents, call 119 for the police department and 110 for the fire department. Car insurance covers you in times of accident and helps lower your cost.

Can You Park Anywhere in Jamaica?

When parking, know that most spots are unregulated, and you can basically park anywhere. Ideally, park in well-lit areas close to your destination, so you can better spot your vehicle. Some areas in the city have paid parking options for better security, especially at night.

Driving Conditions in Jamaica

Driving in Jamaica can be an entirely different experience for travelers. For starters, the wheel is on the right-hand side of the car and driving is on the left side which can make it quite confusing and new to tourists from the right-side driving countries. Should the unfortunate scenario of your car breaking down happen, it could spell disaster as assistance can be hard to come by whether it's in rural or urban areas, so it’s best to make sure that the car you rent is in top condition.

As alluring as beach nightlife and partying might sound, take extra caution as Jamaica has a significantly alarming crime rate and nighttime driving is highly discouraged especially outside the capital Kingston and other tourist destinations. The weather can be quite unpredictable as rainfall comes without warning any time of the year and slippery roads are just a small part of it as flash floods can also occur so keep abreast about road rerouting and closures.

Accidents Statistics

Road accidents may occur frequently. The 17th of November 2019 was a day created as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims as a means of not only commemorating but a call to action to improve road conditions so that vehicular accidents would lessen. 

In 2019, an NGO called National Road Safety Council created a Twitter account with a goal to have Below 300 fatalities on the road in Jamaica. The account has closed due to its inability to adhere to its goal. These reports should only call for tourists to educate themselves about the road conditions and etiquette in the country and be more vigilant when on the road to avoid mishaps.

Toll Roads in Jamaica

Toll roads are present at varying rates depending on the destination. A card must be claimed at a toll road plaza which will then be used to pay at the toll collector when driving at motorways. Toll collectors will then inform the driver the amount to pay. These amounts also vary depending on the classes of vehicles. Prices range from 70-700 Jamaican dollars.

The different classes of vehicles in Jamaica are Class 1, 2, and 3. Class 1 is for vehicles less than 5.6 feet, Class 2 is for 5.6-foot vehicles, and Class 3 is for those 5.6 feet and above. These are the prices of vehicles depending on the area of the toll road:

  • Spanish Town Tolls: (Class 1: $170. Class 2: $380. Class 3: $370)
  • May Pen Tolls: (Class 1: $120. Class 2: $200. Class 3: $1,320)
  • Portmore Tolls (Class 1: $240. Class 2: $380 Class 3: $730)
  • Vineyard Tolls (Class 1: $480. Class 2: $700. Class 3: $1320

Road Situations in Jamaica

Jamaica is notorious for its abrupt rainfall and flash foods making it extra dangerous to drive during the rainy season. Anticipate that the weather could go bad any time and take extra precaution when driving. Here are some safety tips you can do to make sure that your driving in Jamaica is safe whatever the weather.

Remember to check your tires as these would serve as your safety grip with the grooves or treads that absorb and disperse moisture. Check on your windshield wipers and make sure that they swipe smoothly as these would get rid of the moisture on your windshield enabling you to see better.

Heavy rain can cause reduced visibility, so it’s a must to have your headlights checked if properly working and to use them when it is needed. Last but not least, during the rainy season avoid speeding. The roads are slippery and overspeeding would cause you to lose control of the vehicle and head for a crash.

Does Jamaica Use Mph or Kph?

This country uses Kph, so take note of this if you are a tourist from the U.S. or Canada. Rental cars have a clear indication of the primary speed unit, it being the more emphasized or the bigger number. Digital speedometers are a lot easier to read. 

Nighttime Driving in Jamaica

As tourists, stay responsible and alert when driving at night. Most roads are poorly lit with inadequate signage and potholes, so if you’re risking a nighttime road trip, make sure your car is in good condition before heading out. Make sure tires, brakes, and headlights are all working well. You'll also find a lot of warnings when driving at night.

Applying for Residency in Jamaica

Three years is the minimum requirement for one to become a permanent resident in Jamaica along with several documents and annual trips. For this to be done, a visa from the Jamaican Embassy in your country must be obtained along with an address of your planned residence in Jamaica.

You will also be required to have an open-end airline ticket to return to your hometown and are not allowed to stay longer until immigration approves of it. Once you have your visa, Jamaican address, and open end ticket, you are allowed to stay while your residency is being processed, usually up to 6 months.

These are the documents needed for permanent residence:

  • Valid passport
  • Evidence of financial status-bank account, financial investments
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marital Status indication-marriage certificate
  • Medical Certificate
  • Police certificate from the state you’re entering
  • Two passport size photographs
  • Reasons for seeking permanent residence in Jamaica
  • Reference letters from two reputable Jamaican citizens

Top Destinations in Jamaica

Jamaica is the largest Caribbean island that boasts splendid beaches and breathtaking sceneries that are a true feast for the eyes. 

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains is most mountainous range, the longest one located on the Eastern Side with its peak standing at 7402 feet, the highest on the island. Located here are the Rastafarian Village, Maroon heritage sites and luxury resorts if you’re into glamorous dining. There isn’t a shortage of things to do at the Blue Mountains.

Driving Directions

  1. Take Hope Road, Old Hope Road, and B1 to Gordon Town Road.
  2. Continue on Gordon Town Road to B1.
  3. Follow B1 to Portland Parish.
  4. Turn Right into the Blue Mountains.

Things to Do:

Explore the Rastafarian Village and familiarize yourself with Jamaica’s traditional way of living. Knowledge of Jamaica’s history enables you to appreciate the country more. The largest coffee factory exists by the Blue Mountains, so get a taste of their local brew and experience coffee like you never have before.

1. Tour the Rastafarian Village

Visit the Rastafarian Village to experience the Jamaican way of living. This is just among the heritage sites you can visit to grasp its history. This Rastafari Village offers tour packages for tourists who wish to see the village where Jamaica’s indigenous people once lived. This tourist destination was made not only to educate tourists but to promote and protect the livelihood of local people.

2. Hiking at the Blue Mountains

If being one with nature by way of hiking and camping is your thing, then the Blue Mountains is for you. Blue Mountains is a scenic treat for the eyes from its indigenous flora and fauna, natural springs and gushing waterfalls.

3. Try Blue Mountain Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee is reputed to be one of the best and most expensive in the world. Visiting the cafes at the Blue Mountain area can give you a taste of this world-class high quality coffee. Mavis Bank Coffee factory is the largest coffee making factory in Jamaica, processing Blue Mountain coffee. Guided tours around this factory are available so sign up now to get a closer look of how the best brew is made.

4. Stroll at Cinchona Gardens

Cinchona Gardens is a wide landscape with luscious greeneries and blooming, colorful flowers, ideal for that picture-perfect moment. An old house sits beautifully in the middle of the landscape, giving Cinchona Gardens a classical feel.

5. Dine at the top Cafes and Restaurants

Apart from the oldest coffee factory, other cafes populate the Blue Mountains area that serve quality brew to kick-start your adventure. Tickle your tastebuds by trying Crystal Edge restaurant that serves authentic favorites such as curry, stews, and soups.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay driving guide

Montego Bay, also known as “MoBay,” is another one of remarkable cities that never ceases to draw tourists in. Montego Bay houses the second-largest airport that now services direct flights from the United States. If a fancy lifestyle is your cup of tea when traveling then Montego Bay is the place for you with its golf courses, luxurious retreats, and coastlines.

Montego Bay is more than just a splendid, cosmopolitan city. It is also home to Falmouth with its bioluminescent lagoon and the vintage Rose Hall Great House which is rumored to be haunted.

Driving Directions:

  1. Take Marcus Garvey Drive and Spanish Town Road to Mandela Hi-Way/A1 in St. Catherine’s Parish.
  2. Follow Hi-way 2000 and A1 to Queens Drive in Montego Bay.
  3. Take the Queens Drive and Howard Cooke Hi-Way to Barracks Road.

Things to Do

Montego Bay may be known for its beaches but there’s more to this place than just sand and sea. Visit some vintage houses such as the Rose Hall Great House and embark on jungle adventures with a thrilling zipline tour. Montego Bay is colorful place with loads of activities one can enjoy doing.

1. Enjoy Montego Bay Beaches

Montego Bay is a vacation destination for those who enjoy some sun and sea. Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach are just some stunning beaches tourists flock to for a good time.

2. Visit Rose Hall Great House

Rose Hall Great House is a vintage historic house museum in Jamaica that gives tourists a nice view overlooking the beaches. This house gives you a historic look-back at its previous owners, namely Annee Palmer or the White Witch of Rose Hall. Rose Hall Great house is also reputed to be haunted.

3. Go Rafting at Martha Brae River

Martha Brae River is ideal for those who want to experience rafting and rowing and at the same time bask in the glory of luscious forest sceneries. This jungle-rafting adventure has tour guides to help you learn more about Jamaica’s ecosystem to the tune of reggae music.

4. Enjoy Jungle Zipline Tours

Aside from hiking, thrillseekers can also enjoy zipline tours from Montego Bay to Chukka Jungle. This exciting zipline tour gives you a top view of luscious forests.

5. Tour the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary

Nature lovers and animal enthusiasts are in for a real adventure at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary in Montego Bay. Tourists are given bird seed, nectar, and water upon arrival which they can use to feed birds.

Dunn’s River Falls

The Dunn’s River Falls located in Ochos Rio is a 600-foot-long waterfall that is mountain-like in appearance. There isn’t a shortage of things you can do in Dunn’s River Falls. You can take a 1 hour and 30-minute hike if hiking is your thing, you can pay a tour guide to take you on a hike to its top or if you want to chill by the falls, a sumptuous picnic would be ideal. Dunn’s Fall on its own is a masterpiece, its very own artist in the sense that it continues to build itself and regenerate with the help of deposits from travertine rock.

Driving Directions:

  1. Take Washington Boulevard to Mandela Hi-Way/A1 in St. Catherine’s Parish.
  2. Follow Hi-Way 2000 to St. Ann Parish.
  3. Drive to Destination.
  4. At the roundabout take the 2nd exit.
  5. Turn right to Dunn’s River Falls Park.

Things to Do:

One day might not even be enough for all the things one can do at Dunn’s River Falls. From entertaining dolphins to local souvenir shops to waterside dining, Dunn’s River Falls cater to your activity of choice. Enjoy the outdoors and make the most of this Caribbean paradise by driving to the area. Don’t forget your IDP when you do, as this essential documents makes the trip safer and more worthwhile.

1. Visit the Dolphin Cove

Ochos Rios is home to a dolphin cove that tourists can come and visit to catch a glimpse of dolphins doing tricks for live shows. This marine water park gives people an opportunity to see how marine life flows in their natural habitat. Apart from marine animals, birds and reptiles are also present and cared for at Dolphin Cove.

2. Pay a Visit to the River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls are more than just waterfalls. One can go hiking on its trail and visit the Central Park nearby, a picturesque landscape that’s perfect for tourists with children with its playground and some food stalls.

3. Shop at the Central Market

Tourists who are interested in purchasing local crafts can visit the Central Market. The Central Market is home to various handmade crafts that tourists can bring home as souvenirs.

4. Eat by the Falls

Enjoy Jamaican cuisine by relaxing and dining at a cafeteria by the falls. Feel satisfied as you consume mouthwatering food as you experience a scenic picnic by the Dunn Falls.

5. Relax at the Ocean Spa

What else could be more relaxing than a spa by the ocean, overlooking the gorgeous horizon? The Ocean Spa offers high quality amenities by the sea for a relaxing way to end your day.

Kingston

Kingston Jamaica driving guide

Who could forget about the capital? Despite Jamaica’s reputation as a Caribbean paradise for its natural sceneries, lush green destinations, and imposing mountain ranges, the city itself has a lot to offer for those looking for a more urban getaway. Appreciate architecture, local art, go shopping and dining, or go bar hopping, you’ll never fall short of an activity in beautiful Kingston.

Driving Directions:

  1. Continue to Norman Manley Hwy.
  2. Keep continuing on Norman Manley Hwy.
  3. Then lastly, take Sir Florizel Glasspole Hwy and Mountain View Ave to Molynes Rd in Kingston.

Things to Do:

If traveling to more urban places is your kind of thing, visit Kingston’s museums and marvel upon the local architecture. You can even go bar hopping at night to catch a feel of nightlife or head over to a Strawberry Hill spa for pampering. No matter your Kingston destination, the best way to go there is by driving. 

1. Visit the Bob Marley Museum

Bob Marley, the musician who made reggae famous and perhaps the most famous Jamaican musician. A museum in his honor stands in his former home in 6 Hope Road Kingston where memorabilia such as photographs, awards, records, photographs, and a gift shop.

2. Enjoy Caribbean Nightlife

Kingston as the capital makes it more modern, urban, and hip. The best bars in the country can be found in the capital, as Jamaica is one of the world’s rum capitals. Remember to drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive!

3. Schedule a Spa Day at Strawberry Hill

Located close to the Blue Mountains is Strawberry Hill hotel with gorgeous scenery and even more beautiful accommodations. The interior takes guests to a trip back in time with colonial era homes and antique furniture. Spa treatments are available for anyone seeking pure relaxation in this paradise.

4. Admire local Jamaican Architecture

Visit Devon House, one of the oldest house boasting Georgian-Jamaican architectural style. Reminiscent of colonial-era, Devon House has antique furniture, a luscious landscape, and tall palm trees. Tours are available for individuals who want to learn more about its past.

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