Jamaica Driving Guide

Jamaica Driving Guide

Explore Jamaica by driving when you get International Permit

2023-12-31 · 9min read

Get your International Driving Permit today and enjoy Jamaica's stunning beaches while dancing to the reggae rhythm.

When you think of Jamaica, the first image that likely springs to mind is its pristine, sun-kissed beaches. Indeed, the island's coastlines, such as Seven Mile Beach in Negril and Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay, are nothing short of paradise. However, venture into the island's heart, and you'll discover the lush, verdant landscapes of the Blue Mountains. Don't miss the chance to experience the rich aroma of world-renowned coffee, one of the highlights when exploring the best places to visit in Jamaica.

In addition to these attractions, Jamaica offers unique adventures, such as bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River. Driving in Jamaica is highly recommended to truly soak in all these experiences. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and the freedom to access less frequented spots that public transport might not reach. Whether you're chasing the sunrise at a remote mountain peak or finding your secluded spot along the coast, let the International Drivers Association transform your trip into a more personal and memorable adventure.

Key road rules in Jamaica

When renting a car in Jamaica, understanding the road rules is essential for safety and compliance. Here's a breakdown of the key regulations:

Driving side

In Jamaica, driving is on the left-hand side of the road. This is crucial to remember, especially for visitors from countries where driving is on the right.

Speed limits

Speed limits in Jamaica vary by area and are posted in kilometers per hour (km/h). In residential zones, the limit is generally 50 km/h; on open roads, it's 80 km/h, and on highways, it can be up to 110 km/h.


Roundabouts are common in Jamaica, and the rule is simple: give way to traffic from the right. Vehicles inside the roundabout have the right of way. Also, remember to navigate roundabouts in a clockwise direction.


Overtaking should always be done on the right. Be particularly cautious when overtaking; only proceed when it's clear that there is no oncoming traffic and the move can be made safely.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit

Drunk-driving laws are crucial to know before traveling to Jamaica. The legal BAC limit is 0.08%. Penalties for driving under the influence can be severe, including fines, imprisonment, and suspension of driving license. Always plan for a designated driver or an alternative mode of transportation if you intend to consume alcohol.

Seat belts

Seat belts are mandatory for all vehicle occupants in front and back seats. This rule applies to everyone, regardless of where they sit in the vehicle.

Mobile phone use

The use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is strictly prohibited. If you need to use your phone while driving, ensure it is hands-free. Penalties for using a hand-held mobile device while driving include fines and points on your driver’s license.

Child safety

In response to recent legislative changes and public feedback, the Jamaican government has updated the child safety requirements under the new Road Traffic Act.

New Child Restraint Regulations:

Infants under one year old must be restrained by an adult when traveling.

  • Children aged 1 to 3 may travel without a specific child restraint or be restrained by an adult, depending on the caregiver's preference.
  • Children aged 3 to 6 are permitted to travel without restraint but can also be restrained by an adult or use a lap belt.
  • Children aged 6 to 9 can travel without restraint or with a lap belt.
  • Children over 9 can travel without restraint, use a lap belt, or a 3-point seatbelt.

Furthermore, it is important to note that children can only travel in the front passenger seat if they meet the size and weight requirements for an adult seatbelt. This measure ensures that the seatbelt can provide effective protection in an accident.

Emergency procedures

In an emergency, while driving in Jamaica, you must pull over to a safe location and activate your hazard lights to alert other road users. Always ensure you have a basic first-aid kit and a list of emergency contact numbers readily available in your vehicle. These preparations can be vital in managing any unexpected situations.

Additionally, it’s wise to have comprehensive car insurance. Opting for the best car insurance in Jamaica can provide peace of mind, covering damages and liabilities in the event of accidents or theft.

Headlights and visibility

Headlights must be used between sunset and sunrise. It's also advisable to use headlights during the day when visibility is poor, such as in heavy rain or fog.


The fines for traffic violations in Jamaica can vary widely depending on the nature of the offense. Here are some common traffic fines you might encounter:

Speeding: Fines for speeding depend on how much you drive over the limit. They can range from JMD 5,000 to JMD 20,000 (approximately $33 to $133).

Not Wearing Seat Belts: This can attract a fine of JMD 2,000 (approximately $13) for each occupant not properly restrained.

Invalid Driver’s License: Driving with an expired or invalid driver’s license can result in fines of up to JMD 10,000.

Checklist when driving in Jamaica

Obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP)

Before arriving, ensure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Jamaica, especially if your domestic driver’s license is not in English. The IDP is an official translation of your license and is recognized internationally, facilitating easier verification of your driving credentials by local authorities. You can obtain an IDP online through the International Drivers Association to receive your permit before departure.

Carry essential documents

Always have your essential documents handy while driving. This includes your passport, driver's license, IDP, and proof of insurance. Keep these documents in a safe but easily accessible place within your vehicle.

Verify rental car agreements

If you plan to rent a car, it's essential to carefully review the rental agreement and check for any specific requirements or restrictions. This review will help you understand your rental's terms and conditions and avoid surprises.

For a smooth experience, consider choosing providers offering the best car rental in Jamaica. These agencies usually provide well-maintained vehicles and comprehensive customer support. Confirm what is included under the rental insurance and consider opting for additional coverage to protect against potential damages and liabilities. Ensure the vehicle is in good condition and that all necessary documentation is up-to-date.

Plan your route

Before setting out, plan your route carefully. Consider downloading offline maps or investing in a reliable GPS, as mobile service can be spotty, especially in remote areas. Keep a physical map as a backup.

Check road conditions

Be aware of road conditions, particularly if you plan to drive in rural or mountainous areas. Jamaican roads can be narrow and winding, with varying conditions. Check weather forecasts and avoid mountainous routes in heavy rain due to possible landslides.

Carry emergency contacts

Have a list of emergency contacts, including local police, roadside assistance, and the rental car company. The general emergency numbers in Jamaica are 876-220-2836 and 876 404-0616.

Additional driving tips in Jamaica

When to visit Jamaica

The best time to visit Jamaica, especially if you plan to drive extensively, is during the dry season from mid-December to April. This period avoids the rainy months, which can make driving challenging, particularly on rural roads. The weather is also pleasantly warm, making travel comfortable and enjoyable.

Best road routes for exploring Jamaica

Jamaica offers several picturesque routes to showcase the island's stunning landscapes and cultural richness. Here are some notable drives you might consider:

South Coast Road

This route is ideal for exploring Jamaica’s less commercial side. It passes through quaint fishing villages and untouched landscapes, offering a quieter and more authentic experience. Along the way, stop at the famous Lover's Leap and the secluded Treasure Beach, both of which showcase Jamaica's southern coast's natural beauty and serene ambiance.

The North Coast Highway

This route offers breathtaking ocean views and easy access to popular towns like Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Port Antonio, where you can discover some of the best restaurants in Jamaica. You will also enhance your journey with culinary delights and scenic beauty.

Cross-Country from Kingston to Negril

Starting in Kingston, take the A1 to Negril. This route cuts across the heart of Jamaica, offering a blend of cultural experiences and natural beauty, including a stretch through the scenic Blue Mountains.

Dining and accommodations

While exploring these routes, you won't be far from some delicious local and international cuisines. Try authentic Jamaican jerk chicken or seafood from the beachside eateries. For accommodations, the routes are dotted with some of the best hotels in Jamaica, ranging from luxury resorts in Montego Bay and Negril to charming boutique hotels in Port Antonio and the Blue Mountains. These hotels provide excellent bases to explore the surrounding areas and relax after a day of driving.


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