Transportation in Jamaica

Once your plane or cruise ship arrives in Jamaica, you will want to start to explore this beautiful Caribbean island. Transportation in Jamaica runs the gamut from crowded but inexpensive Jamaica buses to high-class chartered helicopters. Car rental in Jamaica is available at the major airports of Montego Bay, from many resort hotels, and in most large cities.

The best prices for car rental in Jamaica are usually obtained by booking a package vacation that includes a car with the cost of accommodation and flights to Jamaica. In any case, it usually pays to book car rental Jamaica in advance.

The largest and most reputable company for car rental Jamaica is Island Car Rentals, which has desks at Norman Manley Airport (Kingston), Donald Sangster Airport (Montego Bay), Ocho Rios, and elsewhere. Many international rental companies also operate out of the major airports: Avis, Budget, and Hertz all have offices in Donald Sangster Airport.

Prices for car rental Jamaica vary by season (due to demand) and type of car. Cost generally begin at about $40 a day and go up to $100 a day or more. Most companies for car rental in Jamaica give unlimited mileage. Many also require insurance. Even if your credit card comes with limited insurance, it is worth getting damage waiver insurance for an extra $15 a day or so. This will seriously reduce hassle in the case of an accident. Companies also require a deposit of about $500 for car rental in Jamaica or a credit card imprint. Be sure to check your rental car thoroughly for minor dents, scratches, or defects. Companies in Jamaica seem to deduct from the deposit at will. A valid U.S. or European drivers license is sufficient for short-term rentals; longer rentals require an international drivers license.

Driving in Jamaica can be a hair-raising experience. Cars here drive on the left hand side, which can take some getting used to unless you are visiting from the United Kingdom. Road transportation in Jamaica is notoriously dangerous; the country has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. Within a few minutes on the Jamaican roads, it is easy to see why. Many male Jamaican drivers seem to have made reckless driving into a terrifying art form.

The major routes for transportation in Jamaica ("A" roads) are generally in good condition. Minor roads are often potholed and unreliable, with narrow tracks, blind corners, and sometimes unpaved surfaces. Getting a four-wheel drive vehicle is a good idea if you plan on exploring the interior.

Cars are not the only options for transportation in Jamaica. Jamaican buses run in and between almost every town. In Kingston and other cities, Jamaican buses only stop at designated bus stops. Elsewhere, they can be flagged down at any junction. Ask a local for route advice or look for the destination marker on the side or front of the bus. Jamaican buses are remarkably inexpensive. A 50-mile trip costs about $2. Costs in town are usually less than a dollar. Drivers are unlikely to have change for large bills.

Public transportation in Jamaica also includes route taxis and minibuses that operate like buses, picking up and dropping of passengers on a designated route. Look for the red license plates and "route taxi" markings.

Private taxis are a little more expensive but can be a safer and less stressful option for transportation in Jamaica. Look for the red license plates that indicate the taxi has a license. Taxis in Jamaica are supposed to have a functioning meter, but many don't. Agree on a fare before entering the car. Fare from Donald Sangster International Airport to Montego Bay hotels should cost $10 to $15. A 10% to 15% tip is standard.

Other options for transportation in Jamaica include internal air services, chartered helicopters between airports, moped rentals, and bicycle rentals. There are many ways to explore this lovely island.

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