Money & costs
How much you spend depends on your sense of style. Even hard-core budget travelers will need to spend at least US$35 a day. Roadside stalls and budget restaurants sell patties for less than US$1 and jerk pork and other local meals for as little as US$2. A hand of bananas or half a dozen mangoes will cost about US$1. More touristy restaurants, however, can be expensive, as many of the ingredients they use are imported: expect to pay at least US$10 per person and, for the finest restaurants, as much as US$60.
Car rentals begin at about US$45 a day for the smallest vehicle. Public transport is inordinately cheap, although the tourist taxis can get very expensive (usually US$8 minimum for even the shortest journey).
The budget accommodations cost US$20 or more, even for spartan conditions. Midrange hotels range from about US$60 to US$150, while luxury resorts can charge US$300 or more. All-inclusive hotels can offer tremendous bargains, as everything you consume or participate in is included in room rates.
To save money, visit in ‘summer, ’ or low season (mid-April to mid-December), when hotel prices plummet and airfares are often reduced.
A 10% tip is normal in hotels and restaurants. Some restaurants automatically add a 10% to 15% service charge to your bill. Check your bill carefully, as the charge is often hidden. Some all-inclusive resorts have a strictly enforced no-tipping policy. Outside Kingston, tourist taxi drivers often ask for tips but it is not necessary; Juta (route) taxis do not expect tips.
The unit of currency is the Jamaican dollar, the ‘jay, ’ which uses the same symbol as the US dollar ($). Jamaican currency is issued in bank notes of J$50, J$100, J$500 and J$1000. The official rate of exchange fluctuates daily; see the inside front cover for exchange rates at the time of going to press.
Prices for hotels and valuable items are usually quoted in US dollars, which are widely accepted.
Most of the city bank branches throughout Jamaica have 24-hour automated teller machines (ATMs) linked to international networks such as Cirrus or Plus. In more remote areas, look for ATMs at gas stations.
It’s a wise idea to always have some ‘J’ on hand throughout your island visit. Carry small bills: it can be hard to get change for any note over J$100. US dollars are widely accepted, but you’ll be given change in Jamaican dollars. Almost any commercial entity will change dollars for you.
Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the island. To report lost or stolen credit cards from Jamaica, call American Express (800-877-3060), MasterCard (800-307-7309) or Visa (800-847-2911).
Virtually every town and village has at least one licensed moneychanger. They offer rates slightly lower than banks and charge a processing fee of between 2% and 5% of the transaction. All kinds of outlets operate as ‘cambios, ’ including supermarkets and general stores.
Traveler’s checks are widely accepted in Jamaica, although some hotels, restaurants and exchange bureaus charge a hefty fee for cashing them.
Immediately report lost traveler’s checks to American Express (in the USA 800-221-7282, in Jamaica 800-877-3060) or Thomas Cook (800-223-7373).