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.
Public transit is made up of buses, route taxis and motorbikes
Jamaica’s public transport system consists of a network of buses and cabs that link towns large and small across the island. JUTC bus is the national bus system that can be found in the major cities of Kingston and Montego Bay. Coaster buses form the wider bus network in Jamaica, often filling gaps where JUTC buses don’t go.
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.
There are two types of cabs or taxis in Jamaica: charter taxis and route taxis. Route taxis run like buses and are the much cheaper of the two, with a fare only slightly higher than the bus. 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.
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.
Transport fares are best paid in cash
There is usually a conductor on the 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. 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.
Public transport in Jamaica is relatively safe and affordable
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.
Uber is available in some cities, but it costs more
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.
Driving is the best way to get around in Jamaica
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 for visiting the island's best places. Roads 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” driving style.
Most reputable car-rental companies offer unlimited mileage, but unfortunately, prices in Jamaica are among the highest in the Caribbean. You’ll find both established local companies like Island Car Rentals alongside international players like Hertz and Avis at the airport.
Private buses and drivers are available to hire
If you don’t want to take the wheel yourself, 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.
Even a short walk may not be worth taking
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.
Public transportation is not accessible 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; 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.