There are so many natural and cultural treasures dotted all over the island of Jamaica that it's no wonder visitors continue to come back years after their first trip.

Whether you want to bounce from beach to beach in search of your perfect stretch of sand or learn more about Jamaica's rich history, every corner of this Caribbean jewel has something new to offer.

So how do you make your way around to find them all? Luckily, there are numerous ways to travel the beautiful island of Jamaica, from buses and cabs to hiring your own wheels. Here’s are our top transportation tips.

Public transport 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 is 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.

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A bus parked under palm trees
The buses don't run to a set timetable in Jamaica so be flexible with your plans © Getty Images / iStockphoto

Carry cash to pay public transport fares

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. Solo women travelers may also want to avoid cars when men are the only other passengers.

Uber is available in limited cities

Uber does operate in Jamaica, but it’s not as widespread as in many other countries. 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. 

An open-top car drives along a palm-tree lined road
If you want to explore the island, renting your own vehicle gives you the most flexibility © Debbie Ann Powell / Shutterstock

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 than you may be used to 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 a car and driver for your trip (best arranged through your accommodation). Another option is the Knutsford Express, an extremely popular and affordable private bus service that connects major towns and tourist spots across the island.

Be inspired to hit the road in Jamaica with our guide to the island's top driving routes

A backpacker walking along a dirt road in Jamaica
Sights are quite spread out in Jamaica, so walking long distances is not recommended © Jupiterimages / Getty Images

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 concerns to factor in when walking at night.

Public transportation is not accessible in Jamaica

While many hotels, parks, cruise ports and buildings across the country can accommodate wheelchair-users and 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.

This article was first published Oct 29, 2022 and updated Apr 20, 2024.

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Photo taken in Spanish Town, Jamaica

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