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Traveling to Jamaica

There are two airports in Jamaica. Sangster International Airport, in Montego Bay, serves north coast communities of Negril and Ocho Rios. The Norman Manley International Airport, handling travelers to Kingston, is twenty minutes from the heart of the city.

Major American and British airlines offer frequent, non-stop flights to Jamaica daily. Air Canada is the exception with one daily flight. Flying times from New York City is three hours and thirty minutes; from Miami it’s a short forty-five minute flight. Toronto is four hours away, while flights from London Heathrow take just under ten hours.

It’s important to note that all major airlines stop at both airports en route. A good tip for passengers traveling to Montego Bay would be to consider booking their flights with Montego Bay being the first stop. Otherwise, be prepared for an hour-long stopover in Kingston, followed by the thirty-minute flight to Montego Bay. Kingston passengers should do likewise.

American, Canadian, and British citizens entering Jamaica must present valid passports and a return ticket. Canadians may present an expired passport (not exceeding one year) along with a Permanent Resident Card. Visas are not required for vacation travel.

Once you’ve cleared customs, look for ground transportation services outside the arrivals building. Check with your hotels for shuttle transportations to and from the airport.

JUTA Tours, highly reputable for quality and safety, provides the best airport transportation and taxi services island-wide. Vehicle selections range from standard sedans to forty-five-seat coaches.

JUTAs are always available at the airports but you can reserve one in advance of your trip. The drivers are easily recognizable by their white over-shirts. Besides airport transportation, JUTA also provides sightseeing tours throughout the island. All vehicles are equipped with seat belts, air conditioning, and first aid kits.

Taxis are quite expensive but offer a convenient means of travel. Metered taxis are no longer in use – drivers now charge per ride based on your destination. But before jumping into any taxi, make sure the taxi is licensed. Licensed taxis are indicated by red Public Passenger Vehicle license plates (PPV or PP). Without PPV or PP plates, the cabs are most likely unlicensed ‘pirate taxis’.

You can get a taxi at the taxi stands or flag one down along the road. Choose a driver whose demeanor you like, and then inquire about the fares first before accepting the driver’s services. On rare occasions, some drivers will ask for more money at the end of the journey, cleverly pretending that the trip took longer than they remembered. Don’t fall for that one.

Expect to pay $18.00 US for every five miles. Drivers are always open for negotiations. Tipping is not required but feel free to reward drivers who exhibit superior services.

Minivans are much cheaper than taxis. The difference is minivans are crowded and never depart until the last passenger is crammed in. Buses run in only some areas and do not operate on any real schedule. Buses serve primarily local residents. Motorbikes, bicycles, and scooters can be rented cheaply at the resorts.

Driving rental cars in Jamaica is quite an adventure. Unless you’re a super skilled motorist or you’re comfortable driving on the left, it’s better to leave the driving to someone else. You must be at least twenty-five to rent a car.

Getting around the island is pretty easy. The new two-lane Highway 2000 has drastically reduced traveling time to all destinations. Jamaica is small in area and you can sightsee your way through the island in just one day.

Regular Jamaican roads are bumpy, extremely winding with unexpected twists and turns, and difficult to navigate. Jamaican drivers tend to be aggressive and are heavy on their horns. They’re also prone to overtaking slower vehicles on single-lane roads. Visitors should also refrain from night driving. Roads are poorly lit and dividing lines don’t have reflectors.

The eighty-mile trip from Kingston to Montego Bay takes four hours and thirty minutes. Travel between popular tourist towns of Ocho Rios and Negril is just over three hours. Avoid travel during morning and evening rush hour when traffic is nightmarish.