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Getting There and Around

ARRIVING BY AIR

Regular airlines from the United States and Canada into Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport include Air Jamaica, Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Air Canada, American, Delta, and US Airways.

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways offer service from London to Montego Bay and Kingston.

Within the Caribbean, Caribbean Airlines offers service to St. Kitts, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Lucia, while Cayman Airways offers service between Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Copa is the only option direct from Latin America, with service connecting through Panama City from most countries in the region.

Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is the most popular entry point for visitors to Jamaica.

Most accommodations can provide transportation from either airport, and the more remote hotels and villas often make an extra effort to help provide transportation to guests.

ARRANGING TRANSPORTATION

Public transportation is readily available and very affordable for those who are patient and adventurous. Buses run between major cities and towns, and route taxis run between even the smallest villages and their closest transport hubs. The inevitable drawbacks include blaring music, long waits, ripe body odor, and reckless drivers. Car rentals, JUTA charters, and internal flights are expensive, but well worth it under the right circumstances. Nothing compares with the freedom of a rental car, and for two or more people looking to explore the island, it can be reasonably affordable and indispensable. Many visitors are thrown off by the fact that traffic circulates on the left, and if that weren't confusing enough to pose a challenge, abundant, deep potholes and dodging the ubiquitous white route taxis careening around every corner leave little time to enjoy the scenery.

Chartering a car is also very expensive; the standard rate of US$60 for the one-hour trip between Montego Bay and Negril is a good indication of typical charges island-wide. A comfortable and affordable coach service, the Knutsford Express, runs twice daily between Kingston and Montego Bay with one-way fare around US$20. Apart from the multiple internal flights that service the route for at least three times the price (US$70), the Knutsford Express is the best option. Public buses and route taxis are the mass transport option used by most Jamaicans who don't have their own vehicle.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

It can be challenging to get around Jamaica via public transportation, and you will likely arrive at your destination a bit frazzled by the congested route taxis and buses, dangerously fast driving, and the inevitably loud R&B or dancehall blasting from the speakers. It's important to keep reminding yourself that this is all part of Jamaica's charm.

In and around Kingston, the public bus system is quite functional--with bus stops along all the main roads and the fare under US$1. The two hubs in Kingston are the Half Way Tree Transport Centre and a similar transport center south of Coronation Market downtown.

Route Taxis

Arriving with luggage or backpacks to hike up to the road and hail down a route taxi is perfectly feasible in Jamaica, even if it does make the locals laugh at you. Most taxis will want to give you a charter, however, when you are carrying luggage, and others won't stop. This makes getting a licensed taxi a good idea.

Route taxis are typically white Toyota Corolla station wagons with the origin and destination painted in small letters on the side by the front doors. These cars can be flagged down from the side of the road anywhere along their route and when not operating as route taxis will generally offer private charters at greatly inflated rates. Haggling is a must when chartering a car, while routes have fixed rates that are not typically inflated for tourists except in highly touristy areas like Negril or Ocho Rios, or at night, when fares are increased.

Internal Flights

A few airlines operate internal flights around the island that are an affordable option between Kingston and Montego Bay if time is of concern (US$70 one-way). Routes to smaller, less trafficked destinations are significantly higher priced, but for an extended stay with a small group, a charter from Negril to Port Antonio can make sense.

RENTING A CAR

For those who can afford it and have the confidence and experience, a rental car is by far the best way to get around the island for several reasons, the most important being independence. However, rentals are expensive by international standards and you should expect to pay no less than US$60 per day for a compact car, plus insurance and fuel. Options for different car rental agencies are included in the destination chapters.