Why Live in Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston the capital of Jamaica, sits on the south-eastern coast of the island. It plays an important role as the island’s business capital, but, more importantly, it is the vibrant heart of Jamaican culture. Scratch the surface of this fascinating city and you will begin to understand how such a small island has packed such a big punch on the world cultural stage. But, what does it cost to live in Jamaica anyway?
Jamaica and more specifically Kingston, is the home of reggae music, a genre that originated in 1960’s Jamaica. Interestingly, the island not only introduced reggae music to the world but it was also the birthplace of ska, mento, dub, and dancehall.
For many years, Kingston has definitely not been on a visitor’s radar when it comes to places to visit in Jamaica, mainly because of its reputation of being unsafe. However, this is changing, and as long as you know which areas to avoid and take the normal, sensible precautions you will be fine.
Should Tourists Go To Kingston
Personally, I think Kingston should be on every visitor’s itinerary, and thankfully more and more people are spending time here. I regularly see tourists popping up into the various entertainment hot spots. If you are visiting Jamaica for the first time, make sure to spend some time away from the tourist hubs of Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios and visit the capital city and other non-touristy towns.
Other than the vibrant nightlife, which includes music concerts, plays, and comedy shows, you will find many events such as the Kingston Kitchen, the Jamaica Rum Festival, the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, Independence Day Celebrations, Jamaica Carnival, and the free last Sunday performances at the National Art Gallery.
An additional plus of living in Kingston is the fact that since Jamaica is so small; you can go from the beach to exploring the mountains in 40 minutes. You can spend the day eating Jamaican escoveitch fish and bammy on Hellshire beach and then spend the evening in the Blue Mountains enjoying a cup of our world-famous coffee or a romantic dinner overlooking the city. If you want to explore the island for the day, most attractions are no more than a two-hour drive from Kingston.
Cost of Utilities in Jamaica
The main utility costs associated with living in Jamaica are water and electricity. Water will cost you around US $15 to $20 per month. Obviously, if there is more than one of you, expect to pay more for water. If you don’t plan to blast your air conditioner non-stop, expect to pay around US $30 per month for electricity.
Cable, internet and phone services can be purchased separately and will cost you around US $20 or more for each. To save money, you can purchase cable, internet and phone services bundles. Prices for this range from US $46 to $80.
You will also find that many restaurants, cafes, and public areas offer free Wi-Fi service. However, for convenience, you might want to purchase a data plan. You can purchase a data plan from one of the two main telecommunication companies in Jamaica, Flow or Digicel. There are one day, two day, one week, and one month plans available. Depending on what type of plan you sign up for, the price will range between US$2 and $80.
Cost of Accommodation in Kingston, Jamaica
The cost of living in Jamaica and finding somewhere to stay can vary quite widely depending on what neighbourhood you live in. If you are looking for a one-bedroom apartment in an upscale neighbourhood, rent can be up to US$1,200. If you are looking for something in a less expensive neighbourhood, expect to pay around US $500.
The higher-end neighbourhoods are Cherry Gardens, Manor Park, Millsborough, Norbrook, and Lower Jacks Hill. You will also find that these neighbourhoods have a lot of townhouses for rent. A townhouse is a standalone, semi-detached house in a gated community. These units are usually two or three-bedroom units, and for the most expensive neighbourhoods can cost approximately US $2,500 to $3,500. For more affordable neighbourhoods, expect to pay approximately US $1,300 for a two-bedroom townhouse.
Airbnb rentals have become quite popular in Kingston since more tourists have been including the city in their travel itinerary. The best and most central neighbourhoods for Airbnb’s are Liguanea, Millsborough, Manor Park, and New Kingston. The price for Airbnb rentals is around US $45 to $85 per night. Usually you will find that you have easy access to Wi-Fi and the apartments are usually located in gated communities for extra security.
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Cost of Transportation in Jamaica
When you live in Jamaica, you need to concern yourself with the cost of getting around. Jamaica is not one of the easiest places to navigate using the public transportation system. The city doesn’t have a subway system and it is not suited to biking or walking. The main modes of transportation are private car, route taxi, private taxi, or the public bus system.
The public transportation system in Kingston is really not known as the most comfortable or punctual. Kingston does not have a subway or metro system, but there are public buses and route taxis that you can use to navigate your way around the city.
Route taxis are cars that transport more than one passenger at a time along certain routes or roadways. Expect frequent stops as the driver picks up and drops off passengers. Basically you will be traveling with a bunch of strangers. I wouldn’t recommend this transport method day or night. However, it is cheap and if you decide to use this system, you’ll only be paying around US$1 per person.
If you want to travel on public buses, take a JUTC bus. Again, this is one of the cheapest ways to travel at approximately US$1 per route.
Kingston also has a number of very reliable private taxi services. I use these taxi services frequently and find them very cost-effective and efficient. There is one drawback, however; in the morning or late evening when people are going to or coming from work, you’ll find it hard to get a taxi. The price for private taxis is approximately US$5, although the price varies, of course, depending on the distance you travel. A good rule of thumb is to ask the operator how much the charge will be when booking your taxi.
Many tourists hire a private driver for the day. This service is geared to the tourist trade and these drivers operate right across the island. The cost for hiring a JUTA driver is based on the distance you travel, and since they cater exclusively to tourists, the prices are much higher than hiring a local taxi. You can expect to pay around US $20 to travel from one area to another in Kingston.
Renting a Car in Jamaica:
Renting a car is a great way to get around and provides you with quite a bit of independence. A few of my friends have hired their own car when they visit and have not encountered any problems. While driving in Jamaica is not for the faint of heart, as long as you drive slowly and practice defensive driving you will be fine. The price per day to rent a car is approximately US $32 and up, depending on the type of car you rent.
Traveling Between Towns in Jamaica:
If you want to travel between towns and you don’t want to rent a car, your best option is to take the Knutsford Express bus service. This bus service provides an island-wide service at reasonable rates. The price for a one-way service starts at US $25. You can also take the public transport bus; however, I think you will be much more comfortable with the Knutsford express service, trust me on this one!
Cost of Food and Eating Out in Kingston
Living in Jamaica, you need to be concerned about the cost of groceries. A single person’s groceries in Kingston comes in at around US $40 per week. Imported foods are pricey, so cut those out if you want to reduce your grocery bill, and instead shop at local markets and wholesale stores. You can also save money by shopping at discount stores such as Megamart and Pricesmart.
Dining out in Kingston can be expensive. If you want to dine at a high-end restaurant a meal with appetizer and dessert will be around US $50.
If Sunday brunches are your thing, you can visit popular hotels such as Terra Nova, Pegasus or Strawberry Hills. These hotels all have some great brunch options. If I had to pick one, I would go with Strawberry Hills, the food is good, but; the highlight of your visit will be the spectacular views of the city of Kingston. Brunch at any one of these hotels will set you back around US $30 – $50.
If you want to buy food at a fast-food restaurant such as KFC or Burger King, the average meal will cost around US $6. You can also buy a lunchtime snack such as a Jamaican Patty and soda for around US $3. If coffee and croissant is more your thing, you can expect to pay around US $3 for the coffee and around US $4 for the croissant. If you are in the mood for a typical Jamaican breakfast of Ackee and saltfish you can expect to pay around US $5.
Entertainment Cost in Jamaica
When you live in Jamaica, the cost of entertainment can be as cheap as you want or as expensive as you want, depending on where you go. However, for a typical night out on the town, here are a few common costs.
If you plan to go to a wine bar, a glass of wine will cost approximately US $6. If you’d prefer to purchase the whole bottle, expect to pay around US $30 or more.
For those of you who like to taste the local beer, a bottle will cost around US $2, while imported brands will set you back around US $4.
Kingston has all the usual entertainment venues including the movies, which will cost around US $9 for adults and US $5 for children. You will also find plenty of Jamaican plays and pantomimes that are a terrific value at around US $13 or more.
If you fancy being a beach bum for the day, here are a couple of options. You can try Fort Clarence Beach or Lime Cay Beach. If you plan to go to Fort Clarence beach, the entrance fee is around US $2 for adults and US $1 for children. If you want to take the boat over to Lime Cay beach, the price will be around US $10.
About the Author
Charmaine loves exploring her home country, Jamaica, and sharing her favourite places and new finds with others, especially when she finds those special hidden gems. You can learn more about Jamaica on her blog Jamaica Travel Saver.