Driving in Jamaica

Driving in Jamaica is not for the faint of heart.  However, renting a car in Jamaica is a very cost effective way to travel around the island, especially if you are traveling with a group and you are keen on exploring all Jamaica has to offer.

Visitors sometimes ask us if it is safe to drive in Jamaica, our answer would be yes.  Just practice defensive driving and drive slowly.

The best way to get around Jamaica is to rent a car.  Hopefully this post will make your driving experience in Jamaica enjoyable and safe.

How to drive in Jamaica

The most important thing you need to remember is that Jamaicans drive on the left. If you don’t remember anything else we tell you please remember this!

On the main highways it’s pretty easy to remember; however, if you are on a rural road with little traffic you might forget.

Also if you are making a turn, do not turn onto the right hand side of the road.  This is a special tip for our American friends.

The most important points are: drive slowly, keep to the left and practice defensive driving.  Be prepared for the unexpected.

 Driving in Jamaica Tips – Our top 20 Tips!

  1. For our American friends please remember we drive on the left. If you forget everything else we have recommended in this post, just remember this fact!
  2. The normal speed limit is 80km per an hour. Please drive slowly.
  3. If you see drivers coming in the opposite direction to you and they flash their headlights it means there is a speed trap (Police spot check) ahead.
  4. Remember Seat belts are compulsory. You can be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt.
  5. Consider renting an SUV if you plan to travel on rural roads. You can expect to see a lot of potholes.
  6. If you are on a highway and plan to change lanes make sure the driver behind you sees your blinker. Don’t automatically assume that you will be given the right of way because your blinker is on.
  7. Be extremely careful overtaking. Make sure the driver behind you is not trying to overtake at the same time.  Do not overtake on a hill or where you see a white solid line.
  8. Check with your rental company about what type of gas your car uses. There are three options in Jamaica: 87, 90 and diesel gas.
  9. Blow around corners, especially on rural roads. Since there are not a lot of people traveling on these routes local drivers are known to speed. Stay on your side of the road, travel slowly and blow at each corner.
  10. Look out for pedestrians. Most of the rural roads don’t have sidewalks so keep an eye out for children playing and pedestrians.
  11. Blow when you are traveling over a hill. Especially at the top part of the hills.  Jamaican drivers have been known to overtake  on these hills.
  12. If you are traveling in the early morning, especially in the mist, drive slowly. The roads can get slippery.  A few trouble spots that readily come to mind are the Spur Tree Hill, Fern Gully and the road to Moneague.
  13. Look out for parked vehicles/ trucks on the side of the road. Especially if you are traveling early in the morning are at night.  There has been accidents where drivers have run into these parked vehicles.
  14. Look out for stray animals. These are very common in the Rural areas.  On the highway from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay look out for stray horses.
  15. Taxis are known to stop suddenly on the main roads so be alert and drive slowly.
  16. If you are driving on a flooded street be extra careful and drive slowly. You will not be able to see any large potholes in the road.  If there is a car in front of you follow their lead.
  17. Ask you rental company or a local about the best routes. Even if the route looks shorter on Google Map and your Navigation App the road conditions might not be very good and you will end up  with a longer travel time.
  18. Try to avoid driving during heavy rains. If you are driving on the New Castle Route (Kingston to Buff Bay) or on the Junction Road (Kingston to St. Mary), look out for falling boulders during heavy rains.  If you should find yourself in this situation park the car until the weather clears.
  19. When getting gas at the gas station make sure you watch the attendant so you know you are getting the correct amount of gas.
  20. If you are traveling on the toll roads make sure you have Jamaican currency with you. Information about the toll rates are listed further down in this post.

What do you do if you have an accident

Hopefully you won’t have an accident in Jamaica.  If this should happen call 119.  Try not to move the vehicle until the police arrives.

While waiting for the police to arrive , take photographs of the accident scene and see if you can get witness statements.  

Road Signs

If you are traveling in the cities, for example down town Kingston or down town Montego Bay make sure you are not traveling on a one way road.

Sometimes there are no one way signs.  The signage in the cities are not bad however the signage in the rural areas are a a bit sparse.  If you need directions it would be best to pullover and ask a local.

Driving on Highways

Jamaica has recently completed a number of highways and this has made the road system much more efficient and has significantly cut travel time.

The main highway corridors are the east to west corridor on the southern (Kingston to Mandeville) and northern coast (Port Antonio to Negril).

There are no toll rates for the Port Antonio to Negril highway.  However, if you are traveling on the Kingston to Mandeville route the toll rates are listed here.

The newest hightway is the north south highway from Ocho Rios to Kingston.  This highway has significantly reduced the travel time to Kingston from 2 hours to one hour.  It is also a very scenic drive and a good way to see the natural beauty of the Jamaica.  The toll rates for the north south highway are listed here.

Driving on Rural Roads

Jamaican is mountainous so expect to see a lot of hill routes.  When driving on rural roads drive slowly, use your horn frequently and stay alert.  Look out for pedestrians, stray animals and potholes.

Speed Limits

The speed limits are 80 km per a hour on highways and 30 km per a hour on secondary roads.

Required documentation when Driving in Jamaica

You can drive in Jamaica using a US or UK drivers license.  When driving in Jamaica make sure you have your insurance and your registration and fitness papers.

Driving Around Jamaica – Driving Distances

If you are trying to figure out how long does it takes to drive around Jamaica the calculations below should help:

  • Ocho Rios to Kingston – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Ocho Rios to Montego Bay – 2 hours
  • Montego Bay to Negril – 1 ½ hour
  • Ocho Rios to Port Antonio – 2 Hours
  • Negril to Mandeville – 2 hours
  • Mandeville to Kingston 1 ½ hours
  • Kingston to Port Antonio –  2 hours to 2 ½ hours depending on your route.  The shortest route is via the junction road.

In our opinion renting a car in Jamaica is the best  and most cost effective way to get around the island.  Just drive defensively, be alert and do not speed.

Hopefully you will enjoy your road trip in Jamaica and you find these tips helpful.  If you have any questions leave them in the comments section below.

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