(I was in Jamaica in Dec 2013.)
I had the benefit of a local Jamaican friend driving us up to the more remote parts (Blue Mountains, Reach Falls), so I do not know exactly what the most cost-efficient way of getting to these places are. My answer below pertains to travel between and within the biggish towns/cities.
Other than the municipal bus services in Kingston, the main modes of transport I came across were
- Route taxis and Minibuses
- Charter taxis
I am not entirely sure how these modes of transport are officially set up, but this is what I garnered:
- Route taxis and Minibuses
Route taxis and minibuses ply standard routes. They generally do not leave until the vehicle is (very) full. (Here is the classic 1980's video "Two White Girls 'Pon a Minibus", well-known to all Jamaicans.) The wait for the vehicle to fill is rarely long - usually 10-20 minutes.
Fares are relatively cheap - for example (in Dec 2013), to get cheaply from Montego Bay airport (MBJ) to Negril, do the following:
- Route taxi from MBJ (outside Departures) to Montego Bay downtown - 100 JMD per person (approx US$1).
- Minibus from Montego Bay downtown (at the bus park near Courts) to Lucea - 225 JMD per person (approx US$2.25).
- Route taxi from Lucea (at the bus park where all taxis and minibuses stop) and to Negril village (near the roundabout) - 250 JMD per person (approx US$2.50).
(Jamaicans are extraordinarily friendly and helpful, so just ask anyone if you need help finding these transport options.)
Compare the above (total $5.75) to the "official" Jamaican Tourist Board taxis just outside the MBJ Arrivals hall. After a little bargaining the best rate I could find for MBJ - Negril was US$60. There were also some big buses taking people from MBJ to Negril, but they wanted something close to US$30.
There are also standard routes that route taxis take within cities. For example in Montego Bay they ply between downtown and MBJ (and further along the north coast). Or in Ocho Rios they ply along Main Street. Or in Negril, along Norman Manley Blvd and West End. The fares are standard and low. For the most part I found that Jamaicans were honest and much less inclined to rip tourists off than in some other countries, but still you will want to make sure to confirm the fare before getting on any taxi.
Any time that you want a taxi to take anything other than a standard route, it magically transforms into a "charter" taxi and commands much higher rates.
For example when I took a route taxi from Lucea to Negril village (250 JMD, 40km), the driver stopped at the standard stop (near the roundabout in the town centre). I then asked him to take me to my guesthouse, which was literally 500 metres away. He demanded 150 JMD, which I later confirmed to be more or less the standard price for any trip between two points in Negril.
You can however ask to be dropped off at any point along a route taxi/minibus's standard route for no additional cost.