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I'm thinking about going to Jamaica next spring, but I am pretty unfamiliar with the infrastructure of the country. I'd like to go to Ochos Rios and maybe Montego Bay for a few days, then make my way to a more rural area to spend an additional few days camping (ideally in the Blue Mountains).

What is the best way to travel between those two cities, and to get from either city to the mountains? I've heard that hiring a private driver is fairly common for tourists, but is that the most cost-effective way to get around? Is there public transportation that can get me between these places? If there is, is it efficient enough to make it a better alternative to hiring a car or taking a taxi? I'd like to travel cheaply, but if I have to wait two hours for a bus to come, I'm not sure it's worth it.

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Many tourists fly in to Montego Bay and take shuttle buses from the airport to Ocho Rios (and back). It has been several years since I made that trip, so I couldn't tell you prices off the top of my head, but this site indicates that taxis are about $120, with the shuttles being significantly cheaper (some hotels and resorts in Ocho Rios may also offer shuttle service).

Be aware that many of the shuttles will stop off for a "rest stop" at a location with tourist shops. This seems to be due to arrangements between the store owners and either the shuttle drivers or the shuttle companies. Expect to have to waste about 20-30 minutes or so coming from Montego Bay (we didn't stop on the way from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay that I recall).

From Ocho Rios, I relied on hired cars/taxis, and found them to be relatively cost-effective. Bus service to the more rural areas may have existed, but I'm fairly certain it was sporadic at best. It is very easy to find a driver who will take you to wherever you wish to go, and wait for you so they can earn the return trip fare as well. The drivers also tend to be good resources for finding out more about the area.

A couple of warnings:

  • Always agree on the price for a hired car/taxi before the trip.

  • I strongly advise that you do not consider renting a car in Jamaica. The drivers there are some of the most aggressive I've seen in the world, and it can be a major hazard even trying to cross a single street on foot. If you do rent a car, be sure you have excellent insurance coverage!

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(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:

  1. Route taxi from MBJ (outside Departures) to Montego Bay downtown - 100 JMD per person (approx US$1).
  2. Minibus from Montego Bay downtown (at the bus park near Courts) to Lucea - 225 JMD per person (approx US$2.25).
  3. 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.

  • Charter taxis

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.

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Jump on the little buses locals use.
Its fast and cheap!
For a few $ you can cross the island, more difficult in the evening.

There´s no schedule, so you have to wait untill the bus is full,
but its a great experience being 80 packed like sardines.

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protected by Mark Mayo Jan 6 at 4:00

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