An idyllic island nation in the Caribbean, Jamaica is blessed not only with paradisiacal beaches but also lush rainforests, soaring mountains and warm and friendly people who speak with that famously irresistible accent.
That said, this tropical paradise often holds a few surprises for those expats who are unprepared for what awaits them in Jamaica, including an often corrupt bureaucracy, wide economic divides and high levels of violent crime. In addition, expats might find that the cost of living in Jamaica is much higher than they were expecting. Prices in Kingston, the capital, are comparable to medium-sized cities in the UK and US.
The island has a tropical climate which makes for hot, beach-friendly weather all year round, but it's also prone to hurricanes and tropical storms from June to November.
Jamaica’s official language is English, although in day-to-day life expats will more often encounter a very different Creole Patois. Expats who make an effort to pick up the Jamaican Patois will find it much easier to integrate into life in Jamaica.
Kingston was the island’s only city for some time, and visitors are often surprised by its size. It boasts great nightlife, restaurants and wonderful shopping opportunities.
Expats considering taking a job in Jamaica should note that it can be quite difficult to secure a work permit for a trailing spouse. Many spouses try to get involved with local charities or expat clubs to stave off the boredom, or a popular option is to arrange to work for companies back home while living in Jamaica.
Jamaica has, for some time, had one of the highest murder rates in the world. Large cities such as Kingston have high levels of crime, particularly in impoverished inner-city areas. Although most crime is gang-related and doesn’t affect tourists, new expats to Jamaica should be aware that the move will require some adjustments to personal habits, especially if they're from a country where personal safety is the last thing on one’s mind.
Although small, the island’s culture is comparatively well known due to the widespread influence of reggae, dub, ska and related music, and a large diaspora of Jamaicans and descendants worldwide. Expats who make the move successfully are the ones who fall in love with the food, the weather and the rich Creole culture.
Population: About 3 million
Capital city: Kingston
Geography: Jamaica is the third biggest island in the Caribbean. Much of inland Jamaica is covered in rough and mountainous terrain, with a significant number of small and underground rivers traversing the country. The coastline is made up of a combination of white sandy beaches and rugged, rocky areas.
Political system: Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: English and Jamaican Patois
Money: The country's official currency is the Jamaican Dollar (JMD), which is divided into 100 cents. ATMs and card facilities are available in most major urban centres and tourist areas.
Tipping: A tip of 10 to 15 percent is generally expected for most services
Electricity: 110 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs with two flat blades are used throughout the country.
Internet domain: .jm
International dialling code: +1 (876)
Emergency contacts: 119 (police), 110 (fire and ambulance)
Transport and driving: Taxis and buses are the most common form of public transport in Jamaica. Buses can be crowded and unreliable, but taxis are available in most urban centres and often offer a quicker way to get around. Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Are you an expat living in Jamaica?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Jamaica. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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