Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Jamaica?
There is a good system of more than 8,000 miles of paved roads but they are populated by often reckless drivers so care is required. Driving in rural areas or in the mountains can be quite dangerous, especially in rainy weather. Watch out for potholes and take special care when driving at night as there can often be pedestrians or animals in the road which are difficult to see due to a lack of lighting. If you're going to explore, it's worth considering renting a four by four vehicle.
In the Blue Mountains there are a number of narrow and windy roads which you may have to take if you plan on travelling from the south to the north. Local drivers are unlikely to slow down on these twisty roads. Watch out if you're prone to travel sickness too
There are few traffic lights in Kingston, Montego Bay, Spanish Town and Ocho Rios. In these cities it can get very congested so you should try to avoid rush hour. Driving is on the left with overtaking on the right as in the UK. You should take extra care when turning and consider who has the right of way. Also be aware that it is quite normal for cars to stop suddenly and without warning or indication, particularly taxis. Drivers use their horns liberally. Although it sounds like a minefield, drive defensively and be courteous to other drivers and you will be fine.
Seat Belt Laws
It is the law in Jamaica that all occupants of a moving car must be wearing seatbelts. You will receive a fine if caught without one.
Drinking and Driving
The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Jamaica is 35mg per 100ml of blood. This is less than half that of the UK and means that even one drink is likely to take you over the limit. Stay on the safe side, do not drink and drive at all.
Must Have Documents
As long as it is printed in English, your domestic driving licence is acceptable. You should also carry your passport or a copy of it, proof of insurance and your vehicle registration document.
The speed limits for Jamaican roads are as follows:
110kph for freeways unless otherwise indicated
80 kph for open roads
50 kph in built-up areas including towns and villages.
Minimum Driving Age
Although the minimum driving age in Jamaica is 18, to drive a rental car in Jamaica you need to be 21 years old, though some rental companies may charge you a young driver surcharge if you are under 25 years of age. Drivers will need to have held their licence for at least two years.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
It's not illegal to use a speed camera detection device in Jamaica but we always recommend that you stick to the speed limit as accidents caused by speed are very common.
On the Spot Fines
You will receive a ticket from the police if you contravene any traffic offences. Sometimes you might be asked for cash but this is not legal and you should insist on being given a ticket. The fines can be paid at any police station in Jamaica.
Child Safety Rules
Children under the age of three must be placed in an appropriate child seat and if in the front of the car, it must face backwards with the airbag deactivated. Between three and twelve, the child must not sit in the front of the vehicle and should have an appropriate restraint system for their age and height.
A minimum of third party fire and theft cover is required in Jamaica. All of our hire cars have fully comprehensive insurance.
Rules of the Road
There are just a few anomalies to watch out for when driving in Jamaica:
As in the UK, traffic travels on the left in right hand drive vehicles
The lack of pavements mean that many people walk along the road and are difficult to see at night
You may find livestock in the road so drive with caution, especially in rural areas
Violent crime is rife in Jamaica so don't stop for hitch hikers or for anyone who seems to be in trouble, it could be a trap
There are no specific regulations for towing a vehicle or trailer in Jamaica. You should simply make sure the attachment is secure and that other drivers will be aware of your actions.
There are no fixed speed cameras in Jamaica, the police prefer to use mobile patrols to catch speeding motorists.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
The use of a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is prohibited in Jamaica. You'll receive a fine if caught.
Most parking in Jamaica is unregulated so you can simply find a space and park there. In the cities it can be very difficult to do this so finding a municipal garage is a better idea. You can often find that you are boxed in by other drivers but they usually leave their handbrakes off so you can move them enough to get out.
Paid parking is reasonably priced but is more expensive the closer you get to a city centre. It's safer to pay for parking as you usually have some monitoring of the car – important as crime is so high.
The little amount of enforcement of parking is done by the police and if you have outstayed your welcome or are parked inconsiderately, you'll get a ticket to be paid at the local police station or bank. If you're causing an obstruction, your car is likely to be towed.
Jamaica doesn't recognise international disability schemes but if you show the parking attendant your card, they will usually find you a more accessible spot in exchange for a few dollars.
Motor Way Signs
As in the United Kingdom, motorway signs have a blue background with white writing.
Jamaicans speak a Patois dialect of English but it's generally easy to understand, likewise, you should have no trouble getting yourself to be understood.
There are not many traffic lights in Jamaica and the ones you'll find operate the same sequencing as US and European lights meaning there should be no confusion.
There is a long history of toll roads in Jamaica which dates all the way back to the 19th century. More recently the new highway 2000 was designed as a toll road. There are also tolls at Spanish Town, Vineyards and Portmore.
Depending on what class of car you have the toll can cost anything between 70 and 700 Jamaican dollars. Visit the toll authority website for more information http://www.tollauthority.gov.jm/advisory.html.
The emergency services number is 119 and you can call for an ambulance or the fire department directly on 110.
The British High Commission is located at 28 Trafalgar Road in Kingston 10 and can be contacted on (001) (876) 936 0700. Their website is http://ukinjamaica.fco.gov.uk/en/
The American Embassy is located at 142, Old Hope Road in Kingston 6 and can be contacted on (001) (876) 702 6000. Their website is http://kingston.usembassy.gov/
What to do in an emergency
If you are involved in an accident a collision on a motorway, get to a safe place and call for help on 119. If you are on the motorway you can use the roadside emergency phone. You should try not to move the vehicles unless they are causing a danger to others. Whilst waiting for the police to arrive, take photographs of the scene and details from any witnesses.
As at July 2014, 95 octane unleaded is an average of 67p a litre in Jamaica with diesel a little cheaper.