Honking: The Unwritten Code

Car Horns in Jamaica

My first time in Jamaica I thought they had the rudest road manners on the planet! My second time, after touring half the island as a passenger, I was enlightened to the entire unwritten code of the horn honk. MyΒ fourteenth time I became part of the road and in turn part of the code and it was rather entertaining! It happened almost by instinct that I honked at someone to say thanks for something.

Where I come from if you honk at someone it’s inevitably followed by flipping them the bird – I believe Elephant Man wrote the theme song for that (F*** You Sign). In Jamaica I think about 80% of the honks are friendly gestures of wha gwaan, thank you, likkle more (goodbye), etc.

In my driving experiences I did honk quite a bit and most of them were friendly hello’s and goodbye’s. One major honk I performed did not have the desired effect. It was one LONG, HARD desperate honk while I was parked against a wall and could only watch as the taxi van backing up behind me smashed into my back end. I think I laid on the horn long enough for the whole of Ocho Rios to know what was going on EXCEPT the dude driving the taxi. Then after he hit, he calmly put it back in gear and casually drove off. I sat there in disbelief and the ONLY reason I didn’t get out and unleash road rage on him is because I was afraid I might get shot LOL!

Anyways, I found a fabulous article in The New Black Magazine, which deciphers and uncovers the age old Jamaican honking code.Β Β  Uncover the mystery of the language of car horns HERE.


  • Chelsea says:

    Yes…..the honking and the remarks sometimes are brutal…..yet still funny. My girlfriend and I were (well she was driving) she did something wrong…..think cut some guy off unintentionally…..he yelled y unno yt peeple so damn foo fool….we crocked up laughing….he started smiling and yelled when we got to the lights…..gimme yu numba na….classic dwl

    btw I would not attempt to drive in jamaica…..I would rather tackle the Moose in Canada when I am driving…..I know I could not get use to driving on the other side of the road.

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  • JC says:

    LOLLLL @ him asking for your number!! I had this happen one time driving in the country too! I was sitting at a stop light trying to turn onto the highway and everyone was honking at me to GO. A dude on a motorbike pulled up beside me, I think to cuss me…until he saw I was foreign. Then he started trying to pick me up LOL!! So funny.

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  • love the story,what an experience,to be driving in jamaica,i do love the horns too,of course many of the drivers ply the same routes,and always see one another driving back and forth,what a fun way to say howdy!,of course the use of the horn for overtaking and alerting around corners in the mountains come in handy too,i would like to drive some there one day myself,have a good weekend!,one love

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  • JC says:

    True Shane. Actually when driving on the REALLY winding roads in the country people lay on the horn at every corner to alert oncoming cars they are there. If you can get yourself behind one of these people they are good to follow.

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  • Shelly says:

    Oh gosh…I remember the first time I went to Jamaica . I went to Portmore with my 19 year old light skin daughter..I thought all the horns were for her…I’m like wow this is ridiculous…lmao…then I learned.

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  • Kristi says:

    LOOOL Shelly that’s hilarious! I just thought everyone was pissed off!

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