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Jamaican Taxi System

How to use a Taxi in Jamaica

Ahhh I LOVE transportation in Jamaica. Once you experience it you’ll wish things were this easy back home. True story.

First of all let me just say that I’m pretty sure that you won’t be renting a car on your first trip, or your second for that matter. It took me 7 trips to consider it, but by that time I had so many friends with cars I don’t need taxi’s that much.

Taxi Rates

There are no rates. And there’s no foolproof way to learn about taxi rates EXCEPT trial and error, and familiarity with routes. If you happen go to and from the same place all the time and you get different drivers each time, try offering lower than what you paid the last guy. If they accept, you’ve set a new rate to work with. Next time offer less.

Funny quirk – you’re NEVER certain (as a foreigner) if you’re ever getting a good deal. Once I went from point A to point B and the driver charged me $1000 JD after hard negotiations, which seemed fair to me because it was quite a distance. When coming back, a different driver took me for $500 JD – half the price. So even by Jamaica trip #6, I was still on a huge learning curve. Its about 50% charming and 50% annoying to find out all the quirks of this place.

TIP: If a driver won’t negotiate a rate that you’re comfortable with don’t be afraid to keep walking. 3 steps up the road another taxi will approach you. There are more taxi’s than private cars in Jamaica.

Route Taxi VS Charter Taxi

BIG difference between the two – One is for people who want to “experience” life and the other is for boring people with no backbone. And before I get into detail about any taxi, you need to know that ALL taxi’s have RED LICENSE PLATES. If someone with a white plate offers you a ride its not advisable to hop in with them. Its illegal for them to transport you for money, and might be dangerous for you as well.  Its one of those things I do that would show up in the “what not to do” section.

Red license plate on Jamaican taxi

Red license plate on Jamaican taxi

CHARTER TAXI – There are a few ways to “charter” a taxi. You can find them usually sitting in hotel parking lots or at major tourist spots. And you can also call a tour company and request taxi service for a particular day and time. Or they are all other taxis that don’t have a “ROUTE” sign on the side. The drivers of chartered taxis dress nice, in slacks and a white collar shirt. And charter taxis are definitely the most expensive way to get around, they have set prices from point to point. The benefits are that you get your own private taxi, they’re clean and the drivers are courteous. The downside to charters is that they’re not exciting. They only get one paragraph in a blog.

Charter Taxi van in Jamaica

Charter Taxi van in Jamaica

ROUTE TAXI – The most fun and uninhibited way to go!! A Route Taxi is like a Visa card – “everywhere you want to be”. I’ve walked out onto country roads in the middle of the night and out of nowhere comes a Route Taxi like a knight on a white horse! (By the way I don’t recommend dark country roads at all hours either).

Now, a Route Taxi could come in any form. It could be a car or a van, nicely pimped out or totally beat up, and might be empty or full of Jamaicans. Route Taxis are typically the driver’s personal car as well, so the condition of them is variable. You will know them by the “Route Taxi” sticker on the side and like any taxi, they have a red plate. They transport several people at one time, almost like a bus but with no set stops. You jump in with other people going places and just tell the driver where you want to go.

The BEST thing about Route taxi’s is they’re dirt cheap IF you don’t act like a tourist. Example: You can get pretty much anywhere within the same town for $150 JD or less in a Route taxi, but chances are if you just hand him $100 like its no one’s business he’ll take it and not say anything. The more people who are already in the car, the better because he’s going to make decent money off everyone else. So you get a cheap ride and usually get a chance to be intimate with the locals in the back seat for a short time. If you’re the only person in the car, STILL act like you’ve done this before and hand him your $100 at the end of the ride. If you pass the money with one foot out the door already, he’s not going to say anything.

FACT: I’ve taken a $150 Route taxi on the same ride as I used to pay $500 in a charter taxi (back in the day when I was boring with no backbone).

FACT: Route taxis charge per person. If there are two of you don’t expect to go for the price of one. That would be ripping THEM off and we don’t want to do that. Its their livelihood.

TIP: Have small bills on you. Chances are the driver either won’t have change for $1000 or they will SAY they don’t have change for $1000. Either way you’re screwed because you’ll only get the change he has. Its best to have several $100’s on you.

I’ve grown to love Route taxi’s for so many reasons. It keeps life interesting and you can meet the coolest people in them. Most often they are locals who are perplexed that you know the in’s and out’s of the Route taxi system.

My all time favorite taxi driver in Montego Bay is George. He has the BEST car with the best stereo system, paint job, logo’s, etc. I met George because of some hard-ass drivers that I was negotiating with in the street, who wouldn’t drive me for my price,so I kept walking. George heard the commotion and said “I’ll take you for that”. And the rest is history.

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16 Comments

  1. Loving your blog JC. You make my country sound so wonderful and exciting – which it is! Well done xx

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Yea girl it IS a wicked country!!!

    Glad you’re loving it. I’m having so much fun writing this stuff because it digs up alllllll my memories and I get to relive them over and over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Going to MoBay in two weeks. PLEASE give me George’s phone number! I promise him plenty of work if he’s as reasonable and reliable as you say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Will get back to you shortly on that Russ. Thanks!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. I will be traveling to Sandals Whitehouse on May 22-25 and am looking for a good taxi driver. Can you give me George’s number and email address. Whitehouse is on the South coast of jamaica.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Unfortunately I lost my phone and all my contacts while I was there 2 weeks ago. I don’t have his number unless he calls me first, then I can retrieve it. I guess I should take that part out of my post for now. My sincere apologies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Make sure your life insurance is up to date before getting into a Jamaican taxi! I travelled from Spanish Town to Ocho Rios via Mount Rosser – a journey which takes 1hour 15mins on average. The taxi driver did it in 35 minutes travelling at 140 most of the way with FOUR in the back and THREE in the front (not including the driver). I’ve told drivers MANY times to slow down and most of them will (but always tend to speed up again if they think you’re not watching).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. LMAO!!! I’ve done that ride a handful of times and its NO JOKE!!!! Fern Gully is crazy too! At least 4 in the back seat and every corner the people on the end get slammed hahahahaaaa.

    Its definitely a trip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Hi there, i’m off to jamaica in about 2 weeks with my girlfriend, we’ve never been before and ideally wanted to see as much of the island as possible within the 10 days we have there, however, neither of us drive and just wondered if you could give any indication of the ease of travelling further than the nearest couple of towns to Kingston where we arrive? We’ve looked into mini buses but heard they’re expensive and unreliable, we’re kind of on a budget but want to do as much as we can possibly afford.
    Any help would be appreciated as is any advice you could give for a couple of newbies to the island!
    Cheers,
    Kev

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. For your first time I would definitely suggest hiring a driver, but that’s not super cheap because you’re chartering a ride. So I guess you have to weigh out your options…spend a little extra money for reliability and someone who knows everything about the island….OR just be brave and try to have some fun with the route taxi system. Route taxis will always be cheaper but the down side is the drivers will know you don’t know what the route price is so you might pay more than a Jamaican would…but still less than chartering a driver.

    Here’s a great tip….before you get into ANY taxi ask a random Jamaican on the street how much a route taxi would charge from point A to point B. That way you know what to pay before you get in!

    TONS of Jamaicans travel by taxi so you can definitely get anywhere you want to go in one. The only places that you might not be able to go by route are out of the way tourist places.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. I totally enjoy reading these posts. I am a Jamaican and travel by taxi a lot – it can be rough but it’s mostly fun especially when someone shares a good story along the way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Lol cool. im a jamaican going school and i just simly admire how u guys like our route taxi so much. jamaican taxis are awesome. if u put a chevy nascar against their little toyotas (most of them are toyota corolla’s) u would lose by at least 4 car lenghts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. LOL Q! I agree! It’s not the cars that make taxis fun, it’s the drivers for real!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. I am a Jamaican and travel by taxi a lot – it can be rough but it’s mostly fun especially when someone shares a good story along the way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. For the best taxi tours in Falmouth and cruise ship transfer, visit Falmouth travel guide for our list of operators

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  16. Route taxis are the boss! Enjoy Jamaica!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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