As an American currently residing in Jamaica, Angela Eastwick borrows from her personal experience to offer an informative guide on vacationing, living and working on the island.

SO, YOU WANT TO LIVE IN JAMAICA...

Who doesn't?!

Jamaica is the land of little inhibitions - a world of delicious freedom, romantic recklessness and laidback wonders. Hitchhiking, spliff smoking, beach-sexing - these are just some of the spicy, every day, cultural activities both locals and tourists engage in without having to face any legal consequences. Time spent in Jamaica tends to be filled with soul-defying, autonomous moments you never in your wildest dreams think would happen. But make no mistake; Jamaica is certainly no free land and if you want to continue an existence in laid-back paradise, there is a strict list of government regulations and cultural conducts to be followed.

This will give you details on my personal experience with moving to Jamaica as well as advice on how to do so yourself.

1. THE BIG MOVE
After being an addicted vacationer of Jamaica for several years, I came up with the crazy idea of moving to the island. People thought I was nuts. After I underwent all of the move-to-Jamaica-technicalities, I quit my job, sold my car and my furniture, Ebay-ed my clothes and got rid of my New York City apartment. I said my goodbyes and off I went!

When I first arrived in Jamaica, I resided in a traditional board house far in the countryside. I shared a large property with about twenty native Jamaicans. Without hot water, dishwasher, Internet, cable TV, a dryer and a kitchen sink, I quickly realized I had given up all I knew for a much simpler existence. But I surprised myself with my smooth transition. I didn't need all the material items I had grown to be so accustomed to in the past. My new life in Jamaica gave me a sense of humility - a sense of appreciation for my previous lifestyle and a newfound gratitude for the blessings I continue to have every day.

Cultural Expectations
The Jamaican people were extremely hospitable to me upon my arrival. They approached me with gifts from the earth; seafood, fruits, vegetables or just a genuine smile. They took me on tours of the community (the community in which I was one of three other foreigners), taught me the local language and gave me Jamaican cooking lessons. While I still feel indebted to their kindness, my daily habits had to quickly be adjusted in order to meet their cultural expectations. Some Jamaicans would look at me like I had six heads for doing things the way I always knew how. My house cleaning methods were unsatisfactory, the way I did my laundry was unacceptable, even the way I hung the clothes on the line was wrong! I was told it was dirty to pet stray animals. I tipped the motor-taxi driver and Jamaicans thought I was "mad" for spending a cent more than I had to. If I wanted takeout food, I had the choice of fried chicken, fried chicken and more fried chicken. I had to cook every meal. And if I was going to cook, I had to learn to cook Jamaican due to the minimal selection of American ingredients. When someone died, I went to a celebration instead of a melancholy affair. A visit to the hospital required following a strict dress code. There's still no getting used to the island's exotic creatures - mosquitoes, lizards, roaches, ants, mice and the deadly forty-leg I from time-to-time find crawling under my desk.

All in all, living in Jamaica requires a certain measure of durability. I understood that I was living in the locals' world now and if I wanted to be accepted by the community, I had to change my ways. If you are the type to acclimate well to different environments, living in Jamaica should be only somewhat challenging. Good manners will be expected of you, as well as good hygiene. Jamaicans are very clean and proper people. Don't gossip about anyone, you will quickly be known as an "informer", and that's the worst reputation you can earn. Don't anticipate having a very liberal and open minded sex life. As sexual of a culture the Jamaican culture is, Jamaicans are very conservative in the bedroom. Oral and anal sex, homosexuality and sex toys are very taboo while infidelity is widely acceptable. Go figure. Don't be surprised if your partner cheats on you and the whole community thinks you're crazy for leaving that person.

It took me about six months to feel truly comfortable in my new life. But when you're doing something that truly makes you happy, it's easy to undergo changes. I am now speaking Patois fluently, able to whip up a mean plate of ackee and saltfish and am driving on the left side of the road. Nonetheless, I clearly understand my cultural boundaries and know what's expected of me as a "Jamerican" woman.

2. IMMIGRATION LAW

A move to Jamaica requires much more than a few suitcases and a plane ticket. There are strict immigration laws, and take it from me, Jamaican Customs and Immigration do not take their rules lightly. American and Canadian tourists are permitted to stay on the island for no more than ninety days, granted they present a valid passport and a return ticket upon entering Jamaica. (Citizens of any other countries should check with the Jamaican Consulate closest to them to better understand their specific immigration restrictions.) After having stayed on the island three months, foreigners must leave Jamaica for at least thirty days before they can return. Extensions of stay are every so often granted to those who are willing to apply and pay for it, but usually do not permit visitors to stay more than six months. For those who want to live on the island full-time, one must be employed or married to a Jamaican citizen. Read below to learn how working in Jamaica is possible. Find out more on VISA and passport requirements at the Consulate General of Jamaica's website: congenjamaica-ny.org

3. WORKING IN JAMAICA

"Create Your Own Occupation"
Most people do not have the freedom or money to stay in Jamaica for three months without working. A fellow ex-pat once told me something that forever changed my life. "If you want to live in Jamaica" he said, "you must create your own occupation." I began to observe my surroundings, asked myself what Jamaica was lacking and how I could fill the gap. And so, I began my journey of opening a business in Jamaica.

Job Search
Jobs on the island are scarce, good salary even more so. Finding a job or an internship on a major resort is possible, but you need to offer specific skills or valuable experience. Being bilingual, for instance, is a HUGE plus and may give you a step ahead. The government is not keen on granting jobs to foreigners, however, as they prefer to offer the work to Jamaican residents. If you find being hired by an established company in Jamaica is a challenge, perhaps consider investing in a business of your own. Sadly, a lack of education, money and unprofessionalism plague the country. Many Jamaicans are incapable of taking advantage of the island's commerce opportunities because they are unable to come up with the capital to invest.

4. OPENING A BUSINESS
There are many steps to opening a business in Jamaica. The government's bureaucrat systems tend to operate in an old fashioned manner and almost all processing of the confusing, detailed paperwork must be submitted at the head branches in Kingston. The best way to handle business registration and documentation is to hire a third party, such as an attorney or accountant, to handle all procedures on your behalf. Read below to become familiar with the steps of starting a company in Jamaica:

1st Step - Incorporate
The first step of starting a business in any country is to incorporate. Whether it be a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or a Limited Company, all incorporation can be done at the Office of Registrar of Companies, Jamaica: http://www.orcjamaica.com/ Documents such as the Stamped Articles of Incorporation, Declaration of Compliance, Notices of Appointment of Directors and Company Secretary and Notice of Registered Office along with a fee of $250 USD must all be filed and paid at the ORC in Kingston.

2nd Step - Obtain Registration Numbers
Upon incorporation the following numbers must be obtained

1. TRN (Tax Registration Number)) - One for yourself and one for your business must be obtained at the Tax Office.
2. NIS number (National Insurance Scheme) - Obtained at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
3. TCC (Tax Compliance Certificate) - Obtained at the Tax Office.
*Registration at the National Housing Trust is also required.

3rd Step - Apply for a Work Permit
A work permit is REQUIRED for all immigrants working in Jamaica. See below to learn more about applying for a work permit in Jamaica.

5. WORK PERMIT
A Work Permit is a document issued by Jamaica's Ministry of Labour and Social Security granting an immigrant permission to work on the island. A Work Permit is NOT the same document as a Business VISA. A Business VISA is granted to those doing business in Jamaica on a short term basis. For Americans and citizens of other countries looking to work full-time in Jamaica, acquiring a Work Permit is a MUST. (Commonwealth Citizens should check with the Jamaican Consulate closest to them as they might be exempt from having to obtain permission to gain employment on the island.)
All applicants must have their desired job position arranged with their prospective employer or have a company incorporated before applying for a work permit. If you are the owner of your company, you must sponsor yourself. If you work for someone else, that company must sponsor you. The Work Permit process deters many people from following through on their dreams of living in Jamaica. It is expensive and the approval process is long. A year-long work permit costs $1500 USD, in addition to a processing fee and other incorporation costs. Quite a steep price to pay for INVESTING in another country. Pay to work - what a brilliant concept!
The application process is different for first time applicants and renewing applicants. Below is a guideline for both parties.

First Time Applicants

The initial application requires the following documents:
  • 4 Completed Work Permit application forms (Can be obtained online, must be printed on legal paper)
  • Original incorporation documents (applicant will eventually get them back)
  • A resume
  • Proof of qualifications (i.e. diplomas, certifications, licenses)
  • Bank statements (to prove means of sustaining company should you fail to earn your projected income)
  • Notarized copy of your passport
  • 4 Notarized passport photos
  • A police record from the jurisdiction in which you live
  • TRN (Tax Registration Number)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Work Permit fee (There is a fee to process the Work Permit application. Once approved, the applicant is required to pay for the actual Work Permit. Applicants have a few payment options. One can pay for a three to six month Work Permit as well as a one or three year Work Permit. Paying for a Work Permit of a shorter duration is initially cheaper but eventually equivalent to paying for a year upfront, not to mention much more inconvenient if you'd like to stay working for more than 3-6 months as you must continue to renew it upon its expiration.)

Renewals

Renewing a Work Permit is a similar process. It can take up to two-three months to complete, so make sure you begin renewing before your current Work Permit expires as you may not remain on the island while your Work Permit is invalid. This violation serves as grounds for deportation and Immigration will notice if you'd outstayed your welcome.
A Work Permit renewal requires the following documents:
  • Completed application form
  • Work Permit processing fee and fee for actual work permit (renewals are the same price)
  • 4 passport photos (do not need to be signed by a JP)
  • Cover letter stating the reason you are re-applying for a work permit (try to up-sell yourself in this letter)
  • Proof of investment in Jamaica (Bank statement, office rent receipts, etc.)
  • Updated copies of your valid passport
  • Jamaican Police Report (Can be obtained in Kingston or MoBay Police Station. Bring with you your Work Permit card, valid passport and receipt of payment from the Tax Office. Finger prints will be taken. Arrive to the records department as early as possible and allot two weeks for processing.)

    If you incorporate a new company during or after your first Work Permit, you cannot renew, you must apply as a completely NEW applicant. The Ministry will not allow you to renew your Work Permit under a different company name. If executed correctly, by a legitimate individual, the initial Work Permit application process usually takes 3-4 months. Absolutely NEVER do a back-door-deal to get your Work Permit. Never hire or trust a corrupt bureaucrat, even when referred. It is very likely YOU WILL BE RIPPED OFF, never seeing your money or documents again. Applying for a Work Permit is much easier and quicker when a legitimate third part, is hired to handle the paperwork for you. See our "Other Services" page for more information: http://jujutours.com/Other_Services.php

    For more information on the Ministry of Labour & Social Security and Work Permits click here: http://www.mlss.gov.jm/pub/index.php?artid=17


6. ENTRY VISA
Upon being granted your Work Permit, you must take your Work Permit letter to the Consulate General of Jamaica in the city closest to you (in your homeland). There you will apply for your Entry VISA. The Entry VISA allows you to remain in the country for business purposes (such as obtaining your Re-Entry VISA and Work Permit card). You may not enter and leave the island on this VISA. It is only valid for ONE entry and you will no longer be considered a visitor, according to the Jamaican Immigration laws.
To apply for your Entry VISA you must bring the following documents with you to the Consulate:
  • A valid passport
  • Completed application (The VISA application is a general application for all VISA types and can be obtained at Consulate or downloaded online. Make sure you tell the staff at the consulate exactly what you are applying for so you don't have to wait in line with all the passport applicants.)
  • 3 Passport pictures
  • Original Work Permit letter
  • Proof of a return ticket
  • $140 USD in cash

You can expedite the Entry VISA (same day) for an additional $30 USD. Without expediting, the process takes 3-4 days.

7. RE-ENTRY VISA
Your Work Permit has been approved, you've received your Entry VISA and you have finally made your big move to Jamaica! You have one more step before you can begin operating business. You'll need to obtain your Re-Entry VISA. This VISA will allow you to leave and enter the country as many times as you'd like without presenting to Jamaica's Immigration a return ticket and will expire in correspondence with your work permit. You'll have three months before you must apply for this VISA and obtain your stamp ($100 USD) at the PICA (Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency) in Kingston. http://www.pica.gov.jm/ Failure to do so will result in cancellation of your entire work permit.

First Time Applicants

To apply for your Re-Entry VISA you must provide PICA with the following documents:
  • A valid passport containing your Entry VISA stamp
  • Completed application (can be obtained at PICA)
  • 2-4 passport photos (do not need to be signed by a JP)
  • Original Work Permit letter addressed to PICA
  • Paid fee of $239.50 USD (Fee can be paid for at PICA building)

Once you receive your Re-Entry VISA (takes 2-3 days to process, PICA does not offer expediting), you must go to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and present your Re-Entry VISA in order to retrieve your Work Permit Card. You will be issued a little yellow "alien" book, which will have your picture inside. You will be given two weeks to bring this book to the nearest Police Department and register yourself.

Renewals
If this is NOT your first time applying for a Re-Entry VISA, you must provide the following documents:
  • A valid passport containing your Entry VISA stamp
  • Completed application (can be obtained at PICA)
  • Original Work Permit letter addressed to PICA
  • The yellow alien book, with your passport picture, which was administered to you the first time you applied for an Entry VISA. (You will NOT need to take it to your local Police Department again.)
  • Paid fee of $239.50 USD
Phew - what a process!

8. BUSINESS OPERATION & LICENSING
Many businesses require specific licenses before they can legally operate in Jamaica. If you have a business in the tourism industry, for instance, you'll need to obtain a Jamaica Tourist Board License issued by TPDCO (Tourist Product Development Company). tpdco.org/index.php
In order to obtain this license, you'll need to complete TPDCO certifications, which can be obtained by taking classes and providing numerous documents. A very well-known TPDCO class taken by most hotel staff is called Team Jamaica. It's actually lots of fun, very effective and a great way to make new friends and business contacts
For more information on TPDCO classes and licensing go to: tpdco.org/dynaweb.dti

9. INSURANCE
Most businesses will also require insurance. Purchasing Public Liability Insurance for a business is challenging unless the company has major assets connected to it, such as ownership of a building. CGM Gallagher is the one and only broker on the island that offers such a policy for home-office based tour companies. Below is their information:
CGM Gallagher Insurance Brokers Jamaica Ltd.
Phone: 1 (876) 684 9370-1, (876) 618 0275, Mobile: (876) 381 3822, Fax: 1 (876) 684 9616 Website: www.cgmgallagher.com

10. TAXES
In Jamaica, business owners must file statutory returns at the Inland Revenue Department as well as an annual return at the Tax Office and Office of the Registrar of Companies. Like in the States, there is an array of different taxes to be paid; Income Tax, Education Tax, Property Tax, etc. It is best to use a referred law firm or private accountant to file these taxes for you. Americans working in abroad are eligible for a tax exemption when paying Income Tax in another country. Speak to an accountant back in your homeland regarding this as you must still file paperwork proving you work overseas. For more information on filing taxes in Jamaica go to:
jamaicatax.gov.jm

11. MONEY & BANK ACCOUNTS
Jamaica's currency is called the Jamaican Dollar (JMD). The exchange rate to the American Dollar usually varies between 83.50 - 85.42. The most popular banks in Jamaica are Scotiabank Scotiabank.com or NCB jncb.com I advise all business owners to have a Jamaican bank account. ATMs, which are located island wide, only allow limited withdrawals of about $250 USD a day and can charge a fee of up to $17 USD to withdraw funds from an American bank account. Some ATMS only allow withdrawals of even lesser amounts. This becomes quite expensive and is obviously limiting in the amount of money one can spend on each transaction. Most Jamaican business owners will not accept foreign checks as it can take up to a month for the funds to become available.

How to Open a Jamaican Bank Account
Unfortunately, there is a very scrutinizing process for foreigners who are interested in opening a Jamaican bank account. The following documents are required of any foreigner wishing to open an account in Jamaica:
  • Completed bank application
  • 2 Notarized copies of your passport
  • A letter addressed to bank indicating reason for opening account in Jamaica
  • 2 Reference letters from a lawyer, doctor or accountant from the country of which you're from. This letter must state that you were a reliable and trusted customer. It MUST be the original, MUST be written on letterhead and precisely addressed to the bank, notarized and signed. The bank WILL call your references to verify their validity.
  • Proof of address in Jamaica such as a utility bill in your name or a mail posted envelope addressed to you, no older than 6 months
  • Social Security Number
  • 2 Certified passport photos
  • TRN Number
  • Proof of employment such as original incorporation documents or a letter from employer
  • Proof of funds such as bank statement or paystub
  • Minimum deposit of $5,000 JD ($60 USD) for a personal account and $10,000 JD ($119 USD) for a commercial account
Personal account opening requirements for NCB:
ncb.com/quicklinks
Personal account opening requirements for Scotiabank:
scotiabank.com/jm
Personal and commercial account requirements for NCB:
jncb.com/quicklinks

Once you can present all the correct documents to the banker, an account can be opened the same day. Bank accounts can be opened from overseas; however, all documents must be mailed, making the process much lengthier and possibly very complicated.

Fees
Once you can present all the correct documents to the banker, an account can be opened the same day. Bank accounts can be opened from overseas; however, all documents must be mailed, making the process much lengthier and possibly very complicated.
Scotiabank fees:
scotiabank.com
NCB's fees:
jncb.com


Credit Cards and Loans
Credit cards are available to foreigners in Jamaica, however, most require that each holder have available funds equivalent to the limit on the credit card. Obviously, the bank wants to protect themselves in the event of the account holder failing to pay off their charges. I advise all foreigners to retain an American credit card as they are accepted by the larger merchants on the island (but watch out for the international transaction fees!). To prevent your card from being temporarily closed, don't forget to call your bank and let them know you are now residing in Jamaica!
Loans, mortgages and lines of credit are also offered in Jamaican banks. They are similar to credit cards in that approval requires collateral such as a land title, car title or available funds (just like they do in the States.) It is harder for non-residents to get approved for these loans, but each person is a different circumstance. Make an appointment to speak to the Business Banking Officers in whatever establishment you end up banking with.

Transferring Money, Wiring Overseas & Bill Pay

If you are working in Jamaica, most of your income will soon be deposited into your Jamaican account. If you still have remaining bills to pay in your country of residence, paying them directly from your homeland bank account is ideal. However, after you've been working on the island and gaining income in Jamaica, it's a challenge to find a cheap and secure way to get the money from your Jamaican bank account into your homeland bank account. Here are some options:
Jamaican banks do not offer online bill pay to international companies. Therefore, using Western Union or Money Gram, both located island wide, is a secure and fast way to send money overseas (if you can entrust someone to receive and pay your bills with it on your behalf.) Western Union and Money Gram fees are a bit cheaper than transferring from bank to bank, but not much. For instance, using Money Gram to send $300 USD from Jamaica to America will cost an additional $15-$20 USD in wiring fees. The more money that is sent, the higher the fee becomes. This type of wiring can be done online at www.MoneyGram.com. I prefer Money Gram over Western Union because Western Union requires a slow process of identity validation for online money wiring. I was required to validate my identity by awaiting an authentication number in the mail to my New York address. Money Gram allows you to send money online within the first day of registering. However, either company offers same day money wiring if you go to a branch in person. Although a bit more expensive, funds are able to arrive instantly, if opted for.

Transferring Your Funds From Bank to Bank
Transferring money online from a Jamaican bank account to an overseas bank account can cost between $30-$50 USD each time. It can also take a few days. Writing yourself checks from your Jamaican checking account to your American account is the cheapest option but a very lengthy process. Obviously, the check would have to be sent in the mail to an entrusted person in the states who will deposit it for you. The post can take several weeks to arrive, not to mention, the cashing process can take between 2-4 weeks before the funds become available.

PayPal
Your best option for transferring money overseas is to open a PayPal account. www.PayPal.com Fees are extremely low, only a few cents (2.9% + $.30 USD) are charged for sending and receiving funds, which is exceedingly cheaper than any other wiring method. The largest amount of money one can send is $10,000 USD. The only downfall is funds take 3-4 days to arrive. If you manage your time well, this is by far the best and cheapest option to wire yourself money.
Read the below information carefully on how you can use PayPal to send money from Jamaica to your home country:
TWO separate PayPal accounts must be opened - an American PayPal account (use your American address) and a Jamaican PayPal account (use your Jamaican address). Two separate emails are required for this type of registration.
After you have registered, go to the "Profile" tab, located on the top right of the page. Add your American bank account to your American PayPal account. Next, add a Jamaican debit or credit card to your Jamaican PayPal account (a Jamaican savings account CANNOT be added. Must be a Jamaican checking account or credit card.) In order to send the funds from your Jamaican PayPal to your American PayPal, go to "Send Money". Charge your Jamaican debit or credit card and send yourself money, entering the email assigned to your American PayPal account. Once your American PayPal receives the funds, you will then be able to withdraw your funds into your American bank account. Voila`! You have successfully sent yourself money from Jamaica.

12. HOUSING
Fully furnished apartments are available island wide. Whether it's a modern two bedroom apartment with hot water and air conditioning or a rustic cottage with lesser amenities, suitable housing that satisfies your taste is not hard to find. Price ranges will range between $250-$1000 USD a month. It's standard to rent an apartment month-to-month, although some of the nicer apartment will require you to sign a lease and give a security deposit. Make sure you read EVERYTHING before you sign.
Contact us for housing recommendations in Negril.

12. HEALTHCARE

Doctors & Facilities
Healthcare and prescription drugs in Jamaica are free for citizens and legal residents. Foreigners must pay for doctor visits and medicine, but standard healthcare is not expensive. However, it would be presumptuous of one to expect the same quality, service, condition or knowledge from these medical practices that they once received from their homeland healthcare providers. Doctors' offices tend to be unsanitary and unorganized while their professional methods seem paralleled. Physicians will regularly refer to a medical book with vivid pictures and descriptions of infections to provide a patient with a diagnosis. He/she might be sent home with twenty different pills instead of one. If you are given an injection, make sure you always ask what it is.

Medicine & Prescriptions
Jamaica has beautiful, modern pharmacies. Many medications can be bought over the counter, without a prescription. Insurance is not needed to purchase medicine and most are very affordable. Bring the bottles of your most previous prescriptions with you to Jamaica so the pharmacists can find you a medicine of equivalent substances.
Ladies: Don't bother stocking up on hundreds of dollars worth of birth control pills from your home country. There are generic, effective and safe brands in Jamaica. Bring with you to the pharmacy the brand you are currently taking and the pharmacist will find you a pill with equivalent amount of hormones. And you'll only pay $6 USD a pack!

Tap Water & Food Poisoning
Outside the large resorts, the tap water in Jamaica is questionable. Brushing teeth and bathing is perfectly safe, however, many Jamaicans believe in drinking bottled water as much as possible. I agree with them. I drank out of the tap for months but it eventually began to bother my stomach because there is a great deal of chlorine in the water. To be extra safe about preventing yourself from food poisoning, ask your primary physician at home to give you preemptive bacteria shots and hepatitis vaccinations before making your big move.

Sickness & Diseases
Apart from dying of diseases they never knew they had, such as cancer, a significant percentile of Jamaica's population also suffer from a wide epidemic of STDs, HIV and AIDS. The death fatality rate from HIV and AIDS is much higher in Jamaica than in other countries. It has been said that the clinics have separate lines for HIV & AIDS patients, causing them to be too humiliated and ashamed to collect their treatments. Despite the effort to create awareness, getting tested for STDs is not as popular and emphasized as it should be. USE PROTECTION or get tested with your partner!!! With Jamaican men having immense reputations of infidelity, even women with whom they think to be the truest partners might never know if they are being cheated on, and even more importantly, if their partners are using protection with others. Get tested as often as much as possible, see a doctor upon seeing any symptoms and use protection.

Health Insurance
I have been lucky enough to maintain my American health insurance policy. I remain covered for various reasons: to receive yearly check-ups from my American doctors or should I ever need to be hospitalized for a critical disease. Nonetheless, maintaining American health insurance can become unbelievably expensive. Travel insurance is always an option; yet, standard health insurance is also available for non-residents in Jamaica. Pacific Prime is an excellent website that can help you find an appropriate health insurance policy when living abroad:
pacificprime.com

13. FOOD
Grocery selections tend to be quite limited in Jamaica. Supermarket choices mostly consist of the staple ingredients found in almost all Jamaican dishes - rice, beans, onion, carrot, Irish potato, tomato, green pepper, hot pepper and various meats. Seafood and chicken is amongst the most popular of the proteins, along with mutton (goat), pork and beef. Don't expect to be broiling any New York Strip Steaks, though. The beef here is not tenderized. You can, however, find ground beef and tenderloin. Particular ingredients found in American dishes, such as numerous herbs (parsley most especially), American fruits and veggies such as berries, peaches, asparagus, spinach, specific nuts and quality cheeses are the hardest to find.
Groceries are also expensive on the island. You'll notice the supermarkets sell items in three. Buying in bulk will save you a few bucks in the long run. Shopping at the meat and fruit market is also a good way to cut costs. American products are most expensive. Try and learn to cook Jamaican!

14. VEHICLE PURCHASE & DRIVERS LICENSES

Buying a Car in Jamaica
Buying a vehicle in Jamaica can be a bit of a process. Cars are scooped up fast and are more expensive than they are in a big country like America. It's unlikely that a foreigner will be able to negotiate a low price with a local seller, so it helps to have a trustworthy Jamaican friend to inspect the car and purchase it on your behalf.
When buying a vehicle, the Classified section in any newspaper is quite helpful in aiding your search. Once you have settled on a price with the seller, you must purchase a new insurance policy before transferring the title and fitness (fitness is like the inspection sticker) at the Tax Office. Many insurance companies allow those with foreign driver's licenses to be insured as the primary driver, although the policy is cheaper if the primary driver has their Jamaican driver's license (see below). Once an insurance policy is in place and the title and fitness has been registered at the Tax Office, you can obtain your license plates from there as well.
The roads on the island can be quite detrimental to the well-being of your vehicle. Try to avoid potholes as much as possible or expect to be at the mechanic once a month!
As far as importing your vehicle, it's just not worth it. Here is a link to someone's personal experience of importing a vehicle in Jamaica:
jamaicans.com

Driver's Licenses
You may drive in Jamaica with a foreign license, but car insurance will be more expensive. Nonetheless, obtaining your driver's license at the Jamaican Depot can be quite challenging - the system is very corrupt. Visit this link for a complete and accurate list of steps on how to obtain a Jamaican driver's license:
blogspot.com

General and Private Licenses
There are two types of driver's license which can be applied for: General License and Private License (also known as PPV, Private Passenger Vehicle License).
A General License is for those looking to drive a standard vehicle for personal purposes. General Licenses must be maintained for three years before one can apply for a Private License. A Private License (PPV) grants allowance to those looking to drive a vehicle for commercial purposes.
If you are like myself, and provide public transportation to visitors, you must have a driver with a PPV License. You'll then need to register him/her on your JTB License application, register him/her as a driver on your car insurance and obtain PPV license plates. These license plates are red and indicate that you are, in fact, driving a legal Public Passenger Vehicle.

15. CELL PHONES & INTERNET

Cell Phones, Plans and Carriers
There are three primary cellular phone carriers on the island: Digicel being the most popular, LIME and Claro. All three companies offer prepaid accounts, which most people opt for. Users must refill their accounts by either purchasing a phone card or "topping up" their balance online. One $100 JD phone provides a few short local phone calls. There are basic monthly plans offered as well.
Texting can be pricey. Overseas SMS messages use your local credit so text carefully!
Blackberries and iPhones brought over from other countries can be used with a Jamaican sim card but must be unlocked first.

Calling Overseas
Ironically, overseas calls are much cheaper than local calls. A monthly international plan costs approximately $1500 JD (about $18 USD) and grants you 1200 minutes for overseas calling. If only they made local plans that cheap!

Internet
LIME and Digicel are the major Internet carriers in Jamaica. Internet is available island wide, and cost about $60 USD when having it installed within a place of residence. Customers can purchase a basic phone plan as well since the cheapest connection is done through a phone line. Wireless is also available, although modems are expensive and the wireless connections on the island tend to be fickle and unreliable at times. Digicel offers a wireless USB modem for laptops, called "Internet On The Go". This device is similar to a prepaid phone in that buyers can fill up the amount of time they want the wireless Internet to be available to them. This wireless card works near any Digicel hotspot.
For more information on Internet On The Go:
http://www.digiceljamaica.com/en/about/news/digicel-4g-broadband-now-provides-wireless-internet-on-the-go

16. SHIPPING
Either way you look at it, shipping in large quantities always cost a few hundred American dollars. My first piece of advice to is to pack light during your initial move and bring items back to Jamaica with you in your suitcase whenever you return home for a visit. If you're planning on moving into a home that needs to be furnished, I suggest buying items at one of the local furniture stores. Courts or Singers has a great selection. You can opt to send your previous furniture in large crates but paying a large price for this type of shipping is inevitable.
The postal service is funny. When sending an envelope abroad, it might be a different price at each Post Office. Customs will rummage through any incoming packages you receive. Don't be surprised if items are missing. And there's nothing you can do about it. I always suggest getting a detailed list from your shipper of the items that were included in the package. This way you'll know for sure what was enclosed and you'll get a better idea if the postal workers at your local Post Office are honest. If the box is heavy, it's quite possible you'll have to pay to receive it.
There are two international courier services in Jamaica: Fed Ex and TARA. Both are extremely reliable. TARA is most economical if you need something shipped quickly to the other side of the island. Beware: I have received large Fed Ex shipments from the States. It was unbelievably expensive, not to mention Customs stole many items that weren't listed on the Customs forms and numerous things came broken. Having patience is best in this situation. Take bits and pieces back to Jamaica with you little by little in your suitcase. This is the least expensive option and items are less likely to be stolen. But never pack anything too valuable like jewelry or cameras! Travel with these objects in your carry-on.

17. SAFETY
One should always maintain their wits about them, whether in their hometown or in a foreign country. Jamaica, however, has been plagued with a negative reputation and sometimes for a good reason. Besides being hit on, hissed at or relentlessly having items be sold to me, I have yet to be the victim of a crime. Though, I always try to be street smart. Here are some personal safety tips which I practice every day:
  • After you have gotten your Re-Entry stamp from PICA stamp in Kingston, you will be required to register yourself at the local Police Department. Make sure you do this to ensure the authorities have a record of you just in case anything were to ever happen.
  • Carry pepper spray or a switchblade in your pocket, purse or car. Keep it in an accessible place. Make sure the cops don't see it as it's against the law to carry a knife.
  • When looking for housing, assess its safety conditions. How sturdy are the locks on your doors and is there a locked gate to enter the complex? I strongly suggest choosing housing with a gate.
  • If there is a gate, always have eyes in the back of your head when entering your housing's grounds. Have your keys ready; never be shuffling through your bag. If you must get out of your car, turn the vehicle off and take the keys out of the ignition. Scan the area for any lurkers. People can await your return home and mug you when your back is turned.
  • Leave a light on inside and outside your house if you leave at night. Make it look like someone is home.
  • Stay away from the big cities or scarcely populated areas after dark. This is when most thieveries take place. And P.S. - people WILL steal something of very little value and hurt you while they're at it.
  • DO NOT BE AN "INFORMER". In other words, DO NOT GOSSIP about anyone. Keep your complaints to yourself or within a circle of people of whom you trust. This island is very small and word reaches quickly. There is no faster way of gaining enemies.
  • If you are a witness of a crime and would like to report it, do not call the police in front of anyone. Remain anonymous.
  • Do not show off or brag about expensive electronics. Keep them in your pocket or your purse and only take them out in public if necessary. This could easily catch a thief's eye and spark a jealous altercation.
  • Get a lock box. Store expensive jewelry, passports, credit cards and other important and/or expensive objects.
  • Get a computer lock. Use it.
  • Always lock the door behind you at the ATM. Make sure the cash you withdrew is safely put away before exiting.
  • Pick your battles. Should you get into a fight over something as little as $500 Jamaican Dollars, let it go. To some people here, that is a lot of money and they will fight you for it. You'll find that people will try to rip you off sometimes. It's not worth the argument and the potential danger you might find yourself in.
  • Learn the local language (Jamaican Patois). Try to speak it as much as possible. This will send the message that you're no newcomer to the country and that you know your way around.
  • If you don't know your way around, ask someone you know to show you. Asking for directions, whether near or far, can be dangerous.
  • Homosexuality is considered a crime here. The law is enforced most specifically among men. If you or anyone you know engage in a homosexual lifestyle, do not make it known while in Jamaica. It's not safe.
  • Use discretion with those you reveal your address to.
  • If you find yourself in an emergency call the police or go to the station, which is opened 24/7. Call your embassy if you need further assistance.
  • ALWAYS use your intuition.

18. DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
Jamaica can be a fabulous place to live - if you have the persistence and patience to deal with the technicalities mentioned in this blog. Only the strong survive!
Should you need assistance with your move, contact JuJu Tours. We provide free consultations and offer assistance to those seriously considering a move to Jamaica.
Good luck!

*Make sure you call all agencies to verify the above requirements as conditions sometimes change.