Driving in Jamaica

tree-lined road in Jamaica

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With its diversity of landscapes, Jamaica is a prime candidate for a Caribbean road trip. One of the largest countries in the tropics, there’s no better way to explore Jamaica’s mountains and coastlines than by hitting the open road. But how best to prepare for your Jamaica vacation if you’re planning on using a rental car? From international driving requirements to navigating the nation’s highways and back-country roads, read on for your ultimate guide to driving in Jamaica.

Driving Requirements

To drive in Jamaica, a passport is not required, though a copy is recommended when applying for your rental vehicle. A driver’s license (a domestic driver’s license is acceptable as long as it is printed in English), IDP, Registration, and insurance are mandatory. The minimum age to drive in Jamaica is 18, but the minimum age to rent is 21. Some rental companies may charge extra if drivers are under the age of 25. Additionally, you will need to have had a license for at least two years.

See below for your checklist for driving in Jamaica:

  • Driver’s License: Required
  • Passport: Recommended (Provide a copy)
  • IDP: Required
  • Registration: Required
  • Insurance: Required (third party fire and theft cover is required)

Rules of the Road

Though there are similarities between driving in Jamaica and the U.S., the most marked difference is driving on the left side of the road. There is also a very low BAC limit in Jamaica, so even one drink is likely to take you over the legal limit.

  • Drive on the left side of the road: In Jamaica, you are required to drive on the left side of the road, so timid drivers, or those unused to such procedure, should be warned in advance before renting a vehicle. Also, drivers should allow for at least one to two car lengths in front of you, in case of wet roads.
  • Overtaking: In Jamaica, do not overtake any vehicle at the following: road junction, curve, railway crossing, curve, bridge. Only overtake on the right, and never on a shoulder. If there is a continuous white line (double or single) in the center of the road, do not overtake.
  • Intersection: At a junction with a traffic light, only proceed at the green light. Never enter an intersection on the red or yellow light; if you are already in the intersection when the yellow light comes on, proceed with caution.
  • Seat belts: Seat belts are to be worn at all times, by all passengers within the vehicle. Violators will be fined.
  • Speed limits: Do not exceed the speed limit, or you will be subject to fine. The limit is 110kph (68 mph) on freeways, 80kph (50 mph) for open roads, and 50kph (31 mph) in towns and villages, unless indicated otherwise. Speed detection devices are not illegal in vehicles. There is an increased fine for speeding in a school zone.
  • Cell phones: There is no use of cell phones while driving in Jamaica, violators will be subject to fine. Hands-free devices are acceptable.
  • Alcohol/ drug use: The legal blood alcohol content limit is 35 mg per 100 ml of blood in Jamaica. This is half the BAC of the U.K. and a little under half the BAC of the U.S.
  • Car seats: All passengers under the age of 3 are required to be placed in a car seat. If the car seat is in the front of the car, it must face backward, and the airbag must be deactivated. Children aged 3 to 12 are not allowed to sit in the front of the vehicle, and an appropriate restraint system for height and age should be used.
  • Toll roads: There are many toll roads in Jamaica in Spanish Town, Vineyards, and Portmore. Toll fee ranges from 70 to 700 Jamaican dollars, depending on the size of the vehicle.
  • On the spot fines: You will be handed a ticket by the police if you break any of these laws or regulations. The ticket can be paid at any police station in Jamaica.
  • In case of an emergency: For police, dial 119. For ambulance or fire department, dial 110. 
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Toll Roads in Jamaica

There are many toll roads throughout Jamaica, and price varies for each toll based on Vehicle Class. Class 1 vehicles are less than 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) high; Class 2 vehicles are more than 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) high but less than 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length. Class 3 is more than 5.6 feet (1.7 meters) high and more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) long. Read on for rates per toll road, in Jamaican dollars:

  • Portmore Toll Per Vehicle:
    • Class 1: $240; Class 2: $380; Class 3: $730
  • Spanish Town Toll Per Vehicle:
    • Class 1: $170; Class 2: $260; Class 3: $470
  • Vineyard Toll Per Vehicle:
    • Class 1: $480; Class 2: $700; Class 3: $1,320
  • May Pen Toll Per Vehicle:
    • Class 1: $120; Class 2: $200; Class 3: $400

Things to Know When Driving in Jamaica

Navigation: Oftentimes, roads can be poorly marked in rural areas. Ask a local for directions, or call in advance at your hotel or final destination. Download a navigation app in advance to be prepared.

Potholes: When it rains in Jamaica (which is often), the road can fill with dangerous potholes. Since locals know which roads to use, it's a bad sign if it's raining and you're the only one out in your car on your selected roadway. If you find yourself meandering down an empty road, reconsider your route. Additionally, the toll roads, though they are more expensive, are better paved.

Rental Cars: Check to verify if your car’s insurance is covered by your rental car, and if not, we recommend purchasing insurance for the chance of inclement weather (mentioned above.) Timid drivers who are not used to driving on the left side of the road should consider relying on private transfers and taxis from the airport to your hotel and out again for excursions. The expense of toll roads also makes the option of not renting a car all the more appealing.