A Beginner’s Guide to Moving and Living in Jamaica

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Increased globalization has changed international travel. Thousands leave their countries every day for different reasons. Many move in search of better opportunities, while others travel for visits, leisure, healthcare, etc. Remote workers who can work anywhere in the world may want a change of scenery for a year or two. Whatever your reason for shifting to another country, it is essential to learn about its culture and people before making the move. Here’s what you need to know if you intend to move and live in Jamaica.

Brief History of Jamaica

Jamaica is a former colony of Spain and Britain. The Spaniards colonized it from 1509 to 1655 when they surrendered the island to Britain under the Treaty of Madrid. In colonization, Jamaica became the world’s leading slave-dependent sugar exporter in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1807, slave trade was illegalized in the country and eventually abolished three decades later.  After abolition, many sugar plantation owners started hiring workers from countries like India and China, adding to the nation’s ethnic heritage.

It was only in the 20th century that Jamaica gained independence from Britain. It became a sovereign state on August 6, 1962. However, the island remains under the Commonwealth realm, with a constitution that retains the UK monarch as its head of state.

A Culture of Good Food and Music

Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on Pexels

Music is among the most notable aspects of Jamaican culture. The nation is internationally renowned for its dub, dancehall, and reggae genres headlined by household names like Bob Marley, Shaba Ranks, and Shaggy. Through their music, Jamaicans have also made the Rastafari religion and culture popular. These cultural trademarks include dreadlocked hair and green, gold, and red colors on clothes and accessories. Despite the widespread association of Jamaicans with Rastafarianism, only about 1% of the population is Rastafarian. Christianity is, by far, the island’s biggest faith, with approximately 70% following.

Besides music, Jamaica is known for its amazing cuisine influenced by its diverse cultural heritage consisting of Spanish, Indian, British, and Chinese elements. Residents use local ingredients that give their food a bold and unique taste, which many find irresistible. Jerk Chicken is one of the most popular dishes in the country. However, being a Caribbean nation, seafood is also extremely popular in Jamaica. For those who love to experiment, the island offers several foods and ingredients to actualize your unique recipes.

Cost of Living

Economists assess the cost of living by comparing prices of basic services and commodities across several cities and states. On that basis, Jamaica is considered 28.8% cheaper than America. If you plan on renting a home, you will be happy to know that rent in Jamaica is about two-thirds lower than in the US. What’s more, you won’t need to go through the trouble of shipping your furniture and decor as the country has high-profile local dealers who will likely have everything you need. Minus mortgage or rent, a person can comfortably live in Jamaica with US$700 per month.

If you plan on buying a house, you’ll require cash upfront or financing from a bank or similar institution. A mortgage in Jamaica can run for 40 years with varying interest rates of up to 8.5%. Most realtors will also need a downpayment of 5-10% of the sale price. On average, a modern home in a nice Jamaican neighborhood will cost you at least 150,000 US dollars.


Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

Jamaica has a state-owned bus system called the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). Although JUTC buses are the cheapest way to move around Jamaica, they only operate in the capital, Kingston. Besides, they do not have reliable schedules. Smaller privately run buses, cabs, and minivans also operate on the island. These ply fixed routes and have fixed fares, which vary depending on mileage.

Despite the numerous public transportation options, you should consider buying a vehicle if you move to Jamaica. That is the most convenient way to commute on the island. Moreover, you can use an international driver’s license in Jamaica for up to one year before you are required to get a local one.


Security is a common yet valid concern among visitors and expats worldwide, and that includes Jamaica. Due to violent crime rates, there are travel advisories in place and areas that you should avoid entirely. But if you practice caution, you have much less to worry about.

For example, avoid isolated and poorly lit streets at night, especially if you’re alone. Keep your doors and windows locked even if you’re at home so no one can just wander into your home. Combine these efforts with some trusted local friends who can accompany you and guide you to safe places to go, and these simple security measures can make a big difference.

How to Lawfully Shift to Jamaica

Travel requirements vary depending on the country of origin, but you generally do not need a visa for tourist stays of up to 90 days in Jamaica. People from specific countries, like the US, can live on the island for a maximum of six months without a visa.

For prolonged stays, you must seek residency status. As part of the application, you’ll need a passport and proof of your capacity to financially support yourself. Start this process at the Jamaican Consulate in your country since it could take many months. After staying in Jamaica for at least five years, you become eligible for citizenship via naturalization. The naturalization process takes two years to conclude and costs approximately US$350.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know about Jamaica, what you need to do to get there, and what to do when you are there, you are half-ready for the move. Do some more research on specific areas of interest to you and begin the process. Get up and go!

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