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Kingston (Jamaica)

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Northern suburbs of Kingston.

Kingston is the capital of Jamaica.


Understand

Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, is located on the southeastern coast of the island. There are two major sections to this city: 'downtown' and 'uptown,' also referred to as 'New Kingston.' Kingston was for some time Jamaica's only city and is still the commercial and cultural capital. You will notice that the city is assigned the equivalent of zip codes, (Kingston 5, Kingston 10, etc.) which is a good representation of how truly large this city is, especially for an island such as Jamaica.

Get in

Public transit

Buses leave from the Half-Way Tree Transportation Center(HWT), the Parade Bus Park, and the new Downtown Transport Center to all of Jamaica. For Port_Antonio, there are buses leaving from HWT and the Downtown Transport Center. For Negril/Montego Bay, Ocho Rios ("Ochi") and other towns, the Downtown Transport Center is the hub for all rural route operators . Keep a tight hold of your bags as petty theft is possible as in any large metropolis.

By plane

Norman Manley International Airport (IATA: KIN), Phone: 1-888-247-7678, [1]. Located in the southeastern part of the island, overlooking Kingston Harbour on the Palisadoes peninsula. Served by Air Canada, Air Jamaica, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, and a number of Caribbean airlines. Be prepared for queues at the airport, to clear both immigration and customs, which are fairly strict. It is important that you know where you will be staying and write it down on your immigration form.

There are taxi vans between the airport and town. One person US$28; a group $33. Try to negotiate. Payment can be in US$.

There is a smaller airport, Kingston Tinson Pen, closer to downtown. This receives flights from Montego Bay on 14-seater planes on Jamaica Air Shuttle [2].

By car

Island Rental Cars has offices at the NMIA airport, in downtown Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, and will allow you to do one-way rentals. Remember to drive on the left!

By bus

Kingston has an extensive and modern bus system. The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) runs the bus system for the government, while private contractors also run the same routes. Buses generally go through one or more of the three central transportation hubs. 1. Downtown (Parade and The Downtown Transport Center), 2. The ultra-modern Half-Way Tree Transport Center, or 3. Cross Roads. Maps of the bus system can be found on whagwan.org. At the Half-Way Tree Transport Center, you will be able to experience a transportation system comparable to any major city in the world.

By boat

Get around

Street in Kingston

By bus

The bus service in Jamaica has now been upgraded with express buses cost ranging from $80 to $100, and another bus also air conditioned can be found in yellow with the Jamaican flag at the front costs for regular fares $15 and for children under 12 $50 12+(prices are expected to raise for the new buses soon because of the increase of gas). The original unconditioned buses still function, but who know when will they last?

Check out the interactive bus map [3] for some guidance.

By taxi

Route Taxis (a taxi that has a set route and picks up multiple people along it) are also common and often mirror bus routes. These are a bit more complicated to get used to, so ask for help.

Charter Taxis (normal taxis) - negotiate a price before getting in the car. Fares range from J$400 to J$5000 for long routes.

Rental cars

With some practice, bravery, and chutzpah you can rent a car (Island Rent a car allows for one-way car rental). Take a good map and be willing to ask (and keep asking to get a consensus) for directions along the way. It's not safe to drive in the countryside after dark. If you get in a wreck/hit someone, drive to the nearest police station.

See

  • Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, 876-927-9152, [4]. Open Mon. to Sat. Tours last one hour, including a 20-minute film. The first tour begins at 9:30 AM and the last tour at 4:00 PM. Filled with tons of memorabilia and Bob Marley's personal belongings, the museum is a must for any fan. The museum itself is an attraction as it was once Bob Marley's home and recording studio. The house is a preserved historical site, so even the bullet holes from the attempted murder of Bob Marley remain. He lived here until his death in 1981. Every visitor will be added to a tour upon entry. Residents $500 (Jamaican dollar), Non-residents $20 (US dollar).
  • National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Blvd, +1 876-922-1561, [5]. Tues. to Thurs. 10 AM to 4:30 PM, Fri. 10 AM to 4 PM, Sat. 10 AM to 3 PM. The museum features artwork by Jamaicans from throughout its history, from the native Taino Indians through the colonial period to works by modern artists. The gallery hosts its annual National Visual Arts Exhibition, which began in 1963 as a way to promote post-colonial art and to showcase the works of rising artists from Jamaica. Entrance fees are waved during the exhibition period. J$100, students and senior citizens over 65 may enter for J$50.
  • Port Royal. Once known as the "Richest and wickedest city in the world", Port Royal is a notorious 17th century pirate haven. The most famous pirate who operated from Port Royal was Sir Henry Morgan who plundered Spanish vessels travelling in the Caribbean. The city prospered as the pirates gathered riches, but a strong earthquake struck the area on June 7, 1692 sinking the ships in the harbor and killing many people as the earthquake moved much of the city into the sea. It has been said that the earthquake was caused by God himself to punish the evildoers of Port Royal. This disaster helped to establish Kingston as the new capital, and many of the survivors of the earthquake moved to Kingston. Although most of the buildings at the port today are not the original buildings, the walls of Fort Charles have been preserved since the rebuilding two years after the earthquake, Saint Peter's Church built in the early 18th century, and the ruins of Fort Rocky remain. There is also a museum to learn more about the history and see artifacts from its hayday.
  • Devon House, 26 Hope Road, +1 876-926-0815, [6]. The Mansion is open Mon. to Sat. from 9:30 AM to 5 PM, the courtyard from 10 AM to 6 PM, and the gardens are open daily from 9:30 AM to 10 PM,. One of the best example of Jamaican architecture, the Devon House was built by George Stiebel, the nation's first black millionaire. Much of the interior furniture is not original, but it upholds the 19th Century mansion style. The courtyard has craft shops, a few restaurants, and the most famous ice cream shop on the island. J$700 for a tour of the mansion. Entry to garden and shops is free..
  • Hope Botanical Gardens. Open daily 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM. The Largest Botanical Garden in the Caribbean. The garden gets its name from the man Richard Hope who helped capture Jamaica for Great Britain and was given the property to reward him for his faithfulness to the Crown. Free.
  • Hope Zoo, (Next to the Botanical Gardens). 10 AM to 5 PM. J$20.
  • Arawak Museum (Taino Museum). A small museum with artifacts and information about the original inhabitants of the island, the Arawak (or Taino) Indians.
  • People's Museum of Craft and Technology. A small museum with pottery, instruments, and farming tools used in Jamaica. J$100.
  • Lime Kay. Beach off the coast of Port Royale must take a boat from Port Royal fisherman or the hotel to island. Island is famous as the location for final scene in The Harder they Come. Crowded party spot on the weekends with food and drink available for purchase, much more sedate and often deserted on weekdays. You can camp overnight if you pre-arrange a next-day pickup time, but be careful, as you can't exactly swim to shore!

Do

  • Emancipation Park. Offers free concert occasionally in the summer and during the Christmas.
  • Putt and Play. Offers miniature golf and pool tables for a nice round of pool.

Learn

Work

Buy

  • Kingston Crafts Market
  • Blue Mountain Coffee from the supermarket for cheap or get premium beans direct from the JABLUM manufacturers or craft/single estate roasters. Look into Rum Roast and Royals at Devon House for some better selections.
  • Parade's Coronation Market on weekends, where you can buy fruit and vegetables from across the island. This was gutted during the disturbances at the end of May and while there are plans to rebuild it, traders have temporarily moved to other areas.
  • Hot sauces. Jamaica is famous for its hot sauces, with the major ingrediant being the Scotch Bonnet Pepper, found throughout the island. Supermarkets have a bewildering selection of such sauces, from several producers.
  • Jerk spice powder. Make your own jerk chicken when you get home.

Eat

  • Jerk, curried, fricasseed or brown stew chicken, pork or fish
  • Escoveitch fish -- Warning, spicy!
  • Ackee and saltfish (codfish) -- the national dish of Jamaica
  • Curried mutton (goat)
  • Fruit: Mangoes, sugar cane, paw-paw (papaya), guava, june plum, jackfruit, star apples, guinep, naseberries...
  • Roasted corn
  • Bammy Cakes. 5-inch diameter cakes made from cassava.
  • patties from a bakery (Devon House makes excellent curried chicken patties, and both Juicy and Tastee are "fast food" patty restaurants. In Liguanea there's a vegetarian/vegan patty restaurant, across the parking lot from the Wendy's
  • ice cream from Devon House

Budget

  • Tastee Patty, Juicy Patty, Mother's - fast food, mostly "patties", though Mother's also does hamburgers and fried foods (Various places around town)
  • Island Grill - upscale Jamaican fast food and jerk in New Kingston.
  • Jerk pans - see them on the street smelling good - get Jerked Chicken, rice and peas!

Mid-range

  • Akbar, 11 Holborn Rd., New Kingston 10 Jamaica, W.I., +876 926-3480. Indian food served in a wonderful calm atmosphere. Sister Thai restaurant next door with equally pleasing menu
  • Hope Gardens Vegetarian Restaurant, (in the middle of Hope Gardens. You have to ask where it is as there is no external sign.). Basic vegetarian food with menu that varies daily. Nice garden setting. Excellent juices. US$10.

Splurge

  • Red Bones Blues Cafe, 21 Braemar Avenue, New Kingston 10 Jamaica, W.I., +(876) 978-6091, [7]. Southern/US and Jamaican fusion cuisine with Jazz, blues, and other arts events.
  • Norma's on the terrace, Devon House (At the back of the Devon House mansion in the shopping area.). Closed Sundays. Excellent upmarket restaurant with a fusion of Western and Jamaican cooking. Eat outside at large tables with very decorative flower arrangements.
  • White Bones Seafood, 1 Mannings Hill Road. Mon-Sat 11:30am-11:00pm, Sun 2:00pm-10:00pm. Highly recommended, but expensive, fish and seafood joint. Tuesdays are all-you-can-eat shellfish nights. J$3000.

Drink

Drink Red Stripe and Appleton Rum. If you've got the guts, try some Wray & Nephew overproof white rum (locals refer to it as "whites"): a drink that is usually around 180 proof.

There's also refreshing coconut water, cane juice, sorrel (only served around Christmas time), Irish Moss, and tamarind drink or genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (according to experts it is perhaps the best tasting, most expensive and most sought after coffee in the world). You can get premium beans from Rum, Roast and Royals in the Devon House complex.

Good bars include Red Bones Blues Cafe (also a good restaurant).


Kingston is the host of many great clubs. Found in New Kingston, there are many clubs that party until the early morning hours. The Quad, and Asylum are only a couple of the very popular clubs.

  • QUAD Nightclub, 20-22 Trinidad Terrace (in the middle of New Kingston), 876-754-QUAD. the only multi level nightclub in Jamaica. jazz, reggae, dancehall, r & b, soca. 12 USD.
  • The Deck, 14 Trafalgar Rd, New Kingston, [8]. Popular watering hole mainly patronised by those over 30. Disco and live music and excellent bar snacks.

Sleep

Budget

  • The Liguanea Club, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston, Kingston 5, Jamaica, 1 (876) 926-8144-6, [9]. It offers 38 guest rooms , all of which have air-condition unit, cable television, and free wireless Internet. Some of its amenities include fitness room/gym, 8 tennis courts and 6 squash courts, and a swimming pool. While staying here, you can visit some interesting places like Bob Marley Museum, Emancipation Park, and The Barn Theatre. Best rates on official website start at USD 75.00.
  • Chelsea Hotel US$40.
  • Indie's and Mrs. J's Guest House on Holborn road.
  • Hope Pastures Great House Bed and Breakfast, 40 Charlemont Avenue Kingston 6, (876) 632 2030

(876) 809 7510 US$75. Contact Lance Watson Manager. Wi fi Internet and cable. See review in Moons Guide to Jamaica.

Mid-range

  • Altamont Court Hotel, 1-5 Altamont Terrace New Kingston Jamaica, W.I., +(876) 929-5931 (fax: +(876) 929-2118), [10]. US$110.
  • Christar Villas Hotel, 99a Hope Rd., Kingston 6, Jamaica, W.I., +876-978-3933, [11]. Fascinating mid-range Jamaican hotel with a wide range of facilities and Jamaican mojo. US$115.

Splurge

  • Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, 85 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5 (876)-929-9000, [12]. The charming Courtleigh Hotel features up-scale mahogany furnishings in a traditional Caribbean style. Usual amenities for business travellers. Mingles Pub is a popular meeting place and Alexander's restaurant has a good reputation. Offers handicapped access.
  • Wyndham Kingston, 77 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston, 1-876-926-5430, [13]. checkin: 3:00PM; checkout: 11:00AM. Reports suggest that it has seen many better days and lost it's former Hilton franchise. Breakfasts not included in price and are expensive. Internet extremely unreliable. From $89/nt.
  • The Knutsford Court Hotel, 16 Chelsea Avenue, Kingston 5 (876)-929-1000, [14]. A great new addition to New Kingston. This 170 room, newly refurbished property offers usual conveniences. Caters to business and leisure travelers. Located in the heart of the financial and shopping district of New Kingston.
  • Spanish Court Hotel, 1 St. Lucia Ave, Kingston 5, [15]. New hotel, with gym, swimming pool, etc. The architect seems to have almost forgotten windows in some of the rooms at the back, however, and others are a bit noisy if you want an early night. A business rather than a tourist hotel. Excellent internet, both wifi and cable, and a good restaurant. US140+ tax.
  • Pegasus, 81 Knutsford Bvd, (876)926-3691-9, [16]. Arguably Kingston's major hotel. In the New Kingston area close to most offices. Rates quoted on the web site start at US$300 but significant discounts are available.
  • Terra Nova Hotel, 17 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10, 876-926-9334-9 (), [17]. Definitely a splurge hotel the Terra Nova advertises itself as an "All Suite" hotel. Convenient location, good service and a highly regarded kitchen. US$200 plus.

Contact

Stay safe

Like any other large city anywhere in the world, Kingston is home to a higher number of crimes than the rest of the island. It has been rated the most dangerous city in the world in previous years when measured by the murder rate. Common-sense and precaution should ensure a pleasant experience. If you find yourself in need of the police, the emergency number is 119.

Cope

Tourists, especially white tourists, tend to stick out and garner lots of attention, not all of it positive. Hissing and cat calls at women (even accompanied ones) is common. Reply to overzealous touts with "No badda (bother) me" can help.

Homosexuality is not at all condoned and can elicit violent reactions.

High Commissions & Embassies

  • Ca-flag.png Canada, [18]. High Commission
  • Ja-flag.png Japan, NCB Towers, North Tower, 6F, 2 Oxford Rd, +876 929-3338 (fax: +876 968-1373), [19].
  • Us-flag.png United States, 142 Old Hope Rd, Liguanea area, +876 702-6000, [20].

Get out

  • Organize an overnight climb of Blue Mountain. Many outfits will come and pick you up from in town for an additional fee.
  • Visit Hellshire beach for a taste of the authentic Jamaican beach going experience
  • Take a fisherman's boat from Port Royal (or a fancier boat from Morgan's Harbour Hotel) to Lime Cay for the day -- bring your snorkel!
  • Visit the JABLUM Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee factory
  • Relax and have a beer in Port Royal, visit the museum and learn about the piracy history[21]
  • Visit Gap Cafe and Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains
  • Cross the Blue Mountains into Portland (Jamaica)




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