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Kingston (Jamaica)

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Kingston is the capital of Jamaica.

Population 1,234,196

African 87.2% European 7.8% Asian 22.6% Multiracial 11.4%

Understand[edit]

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[edit]

By air[edit]

Northern suburbs of Kingston.

Norman Manley International Airport (IATA: KIN), Phone: 1-888-247-7678, [18]. 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 $33, potentially negotiable. Payment can be in US$. The cheapest way is to take bus 98 straight to the Parade in downtown Kingston for J$80. The bus stop outside the arrivals terminal is for bus 98 going towards Port Royal. Just passed the bus stop is where bus 98 stops on its way to downtown.

Kingston Tinson Pen There is a smaller airport closer to downtown but it does not have any regularly scheduled passenger service any more.

By car[edit]

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!

Here there are some companies that offer private airport transfers:

  • Karandas Tours [19] / Jamaica Airport Transfers

By bus[edit]

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. There are also minibuses and route taxis which are very affordable. Whenever in doubt, ask a bus driver how to get somewhere or where to find a certain bus; they are generally very helpful.

Public transit generally goes through one or more of the three central transportation hubs.

  • Downtown (Parade and The Downtown Transport Center). Keep a tight hold of your bags as petty theft is possible as in any large metropolis.
  • The ultra-modern Half-Way Tree Transport Center (HWT) in uptown Kingston is generally a safer area, but there are less buses.
  • Cross Roads an older, congested hub not suggested for tourists.

Get around[edit]

Street in Kingston

By bus[edit]

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?

By taxi[edit]

All official taxis have red license plates that start with PPV.

Route Taxis (a taxi that has a set route and picks up multiple people along it) are also common and often mirror bus routes and are not much more expensive than buses. 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[edit]

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[edit][add listing]

  • Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, 876-927-9152, [1]. Open Mon-Sat, Tours last 1hr, including a 20min film. The first tour begins at 9:30am and the last tour at 4pm. 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 J$500, non-residents US$20 (credit cards accepted).  edit
  • National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Blvd, +1 876-922-1561, [2]. 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.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Devon House, 26 Hope Road, +1 876-926-0815, [3]. 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..  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Hope Zoo, (Next to the Botanical Gardens). 10 AM to 5 PM. J$20.  edit
  • Arawak Museum (Taino Museum). A small museum with artifacts and information about the original inhabitants of the island, the Arawak (or Taino) Indians.  edit
  • People's Museum of Craft and Technology. A small museum with pottery, instruments, and farming tools used in Jamaica. J$100.  edit
  • Lime Cay. 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!  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

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

Learn[edit]

Work[edit]

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • 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[edit][add listing]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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  edit
  • 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.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Redbones Blues Cafe, 1 Argyle Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica, W.I., +(876) 978-6091, [4]. Jazz & Blues themed Caribbean Fusion Cuisine restaurant & bar. Cultural Watering Hole with Live Music & Art Gallery  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • 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.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

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.  edit
  • The Deck, 14 Trafalgar Rd, New Kingston, [5]. Popular watering hole mainly patronised by those over 30. Disco and live music and excellent bar snacks.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • The Liguanea Club, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston, Kingston 5, Jamaica, 1 (876) 926-8144-6, [6]. 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.  edit
  • 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.

  • Admiral's Inn, Port Royal, US$50 / room (they have only 4 rooms), 17 Henry Morgan Blvd (or Foreshore Rd), Ina: +1 (876) 353 4202

Mid-range[edit]

  • Altamont Court Hotel, 1-5 Altamont Terrace New Kingston Jamaica, W.I., +(876) 929-5931 (fax: +(876) 929-2118), [7]. US$110.  edit
  • Christar Villas Hotel, 99a Hope Rd., Kingston 6, Jamaica, W.I., +876-978-3933, [8]. Fascinating mid-range Jamaican hotel with a wide range of facilities and Jamaican mojo. US$115.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, 85 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5 (876)-929-9000, [20]. 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, [9]. 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.  edit
  • The Knutsford Court Hotel, 16 Chelsea Avenue, Kingston 5 (876)-929-1000, [21]. 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, [10]. 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.  edit
  • Pegasus, 81 Knutsford Bvd, (876)926-3691-9, [11]. 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.  edit
  • Terra Nova Hotel, 17 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10, 876-926-9334-9 (), [12]. 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.  edit

Contact[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

Kingston is unfortunately, not considered a very safe place for tourists. The crime rate and especially the violent crime rate, is very high. However, with some basic precautions travellers to Kingston should experience little to no problems. Here are some things to watch out:

  • At Night - There is a general rule of the thumb in Kingston: DON'T walk around at night aimlessly. This is true for every part of the city and not even locals risk going out at night. If you intend to commute after dark always use taxis and go out in groups. Buses are can also become quite unsafe during the night hours. If you intend to go in a nightclub (Kingston isn't famed for its nightlife) don't leave your drink unattended, don't accept drinks from "friendly" strangers and NEVER get drunk.
  • Pickpockets - Kingston has a problem with pickpockets (just like any other big city in the world) but it's not as widespread as in other towns in Jamaica like Negril, Ochos Rios or Montego Bay due to the fact that Kingston is not very frequented by tourists. Still, you should always watch your belongings in crowded areas, have both straps of your bag tied on to you and avoid wearing expensive jewelerry. Don't put all your money in one place, don't show off your camera and keep your phone usage in public to the BARE MINIMUM.
  • Credit Cards and ATMs - Credit-card skimming is an ongoing problem in Jamaica. Some scammers will make a copy of your credit card information when you give your card to a restaurant server or shopkeeper ATMs also may be rigged to steal your card information, or individuals may observe you at the ATM and try to steal your password. Avoid using credit cards if possible (if you do always watch the hands of the person handling the credit card) and only use ATMs inside your hotel.
  • Hotel Safety - Keep in mind that just because you are inside your hotel room doesn't mean you're completely safe. Tourists have been robbed while sleeping inside their hotel rooms. Always keep you windows and doors closed and don't open to anyone that seems suspicious.
  • LGBT travellers - Jamaica is unfortunately considered one of the most homophobic countries in the Caribbean. Mobs have attacked homosexual men and women (tourists included). In addition, you should little to no protection from the police and the goverment which have been mistreating homosexuals for decades. Refrain from showing any affection in public. There are however some gay-friendly resorts so do some research.
  • Police - The police force in Jamaica is unfortunately quite understaffed. Locals generally have little trust in the police, and while visitors are unlikely to be mistreated, the Jamaican Constabulary Force is widely viewed as corrupt and inefficient and you shouldn't really expect a lot of help by the police. Another problem is that Kingston usually receives less attention by the police force than areas like Montego Bay and Negril. If you're stopped by the police be alert but also be polite - not everyone is corrupt and some policemen/-women are nice and honest.

If you are mugged NEVER RESIST. Foreigners have been killed in Kingston while trying to resist to their muggers. Always give the muggers what they want (however frustrating it might be) and don't make a scene. It's not worth risking your life for something that's ultimately material.

The Neighboorhoods[edit]

Kingston is divided mainly in two areas: the Uptown and the Downtown. The Uptown is where tourists stay mostly and it's fairly safe during the day. At night though you should avoid walking alone. The Downtown and south Kingston are dangerous. Don't go into these areas alone even during the day and only with a local or a tour group. West Kingston also has a bad reputation. There are two small towns just a few kilometres away from the city: the Spanish Town and Harbor View. DON'T go into these areas; they are impoverished and crime ridden and Spanish Town has a particularly confusing layout.

Cope[edit]

Homosexuality is not at all condoned and can elicit violent reactions. Jamaica has been ranked as the most homophobic nation on earth, so exercise extreme caution; this applies double to gay men. Take note of phrases like "batty bwoy" which is an anti-gay slur.

Embassies and High Commissions[edit]

  • Ca-flag.png Canada, 3 West Kings House Rd; Waterloo Entrance, Kingston 10, +876 926-1500 (fax: +876 733-3493), [13].  edit
  • Ja-flag.png Japan, NCB Towers, North Tower, 6F, 2 Oxford Rd, +876 929-3338 (fax: +876 968-1373), [15].  edit
  • Uk-flag.png United Kingdom, 28 Trafalgar Road, Kingston 10, +1 876 936 0700, [16].  edit
  • Us-flag.png United States, 142 Old Hope Rd, Liguanea Area, Kingston 6, +876 702-6000, [17].  edit
  • Ve-flag.png Venezuela, Petrojam Building, 3rd Floor, 36 Trafalgar Road, PO Box 26, Kingston, +1 876 926-5510 (, fax: +1 876 926-7442).  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Blue Mountains (Jamaica)
    • Organize an overnight climb of Blue Mountain. Many outfits will come and pick you up from in town for an additional fee.
    • Visit the Gap Cafe and Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains
  • Hellshire Beach - A taste of the authentic Jamaican beach going experience
  • Lime Cay - an uninhabited island beach with snorkeling opportunities, reachable from Port Royal for cheap via a fisherman's boat or by a more expensive fancier boat from Morgan's Harbour Hotel
  • JABLUM - the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee factory
  • Port Royal - the former pirate city that has been destroyed twice by earthquakes is a good place to relax and have a beer or visit the museum and learn about the piracy history [22]
  • Portland (Jamaica) - passed the Blue Mountains.
  • Ocho Rios ("Ochi") - only 4 hours away by minibus/route taxi for ~J$500. Direct morning departures from the Downtown Transport Center and indirect (via Port Maria) from HWT
  • Montego Bay - roughly 4 hours from Kingston for less than US$10 from the Downtown Transport Center.
  • Port Antonio - take a direct minibus/route taxi from HWT for J$200-300.
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