Kingston, Jamaica Report of what it's like to live there - 08/05/11
Personal Experiences from Kingston, Jamaica
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Yerevan, Armenia. Melbourne, Australia.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Baltimore, MD. Connection through Miami. About 5 hours total with layover.
3. How long have you lived here?
August 2010 - present.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Single family houses and apartments are available in Kingston. Traffic is bad during morning/evening rush hour, but is otherwise fine.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive. Almost twice as much as in the U.S., especially due to the 17.5% General Consumption Tax on everything.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Consumables and household goods. Good wine -- it is expensive here unless you buy Chilean.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Some US fast food - Wendy's, Dominoe's, Burger King. No Starbuck's or McDonald's.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Some organic vegetables are available. There are some farms that sell direct to customers and will deliver produce/chicken/eggs during the week.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, mosquitoes, but not too bad.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic Post Office - takes 1 - 2 weeks for mail to arrive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very reasonable. Around $1500 - $2500 JM per day, or $8,000 - $13,000 per week for full time.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. Several gyms and yoga studios are available. Expect to pay US$600 - $1000 for an annual membership.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
There are ATMs throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. Christian mostly.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English. Patois would also help!
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not a lot of disability-friendly facilities here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are fine and affordable. Haven't ridden public buses, but some people do.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
4-wheel drive is advisable but not necessary. Only cars less than 3-years old can be imported into Jamaica. Bring extra fluids, replacement parts, etc. as they can be expensive here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Can get cable/internet/phone bundle for around $100 per month from FLOW.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked cell phone from the US as they are less expensive there. Best coverage here is with Digicel.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Cats and dogs cannot be imported into Jamaica, unless from the UK, and only if they have not had rabies shots.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Some -- mostly teaching.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business or business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are security concerns, especially in Kingston. Be aware of your surroundings, as in any other urban environment. Most violence is gang on gang, or targeted at locals, but there are a lot of break-ins. Many complexes have security guards.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Good medical care is available.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Beautiful from November - March. Rainy in April - May. Hot and humid the rest of the year, but not unbearably so.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Hillel and American International Schoool of Kingston. No experience with either.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Restaurants, bars, resorts out of town.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This would be an OK city for anyone. There really isn't much to do in the city, but there are some restaurants, nothing very fancy. Great jerk shops. There are several gyms downtown, and yoga studios. There are a couple of parks. Active cycling and running groups. Not much as far as museums and other cultural activities. Lots of bars/dance clubs that get started late in the evening.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. There is a lot of anti-gay stigma in Jamaica. Although this is being discussed a lot in the press, and there are some active gay rights groups, I think it would be very difficult and possibly hazardous to be openly gay here.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting out of Kingston to explore the island - Frenchman's Cove, Treasure Beach, Negril, Ocho Rios, Holywell park, Reach Falls are just a few of the places to visit. The Hash House Harriers (Jamacia Hash ) are very active and organize hiking trips to remote parts of the island every two weeks.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Get out on the weekends and enjoy the beaches and countryside. Go hiking. Scuba and snorkeling. Bird watching.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Great hotels at beautiful beaches.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Jamaica is a beautiful country. Beaches, mountains, rivers are all easily accessible for day or weekend trips if you have a car. There are tons of places to explore, and lots of nice hotels that offer local rates.
11. Can you save money?
Yes, in dual income households, or if you don't spend a lot of time in hotels.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sense of urgency. Everything here is on Jamaican time!
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of adventure. Get out and see the country!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
National Geographic Insights