How I Traveled Around Jamaica for Just $300
You’ve probably either been to Jamaica or heard of someone going to Jamaica. However, I have to ask the question…how many of these people have actually been to Jamaica? Not just their resort, or their resort and a few spots in the resort town? My best guess is very few. Very few people have seen what Jamaica is actually like.
Because of this belief my partner in crime and I had (we are currently filming a web series bases on showing real places, real people and real culture) decided Jamaica, a massive tourist destination, would be the perfect place to dig deeper and get a feel for what the “real Jamaica” is actually like.
So after seven days of living like Jamaicans, taking taxis with over 5 people crammed in the back seats, buses where we sat on Jamaican’s laps, legs, and anything else you can think of, towns where there were absolutely NO tourists, and venturing to the block parties and all night music sessions in the forbidden and the criticized city of Kingston, I think we got a pretty good picture of what Jamaica actually is. Our conclusion, Jamaica is a country inundated with poverty, struggle and people trying to survive by any means possible and a culture where music is comparable to religion, and people are ultimately misunderstood and sadly neglected.
***If you yourself want to experience the real Jamaica and get a cultural enlightenment more than just a tan and a poolside Rum Runner, check out how we traveled around Jamaica, visiting four parishes, Ocho Rios, Kingston, Port Antonia and Negril and spent $300 in seven days.***
Here are the 5 keys to staying on our $300/week budget:
- Route Taxis
- Cottages, Guest Houses, Farm Stays and Hostels
- Street Food, Beef Patties and Free Breakfast J
- Shopping around.
- Doing the research; ditching the guide, doing it ourselves.
1: Take ROUTE TAXIS
Before going to Jamaica I did endless research on how to get around the island. What I found was troubling. To take a normal taxi to our first stop (2 hours from the Montego Bay airport) it would cost anywhere from $200-300. To take a charter bus filled with other travelers the cheapest option we had was $25. Still too much. Then I read about route taxis.
Route taxis are shared cars/vans/minibuses that are the main means of transportation for Jamaicans. The cost for a typical 2-3 hour drive, $5. SOLD.
I will admit, reading all of the forums about route taxis made me a little weary. They all say it’s too hot, too crowded, too complicated and if you have luggage think twice, as Jamaicans will be upset with you taking up room with your luggage. All of this is bogus.
If you don’t mind squeezing a wee bit and are on a budget, route taxis are the perfect way to get around. Yes, it takes a little while but so does any means of transportation around the island. We took route taxis everywhere! The men who are shouting at you asking where you want to go are actually working for the taxis and they CAN actually HELP YOU.
Don’t be intimidated by the crowds, grow some balls and take the route taxis. They pile you in, and most of the time blast hip hop or reggae. By the second day, route taxis were already my favorite part about Jamaica. It was a great way to see the country and be around the people of Jamaica.
2: Choose the right means of accommodation– Cottages, Guest Houses, Farm Stays, Hostels.
Our budget was around $40-$50/day including accommodation. Therefore, we really had to dig to find budget accommodation. After a little research we managed to stay in four different parishes not spending more than $30/night/each on our stays.
Ocho Rios- Durgen Den: An organic sustainable farm where you can rent a cabin for $25/night/per person.
Kingston- Reggae Hostel: #1 hostel in Jamaica filled with great people and nonstop energy. $20/night/per person.
Negril- Guesthouse: $25/night per person right in the heart of all the Negril action.
3: Be smart about food-Street Food/Beef Patties/Free Breakfast
Whenever I travel I rarely eat out. I of course eat out a few times to get a taste of the food in any destination I travel to but usually the street food is a perfect choice.
Surprisingly, Jamaican Jerk is not cheap, at least for tourists. Although we were immersed in places where there were absolutely no tourists, they would always try to overcharge us. So we decided to frequent the food trucks along the road. What we found was that for usually $1-2 we could get beef patties that were fresh, hot and substantial.
Overall the food in Jamaica was actually pretty similar to prices in the US so we took complete and full advantage of our FREE BREAKFAST at every place we stayed! When booking accommodation that was always one thing I made sure was included, free breakfast.
4: Shop Around
This was especially important when it came to drinking. We all enjoy a few alcoholic beverages here and there, but the prices can vary drastically. When we wanted to drink, booze in particular, we would walk into five to six different shops before finding the cheapest. Any beer for more than $2 was just a rip off. We managed to save several dollars a day by just shopping around and being patient with groceries, drinks, and everything else.
5: Do the research, ditch the guide and do it yourself.
This mainly applies to “tourist attractions.” You will soon find out that nothing is “free” in Jamaica. Even the free beaches have people begging you for money because they volunteer to clean the beaches. The best is, the Jamaican guides. Jamaicans will in a way, latch onto you as a tourist and show you around…be aware…they will ask you for compensation when it’s over. This isn’t to badmouth them, it’s completely understandable they’re trying to make money any way possible as they see NO money from tourism because of resorts and all-inclusives (we’ll save that for another day) but this is why they do what they do. However, it’s avoidable sometimes.
When we went to the Blue Hole near Ocho Rios, it’s a $10 entrance fee, ok, fair. But then they say you need to hire a guide to take your through the water…while some people might opt for the guide and feel safer, these are times when you’re allowed to simply just say no and do it yourself. Which is exactly what we did. We were the only two at the Blue Hole who didn’t hire a guide and we were just fine.
But then there were other times when a guy would show us around town for an hour and we’d throw him $10. We’re not trying to say don’t give the Jamaicans money and help them survive, but rather pick and choose when is the right time and that way you’ll be economically smarter and more aware about your own budget.
There you go, five tips that will definitely get you through a week in Jamaica for just $300!