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Honesty about Kingston

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oosh858
7/25/2018 13:27 EST

Hello! I'm planning on moving to Kingston this winter (work permit and everything taken care of). At least, I was until I started receiving pushback from family and friends based on recent news stories, such as retirees being murdered. Based on much of the news, you'd think Jamaica is currently at the violence/tension levels of South Africa.

I'm writing to ask you, true expat residents of Jamaica, to give me your honest feedback about life in Kingston and how much violence and crime really affect day-to-day life, as well as whether it's worth moving there. For reference, I'm an early-30s female coming from the U.S., and I'll either be living in Stony Hill, Red Hills, or Papine (unless there are better areas you can also recommend).

I'd really love feedback from U.S. expats especially, as this is my current environmental context. I visited Kingston for one week last year, though I know a holiday is always different from an actual life somewhere. My main concerns are really the levels of violence/crime, how much I'll stand out or if this will be an issue at all (I'm white), and what type of housing I should go for (apartment complex, or renting a room from a family).

Thanks for any and all answers. I'd like to put my family at ease, but most of all, I want to feel at ease myself.

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Gardis
7/25/2018 20:08 EST

oosh, You are asking all the right questions. I lived in Kingston for 10 years during the 90's, up until 2002. I am sure it has changed since then, and crime wise, probably not for the better. I would rule out Papine and Red Hills - I can't imagine how either one even got on your short list. Stony Hill is the site of the US Embassy (or, was) and it's lovely, but it's way up Constant Spring road - lots of traffic, but a lovely area. Another possibility is Jacks Hill and Cherry Gardens, Norbrook. I loved the Barbican Road area also, don't know how it is today, but Imagine it's OK. There is a very nice high end condo development on Lady Musgrave Road called Kings Vale - check it out. I loved Trafalgar Park, but rarely do you have housing available. There is a very beautiful high rise building next to the British Embassy that is high end and lovely. Any real estate agent will know it. I would leave all your jewelry at home, store away. Jamaica is not a place to flaunt wealth.No rings, no chains - nothing.

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ruthie14
7/25/2018 21:49 EST

Hi, where will you be working? You'll probably want to find somewhere fairly close to your workplace if you can, as traffic is bad. There is a lot of crime in Kingston but most of it is not random -- a lot is gang-related. That said, you do have to be careful. Don't walk around by yourself etc. Also, be careful how you treat people. A lot of people will settle an argument with violence rather than a lawsuit as in the U.S. I don't live in Kingston any more but my family does and they think it's great. They go out to a lot of restaurants and plays etc. But they take their precautions. I wouldn't say Jamaica is as race-conscious as the U.S. but as an expat you will stand out but people will treat you well if you do the same. The areas Gardis suggested are good ones but a lot depends on your budget and location. There are many airbnb offerings in Kingston. You could try a couple to get a feel for the city before deciding on somewhere permanent.
Good luck!

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Cessj
7/26/2018 03:19 EST

Hi there, I’m not American, but British. I lived and worked in Kingston until quite recently, and I still visit. I was there just two weeks ago. Jamaica is a beautiful island as are most of the people. But it’s not an easy place to live and you have to be fairly resilient to do so. As for housing Liguanea is a good area. It’s where the major shopping mall Sovereign is located, as well as restaurants, bars etc. it’s near to the Barbican which is a lovely residential area and also has a couple of large supermarkets and pharmacies. There is also Beverley Hills, Cherry Gardens, Norbrook, Manor Park, Jacks Hill and Stony Hill and parts of Mona near to the US embassy are also really nice. There are lots of gated developments in and around Kingston - personally I think some are a bit soul less but they do provide security which is going to be a priority. And if you can afford it there is the Golden Triangle area - ask estate agents. But be aware that decent safe accommodation won’t cone cheaply but it will come with all mod cons and quite a few with communal pools. I’m not sure how Papine got onto your list but cross it off. There is a great market there as well as two universities located there but it is not a place for ex-pats who don’t wish to stand out in particular. I personally don’t know where ex pats do hang out as I avoided their gathering/watering places. I’m Black British originally from the Caribbean so to a certain extent I was able to blend in. Kingston is home to many people and it’s a diverse city but I wouldn’t say that there are loads of expats. And you will stand out as a white person and it will be immediately possible to distinguish you from a white Jamaican so if you want anonymity then perhapscthibk again. And while I personally never experienced or witnessed anything that alarmed me in Kingston I know that it isn’t the safest of cities. Yes I’m aware that nowhere in the world is safe but you really do need to have your wits about you all the time in Kingston. You have to be very careful about what you wear, where you go - you can go from a nice residential area to a volatile area in the blink of an eye. Volatile areas are just what the term suggests. Locals will know which areas are volatile and you should stay out of them. Most expats have no business in them anyway. Be wary of public transportation and be wary of route taxis and taxis in general. Always use recommended taxis. Never use a taxi just off the street. Don’t wear flashy jewelers etc and be discrete in your use of cell phones and laptops in public. And similarly with money too. When using ATMs always be aware who is around you and lock yourself in the cubicle. Avoid ATMs in isolated and/or dark areas. Dress sensibly. Kingston is not a resort area. Treat people with decency and generally it will be reciprocated. Much of this sounds daunting but really most would apply to any city anywhere. My advice to people thinking about visiting Jamaica is first and foremost don’t let people into your business and keep out of other peoples business. Be respectful. Be observant and aware. But know that Kingston is a great city and I do know white people who live there quite happily. But it’s for the resilient and definite not for the faint hearted. Do as much research as you can before you make that final decision.

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Cessj
7/26/2018 03:25 EST

Forgot to point out that the USA embassy is no longer in Constant Springs but on Mona Road by the junction with Hope Road as you come into Liguinea. The areas around there are generally safe as there is a lot of surveillance. That said there are anomalies and there was a very recent police related killing nearby which led to some disturbances by locals from the nearby Standpipe area. But generally it’s a safe area.

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Micangela
7/26/2018 10:18 EST

I moved back to Jamaica approximately 4 years ago. I am white and have lived in an apartment in Stony Hill with the most incredible view since my return. Let me just say that I have never felt afraid at any time. Prior to purchasing a car I took the bus uptown and downtown and never had any problems whatsoever. People do not seem to understand that whatever you FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) you will draw to you! I will be relocating to Negril in 2019 as I would like to experience living in other parts of the Island and will be giving up my apartment at the end of November.
If you are interested in seeing the apartment I would be very happy to show you and put you in touch with the owners who are like family to me.
I will be off the Island until August 7th so you may contact me after that date at 876-401-9267

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oosh858
7/26/2018 12:19 EST

Hello Cessj, thanks so much for your reply and specific insight about things like ATM use. If you don't mind my asking, are you back in the UK now, and if so, how do you view your time in Kingston in the grand scheme of things? Was it a great, exciting chapter of your life that you felt alive for having done, or was it just too exhausting with having to be on alert a lot of the time, and you feel better being back somewhere like the UK?

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oosh858
7/26/2018 15:44 EST

Thanks all so much for your replies, and to anyone who replies on this in future (any further advice is appreciated, especially as I research). Lots to think about, especially what I'm willing to trade off in terms of general effort of being on alert versus just chilling out somewhere. Thanks again.

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Cessj
7/29/2018 18:50 EST

Hi there, thanks for your reply. I’ll try to reply in depth when I have a free moment but feel free to throw any further questions at me.

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oosh858
7/31/2018 13:14 EST

Thanks again so much. This is for you or for anyone who happens to read - do you prefer Stony Hill or Jacks Hill, and why? I'll be working in the city, so whichever one has good public-transport access (buses) right to the city, and whichever one also has good access to markets or shops would be a plus. General vibe too, I guess, for someone who's young and doesn't have a family.

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Gardis
7/31/2018 20:01 EST

I would suggest you stick with Jacks Hill as it is more convenient than Stony Hill. I don't know about taking public transportation - you may have to take a second look at that. But Jack's Hill is above Barbican, which is very nice. Also a previous poster suggested Liguanea which is also a wonderful area. I would focus on Jack's Hill - not so far up and much easier access than Stony.

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oosh858
8/1/2018 16:21 EST

Thank you, Gardis! Very helpful.

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ruthie14
8/1/2018 21:23 EST

I lived in Jack's Hill. It's much closer to the "city" -- not sure if you're referring to New Kingston or downtown Kingston -- but it's closer to both than Stony Hill. Mostly families live in both places. Both have access to shops. You might prefer renting an apartment in New Kingston though. Closer to work, younger vibe, lots of restaurants. Public transportation will probably not be to your liking -- very crowded and hot. Not at all like taking the bus in the USA. I hardly took it when I was there. If I couldn't get a ride, I'd take a taxi.
I hope you've visited Kingston before you decided to make that decision to move. Each neighborhood is quite different.

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Gardis
8/1/2018 21:38 EST

I have to say, that was an excellent post by ruthie. I agree that if you could find an apartment in New Kingston - by far, the most convenient and safest for you I believe - you could probably walk to work (where are you going to be working abouts?). Plus you will have the restaurants and hotels right there for company. Consider it seriously. Public transportation will not be for you. That leaves how will you get to work from Jacks Hill which is not that close.

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oosh858
8/2/2018 12:19 EST

Hey Ruthie, thanks for your reply (and for your additional one, Gardis). I did visit Kingston last year, and I stayed in Jack's Hill, which I loved. My only concern is that it doesn't seem to have as many one-bedroom apartments as Stony Hill does, and the two-bedrooms in Jack's Hill are quite expensive even if I were to get one and then find a roommate to split it with. I had considered New Kingston because I'd heard that (about young people, restaurants, etc.), but because I'll be working from home a lot of the time, I'd like somewhere up in the hills to stay cool, to have a view and more greenery, and to be away from the hustle and bustle sometimes...to be somewhere more residential, and go into the city when I need to. Re: public transport, I'm not too much of a diva when it comes to personal space or heat, so I figured I'd be fine on the buses, even if they're like minibuses. Unless there's known danger to them, in which case I'd reconsider. I think someone mentioned that I shouldn't take route taxis, but when I was in Jamaica last year, that's all I took when I was in Oracabessa, and I loved it, especially the fact that it was for the whole community. Unless the route taxis are different in Kingston for safety, in which case I'd also reconsider. But in my experience, I always felt comfortable because there were always other people in the taxi, as happens with them.

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oosh858
8/2/2018 12:20 EST

*Forgot to add that on the occasional times I do go to work, it will be around Kingston 10, right on the cusp of downtown. So the bus routes might also make sense for passing through there if there's no extreme safety issue.

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ruthie14
8/2/2018 12:32 EST

Jack's Hill will definitely be cooler than staying on the "flat." And it's nice and peaceful. I love looking at the view of the city when I go visit my parents who live in Jack's Hill. Here's something to keep in mind re public transportation though: The bus doesn't run up "the hill" as we say in Jamaica. The city bus will drop you at the bottom of the hill (Barbican Square) and you'll have to walk up from there. If you see a bus on the hill, it's going to "Jack's Hill Square" which is a rural community way up in Jack's Hill -- bus doesn't stop in between. At least that's my recollection. If I was relying on public transportation I would try to not live on one of the hills (Jack's Hill, Stony Hill, Beverly Hills, etc) because the city buses don't normally go up there.

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TC789
10/24/2018 23:16 EST

Hello oosh, I'm a bit late to this thread but I'm curious if you've already moved to Kingston?

I am in my early 30s as well and moved here from Florida a few years back. I was originally in Montego Bay and moved to Kingston this March.

I think you've perhaps ruled out Red Hills based on the recommendation of some of the other posters. That's actually where I moved to at first. I had family there and I found a great apartment with a wonderful view. Like you, I work for home so at first I thought the distance wouldn't bother me. It definitely did. With the traffic it took at least 30 minutes to get anywhere. That's with me avoiding rush hour as much as possible.

The other issue I found in Red Hills was the internet. There was only one provider at the time who offered speeds that reminded me of dial up. Fortunately Flow is slowly starting to be in more areas.

Another concern was water. Of course I can't speak to the case of everyone in the area but we would litterally go days without running water. They'd lock off the pipes and the water trucks can't be trusted to come by with any regularlarity. This was the reason I ended up moving.

I'm currently living in Barbican which is a great community that's close to everything. I do miss the views and the tranquility of being up in the hills but the convenience is unbeatable. Especially if you'll be taking public transportation.

I actually really like Stony Hill and I've thought about buying property there when I'm ready. I found an amazing apartment up there that I would have taken except that there was construction right next door and with me working from home it just would have been too much.

It shouldn't affect you too much since you work from home but traffic really is intense. This goes for access to all the hillside communities. Plus they are currently redoing Constant Spring Road. It'll be great once it's done but for now, it's a mess.

Jack's Hill is lovely but I did find the rentals to be very expressive. In fact I had an agent almost laugh at me when I told her my budget. In the end I found a great 3bed 3bath with an office, in Barbican, unfurnished, for just over $120k.

With regards to public transportation which it seems you're already comfortable with, you can always use On Time for taxi service. It's more expensive but then you don't have the shared service and they'll take you wherever you want to go. Sorta like Uber...

As far as crime goes, I must say I've been largely unaffected. Knock on wood. The adivce given by many of the posters is sage. Just be smart and you'll be fine. There are people who simply don't have much and many have turned to ill means as a way to get ahead.

To give you an example I was riding in the car with my boyfriend in an area that wasn't the best by far. These two kids came up to the car asking for something. My boyfriend refused to roll down the window. I was a bit annoyed at the time but he explained how these things can sometimes operate.

Of course serveral weeks later in an area that's considered much better, he sees a gentleman with several kids pleading for help. He had several kids with him and it appeared he just needed gas. My boyfriend got out of the car, which of course was not the wisest move, ascertains the situation, offers assistance, and proceeds to go about his evening. Several minutes later he noticed that his phone was missing. One of the kids had gotten to it on his passenger seat while he was distracted.

I say all this of course not to scare you away. I love it here. It's just to say you have to be smart. I'd give this same advise to someone moving to South Florida where I lived previously.

Overall, Kingston is a great city. You'll get to know it and you'll get to know the places to avoid.

I feel like I'm rambling... :)

The only other thing I'll say is while I did live in the states for many years, I do have family in Jamaica so I had a great support system to help me get through some of the hurdles of moving back to the island. As a single female you'll just want to be extra careful and try to build a good support system around you if you can.

I'm volunteering my services if you happen to move. Always happy to meet new people.

It's great that you already have a job lined up as you're miles ahead of many people considering a move.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions you may have. You can always DM me for personal details if you'd like to connect.

Good luck with everything!

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oosh858
10/25/2018 10:48 EST

Thank you so much, TC! Just sent you a private message :)

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AT515
12/16/2018 13:54 EST

I am very new here and also from the states. I really enjoyed the most recent info that TC wrote to you. I hope you were able to make a well informed decision on your move.
I pm'd you both, OOSH and TC.
AT515

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michaelandresko
1/28/2019 16:33 EST

Hi, I'm an American and have been living in Kingston for the past 20 years and love it. The city like any other city has good and bad areas. Where you work should factor in to your decision of where to live. Some neighborhoods I would recommend is Manor Park, Barbican, Liguanea,Mona Heights, Norbrook, Water Works, Cherry Gardens, Some areas are more expensive than others. I live in Havendale which is a quiet area
Anywhere you live you should make sure you have an security system such as King Alarm.
Feel free to contract me for any info and I will try and help
Good luck with your move to jamaica

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