Expat Exchange
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Montego Bay, Jamaica

Moving to Jamaica

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Sep 17, 2022

Summary: Moving to Jamaica? Expats talk about what you need to know before moving to Jamaica.

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

What do I need to know before moving to Jamaica?

Live in Jamaica? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Jamaica, they said:

"I suggest you visit and rent some homes from airbnb or vrbo in different areas of Jamaica to give you a taste of the areas. The island is not so big that you couldn't see all the major spots in like 2 weeks or less. If you've visited before you probably have some ideas of what you like, which could narrow down your search. Talk to expats about their experiences as well. I'm not an expat (I was born in Jamaica) so my experience of Jamaica is going to be different," added another expat who made the move to Jamaica.

"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," explained one expat living in Kingston, Jamaica.

"I'm sure that others have advised this, but I would suggest that you rent a place initially until you've spent a year or two in JA and you're sure that you want to settle there permanently. I really wouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, and I would definitely not commit to moving all your hard earned monies to JA," said another in Jamaica.

"If you’re looking in MoBay you should check out Freeport, Spring Garden, Spring Farm, half Moon villas, Rose Hall, those would be the places to look if you are looking to purchase a home. They are all upscale gated communities," explained one expat who made the move to Montego Bay.

"Keep in mind the location if you do not have a car. You will want to be close enough to public transportation. Route taxis (taxis that go along a specific route only) travel outside of many of the subdivisions/schemes and along main roads. If I can be of help to anyone, just let me know," explained one expat living in Falmouth, Jamaica.

"One of the things I struggle with is lack of transportation. We have a car, but if my husband is away I feel trapped. It's not easy to jump on a bus or grab a taxi," explained one expat living in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

How do I find a place to live in Jamaica?

Live in Jamaica? Answer this Question

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"We wanted to be close to the Montego Bay airport so we looked at a few parishes on the west half of the island. Falmouth is up and coming so we selected Falmouth. My husband and I are real estate agents in the US, so we just felt comfortable contacting a real estate agent to find our current house," remarked another expat in Falmouth, Jamaica.

"I found my first place, through friends, and then found second place, which was perfect, thru a referral of someone i spoke to on email, for a while, who had lived in the same apt...it really is best to check out a place for a while, before you decide where you want to live...you will more than likely change your mind..at least once..," said another expat in Negril.

"Work chose it for me. A word to the wise, if work is choosing your place to stay make sure you travel to Jamaica and see it for yourself. If work expect to send you to Jamaica they should pay for a 1 week trip to the country staying in a compounded hotel with a driver available to you. Do not move to Jamaica without being there before!!," remarked another expat who made the move to Ocho Rios.

"I chose my community by asking friends and family for references. I wanted to reside near the airport but not in a commercial zone. I chose Retreat Heights which is located outside of the town of Falmouth but close enough to hotels, airport and entertainment," explained one expat living in Falmouth, Jamaica.

"I had stayed as a vacationer in guest houses in this area. When I was looking for an apartment to live in I saw the ad say a street name in the area I loved so I had friends come look at it and send me photos for my approval," said another expat in Ocho Rios.

"When we first moved to Ochi, we were staying in an apartment that was rented out by my husband's company. Since the apartment was a bit far from downtown and also very dark, we started looking around for a new place. Our lease was almost up, so we were actively on the lookout. A friend of ours saw a sign right outside a nice looking complex advertising a real estate agency and we called right away. Now we live in an ocean front apt and couldn't be happier," added another expat who made the move to Ocho Rios.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Jamaica?

Live in Jamaica? Answer this Question

"I live in a scheme in Falmouth 2bd, 2bath, furnished & washing machine. Love it," explained one expat living in Jamaica.

"We live in a single family rental house located in a subdivision, called a scheme, here in Jamaica. We have not met a lot of expats yet, but the one couple that we did meet live in a house that they purchased," said another expat in Falmouth.

"I am living in a 3 bedroom, 4 bathroom furnished townhouse in a gated community. It's brand new and beautiful," added another expat who made the move to Montego Bay.

"I lived in several places, and it's really a matter of personal choice..i love to swim early, in the morning, and so living close to beach or cliffs, if you're not going to have a car, is important to me..i also lived in someone else's yard, where it was very beautiful and in a garden paradise, but then i had a car, and could drive to the beach every morning...finding that the west end was more interesting for me, after a time..there are plenty of people to talk to, who will give you advice and tell you who has what, for rent.," explained one expat living in Negril, Jamaica.

"I live in a 2 bedroom apartment near Island village in Jamaica. I don't know of any expats locally. Work pays for this, it is basic accommodation and costs US1200 per month. Beware of living close to too much hustle and bustle such as night clubs / late bars, you will be kept up with booming reggae music all night," said another in Ocho Rios.

"I am renting an apartment in a house to try out the community before making a commitment to live here permanently. Now that I am here I don't think this will be my final stop," explained one expat who made the move to Falmouth.

What is the average cost of housing in Jamaica?

Live in Jamaica? Answer this Question

If you are thinking about moving to Jamaica, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"I'm renting in Falmouth a gated community. 800 monthly, pay my own utilities was lucky it came furnished. The people stay to themselves. I've had very few conversations with other occupants. A car is extra helpful! But I’d never drive in JA. This will be my second year renting. Not sure about the buying & building for myself. Too old for that & have absolutely no patience for the process.. sending good vibes! I love Jamaica," explained one expat living in Jamaica.

"Our housing costs are much lower than in the US. My husband and I live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath furnished home for 60,000 Jamaican dollars (about $480 US dollars a month). Yard maintenance and water is included in the rent. It is a newer house with an open floorplan. Electricity is about $4,000 JMD (about $31 USD). Cable (Westar) is $2,700JMD a month (about $21 USD) and we get tons of good channels. Unfurnished houses here can be found for about $45,000JMD ($352 USD). Ofcourse, if you want to go really budget and talk to the right people, you can find a place for about $250 USD a month," said another expat in Falmouth.

"I am paying $1200 USD plus utilities here. Expensive for Jamaica however this same house would cost double in Canada," added another expat who made the move to Montego Bay.

"i would say at the time, that where i lived there, was cheaper or about the same..i dont' look for too much, when there, you spend alot of time outside, and for me, the space and the a/c and things like that were not as important..never had a/c. I did want to be able to cook, of course, and make coffee and a good place to hang my laundry, as i washed by hand, most of the time, and a place to park my car, access to taxis, safe yard (important)," explained one expat living in Negril, Jamaica.

"Home costs are ridiculous, I don't pay for rent, electricity etc, however these are on average 3 times the cost. Food is far far far too overpriced. I am still paid as if living in Europe and food on average is about 3-4 times more expensive here than home. Frozen stuff is extremely expensive," said another in Ocho Rios.

"My housing costs are significantly lower than in the US. I am paying 30,000 per month for a two bedrooms with two bathrooms. I was just lucky to get such a deal but the average cost for this apartment is 45,000-65,000 per month. My light bill is 7,000 per month but I run my a/c unit each night just to fall asleep. My water bill is between 500 and 800 per month," explained one expat who made the move to Falmouth.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What should I pack when moving to Jamaica?

Live in Jamaica? Answer this Question

We asked people living in Jamaica to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Definitely ship your goods over - furniture etc in JA is very, very expensive and to be honest there isn't a great deal of choice. It is possible to find some great hand-carved furniture but generally I found it too heavy, ornate, and not quite to my taste. I thought that I could sell my goods in the UK and use the proceeds to replace them in JA, but the resale value just wasn't sufficient to cover the costs of buying new. Do shop around for reliable, and low cost shippers though," remarked another expat in Kingston, Jamaica.

"Wish I would have brought: -Coffee Maker with extra coffee pods (Keurig)
-My art supplies
-Extra mosquito repellent
Wish I would have left at home: -Several pair of shoes
-Electronic gadgets I don't use
-Jewelry
," said another expat in Falmouth.

"1. I wish I had gone to Dollarama and stocked up on spices and kitchen stuff. It pains me to spend $8-$10 on items I know I could get for free. 2. I brought a TV, but wish I had shipped both. Electronics are crazy expensive here. 3. Sheets, bedding, towels. I packed light so I didn't bring too much of anything. I had already read from others not to bring too much clothing and I'm glad I didn't," remarked another expat who made the move to Montego Bay.

"1) More solar things, like lights and phone charger. 2) More good, big beach towels (ones here cheap, flimsy, but easier to wash by hand!) 3) Rechargeable batteries of all sizes and the batteries (don't skimp) 1) Less clothes 2) Less shoes 3) LESS..period," explained one expat living in Negril, Jamaica.

"BRING A Generator (Seriously), power cuts are rife and expect to be without power, internet or water for 2-3 days at a time. Toiletries, I should have stocked up on things like shaving foam and toothpaste etc as it is far to expensive here. An umbrella, it rains almost every day here (all year - dont believe the hype on net) LEAVE AT HOME Jumpers, coats etc - It is hot and humid," said another expat in Ocho Rios.

"Jamaica is like the states so you don't have to over-pack. As a returning resident bring as much as you can. But, otherwise it is more economical to purchase you items here in Jamaica," added another expat who made the move to Falmouth.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Jamaica GuideJamaica Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Jamaica.

Jamaica Forum Jamaica Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Jamaica on our Jamaica forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Jamaica Index Jamaica Index
An index of all of our site's Jamaica information.

Contribute to Jamaica Network Contribute
Help others in Jamaica by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Jamaica.

Expat Healthcare Advice in JamaicaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Jamaica

Expats in Jamaica offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Jamaica.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in JamaicaMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Jamaica

Expats in Jamaica offer advice about healthcare in Jamaica.

Best Places to Live in Jamaica Best Places to Live in Jamaica

If you're thinking of moving to Jamaica, deciding where to live is not as simple as you think. Jamaica is a large island with numerous cities and towns that appeal to expats. This article highlights the 10 best places to live in Jamaica according to expats living there.

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Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Jamaica.

Guide to Real Estate in JamaicaGuide to Real Estate in Jamaica

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Jamaica.

Pros Cons of Living in JamaicaPros & Cons of Living in Jamaica

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Jamaica.

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