Moving to Jamaica
Last updated on Feb 01, 2023
Summary: Many expats and digital nomads move to Jamaica for its beautiful beaches, warm climate, and vibrant culture. The most popular cities for expats and digital nomads in Jamaica are Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril. People looking for a place to live in Jamaica can search online for rental listings, contact real estate agents, or look for postings on local expat forums. Additionally, many expats and digital nomads find housing through word of mouth from other expats and digital nomads already living in Jamaica.
What do I need to know before moving to Jamaica?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Jamaica, they said:
"Before moving to Jamaica, it is important to obtain a valid visa to enter and stay in the country; consult a Jamaican embassy or consulate to obtain the appropriate visa and all paperwork necessary. Additionally, it is important to research Jamaica’s culture, climate, and other cultural expectations, such as laws and customs, to ensure a smooth transition into Jamaica. When packing for the move, be sure to bring items that are best suited for Jamaica’s humid and tropical climate. Be prepared for potential difficulties with the electricity supply in Jamaica – irregular, if any, is to be expected – and adapt accordingly. It is also important to prepare for the cost of living in Jamaica, as the cost of living is high in comparison to earning potential. Finally, be sure to seek out resources for a smooth transition – such as advice for expatriates, local organizations, and social media outlets associated with Jamaica to make the move successful," said another expat in Jamaica.
"Before moving to Jamaica, it is important to research the country and its culture. Check the visa requirements for citizens of your home country and make sure that you have the paperwork in order before you arrive. It is important to take into account the cost of living in Jamaica as well as arrange for suitable accommodations for yourself. Healthcare and education options should also be considered. Be prepared for the climate of Jamaica and the tropical storms that may occur. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the culture of Jamaica, including its language, religions, and customs. Lastly, be aware of the potential risks in Jamaica like crime and take the necessary precautions," added another expat who made the move to Jamaica.
How do I find a place to live in Jamaica?
We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:
"There are many different options for finding a place to live in Jamaica, including online rental marketplaces, local real estate agents, and friends or family in the area who might be able to offer advice. If you are looking for a long-term rental, exploring the local real estate market is a great place to start. There are also several online rental marketplaces that allow you to browse and compare a variety of rentals in Jamaica. Friends and family who live in the area can also be a great resource when looking for a place to live, as they may know of available rentals or be able to give advice on areas or property options," remarked another expat who made the move to Jamaica.
"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," explained one expat living in Falmouth, Jamaica.
What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Jamaica?
"Expat homes and apartments in Jamaica are typically modern in style and come with the latest amenities. They are generally spacious and airy, often with large balconies or patios to make the most of the year-round warm climate. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be well-equipped, boasting stainless steel appliances and fixtures, as well as a range of modern amenities. Many homes also come with swimming pools, gated gardens, parking spots, and other outdoor entertaining areas for making the most of the tropical island lifestyle. Apartments are mainly concentrated in the cities of Kingston and Montego Bay, where clients can access a wealth of nearby amenities," commented one expat who made the move to Jamaica.
"I live in a scheme in Falmouth 2bd, 2bath, furnished & washing machine. Love it," remarked another expat in Jamaica.
What is the average cost of housing in Jamaica?
If you are thinking about moving to Jamaica, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:
"The average cost of housing in Jamaica varies depending on the type of accommodation and location, but generally is relatively affordable," said another expat in Jamaica.
"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Jamaica.
Should I buy or rent a home in Jamaica?
If you have not spent a lot of time in Jamaica, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:
"The decision to buy or rent a home in Jamaica will depend on a variety of factors including your overall budget, desired timeframe of residence, and investment strategy. If you are looking for a short-term rental, there are many rental accommodations available in Jamaica such as vacation homes, vacation villas, and hotels. However, if you plan to stay in Jamaica for a longer period or want to take advantage of the local market, you may benefit from buying a home. Buying a home can help you secure a property that is more suitable to your needs and lifestyle in Jamaica, as well as provide potential financial benefits through equity appreciation," remarked another expat in Jamaica.
What should I pack when moving to Jamaica?
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:
"Clothes for hot weather: light T-shirts, shorts, sandals, a hat. Important documents such as passport, visa, and work permit. Any personal items you think you may need. Prescription medications and personal healthcare items. Laptop, mobile phone, and camera/video equipment. Bedding, towels, and linen. Electricity adapters. Money, especially if you intend to withdraw money from local banks. Books, magazines, or other reading materials. Basic kitchen items and appliances," explained one expat living in Jamaica.
"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," said another expat in Kingston.
What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Jamaica?
We asked people in Jamaica if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:
"In Jamaica, it is important to be respectful of the local customs and culture. It is important to be mindful of the issues of poverty and cultural forms when in Jamaica. It is best to dress conservatively, especially when visiting religious sites or other areas that may be more conservative. Avoid making disparaging remarks about the beliefs of others. It is also polite to greet people when meeting them and it is customary to shake hands when greeting and introducing oneself. It is not polite to haggle over prices as businesses typically charge a set rate regardless of who is purchasing, and bargaining is not expected. Do not touch food or utensils at communal meals, as is the custom in Jamaica. Additionally, it is advisable not to drink tap water and be mindful of taking care to not pick up litter or debris that is in the environment," commented one expat who made the move to Jamaica.
About the Author
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.
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