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Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 02, 2023

Summary: The approximate population of Kingston, Jamaica is 937,700. People describe Kingston as a vibrant, bustling city with a unique culture and a rich history. Expats love the friendly people, the beautiful beaches, the great food, and the vibrant nightlife. The weather in Kingston is typically warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit. The average cost of living in Kingston for an expat is around $1,500 to $2,000 USD per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment is around $500 to $800 USD per month, and a two bedroom apartment is around $800 to $1,200 USD per month.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Kingston?

"There are doctors that will see patients on an ad hoc basis without medical insurance. I’ve been here for four months now - extended leisure visit - and I see a great doctor in Kingston. Each visit is 4K JMD a pop. He will provide prescriptions, and if needed, make referrals to specialist services. However I would say that you should seriously consider medical insurance as you would in the USA. Medication etc is not cheap and if you need specialist treatment costs can be high (though lower than in the States in most cases) but as an instance I’ve just had to pay 80k JMD for an MRI scan. I could have waited until I return to the UK and have it done for free there but the advantage of paying for it privately here meant that I could have it done and obtain results within days rather than the weeks or months I’d have to wait on the NHS. Medical insurance would definitely have been cheaper! If you are relocating for work then your employer should provide medical insurance for yourself and any accompanying family members. Definitely if you have young children or pre-existing illness then ensure you have insurance. I’m a diabetic and the cost of insulin is pretty eyewatering. But as I said you can just find a physician and go see her/hum as you need to. They will keep a medical record with med history, meds, etc," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"Ensure that you have insurance and don't take an unregulated taxi as it might not be insured. I was unfortunate to be in a pretty serious car crash here and it would have involved been horrendous health care costs without insurance," said another expat in living in Jamaica.

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What do I need to know about living in Kingston?

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

"Before retiring in Kingston, it is important to understand the cost of living in the area. Property taxes, transportation, healthcare and other necessities should all be taken into consideration before making the move. Additionally, it is important to research the availability of retirement services, retirement benefits and other resources that are available in the Kingston area. It is also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the local climate and natural surroundings, the entertainment options, and the many activities and events that can be enjoyed in Kingston," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"Moving here will require you to make a lot of socio-psychological adjustments, for instance, if you are someone who values ordered processes and systems - and I can only assume that as an account, this might be important to you, then you will need to adjust very quickly to the less agreeable aspects of Jamaica..there is a lot of bureaucracy but it doesn't always work in quite the way that westerners expect or at the pace that westerners might be used to. I'm from the UK, of African-Caribbean heritage, though not Jamaican, and I have been here for 18 months now, I truly love living here, but it requires, as I say, some degree of mental adjustments. Please do as much research as you're able to, do come for extended periods of time, get to know people, the neighbourhood you want to live in, etc before you commit to such a huge life changing decision," said another expat in Kingston.

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What do I need to know before moving to Kingston?

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

"Before moving to Kingston, it is important to become familiar with the city. Research local housing and transportation options, explore what the city has to offer when it comes to recreational activities, visit different neighbourhoods to get a sense of the vibe, and investigate the employment and educational opportunities available. Additionally, it is important to fully understand the cost of living in the city and to plan for any necessary expenses or adjustments to your lifestyle. Be sure to plan for the unpredictability of the local weather, including seasonally heavy rainfall, so you can take full advantage of Kingston’s charming year-round climate," said another person in Kingston.

"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," remarked another expat in Kingston.

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How do I find a place to live in Kingston?

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

"Find a place to live in Kingston by starting your search with the various online websites dedicated to rental listings and browsing available properties in the area. You can also try searching local newspapers, magazines, or community bulletin boards. Additionally, you can use resources at Kingston-area universities or colleges to help students in their search for housing. You can also reach out to classmates, relatable acquaintances, or mutual contacts in the area who are likely to know of potential living options around town. Lastly, consider visiting Kingston in person and touring some of the advertised properties and sites to gain a better understanding of the local atmosphere and housing market," said another person in Kingston.

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

"Expat homes and apartments in Kingston vary greatly depending on what area of the city you are in. Most expat homes are modern, often taking the place of older homes that have been torn down. Generally, these homes are large and have multiple bedrooms, bathrooms and a modern kitchen. Apartments, on the other hand, often offer amenities like swimming pools and fitness centers, as well as more compact living areas. Expat homes and apartments in Kingston are typically in great neighborhoods with easy access to restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Security is usually quite high, with most buildings offering 24-hour security," said another expat in Kingston.

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What is the average cost of housing in Kingston?

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

"The cost of housing in Kingston varies depending on the type of accommodation and the area, but on average it is relatively affordable," explained one expat.

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How do I meet people in Kingston?

When we asked people living in Kingston about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"There are many great ways to meet people in Kingston. Joining a club or organization, such as a local sports team, arts or culture group, or political groups, or volunteering with a charitable organization can help you meet people with similar interests and goals. Going to concerts, festivals, or other community events can also be a great way to meet people, as well as visiting local cafes or bars and striking up conversations with people. You could also look into joining social media groups, online forums, or taking classes to meet people. Finally, take advantage of digital tools like meetup.com, which can help you find people who share your interests in the Kingston area," remarked another in Kingston.

"Many non-Jamaicans without family or friends here join expat groups - I believe some have regular meet-ups. Otherwise you'll meet people most places - Cafe Blue in Sovereign Centre is a great place to hang out, and I know a lot of people work remotely from there `as I often do myself when I'm in need of human company daytime and my friends are at work in their offices...I've met a number of people there who've become good friends...there's also a Starbucks in Liguanea but I avoid that chain back in the UK and do same here," explained one expat.

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What should I bring when moving to Kingston?

People living in Kingston were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"Essential items for moving to Kingston include clothing, bedding, toiletries, kitchen items, cleaning supplies, documents, phone and laptop chargers, toolkit, and convertible/layered clothing for all seasons. Additional items such as furniture, decorations, and electronics should also be considered depending on lifestyle. Important documents should also be packed, such as medical and insurance paperwork, birth certificates, copies of keys, and rental/lease agreements," remarked another expat in Kingston.

"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," explained one expat living in Kingston.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Kingston?

We asked expats in Kingston what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"There are several banks and other financial institutions operating in Kingston where you can open a bank account. Some of the popular options include Scotiabank, BMO Bank of Montreal, TD Canada Trust, RBC Royal Bank, CIBC, HSBC, Alterna Bank, and National Bank of Canada. These banks offer various types of bank accounts, including savings, chequing, and business accounts. In addition, there are online banks such as Tangerine, Simplii Financial, and Wealthsimple, where you can open an account and manage it from the comfort of your home. You may also consider financial institutions such as the Jamaica Credit Union League which offer members access to a wide range of cost-effective financial products and services," remarked another in Kingston.

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Will I be able to find a job in Kingston?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Kingston, they reponded:

"Yes, you should be able to find a job in Kingston. Kingston is one of the largest cities in Canada and is a hub of economic activity, so there are lots of opportunities. There are many large companies, government-related business and local small businesses that offer jobs in the area. Many professional and technical positions can be found in the utilities, communications, finance and tourism industries. Additionally, many students find work in Kingston's hospitality and healthcare sectors. Regardless of your field of interest, Kingston is an excellent place to look for work," explained one expat.

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What is life like in Kingston?

When we asked people living in Kingston what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in this area can be quite rewarding. From the historical towns to the magnificent views and hospitality, the food and culture can be quite different to other places. The local expat community is small but welcoming and there are plenty of activities to do. The cost of living is also relatively low and you can get a lot for your money. Public transport is efficient and affordable, making getting around easy and convenient. Health care is also relatively affordable and is of a very high quality. The climate is usually mild and everything is within reach. All in all, living in this area as an expat can be a wonderful experience," added another person living in Kingston.

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What do expats in Kingston appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expatriates in Kingston appreciate the local culture for its diversity, friendliness, and Caribbean vibes. Kingston’s diverse population of people from many different ethnic backgrounds creates a unique, vibrant atmosphere of acceptance and inclusiveness. Its friendly and laid-back residents make it a welcoming place to live and the city’s vibrant music and nightlife scene bring a sense of joy and excitement to the locals and visitors. Lastly, Kingston’s status as the capital of Jamaica and the wide variety of tourist attractions provide an opportunity to experience the island culture firsthand," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"Jamaicans are like every other people. Some you wouldn't want to make friends with, others that you will wonder just how you managed o live your life without having had that person in it. Most Jamaicans are warm, friendly, hospitable and helpful. In the time that I have been here, for the most part I have experienced nothing but warmth in my interactions with people. This is not to say that you will never encounter some mean, bad-minded people, but bad-minded people exist everywhere," said another expat in Kingston.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats often find adjusting to a new culture and language to be the most challenging aspect of relocating to a different country. Making friends and developing a social network can also be difficult and feeling homesickness is not uncommon. Expats may also have difficulty finding suitable accommodation and understanding the different laws and regulations in the country they have moved to. Lastly, finding and maintaining employment can be stressful and require adapting to new work environments," added another person living in Kingston.

"Jamaicans are in general very friendly people but I found that they tend to keep strangers at arms distance...I'd been here for 18 months before I realised that I'd never been invited to anyone's home! Other expats have said the same," explained one expat living in Kingston.

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Is there a lot of crime in Kingston?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"No, there is not a lot of crime in Kingston. Kingston consistently ranks as one of the safest cities in Ontario and has one of the lowest crime rates in the province. According to police-reported crime figures, crime rates in Kingston are well below both provincial and national averages," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"Most violence is personal, though there are some low lifes who will target those they consider vulnerable to rob. Hence, being out and about requires some safety awareness...don 't flash phones, jewellery, or any high end items round. Always be aware of who is around you. If your'e offered anything on the street, say no thanks politely and move on. Do not get into random taxis on the roads, but always use those from established companies such as On Time, Mor-Tec etc. I tend to use regular taxi drivers whom I've come to know and are reliable and trustworthy. Always agree fares beforehand. Most taxis will wait for you while you do your supermarket shopping for instance but there is a waiting charge. Stay away from volatile areas in which you have no business, be mindful that you cannot jog freely on the roads as you would at home, especially as a lone woman, though you should be ok in upper class areas such as Norbrook, Cherry Gardens, Beverley Hills, but best to always have a running companion. There's also the Mona Dam which offers a great running/walking circuit and is very popular and well used," said another expat in Jamaica.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Kingston accepting of differences?

"Kingston is known for being very diverse and accepting of differences. With a large population of students from all over the world, Kingston is a very diverse place. As well, Kingston has a high number of organizations and events for celebrating and honouring diversity in the community. The local government has also taken steps to promote inclusion, understanding, and acceptance of multiculturalism in the city. Kingston is very welcoming to individuals of all backgrounds, and residents and visitors alike enjoy the city's diversity," said another expat in Kingston.

"Unknown numbers of Jamaicans are gay and while they face censure and sometimes violence, groups such are J-Flag and individuals like Mike Abrahams are working hard to make real change. Yes, it's not happening as fast as some of us would like, but there is some progress and it's continuing. I am hetero but I work alongside many individuals and organisatons in Kingston and elsewhere who are really making a difference," added another person living in Kingston.

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What are the schools in Kingston like?

"Kingston has a range of educational options, including public and private schools. The Limestone District School Board offers elementary and secondary schooling for students living in the area, with options for French Immersion, outdoor education, and a wide range of specialized programs. Kingston is home to a number of Catholic schools, both elementary and high school, run by the Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board. Independent schools in the area include Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, Countryside Montessori School, and St. Lawrence College. There are also several post-secondary educational opportunities available in Kingston, including Queen's University, Royal Military College of Canada, St. Lawrence College and Kingston College," remarked another parent with kids at in Kingston.

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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.

Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica

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