Expat Exchange
Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica
Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica
Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Sep 17, 2022

Summary: Kingston has a moderate cost of living, a population of approximately 580,000 and year-round temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s. Expats, digital nomads and retirees talk about what it is really like living in Kingston, Jamaica. They offer advice about meeting people, cost of living, finding a home and more.

Allianz Care International Health Insurance
Allianz Care International Health Insurance
Allianz Care International Health Insurance
Allianz Care International Health Insurance

What are the pros and cons of living in Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Kingston responded:

"Personally, I would rather live in Kingston rather than in a beach area. Actually, even though Jamaicans say "Kingston" the middle class areas are really in St. Andrew, a suburb of Kingston. With the new-ish highway, you can get to a good beach in 2 hours or so and you'll have many more amenities in Kingston than in some of the beach areas. And when you live in a place, these become more important than going to a beach every day (IMO). However, there's a lot of traffic in Kingston, but since you don't have to be rushing to an office for 9 am, this may not be a big concern. Everyone will have differing opinions on this so on your next visit, maybe sample a few airbnbs in different parts of the island to get a feel for it. I would take a week or two to do this, if you can. Kingston is very different from say Mandeville or Montego Bay or Ocho Rios," said another expat in Kingston.

"If you want a measure of what it truly means to live here, get a friend or relative to send you a barrel and go collect it yourself. A day - or two - spent at the wharf, dealing with the arbitrariness that is Customs is a good start. If you can survive that, you might just survive everything else. Whatever you do, don't expect that there will be any order or sense to how things are done. Don't expect perfectly ordered systems, processes and procedures...they MIGHT (not always) exist on paper but the actuality tends to be different," remarked another expat in Kingston.

"Relocating here was one of the best decisions I have ever made, I love my life here, I have a great circle of friends - very few of whom are expats," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"I personally prefer Kingston, as it has a great vibe, and lots of cultural goings on...the beach areas are great, but I agree with the OP about actually living in say, Ochi...most of these places lack the amenities of Kingston and it can get quite frustrating at times..there's also the tourist factor...one thing that I really appreciate about Kingston is that you're not constantly falling over tourists," said another expat in living in Jamaica.

"Life as an expat was expensive in Jamaica but worth living due to local people, music, food, nature. Working was a challenge due to mentality of people. But at the end everything worked out well . It is a matter of trust!!! I would definitely like to go back even to live for some time. I have also lived in the Bahamas for 4 years before Jamaica. Beautiful place but the people are not that nice towards the expats. Also expensive and all services were over estimated," added another expat in Kingston.

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.

"my best experience from jamaica is getting to know local people. They are amazing," explained one expat living in Kingston.

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

"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.

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.

Is the cost of living in Kingston high?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

We asked people about the cost of living in Kingston, they wrote:

"The dollar is NOT going to stretch far when you're actually living here, having to buy food, other groceries, and utilities, which one doesn't generally have to pay when staying for short visits. Trust me, even as a professional in a good job, I still give thanks to the barrels of food, clothing, and sundry household and other items that my family and friends send down to me from the UK," remarked another expat in Kingston.

"Cost of living is high, yes that's true, but you can save a lot of money by shopping from roadside vendors and markets rather than the large supermarkets, the shelves of which are stocked with imported goods and so therefore expect to pay high prices... if you insist on having access to British or UK goods, then you can get these also, but at a price... several upscale supermarkets stock Tesco and Waitrose products. Housing costs depend on where you live and the type of accommodation you want, but you will generally get more for your money than you would in the UK, and you can enjoy a much higher standard of living," explained one expat living in Jamaica.

What do I need to know about living in Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

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

"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," explained one expat living in Kingston.

"This is a beautiful country but riddled with all kinds of socioeconomic and political issues, Anyone thinking of moving here really has to do their research thoroughly and the worse thing they can do is just to move here without spending real time living here...a holiday spent hanging out on the beaches of Negril or MoBay or Ochi is one thing, but actually living here is quite another matter," said another expat in Kingston.

"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," added another person living in Jamaica.

What do I need to know before moving to Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

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

"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," said another expat in Kingston.

"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," remarked another in Jamaica.

How do I meet people in Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

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

"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," said another person in Jamaica.

"There are so many local NGOs and civic organisations that are in need of help and support and I am sure would greatly appreciate offers from volunteers or interns. It very much depends on your interests. I work in the area of gender and development - which also encompasses children's and youth rights," remarked another expat in Jamaica.

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 bring when moving to Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

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

"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 in Kingston.

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

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

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

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

"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," added another person living in Kingston.

What do expats find most challenging?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

"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," added another person living in Kingston.

"Be careful about who you choose as friends, because the general advice I give is that people will always take your kindness for weakness. NEVER disclose info about yourself. Stay out of people's business and keep people out of yours. After a while you will see that Jamaicans rarely disclose their intentions or plans. They'll be packing their bags to go overseas but they won't tell you until the last moment if they feel the need to. If you're able to, keep guard dogs, don't stop to talk to strangers, don't listen to hard-luck stories, keep it moving, Don't think you can be a saviour because your life will soon become very difficult and uncomfortable - if you want to help, support, reach out directly to charities. Remember. People here adopt the saying that a fool and his money are soon parted. It's possible to have the best life here but you have to know and understand what you'll be getting yourself into. It's not all beaches and sunsets," explained one expat living in Jamaica.

"Not getting work done right the first time, and having to wait for things to be done right away," said another in Kingston.

Is there a lot of crime in Kingston?

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

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

"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," remarked another in Jamaica.

"Crime is everywhere in the world, and can strike at any time, any place. Jamaica is no differ, though that said, you need to exercise good judgement personal safety. I would say that you take the same precautions that you would do 'at home'. Don't wear flashy jewellery, clothing, etc. Don't flash the cash around - this is an economically impoverished country and it breeds opportunist criminals as it does in London, New York, Paris or any where else. Most of the violent crime in Jamaica is confined to certain areas and is drug or gang related. Most people have no business being in 'those' areas - what Jamaicans term 'volatile' areas and so don't wander voyeuristically into them the same way you wouldn't wonder around certain projects or ghettoes in the US or wherever you happen to live. Mind your own business and keep out of other people's business. I wouldn't wonder around the streets of London alone at night and I'm not about to do that here. Above all, treat other people as you would expect to be treated, keep your sense of humour about you, and you will be just fine," explained one expat.

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

Live in Kingston? Answer this Question

"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," said another person in Kingston.

"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 perhaps think again," remarked another expat in Kingston.

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.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

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

Expats KingstonExpats in Kingston

Expats, digital nomads & retirees talk about what it's like living in Kingston.

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

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

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.

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.

Real Estate in JamaicaReal Estate in Jamaica

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Jamaica.

Mike-Miville-Shares-His-Expat-ExperiencesMike Miville Shares His Expat Experiences

An Expat Interview with Mike Miville, an expat helping to find long-term sources of water in Jamaica.

Emancipation Park in Kingston, 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

Expats KingstonExpats in Kingston

Expats, digital nomads & retirees talk about what it's like living in Kingston.

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

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

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.

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.

Real Estate in JamaicaReal Estate in Jamaica

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Jamaica.

Pros-and-Cons-of-Living-in-JamaicaPros and Cons of Living in Jamaica

People from all over the globe have found their way to Jamaica to live as an expat in the Caribbean Sea. Expats already there are quick to point out that it's not a vacation every day on the island!

Copyright 1997-2022 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal