Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, is located on the southeastern coast of the island. There are two major sections to this city: 'downtown' and 'uptown,' also referred to as 'New Kingston.'
Kingston was for some time Jamaica's only city and is still the commercial and cultural capital. You will notice that the city is assigned the equivalent of postal codes, (Kingston 5, Kingston 10, etc.) which is a good representation of how truly large this city is, especially for an island such as Jamaica. As of 2011, the city had 937,700 inhabitants.
Norman Manley International Airport (IATA: KIN), Phone: +1-888-247-7678, . Located in the southeastern part of the island, overlooking Kingston Harbour on the Palisadoes peninsula. Served by Air Canada, Air Jamaica, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, and a number of Caribbean airlines. Be prepared for queues at the airport, to clear both immigration and customs, which are fairly strict. It is important that you know where you will be staying and write it down on your immigration form.
There are taxi vans between the airport and town - one person USD28; a group USD33, potentially negotiable. Payment can be in US dollars. The cheapest way is to take bus 98 straight to the Parade in downtown Kingston for JMD80. The bus stop outside the arrivals terminal is for bus 98 going towards Port Royal. Just passed the bus stop is where bus 98 stops on its way to downtown.
Kingston Tinson Pen There is a smaller airport closer to downtown, but there is no longer any regular passenger service to it.
Kingston has an extensive and modern bus system. The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) runs the bus system for the government, while private contractors also run the same routes. There are also minibuses and route taxis which are very affordable. Whenever in doubt, ask a bus driver how to get somewhere or where to find a certain bus; they are generally very helpful.
Public transit generally goes through one or more of the three central transportation hubs.
- Downtown (Parade and the downtown Kingston Transport Centre). Keep a tight hold of your bags as petty theft is possible as in any large metropolis.
- The ultra-modern Half-Way Tree Transport Centre (HWT) in uptown Kingston is generally a safer area, but there are less buses.
- Cross Roads an older, congested hub not suggested for tourists.
The bus service in Jamaica has now been upgraded with express buses cost ranging from JMD80 to JMD100, and another bus also air conditioned can be found in yellow with the Jamaican flag at the front costs for regular fares JMD150 and for children under 12 JMD50 12+(prices are expected to raise for the new buses soon because of the increase of gas). The original non air con buses still function, but who knows when will they last?
All official taxis have red license plates that start with PPV.
Route Taxis (a taxi that has a set route and picks up multiple people along it) are also common and often mirror bus routes and are not much more expensive than buses. These are a bit more complicated to get used to, so ask for help.
Charter Taxis (normal taxis) - negotiate a price before getting in the car. Fares range from JMD400 to JMD5,000 for long routes.
With some practice, bravery, and chutzpah you can rent a car (Island Rent a car allows for one-way car rental). Take a good map and be willing to ask (and keep asking to get a consensus) for directions along the way. It's not safe to drive in the countryside after dark. If you get in a wreck/hit someone, drive to the nearest police station.
- Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Rd, ☎ +1 876 927-9152. M-Sa, tours last 1 hr, including a 20 min film. The first tour begins at 09:30 and the last tour at 16:00. Filled with tons of memorabilia and Bob Marley's personal belongings, this museum was Bob Marley's recording studio and was his home until his death in 1981. The house is a preserved historical site; even the bullet holes from the attempted murder of Bob Marley remain. Every visitor will be added to a tour upon entry. residents JMD500, non-residents USD20 (credit cards accepted).
- National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Blvd, ☎ +1 876 922-1561. Tu-Th 10:00-16:30, F 10:00-16:00, Sa 10:00-15:00. The museum features artwork by Jamaicans from throughout its history, from the native Taino Indians through the colonial period to works by modern artists. The gallery hosts its annual National Visual Arts Exhibition, which began in 1963 as a way to promote post-colonial art and to showcase the works of rising artists from Jamaica. Entrance fees are waved during the exhibition period. JMD100, students and senior citizens over 65 may enter for JMD50.
- Port Royal. Once known as the "Richest and wickedest city in the world", Port Royal is a notorious 17th century pirate haven. The most famous pirate who operated from Port Royal was Sir Henry Morgan who plundered Spanish vessels travelling in the Caribbean. The city prospered as the pirates gathered riches, but a strong earthquake struck the area on June 7, 1692 sinking the ships in the harbour and killing many people as the earthquake moved much of the city into the sea. It has been said that the earthquake was caused by God himself to punish the evildoers of Port Royal. This disaster helped to establish Kingston as the new capital, and many of the survivors of the earthquake moved to Kingston. Although most of the buildings at the port today are not the original buildings, the walls of Fort Charles have been preserved since the rebuilding two years after the earthquake, Saint Peter's Church built in the early 18th century, and the ruins of Fort Rocky remain. There is also a museum to learn more about the history and see artefacts from its heyday.
- Devon House, 26 Hope Rd, ☎ +1 876 926-0815. The Mansion is open M-Sa 09:30-17:00, the courtyard 10:00-18:00, and the gardens are open daily 09:30-22:00. One of the best example of Jamaican architecture, the Devon House was built by George Stiebel, the nation's first black millionaire. Much of the interior furniture is not original, but it upholds the 19th Century mansion style. The courtyard has craft shops, a few restaurants, and the most famous ice cream shop on the island. JMD700 for a tour of the mansion. Entry to garden and shops is free..
- Hope Botanical Gardens. 08:30-18:30. The Largest Botanical Garden in the Caribbean. The garden gets its name from the man Richard Hope who helped capture Jamaica for Great Britain and was given the property to reward him for his faithfulness to the Crown. Free.
- Hope Zoo (Next to the Botanical Gardens). 10:00-17:00. JMD20.
- Arawak Museum (Taino Museum). A small museum with artefacts and information about the original inhabitants of the island, the Arawak (or Taino) Indians.
- People's Museum of Craft and Technology. A small museum with pottery, instruments, and farming tools used in Jamaica. JMD100.
- Lime Kay. Beach off the coast of Port Royale must take a boat from Port Royal fisherman or the hotel to island. Island is famous as the location for final scene in The Harder they Come. Crowded party spot on the weekends with food and drink available for purchase, much more sedate and often deserted on weekdays. You can camp overnight if you pre-arrange a next-day pickup time, but be careful, as you can't exactly swim to shore!
- Emancipation Park. Offers free concert occasionally in the summer and during the Christmas.
- Putt and Play. Offers miniature golf and pool tables for a nice round of pool.
- Kingston Crafts Market
- Blue Mountain Coffee from the supermarket for cheap or get premium beans direct from the JABLUM manufacturers or craft/single estate roasters. Look into Rum Roast and Royals at Devon House for some better selections.
- Parade's Coronation Market on weekends, where you can buy fruit and vegetables from across the island. This was gutted during the disturbances at the end of May and while there are plans to rebuild it, traders have temporarily moved to other areas.
- Hot sauces. Jamaica is famous for its hot sauces, with the major ingredient being the Scotch Bonnet Pepper, found throughout the island. Supermarkets have a bewildering selection of such sauces, from several producers.
- Jerk spice powder. Make your own jerk chicken when you get home.
- Jerk, curried, fricasséed or brown stew chicken, pork or fish
- Escoveitch fish—Warning, spicy!
- Ackee and saltfish (codfish) -- the national dish of Jamaica
- Curried mutton (goat)
- Fruit: Mangoes, sugar cane, paw-paw (papaya), guava, June plum, jackfruit, star apples, guinep, naseberries...
- Roasted corn
- Bammy Cakes. 5-inch diameter cakes made from cassava.
- Patties from a bakery (The Brick Oven at Devon House makes excellent curried chicken patties, and both Juici and Tastee are "fast food" patty restaurants. In Liguanea there's a vegetarian/vegan patty restaurant, across the parking lot from the Wendy's
- Devon House I Scream (ice cream)
- Tastee Patty, Juici Patties, Mother's - fast food, mostly "patties", though Mother's also does hamburgers and fried foods (Various places around town)
- Island Grill - upmarket Jamaican fast food and jerk in New Kingston.
- Jerk pans - see them on the street smelling good - get Jerked Chicken, rice and peas!
- Akbar, 11 Holborn Rd New Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 926-3480. Indian food served in a wonderful calm atmosphere. Sister Thai restaurant next door with equally pleasing menu
- Hope Gardens Vegetarian Restaurant (in the middle of Hope Gardens. You have to ask where it is as there is no external sign.). Basic vegetarian food with menu that varies daily. Nice garden setting. Excellent juices. USD10.
- Redbones Blues Cafe, 1 Argyle Road, Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 978-6091. Jazz & Blues themed Caribbean Fusion Cuisine restaurant & bar. Cultural Watering Hole with Live Music & Art Gallery
- Norma's on the Terrace, Devon House (At the back of the Devon House mansion in the shopping area.). Closed Sundays. Excellent upmarket restaurant with a fusion of Western and Jamaican cooking. Eat outside at large tables with very decorative flower arrangements.
- White Bones Seafood, 1 Mannings Hill Rd. M-Sa 11:30-23:00, Su 14:00-22:00. Highly recommended, but expensive, fish and seafood joint. Tuesdays are all-you-can-eat shellfish nights. JMD3,000.
Drink Red Stripe and Appleton Rum. If you've got the guts, try some Wray & Nephew overproof white rum (locals refer to it as "whites"): a drink that is usually around 180 proof.
There's also refreshing coconut water, cane juice, sorrel (only served around Christmas time), Irish Moss, and tamarind drink or genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (according to experts it is perhaps the best tasting, most expensive and most sought after coffee in the world). You can get premium beans from Rum, Roast and Royals in the Devon House complex.
Good bars include Red Bones Blues Café (also a good restaurant).
Kingston is the host of many great clubs. Found in New Kingston, there are many clubs that party until the early morning hours. The Quad, and Asylum are only a couple of the very popular clubs.
- QUAD Nightclub, 20-22 Trinidad Tce (in the middle of New Kingston), ☎ +1 876 754-QUAD (7823). the only multi level nightclub in Jamaica. jazz, reggae, dancehall, r & b, soca. USD12.
- The Deck, 14 Trafalgar Rd, New Kingston. Popular watering hole mainly patronised by those over 30. Disco and live music and excellent bar snacks.
- The Liguanea Club, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston, Kingston 5, Jamaica, ☎ +1 876 968-3483. 38 rooms, air conditioned unit, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, fitness room/gym, 8 tennis courts, 6 squash courts and a swimming pool. USD75+.
- Chelsea Hotel, 5 Chelsea Ave, Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 926-5803, +1 876 929-4746, fax: +1 876 929-4746. USD40.
- Indies Hotel, 5 Holborn Rd, Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 926-2952. Guest house.
- Hope Pastures Great House Bed and Breakfast, 40 Charlemont Ave, Kingston 6, ☎ +1 876 632-2030, +1 876 809-7510. Wi-Fi, cable. USD75.
- Altamont Court Hotel, 1-5 Altamont Terrace, New Kingston, ☎ +1 876 929-5931, fax: +1 876 929-2118. USD110.
- Christar Villas Hotel, 99a Hope Rd, Kingston 6, ☎ +1 876 978-3933. Fascinating mid-range Jamaican hotel with a wide range of facilities and Jamaican mojo. USD115.
- Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, 85 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, ☎ +1 876 929-9000. Mahogany furnishings in a traditional Caribbean style. Usual amenities for business travellers. Mingles Pub is a popular meeting place and Alexander's restaurant has a good reputation. Offers handicapped access.
- Wyndham Kingston, 77 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston, ☎ +1 876 926-5430. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Reports suggest that it has seen many better days and lost it's former Hilton franchise. Breakfasts not included in price and are expensive. Internet extremely unreliable. USD89 and up.
- The Knutsford Court Hotel, 16 Chelsea Ave, Kingston 5, ☎ +1 876 929-1000. 170 room, newly refurbished.
- Spanish Court Hotel, 1 Saint Lucia Ave, Kingston 5. New hotel, with gym, swimming pool, etc. The architect seems to have almost forgotten windows in some of the rooms at the back, however, and others are a bit noisy if you want an early night. A business rather than a tourist hotel. Excellent internet, both Wi-Fi and cable, and a good restaurant. USD140 + tax.
- Pegasus, 81 Knutsford Bvd, ☎ +1 876 926-3691. Arguably Kingston's major hotel. In the New Kingston area close to most offices. Rates quoted on the web site start at USD300 but significant discounts are available.
- Terra Nova Hotel, 17 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 926-9334, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Definitely a splurge hotel the Terra Nova advertises itself as an "All Suite" hotel. Convenient location, good service and a highly regarded kitchen. USD200 plus.
Like many other large cities elsewhere in the world, Kingston is home to a higher number of crimes than the rest of the island. It has been rated one of the most dangerous cities in the world in previous years when measured by the murder rate. While the Trench Town section of Kingston does have an interesting history, nevertheless no visitor should dare go there unless they're part of a goodwill tour or something similar with a high level of pre-arranged security. The average tourist going there would be signing his or her death warrant. Common-sense and precaution should ensure a pleasant experience in the safer areas of the city, though. If you find yourself in need of the police, the emergency number is 119.
Tourists, especially white tourists, tend to stick out and garner lots of attention, not all of it positive. Hissing and cat calls at women (even accompanied ones) is common. Replying to overzealous touts with "No badda (bother) me" can help.
Homosexuality is not at all condoned and can elicit violent reactions.
Embassies and High Commissions
- Canada High Commission, 3 West Kings House Rd, ☎ +1 876 926-1500, fax: +1 876 733-3493. M-Th 07:30-16:30, F 07:30-13:00.
- China, 8 Seaview Ave, Kingston 10, ☎ +1 876 927-3871, fax: +1 876 927-6920, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Blue Mountains (Jamaica)
- Organize an overnight climb of Blue Mountain. Many outfits will come and pick you up from in town for an additional fee.
- Visit the Gap Café and Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains
- Hellshire Beach - A taste of the authentic Jamaican beach going experience
- Lime Cay - an uninhabited island beach with snorkelling opportunities, reachable from Port Royal for cheap via a fisherman's boat or by a more expensive fancier boat from Morgan's Harbour Hotel
- JABLUM - the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee factory
- Port Royal - the former pirate city that has been destroyed twice by earthquakes is a good place to relax and have a beer or visit the museum and learn about the piracy history
- Portland (Jamaica) - passed the Blue Mountains.
- Ocho Rios ("Ochi") - only 4 hours away by minibus/route taxi for ~J$500. Direct morning departures from the Downtown Transport Center and indirect (via Port Maria) from HWT
- Montego Bay - roughly 4 hours from Kingston for less than US$10 from the Downtown Transport Center.
- Port Antonio - take a direct minibus/route taxi from HWT for J$200–300.