Jamaica is not a cheap destination, with dormitories starting from 20 USD and the main attraction of Kingston, the Bob Marley Museum at 25 USD, traveling on a budget is a challenge. The first thing you can do is skipping the Resort destinations such as Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios. Know for the all inclusive packages and beaches with fee entrances starting at 5 USD, those places are not going to show you the real Jamaica. You can focus your time in Kingston and Port Antonio, that hide the most beautiful spots.
Arriving in the capital of Jamaica
The cheapest flights are going to arrive in the capital, Kingston. Be ready to wait a while in the immigration. Try to arrive during daylight, so you can get the bus 98 from the airport to downtown. It will cost you 100 Jamaican dollars that is less than 1 USD in the official rate (125JD=1USD). The departure airport has an exchange shop that will pay 100 Jamaican Dollars for one USD. If you are leaving the country, they will buy your local currency for 130. In town most of the places will exchange you for 119, so just change enough to get your transport to town.
The bus 98 is a normal public transport, has air conditioning and is considered safe. If you go with the JUTA, that is a shared taxi to downtown will cost you ate least 25 USD.The buses in Downtown arrive in a main square.
Where to stay in Kingston
The city center is pretty busy and not a very safe place. A good area to stay is near Half Way tree bus terminal, that has plenty of shopping options and is walking distance to many attractions.
I stayed my first night in Reggae Hostel near Half Way Tree and recommend. All the other days I used the couchsurfing community, allowing me free accommodation for 8 days.
Special thanks for Tiffany and her family to receive me.
What to do in Kingston
Take the first day to explore the surroundings of Halfway tree and walk to the Emancipation Park.
The second day you can visit the main attraction from Kingston, Bob Marley Museum in the morning and visit Devon’s house in the afternoon. Bob Marley Museum in 56 Hope Road was Bob’s former place of residence and personal music studio. The entrance is 25 USD or 2500 Jamaican Dollars. Paying in the local currency is a better deal.
The Devon’s House is a mansion and owned by the first black millionaire in Jamaica. Today is the head quarter of the 4th best ice cream in the world Devon House I-Scream. The guided visit to the house with an ice scoop included is 11 USD.
On your third day, you can experience the real Jamaica going to Downtown and wondering trough Coronation Market a delightful place for backpackers.
A lot of people recommended not to go there, considering a few robbery and murder cases from the past but I particularly loved it. This market in Kingston is where vendors from all over the island come to wholesale and retail all sorts of goods far cheaper than you would pay at the traditional supermarket or roadside vendors
Don’t miss to try the dumpling with liver gravy in the kombi-shop beside the main building.
You will pay for fruits and vegetables much cheaper there than anywhere else in the country.
After exploring the market, you can take a look in the coastal walk.
The last day can be reserved for the Clarence fort and Hillsbrow beach one hour away from downtown with bus number 2. If there is extra time and you are around Mona district, don’t miss the Mona Reservoir.
How to get there
This city and the surrounding were a blast for me, especially blue lagoon. To get there the cheapest way you must take one of the coastal buses in Half way tree terminal.
It will cost you only 250 Jamaican dollars for this 4 hours trip. This is the way locals move around, so be sure to wait a few hours for the bus to get full and leave. And full means really full, including chickens and other animals sometimes. If you sit in the back, the entire bus must get off in case you want to go to the toilet for example.
What to do around Port Antonio
Port Antonio is the main city and can be used as a hub to visit the attractions.
The city has plenty of accommodation options available. Since you will arrive around lunch time in case you left early from Kingston, head to Boston Jerk Center and try a delicious Pork or Chicken with the Jamaican Jerk Spice.
To move around the best way is getting into shared taxis and vans, that will cost you between 100 and 150 Jamaican Dollars. They call them bus. You can spend your afternoon in Boston Beach and rent a surf board for about 10 USD. The beach has an entry fee of 200 Jamaican Dollars (less than 2 USD). On your second day, head to what might be one of the most beautiful lagoons on earth. The blue lagoon is a mixture of freshwater and salt water and has areas with different temperatures. The locals will try to sell you a boat tour but if you bring a dry bag you can swim with your stuff and visit all by yourself. If you really want the boat tour, ask them to bring to monkey island. There is a beautiful small pool with a swing few meters from the main entrance. You can easily spend the entire day there is the weather is great.
The third day in Port Antonio, visit Winifred Beach, a free and beautiful beach not that touristic.
Its possible to dive in Ocho Rios and Port Antonio.