Jamaica has its own dollar, far less valuable than the U.S. dollar. In all exchanges, determine which dollar unit is being quoted in the price. Otherwise, it's possible you could get cheated -- badly -- in a financial transaction.
Rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.
All the major resorts and first-class restaurants quote prices in U.S. dollars, so many visitors can go through their entire trip without the bother of converting their currency into Jamaican dollars. But it's still prudent to carry some Jamaican dollars: For some transactions, such as a drink of coconut water from a roadside vendor, prices are only quoted in Jamaican dollars.
If you have Jamaican dollars left over at the end of your trip, you'll need to show exchange receipts from a bank or other official bureau for the local dollars you purchased. This is a rather cumbersome process. Exchange only the amount of Jamaican money you think you'll actually need.
You can live in Jamaica on US$50 a day or US$1,000 a day. It's up to you. In general, costs are lower than in urban cities in the United States and a lot lower than London and continental cities such as Paris or Rome. Guests usually book into hotels, especially all-inclusives, on package deals, which considerably cut costs. Restaurants charging more than US$30 for a meal are considered expensive by Jamaican standards. Many native restaurants, catering to a local clientele, charge less than US$15 for a complete dinner.
Note: Prices in this guide quoted in Jamaican dollars are for general guidance. The Jamaican dollar sometimes fluctuates wildly. In general, it has been in a long decline against the Yankee dollar since the early 1990s.
All Jamaican cities and most large towns on the island have banks with a foreign exchange bureau. If you're heading into the remote countryside, make sure you have solved your cash problem before setting out. Banks give far better exchange rates than your hotel will.
Because of inadequate ATMs, traveler's checks are still a popular means of currency to take to Jamaica. They are widely accepted, but you should always inquire about the fee before cashing them. Sometimes there's a high surcharge, which can vary from place to place.
Relying on ATMs is a bit risky in Jamaica. Most banks in cities such as Kingston and Montego Bay have 24-hour ATMs in secure booths. You are, however, given Jamaican dollars -- not U.S. dollars -- at these machines. Always try to use ATMs during regular business hours. There are frequent muggings of visitors who use ATMs at night in Jamaica.
Be aware that many Frommer's readers have written to describe their frustration with the island's ATMs. It's best to ask your local bank how effective your ATM card will be in Jamaica before you depart. Failing all else, we've found that branches of Scotiabank work best with North American ATM cards.
Beware of hidden credit-card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country -- even if those charges were made in U.S. dollars. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.
The unit of currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar, with the same symbol as the U.S. dollar, "$." There is no fixed rate of exchange for the Jamaican dollar; it is traded publicly and is subject to market fluctuations.
Visitors to Jamaica can pay for any goods in U.S. dollars, but be careful. Always insist on knowing whether a price is quoted in Jamaican or U.S. dollars.
In this guide we quote some prices in both Jamaican and U.S. dollars, though for the most part U.S. dollars are listed alone because the Jamaican dollar tends to fluctuate. U.S. dollar values give a better indication of costs. Prices given in Jamaican dollars are indicated by "J$"; all other prices are in U.S. dollars.
There are Bank of Jamaica exchange bureaus at both international airports (Montego Bay and Kingston), at cruise ship piers, and in most hotels. Also, there is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can bring into or out of Jamaica.
Finally, whenever you leave your hotel, take along some small bills and coins. They will come in handy, as tips are generally expected for even the smallest service.
What Things Cost in Jamaica (Montego Bay) US$
Average taxi ride 2.00
Double room at Half Moon Resort (very expensive) 400.00
Double room at Richmond Hill (moderate) 115.00
Double room at Gloriana (inexpensive) 65.00
Lunch for one (without wine) at Day-O Plantation Restaurant
Lunch for one (without wine) at the Native Restaurant
Dinner for one (without wine) at Horizons (expensive) 60.00
Dinner for one (without wine) at the Houseboat Grill
Dinner for one (without wine) at Glistening Waters
Bottle of Red Stripe beer 2.00
A rum punch at a bar 5.00
Admission to Doctor's Cave Beach 5.00
18 holes of golf at Half Moon 130.00
Admission to AquaSol Theme Park 5.00
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.