Since the electronic revolution began, thousands of Jamaicans -- especially those in the tourist industry charged with the transport of visitors and supplies -- rely on cellphones for maintaining contact with their central headquarters, often many times during the course of an average work day.
You'll certainly find purveyors of cellphones on-site, but a bit of advance research will help smooth the way, and if the cellphone you use on a daily basis at home, or even your laptop computer, is calibrated correctly, you might be able to save money through advance arrangements with your present mobile carrier or (insofar as SKYPE calls funneled through your laptop) your Internet carrier.
We advise contacting your present cellphone carrier to see if cellphone coverage is available, sometimes for an additional fee, in Jamaica.
If it isn't, a local company with a good reputation for clarity of sound in at least the densely populated regions of the country (Kingston and the tourist resorts of the north coast) is Cellular Abroad (tel. 800/287-5072; www.cellularabroad.com). For between 1- and 7-day rental of a cellphone, you'll pay US$59 for the phone rental, plus an additional US$69 for a pre-paid SIM card. This provides you with a local cellphone number, free incoming calls, voicemail, text messaging, and outgoing usage to your pre-paid limit.
Jamaica is part of the GSM system. You can therefore use your own phone if it is of the AT&T or T-mobile variety; if it is world capable (quad band, or dual band international), and if it can be "unlocked" to accept any SIM card from any carrier. GSM phones have a SIM card slot, which lets you put the rangeRoamer SIM card in it. Only about 4% of Verizon or Sprint phones work well in Jamaica.
To solve any cellphone problem, you can hook up with rangeRoamer (www.rangeroamer.com), which provides short-term cellphone service for visitors to the island. You can buy, rent, or use your own cellphone in Jamaica. rangeRoamer allows you to select a prepaid SIM or a postpaid SIM card. The rangeRoamer solution will automatically find and link you to the strongest cellular network available in Jamaica, where the reception is almost always good unless you're traveling in such areas as the Blue Mountains. Under the rangeRoamer plan, calls from Jamaica to the United States carry a 69¢-a-minute surcharge.
As a rough indication of pricing, outgoing calls to the U.S. cost between US$17 and US$29 per minute, depending on the time of day. Per minute rates to most worldwide destinations are around US$30 at all times of the day or night. Although there are some hotels still charging 40% surcharges, the Jamaican phone system has been upgraded in most places and rates for most calls to the United States generally cost US$3 to US$5 per minute (that's US dollars). Of course, a prudent guest at a hotel will inquire about surcharges before placing calls. Check-in is a good time to ask.
Internet & E-Mail
Wi-Fi or Internet access increases in Jamaica every year, as technology improves. However, all first class hotels and deluxe resorts have Wi-Fi or Internet access. Prices are given for Wi-Fi or Internet access under the individual hotel listings. In addition, you'll find at least one cyber cafe in each of the major resorts. Cyber Up, 7 Mile Beach (next to Alfred's) in Negril (tel. 876/957-4731), is open from 10am to midnight; Jerkin@Taj Internet Café, Taj Mahal Centre in Ocho Rios (tel. 876/974-7438), is open 9am to 10pm; and Internet Zone, 47 Gloucester Ave., White Sands, Montego Bay (tel. 876/940-7843), is open 9am to midnight. The price range is from $6 to $7.50 per hour.
All major airports in Jamaica also have Wi-Fi or Internet access. Chances are your departure will be at the international airport at Montego Bay. There is Internet service available for about $6 per hour at Business & Play, an E-island kiosk in the Departure Lobby (tel. 876/940-0977). If you're arriving at this airport, you'll have to wait to connect with the Internet at your hotel.
Calls dialed from a private home or with a cellphone to any point within Jamaica don't require any special prefixes, regardless of the distance involved. Only the local seven-digit Jamaican number is necessary. Calls made from within your hotel room, regardless of their final destination, will require the use of whatever prefix the hotel has assigned. Round Hill, for example, requires dialing a "9" for access to an outside line.
A minor exception to the above-stated rule: If you're dialing from any phone in Jamaica to any MOBILE phone in Jamaica, you'll have to precede the seven digits with a "1."
How can you recognize a number associated with a mobile, as opposed to a "land line" phone in Jamaica? The first three digits of any seven-digit Jamaican phone number associated with DIGICELL are 367 or 850. The first three digits of any seven-digit Jamaican phone number associated with LIME are 323 or 770.
To call the United States or Canada from any phone in Jamaica, dial "1" then the area code, then the seven-digit US or Canadian phone number. Many hotels will require preceding that with a "9" as a means of connecting to an outside line.
To call the UK, Australia, or New Zealand from any phone in Jamaica, dial "011" and then the country code, and then the local phone number within that country. The country code for the UK is "44," the country code for Australia is "61," and the country code for New Zealand is "64." Many hotels will require preceding these configurations with a "9" as a means of connecting to an outside line.
To reach directory assistance within Jamaica, dial 114.
There are a diminishing importance and visibility of pay phones and even phones that accept phone cards, on the streets of Jamaican cities. The understanding is that increasing numbers of Jamaicans maintain their own cellphones, in many cases as the primary lines connecting, say, a family to the outside world. Because of this, there are virtually no "coin-operated" pay phones left in Jamaica, with the exception of a handful of public phones operated by U.S. coins (not Jamaican coins). These are almost exclusively within the Montego Bay and Kingston Airports.
As regards "phone cards," the newest permutation of this is the very popular "Just Talk" phone cards. Sold at kiosks, newsstands, and in all kinds of stores, including most pharmacies, they're sold in denominations of J$100; J$200, and J$500. They are NOT designed to be inserted into a slot in any public phone. Instead, users of these cards follow a set of instructions whereby each card's individual codes are punched into the phone's keypad (within a private home, on a cellphone, in any of the increasingly rare public phones, or within a hotel room). Note: All hotels invariably tack a $3 surcharge onto any call made with a "Just Talk" card. This $3 surcharge makes "Just Talk" cards a lot less appealing for hotel guests.
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.