30 Tips on How to Drive in Jamaica as a Foreigner!
*Post updated on 7th January 2020*
If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, you may be considering renting or borrowing a vehicle to ‘Do Road’ and get out and about. To say that I have had some ‘experiences’ when doing this is an understatement!
Some of which have been part of the best fun I have had in Jamaica and others have had me at my wits end.
I have put together 30 Tips on How to Drive in Jamaica as a Foreigner! to make your driving experience memorable for all the right reasons…
30 Tips on How to Drive in Jamaica as a Foreigner!
When Driving in Jamaica – Do…
1 ) Drive on the LEFT hand side of the road. This is easy for people from the UK as it is same side as we drive on.
2) Carry your vehicle documents with you when driving anywhere. Driving Licence, Insurance Certificate, Fitness (MOT) Certificate and Log Book, should be carried with you if the Police stop you – Don’t forget to take the documents out of the vehicle overnight in case it is stolen.
3) If you rent a vehicle check the documents before you drive off. It is not uncommon for documents to be out of date and you then have a problem if the police stop you.
4) Check your vehicle before driving off. Ensure there is oil and water in the radiator and screen wash. Check the tyre’s are firm and you have a spare and the tools to change the tyre. Check the level of gas / petrol / diesel and be aware of where the nearest gas / petrol station is if running low. Check the location of the battery and if you need any tools to get access to it. Check the window wipers, lights and horn work – you will need them!
5) Ask the person you rent / borrow the vehicle from what type of fuel the vehicle takes, which side the fuel tank is on and where the lever is to open it. Your fuel will be pumped for you in Jamaica and will not have to leave your vehicle.
6) Wear your seatbelt. Okay I know it’s hot and uncomfortable, but it could be the difference between life and death in an accident. Plus, you WILL get stopped by the Police if they see you and you will get a fine.
7) Observe the speed limits. Some roads in Jamaica have deep corners and multiple blind corners, drive with caution! The Police set up ‘speed traps’ and will pull you over if you are exceeding the limit and you could get a fine.
8) Look out for road signs and do as they say! You will get a ticket if you park in a restricted area and could even be towed away.
9) Be aware as people overtake at high-speed and drive incredibly close to your vehicle.
10) Be aware of animals in, or near the road, especially in the country areas. If you see a young animal in, or near the road, it is often best to let it run to its mother before proceeding as they are flighty and could run into your path.
11) Blow Your Horn! Jamaicans expect it if overtaking (on a minor road) or coming round a blind corner. If a vehicle has pulled up right in front of you and you want to proceed, Blow Your Horn to let them know you are passing them.
12) Double check before over-taking. The drivers coming in the opposite direction also have plans to use the middle of the road as a new lane.
13) Visit a gas / petrol station if you are having problems with the vehicle as they not only pump the gas for you, they can also help with other basic problems and will wash the windscreen, they stock oils, fluids and so on.
14) Lock your vehicle doors and boot (trunk) of the vehicle when leaving it unattended.
15) Wave traffic past you when safe to do so on country roads. Route taxi’s (look for the distinctive red number plates), illegal taxi’s and local residents drive very fast on the country roads as they know EVERY twist, turn, corner, gully, pot-hole, cliff and tree they pass on the route. They have a tendency to drive right up behind your vehicle, so just let them pass. If you have the nerve and can drive reasonably close behind them they will guide your way through the maze of pot-holes as they know the road better than the back of their hand!
16) Look out for pot holes… some can swallow your car, whilst others could give you flat tyre / tire.
17) Address Police Officer with respect and be compliant. I highly recommend flagrant use of Sir, Miss, or Officer when conversing with them. It shows respect and that you do not consider them inferior to you, which often means they give you less hassle. Police ‘bribes’ or ‘extortion’ are much less frequent in Jamaica than when I first came here 10 years ago. It does still happen though. Extend caution offering or accepting bribes. If you are a female driver do not be surprised if the officers hit on you and ask for your phone number!
18) Drive defensively. Always expect the unexpected.
When Driving in Jamaica – Do Not…
19) Play ‘chicken’ with the oncoming traffic. Their nerve will invariably be better than yours!
20) Forget to Blow Your Horn! Jamaicans expect it if overtaking or coming round a blind corner. If a vehicle has pulled up right in front of you, BLOW YOUR HORN to let them know you are passing them. (I have written this in do’s and don’ts because it is very important!)
21) Drive wide around corners. There are huge trucks on the road and they do not always blow their horn to let you know they are approaching you do not want to meet them on the wrong side of the road. People riding on bicycles and motorbikes are also put at high risk through this practise and many are killed in this way.
22) Stop in a secluded place late at night , or drive alone (although I have done this without incident). Always try to travel with a passenger in case anything happens. If you are lost try to find a well-lit place, such as a gas / petrol station before stopping.
23) Drive whilst using a hand-held device, such as a phone, or tablet. Ask a passenger to be in control of the music too. Keep your eyes on the road at all times – it only takes a split second for things to change up ahead!
24) Set out late in the day if you have problems driving at night. The roads do not always have street lights or ‘cats eyes’ and the oncoming headlights can be blinding as everyone puts on their high beam to avoid potholes.
25) Set out on a new journey without a map / or map app, such as Google Maps (again, I have done this many times without incident) if you are not a confident driver. Have an idea of where you are going unless you are pretty easy-going and don’t have a destination per se. Most Jamaicans are very helpful if you are lost or having difficulties, but remember to address the person formally and calmly when you pull the vehicle to the side of the road. They will probably know how to reach at least the next town on the route, where you may have to repeat the process until you reach your destination. You will love the way some Jamaicans give directions!
26) Leave your vehicle engine running, or the keys in the vehicle when unattended.
27) Leave valuables on show in the vehicle when unattended, discreetly lock them in the boot / trunk or glove box.
28) Pick up strangers or hitch-hikers.
29) Panic if an oncoming vehicle flashes you twice in quick succession. It is generally to warn you that there is a Police Check Point or Speed Trap up ahead and not necessarily because you have done something wrong.
30) Park too near to the sea, beach or river, changing tides can come and go before you return to your vehicle.
I hope you enjoy driving in Jamaica. Be safe and get out there and ‘do road’!
Road Traffic Act Jamaica
Please note the Road Traffic Act in Jamaica, has finally been updated and revised ( in 2018, fully endorsed in 2019 ).
Take heed, as the new traffic act is MUCH more inline with international driving laws and the fines have been severely increased.
So no more driving without seatbelts, or questionable paperwork. You need to carry your driving licence at all times and motorbike riders must wear the appropriate headgear.
Ready to do Road?
Read More! How to Rent a Vehicle in Jamaica
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