A Guide to Sangster International Airport – Montego Bay
(*This Post has been updated; the original post ‘What you should know before you go…. Airports in Jamaica’ was posted on 14th August 2012)
This post will give you the lowdown on travelling to Jamaica by air and will give you a guide of what you can expect your experience to be like at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
If you are travelling to Jamaica you will probably be arriving by air on a charter, or long haul flight. Landing at one of Jamaica’s two International Airports, Norman Manley Airport in Kingston, or Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
The majority of holiday makers arrive at Montego Bay airport, whilst Kingston airport is more popular for business travellers and those that live in and around the capital city.
Arrivals to Montego Bay Airport
AKA: The Long Walk through Sangster International Airport – Montego Bay
On leaving the aircraft you will have to walk a L-O-N-G way through the air-conditioned airport with your hand luggage and duty-free before you reach immigration and the baggage collection area.
If you, or someone you are travelling with needs assistance there are lots of porters who will whizz you along to immigration in a wheelchair. Don’t be surprised to see DOZENS of porters waiting when you get off the aircraft!
To keep you occupied and to enlighten you on the long journey through the airport, there are various works of art giving an insight into the history and culture of the country, featuring some outstanding work from Jamaican school children.
If your hand luggage bag is heavy you may find something with wheels is easier to manage after a long flight. I recommend wearing flat comfortable shoes….
I can tell you from experience – DO NOT use this as a time to break in and show off new high heeled shoes, as it’s a very long walk and blisters are not a good look on the first day of your trip!
Parents may find that ‘trunkie’ type wheeled hand luggage is useful. As the children can scoot themselves along the corridor keeping them occupied and out of your tired arms.
Club MoBay VIP Airport Lounge
If you want to beat the crowds and not have to walk all through the airport, you can opt for the VIP treatment. Club MoBay is offered to passengers on arrival and departure into Sangster International Airport, Jamaica.
I won’t go into too much detail about Club MoBay here, as I have written a full review of my experience in another post. Read More…
Immigration Landing Cards to enter Jamaica
Non-residents of Jamaica will be handed an Immigration Card on the flight, which needs to be completely filled in and kept with your passport. Ready to be handed to the Immigration officials after landing.
Make sure you fill in both ‘sides’ of the form, which includes the return / leaving part as you will asked to step aside and fill it in before they let you join the line for Passport Control. The boxes on the form and very small so do not forget your reading glasses!
TOP TIP! Put a Black or Blue Ballpoint Pen (biro type) in your hand luggage.
Immigration Requirements at Montego Bay Airport
At the end of the long corridor leading from the aircraft, you will turn right and walk down a ramp where immigration officers will visually check that your Immigration Landing Card is fully filled in.
As mentioned before, you will be asked to step aside and fill it in before they allow you to join the Passport Control queue / line. So save yourself some time and do it on the flight!
I have always waited between 30 minutes to an hour, to get through Passport Control, as there are usually a high number of Officers checking your documents. But I have heard of people waiting in excess of this when several flights land at the same time.
When it is your turn to approach the next available immigration booth be prepared to answer questions about your trip!
Such as, the reason for your visit, where you are staying and with whom. You may also be asked (proof may be required) how you plan to support yourself on the trip if you are staying for an extended stay; this is because you need a visa to work, or stay in Jamaica for over 180 days.
You will be of particular interest to the Customs Officials if, a) you have a lot of Jamaican entry stamps in your passport, b) you are giving the address of a ‘private residence’ as your place of stay during your visit, c) you are visiting Jamaica for longer than 1 – 3 weeks.
Some travellers to Jamaica will require a Visa to gain entry. If in doubt you can check the Visa Requirements for Travel to Jamaica at the PICA (Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency) website.
Visitors to Jamaica may be required to present the following documents to the Immigration Officers:
- Valid Passport
- Immigration Form
- Relevant Visas
- Customs Declaration Form (where applicable)
- Return Tickets (very likely if you are staying for an extended trip)
Top Tip! If you are thinking about coming to Jamaica for an extended trip, read this post for more information on Entry Requirements for Visitors to Jamaica.
My Hand Luggage Recommendation!
After many journeys and a multitude of different hand-luggage bags, I have gone full circle and reinvested in a wheeled cabin-sized suitcase.
I tried a few different soft bags as they are lighter and generally give you a larger interior compartment to stow away things. But, I found a massive bruise formed on my hip and shoulder each time I travelled with a soft bag as you have to walk so far through the airport with it.
I have to say my new wheelie case is a revelation, I could of literally wept with joy the first time I used it! It is light, reasonably roomy and so easy to traverse through the airport with. Plus, I attach my handbag on the case with a little clip, so I don’t have to carry that either. Genius!
Baggage Collection at Montego Bay Airport
Once you leave Immigration you will come through to the Baggage Collection Area, where you will find (free) trolleys and the usual conveyor belt system.
If you do not see your luggage going around the conveyor belt, check the extreme far end of the room before panicking!
The Baggage Handlers at Montego Bay Airport take the luggage off the conveyor belt once they have been round a couple of times and line them up in rows.
This is helpful in some ways, but you may find that if your case is at the back it is time-consuming when trying to get to it. If you use a smile and are polite you can persuade one of the baggage handlers to retrieve it for you!
Customs Checkpoint at Montego Bay
When I first started travelling to Jamaica, the customs desk, right at the very end, was always the worst part of the journey for me.
Wondering if I could successfully wheel my trolley through the customs checkpoint, without being called over to one side for the dreaded bag search was always on my mind.
This is NOT because I am carrying anything illegal or immoral. But because it is a pain after a long journey to see your belongings pulled out when they have been packed so neatly. Plus, there is always the potential of having to pay tax on items you have already paid for, if the customs officials feel you have ‘taxable’ items.
I find that I am more likely to get pulled to one side as I am travelling as a lone female and I give a residential address as my ‘place of residence’ in Jamaica. Additionally, I generally have two pieces of luggage, plus hand luggage and a hand bag! Therefore, the customs staff (correctly) assume I will be carrying gifts or household items.
The Customs Declaration Form is easy to fill in and they will check what you claim to have in your luggage, before opening your bag and looking through it. The search usually only consists of a quick ‘dig and lift’ of the contents to see if you are stashing things you shouldn’t or have things that you haven’t mentioned on the form. But, be prepared to have the entire contents of your luggage removed and socks looked through!
DO NOT get too creative when filling out the form, if you are found to be lying you will be penalised!
Nowadays, as I always ship down ‘unaccompanied luggage’ to Jamaica, by means of a Shipping a Barrel, or three. Which means I HAVE to proceed to the customs search area…
C27 Form aka The Yellow Form
If you are travelling to Jamaica and have shipped down, ‘unaccompanied luggage’, such as a barrel, or crate you will need to proceed to the customs search area. Where you can take advance of a US$500.00 tax free allowance on unaccompanied luggage.
Inform the customs official that you need a C27 / Yellow Form. Fill out the declaration form and hand it back to them. The customs official will check the contents of your luggage against what you have declared, and will calculate the amount of tax it incurs.
The balance of the tax free allowance can be carried forward to the wharf, when clearing your unaccompanied luggage. For example, if the contents of your luggage at the airport attracted a US$100.00 fee, you would have the remaining US$400.00 to use at the wharf.
PLEASE NOTE: The yellow form is now computerised and you will NOT be handed a paper copy to carry to the wharf with you. On arrival at the wharf, ensure that you get processed through the ‘recently travelled’ line, so that your remaining allowance will be allocated to you.
Need More Information about Shipping (unaccompanied Luggage) to Jamaica? Read More…
Bringing Gifts into Jamaica
If you bring gifts for relatives and friends, or carry large amounts of the same types of items customs may decide to charge you TAX on the items you are bringing into Jamaica.
This also applies if they feel you are over your allowance, and / or, are carrying items which you are intending to sell, or have items that are of any value; such as name brand clothing and shoes, electrical items and so on.
If you obviously try to mis-quote or lie about the amount, value or type of goods on your Customs Declaration Form customs may decide to charge you TAX on the items you are bringing into Jamaica.
Please Note: If you do not accept the tax payable, you will be expected to leave your goods at the airport where they may be destroyed. Alternatively if they are of value, you can arrange for them to kept by customs and you can collect them on your way home (by arrangement ONLY) to avoid paying the tax on them.
More Information: Thinking of Shipping Belongings to Jamaica – Check out our Guides to Shipping to Jamaica
Jamaican ‘Red Cap Porters’
You cannot take the trolleys outside of the airport doors at Montego Bay Airport.
Once you go through the last Passport Control and through the doors you will be asked to leave the trolley in the lobby area. From here you will have to carry your own cases the last few feet outside to your transport, or have some change ready to tip a Red Cap Porter who will carry them for you.
They expect a minimum tip of US$1 per bag, despite the short journey to the parking lot and (hopefully) your smiling friends and loved ones will be there to greet you on time!
Departures at Montego Bay Airport
Woe the day that you find yourself joining the line of persons departing from Montego Bay. But, the inevitable must happen one day!
After the usual baggage drop off and security checks you will find yourself in the realms of the Sangster International Airport Departure Area. Where you will find a good selection of duty-free shopping, bars and dining options.
Check out the official (MBJ) Montego Bay Airport website for more information.
Although you will get good deals on duty-free items, such as alcohol, tobacco and perfumes, expect the souvenir shops and dining / drinking options to be very expensive.
If you want to avoid the crowds milling around the departure area, plus unlimited food and drink, try Club MoBay, VIP Airport Lounge…
Further Information About Travelling to Jamaica
We have plenty of guides about Travelling to Jamaica and Transportation in Jamaica, once you have arrived.
Travelling to Jamaica as a Solo Female ~ Guest Post by ‘Travel with Zoe’
Need Assistance with Airport Transfers or Trips in Jamaica?
Our sister company ‘Live In Jamaica’, offers assistance to returning residents, expats and anyone else that wants to enjoy Jamaica.
Want to explore the open road in Jamaica, but still not convinced about driving yourself?
We will arrange a reliable driver for you. Whether that be for airport transfers, collecting items from the wharf, the odd day trip, or for the duration of your vacation!
Contact ‘Live in Jamaica’ today! – Assistance with moving, living, shipping, construction, relocations, project management and more!
Get More From Sweet Jamaica
Want to get updates on the move then join us…
Keep the Conversation Going….
What is your experience of travelling to Jamaica?
How did you find the airline and airport experience?
Share your experience and join the Comments Below….