What to Pack in a Barrel being Shipped to Jamaica

(post updated July 2022)

If you are feeling confused and hot under the collar about what to pack in the barrel you are shipping to Jamaica you have come to the right place.

This post gives you a guide as to what to pack in a barrel being shipped to Jamaica so you get the most out of the experience and the cost involved in shipping.

What to Pack in a Food Barrel for Shipping To Jamaica

Before you go ahead and buy your barrel you will need to think about filling it up. A standard-sized barrel holds 210 – 220 liters (about 55 Gallons) and is surprisingly roomy inside, consuming innumerable items to fill it up.

Depending on what you buy,  it can be costly to fill up a barrel due to the internal capacity. So either take your time buying up items over a period of months or get yourself prepared for the onslaught if buying it all in one go.

If you are stuck as to what to put in the barrel, think about who the recipient will be. Are you sending the barrel to yourself, or to a loved one?

For example, is the barrel going to a child, an adult with a young family, or are you sending it to granny? This will help you determine the type of things you are going to want to initially include as the essential or basic items.

If you want to pack a barrel with provisions, just think about what you or the recipient normally eat and use inside the home.  After that, buy some things that will be useful.

For good measure add some of your favorite treats and a few bits to give away, plus anything else that is expensive and hard to come by in Jamaica.

That might be easier said than done, especially if you haven’t been to Jamaica for a while (or ever before), as it can be hard to know ‘what is expensive and hard to come by in Jamaica’ if you have no experience of living there! So keep reading and I will cover that for you too.

More Information: If you are ready to start packing your barrel, read How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica

10 Tips On Buying Contents To Fill a Barrel

  1. If you are on a budget try buying goods over a period of time, especially when they are on offer
  2. Check the sell-by-date and reach for the products with the longest remaining date printed on the label
  3. Look out for deals, sales, promotions, coupons, buy-one-get-one-free, 3 for 2 deals, and special offers
  4. Check out bargain basement stores, such as £1 – One pound, and $1 – One dollar stores
  5. Join warehouse stores, such as Costco or Makro, and buy bulk-sized portion packs
  6. Compare the prices of products online before going out and buying everything from one store
  7. Make use of supermarket home delivery, you are less likely to deviate from your list if you buy online
  8. Look for products packaged in plastic containers, rather than glass, as they travel better and require less padding
  9. Second-hand clothing attracts less tax, eCommerce sites, such as eBay has sellers offering ‘bulk loads or bundles’ of clothing, many barely worn, for next to nothing
  10. Remember the climate is different, unstable goods rot and melt, man-made materials have a tendency to suffer from dry rot, and un-coated metal products are soon affected by rust
tinned cans

Shipping Barrel Content Ideas and Tips

The most important thing to remember is to only pack ‘shelf stable’ products, so don’t pack anything that requires refrigeration.

Think of it as the contents of a pantry, so buy up stocks of kitchen and home basics that have a long sell-by-date and which form part of a meal.

Household items, school supplies, first aid medication, and hurricane preparation goods are well received, as well as clothes and accessories.

12 Ideas For Filling a Shipping Barrel 

  1. Dried foodstuffs; rice, dried pasta, dried beans/legumes, noodles, couscous, tea bags, hot and cold drink powders (with milk and sugar inside!), biscuits, snacks, breakfast cereal, cornmeal, popping corn, dried seasoning, protein powders, and health foods
  2. Tinned foodstuffs; fish, meat, baked beans, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit/desserts, condensed milk, (Jamaicans aren’t usually fans of tinned soup)
  3. Jars / bottled foodstuffs; cooking oil, peanut butter, spreads, sauces, condiments, jams (jelly), coffee, olives, pickles
  4. Detergents and Cleaning materials; washing detergent for clothes, washing up liquid, bleach, cloths, sponges, pot scrubbers, and other cleaning materials
  5. Kitchen essentials; foil, plastic wrap, food bags, food clips
  6. Toiletries; soap, liquid soap/shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, body lotion, face cream, deodorant, razors, face scrub/wash, suntan lotion, cotton wool / Earbuds (Q-tips)
  7. First Aid; antiseptic cream, plasters (band-aid) bandages, tape, pain pills, allergy relief, muscle rub, vitamins, flu / cold remedies, insect repellent, bite relief, rehydration salts, diarrhea, and sickness relief
  8. Kitchen wares; pots/pans, dishes, cups, cutlery, utensils,  mason jars and similar, Tupperware /plastic airtight containers
  9. Soft Furnishings; bed sheets, blankets and covers, shower curtains, towels, bath mats, tea towels
  10. Household Items; washing line, clothes peg (pin), sewing kit, clothes hangers, shoelaces
  11. School Supplies; a backpack, pencil case, pens and pencils, geometry set, dictionary, colored pencils, notebooks, sketch pad, craft supplies, embroidery supplies, reading books, educational aids, snacks
  12. Hurricane Supplies; tarpaulin, rope, flashlight, candles, rain mac/poncho, umbrella, water boots (wellington boots), batteries, counter-top gas plate (DO NOT include the GAS cylinder!!), vessels to hold water

5 Things Not To Pack In A Shipping Barrel

  1. Do not pack any perishable items, such as meat, cheese, fish, dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, seeds, Or, freshly prepared products, or partially cooked foods, such as bread and baked goods, microwave and oven meals, pizza and pastry items, or fast food of any kind (although most fast food could survive a nuclear holocaust the number of preservatives they contain!)
  2. Do not pack guns, ammunition, matches, lighters, gas cylinders (of any kind), fireworks, wet batteries (vehicle batteries), Or, any item that is flammable, explosive, corrosive items or dangerous in any way!
  3. Do not pack any forms of live animals; including birds (including eggs) / insects/sea life/reptiles, or other organisms,
  4. Do not pack any money, real or counterfeit, Or, valuable items such as jewelry or stamps
  5. Do not pack any scamming, divination, or cult material of any kind

Things That Are Expensive And Hard To Find In Jamaica

I would like to say that most things are available in Jamaica, but certain items are really overpriced or hard to find, especially if you live in rural areas. There also seems to be a lack of variety when buying household items in Jamaica, especially if you are used to finding something totally unique and to your taste.

These are some of the top items I stock up on overseas when I’m filling a shipping barrel for Jamaica:

International Foods:

If you are into eating international foods and like to whip up your own meals, it would be prudent to include a few grocery items that make this possible.

I enjoy cooking Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Italian Foods, among other things. So I always pack basmati rice, authentic Thai Curry pastes, dry seasonings and herbs, tins of bamboo shoots, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, packet mixes, condiments, stock cubes, dried beans and legumes, olive oil, super-food powders, protein powders/supplements, clean living foods, and other similar products.

Point of Note! Most of these items are much more expensive than overseas and (cooking) oil of any kind is super expensive in Jamaica.

Pharmaceutical and First-Aid Supplies: 

Pharmacists in Jamaica must get paid great commission from the manufacturers, because they invariably recommend and prescribe the most expensive brands, instead of showing you the generic non-branded options. The cost of the simplest items will make you consider if you really need them.

I would highly recommend packing yourself a box of first-aid items, as outlined in the list above so you aren’t caught out when in a mini-crisis.

Homewares and Soft Furnishings:

The majority of items made from fabric are either cheap imported Chinese goods or expensive international versions. One towel can cost almost the same as a ‘bale of towels’ overseas, you could buy two or more bed-sets or blankets for the same price as one, curtains and nets are in a similar position.

Pots, pans, cutlery, and utensils, in fact, all kitchen supplies, there is one word to describe the price of them in Jamaica… Expensive!

Hurricane Supplies:

All and sundry on the list above is expensive in Jamaica.

School Supplies:

You can get cheap pens and pencils in Jamaica, in stores like Bashco, but the rest of the items are pricey.


When you can buy nearly everything on the list above in a pound or dollar store, it seems rude not to bring them with you! Or you can expect to pay 2 to 4 times that price in Jamaica for the same item if they stock your usual brand. There are cheaper brands available in Jamaica if you’re not fussy about what products you use.

Clothes et all:

Whilst a barrel full of clothes and accessories is going to cost you more tax, a few choice items will make someone’s day. Despite Jamaica’s tropical location, the weather is changeable throughout the year, hot and overbearing,  rainy and humid, chilly and wet. So don’t just pack shorts, flip-flops, and swimsuits!

Anything different, or from overseas is revered in Jamaica and that includes random things like snow boots, which I have seen a couple of people wearing since the ‘winter’ kicked in over here!… I would recommend something a bit more practical though!

First Aid Kit

What Items are Prohibited or Restricted by Jamaican Customs for Personal Shipping?

Some items are prohibited and restricted from entering Jamaica, so don’t assume because you own it, or it is legal in your own country that it will be allowable in Jamaica. There are laws, rules, and guidance about what items are prohibited from entering Jamaica.

The Jamaican Customs website states that Prohibited Items include:

Prohibited items are absolutely forbidden from entering Jamaica, some of which include:

  • Indecent and obscene prints
  • Indecent and obscene prints, paintings, photographs, cinematograph films, lithographs, engravings, books, cards or written communications or any indecent or obscene articles whether similar to the above or not and any parcels, packages, or packets having thereon, or on the cover thereof, any words, marks or designs which are grossly offensive or of an indecent or obscene character.
  • Coin-base or counterfeit coin of any country

The following and similar publications:

1. All publications of de Laurence Scott and Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism, or supernatural arts.

2. All publications of the Red Star Publishing Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism, or supernatural arts.

Some meats, fish, dairy produce, seeds, sugar, and other items are also restricted.

More Information: Jamaican Customs website on Restricted and Prohibited Items

More Information On Shipping A Barrel To Jamaica

As I have 10 years of experience personally clearing barrels myself, I know it can be intimidating the first time you arrange to do it for yourself, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you do a little research on all the stages. Check out these informative posts on all things shipping!

  1. What Are Barrels: Brief history of shipping barrels, what they are, and where to buy them
  2. What to Pack in a Barrel: This post is all about what to pack in your shipping barrel
  3. How To Pack A Barrel: The best method of packing a barrel
  4. How To Ship a Barrel: How to find a shipping agent and arrange to ship a barrel to Jamaica
  5. How To Clear A Barrel: Learn how to clear a barrel in Jamaica