A lot of visitors to Jamaica often remark about how the cost of hiring a legal cab to travel in Jamaica costs the same or even exceeds what they would pay back home; most people expect a developing country’s costs to be in line with living costs, therefore transportation should be cheaper.
There are of course cheap ways to travel around Jamaica via illegal taxis or route taxis which operate like mini buses collecting people along the way until they are full. These taxis do have some insurance, but not to the level of the charter taxis and tourism transportation companies. As we repeat to customers it is not worth taking the risk; your own travel insurance will not protect you if, as they all too do, accidents occur, and you are in effect riding illegally within a country.
Legal cabs within Jamaica do cost simply because it costs the owners of legal cab companies to provide them. The reasons for this are:
- Jamaica does not have its own car plants that produce cars on the island. Due to being a former British Colony the island drives on the left, therefore to drive as a legal cab company you must have a right hand car drive. This means that cars are imported from further afield than our nearest car-producing neighbours, the United States; rather they’re shipped from the UK & Japan which adds to the initial cost of the vehicles that are brought. In addition spare parts, tyres etc are all imported and are expensive. Costs to repair a vehicle are similar to the costs in Europe, it is just that the breakdown of the costs is different: in Jamaica the labour is the cheap component, the parts expensive.
- Purchased cars need to be sturdy to withstand Jamaican roads. Jamaica has some very good roads, it also has some very very bad roads. It is vital that cars that are purchased by cab companies can withstand the latter as they ferry guests safely around Jamaica. Taking guests up to certain areas in the Blue Mountains means that a 4×4 vehicle is needed and such luxuries cost in the initial outlay that cab companies must invest and recoup from their investment.
- Insurance premiums for cab companies that fully cover their vehicle, driver and passengers is expensive. Part of the reason for this is obviously that the bigger the car that is insured, if there was an accident, the bigger amount of damage that it too could inflict.
- Legal cab drivers in Jamaica must undertake an extra test of competence that is certified by the Ministry of Transport, they have additional vehicle certification costs and registration costs under the transportation regulations set down by the Ministry of Transport. In addition, operators who transport tourists must be licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board and pass rigorous quality control checks by the Tourism Product Development Company, another government organisation. Taxis are not metered but the basis on which they calculate their fares (per person which many visitors object to) is laid down by the Ministry of Transport. Naturally drivers that have comply with all of this and are fully insured are more expensive in regards to their salary than an illegal driver.
- Petrol: Jamaica does not produce its own gasoline, being an island all is imported from the US. Therefore it is more expensive than for example the price of gas in the US or Canada. In January the price per litre in Jamaica for petrol was JM$ 87, the equivalent of £0.60, €0.67, CA$ 1, US$ 0.98.
For the above reasons a cab in Jamaica may seem expensive, but it is still cheaper per kilometre than many of its Caribbean Island competitors and European destinations:
- Tegel Airport–Central Berlin | 6.4km | US$ 24.00 | US$ 3.75/km
- Heathrow Airport–St. Paul’s | 30km | US$ 89.15 | US$ 2.97/km
- Vigie Airport, Castries-Rodney Bay, St Lucia | 11.3km | US$ 25.00 |US$ 2.21/km
- Pindling Airport Nassau–Paradise Island, Nassau, The Bahamas | 16km | US$ 32.00 US$ 2.00/km
- JFK – Manhattan | 28km | US$ 45 | US$ 1.86/km (+ 15% tip = US$ 52.00)
- Kingston –Mocking Bird Hill | 100km | US$ 165.00 | US$ 1.65/km
- Paiarco Airport –Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago | 32km | US$ 20.00 | US$ 1.60/km
- Grantley Adams Airport–Bridgetown, Barbados |13km | US$ 18.00 | US$ 1.38/km
- Galeao Airport-Central Rio | 19.3km | US$21.75 | US$ 1.13/km
- Hong Kong Airport– Central Hong Kong | 40km US$ 45.00 | US$ 1.13/km
- Singapore Airport-Singapore | 20km | US$ 22.00 | US$ 1.10/km
- Hewanorra Airport-Rodney Bay, St Lucia |68km | US$ 75.00 |US$ 1.10/km
- Bangkok Airport-Central Bangkok | 35km | US$ 12.00 | US$0.34/km
Grateful thanks to Travelin Librarian & Mich Groff for use of JTB taxi license & Jamaican road imagery