Jamaica attracts people from all over the globe. Its beaches and comfortable atmosphere make it a dream destination for everyone from tourists to expatriates to some retirees. Due to how quickly currencies can appreciate and depreciate, calculating exact figures for the cost of living in Jamaica is difficult.

Living Expenses

As of the time of writing, one USD is worth $128.85 Jamaican Dollars (JMD). As an upper middle-income country, the island’s government has made many efforts to invest in and improve the living conditions of its people. One result of this investment is that buying certain foods (excluding milk) locally instead of importing them is the more economically sound option. However, everyday items such as toothpaste are more expensive on the island.

How much one should expect to pay for rent depends on location and size of the space. According to Expatistan, a site dedicated to helping expatriates by providing indexes of the costs of living around the world, renting a furnished 900-square-foot apartment can cost either $104,114 JMD ($814 USD) in an expensive neighborhood or $59,998 JMD ($469 USD) in a more average neighborhood. These prices drop considerably with a reduction in the size of the dwelling.

Living in a furnished 480-square-foot studio apartment goes for about $82,673 JMD ($646 USD) in an expensive neighborhood or $42,091 JMD ($329 USD) in a more average area. Additional utilities and amenities increase these totals, especially considering that Jamaica’s national minimum wage increased last March to $6,200 JMD per 40-hour work week and $8,854 JMD per week for Industrial Security Guards.


Primary school education in Jamaica is mandatory and free, although other schooling materials do add to the cost of living in Jamaica. Each September, a parent can expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $400 USD per child at the elementary-school level for books, uniforms and mandatory auxiliary fees. These fees allow schools to continue operating and making improvements. A child can be turned away if these charges are left unpaid.


If one is looking to retire in Jamaica, there are many factors to consider. These factors include housing, food, utilities, transportation and healthcare. Some services and appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers are uncommon due to import costs and there is not enough power to run them. In that same vein, a backup generator is a recommended investment.

Public transportation in Jamaica is not known to be the most punctual or comfortable. To get around this, having a car of one’s own is also recommended.

As for healthcare, the island’s clinics and hospitals provide their services for free, but they are also frequently described as unreliable. Kingston and Montego Bay are home to the best facilities on the island, so living there and taking out a proper health insurance policy covers quite a few bases.

Overall, Investopedia concluded that, given the cost of living in Jamaica, one could retire comfortably with a savings of $200,000 USD (approximately $25,668,730 JMD).

For those living on the island, the cost of life in Jamaica seems to be somewhat of a struggle to maintain, especially if many obligations need attention (such as children). However, that is not to say it is impossible. Perhaps if the minimum wage increases again like it did last year it will be easier for people to meet their needs.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Flickr

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, consisting of the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and housing a population of 937,700 people. It is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas and the fourth most populous country in the Caribbean.

Jamaica is a small developing country that is seeking to promote human rights, safeguard the rule of law and protect refugees facing persecution. Here are 10 quick facts about Jamaican refugees:

10 Facts About Jamaican Refugees

  1. Jamaica has a comprehensive refugee policy that addresses many factors for refugees.
  2. An asylum seeker has to be classified as a political refugee in order to qualify for refugee status in Jamaica.
  3. In 2015, a report released by the United Nations (U.N.) Refugee Agency showed that Jamaicans made 836 applications for asylum.
  4. Jamaicans are seeking asylum in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
  5. Jamaicans are the top asylum seekers in the Caribbean.
  6. There is no proper identity registration currently in place for Jamaican refugees.
  7. Lack of documentation of Jamaican refugees makes it hard for these refugees to have social and economic rights.
  8. Employers are not aware that Jamaican refugees do not need work permits to work in the country, which creates unnecessary unemployment.
  9. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has recommended that asylum-seekers and refugees should be provided with recognized identification cards.
  10. Currently, there are only 12 refugees from other countries in Jamaica.

Most Jamaican refugees are educated at the tertiary level in Jamaica, but have sought asylum for both economic and social opportunities. The loss of the country’s skill base of working professionals has had a tremendously negative impact on the productivity and education in the country, which are important factors that drive the Jamaican economy.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Jamaica
The Government of Jamaica has revealed that the series of dry weather that the country is experiencing will continue to affect the country. “That is a problem that is critical in Jamaica right now,” said Albert Gordon, director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation and chairman of the Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR).

The recent drought caused the National Water Commission (NWC) to take action by strategically shutting off water in certain areas during scheduled times. With disparities between urban and rural areas, water availability varies with each area, often revealing the country’s need of proper water storage facilities and distribution systems to improve accessibility and water quality in Jamaica.

Water Quality in Jamaica: Regional Assessment

  • Water in Rural Jamaica: Access to household running water remains something that most residents living in rural Jamaica have been without for most of their lives. The Minister of Water Robert Pickersgill expressed that some parishes are experiencing more severe signs of drought with as low as eight percent rainfall since May of 2016. Schools, particularly in rural Jamaica, that lack drinking water and hand washing facilities create high risks for children and staff to environmental health hazards.
  • Water in Urban Jamaica: Water storage levels at the Mona Reservoir have depleted significantly to 32.8 percent. This reservoir serves as a critical source of water for the island. In addition, water levels at the Hermitage Dam have depleted by 44.2 percent of its capacity. Individuals living in the outskirts of the urban area or in illegal settlements have little or no access to piped water supply. According to Gordon, the government of Jamaica needs assistance in tackling their current water issues. “There are things that need to be strengthened. We don’t have a water sector law that can facilitate more people coming in and providing alternatives to NWC (National Water Commission),” said Gordon. “How do we incentivise others to come in? Because NWC cannot do it.”

Government Involvement in Water Quality in Jamaica

Access to water will be one of the main issues discussed at the 14th Annual Conference Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) in Montego Bay set to happen Oct. 26 to 28. The conference will feature presentations from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the benefits of international water investments as well as the importance of public-private water partnership to improve water quality in Jamaica.

While there are no immediate plans to build additional dams or reservoirs, mitigation measures have been employed to assist southern farmers who have been most affected by the drought. Trucking via the Rapid Response Unit and through the National Irrigation Commission allows access to water by the gallon in these areas.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jamaica
With over 2 million stopover visits, the tropical island of Jamaica remains one of the most popular tourist vacation areas; renowned home of Reggae legend Bob Marley and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. However, within and around the outskirts of paradise lives the poor and those experiencing financial hardship.

Yet many remain oblivious to the existence of poverty in Jamaica. The poverty rate in Jamaica remains at 16.5 percent, after increasing in the past two years.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will be providing $50 million in support of the Jamaican Government’s efforts to help alleviate poverty. The IDB investment loan was initiated to support poor families who were beneficiaries of the Program of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

With the aim of alleviating poverty in Jamaica, PATH was put into effect by the government within its social safety net budget. The IDB’s project was put into place to provide financial and health stability for eligible beneficiaries of the PATH program such as children and pregnant women.

“The Integrated Support to Jamaica’s Social Protection Strategy project is a continuation of support by the IDB to the reform of Jamaica’s SSN,” said Therese Turner-Jones, IDB country representative for Jamaica said.

She noted that since 2000, in partnership with the World Bank, IDB is to achieve greater equity, efficiency and effectiveness. This included a previous investment loan in 2009 to reduce the life-threatening effects of the food price crisis on the most impoverished.

For two consecutive international financial crisis periods, the IDB has created scheduled loans against social spending as well as to protect against labor policies. Their efforts have promoted human capital and supported the networking of the poor into labor markets.

Turner-Jones outlined that the Integrated Support to Jamaica’s Social Protection Strategy project will help reduce the negative impact of fiscal adjustment on the poor.

The IDB loan for $50 million is set to continue for 25 years, with extended overtime of 5.5 years and an interest rate based on LIBOR.

The IDB has come on board to support the long-term development plan for Jamaica, Vision 2030 Jamaica, to reduce poverty by ensuring access to basic goods and services, responsive public policy, opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and social inclusion.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jamaica Poverty rate
Jamaica has struggled with poverty, unemployment and crime for the past half century, but the nation has recently seen ambitious government economic policies bear fruit. Discussed below are the leading facts about poverty in Jamaica and their implications.

8 Facts about Poverty in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica is not in extreme poverty and is regarded as a middle income country. For comparison, Jamaica has about 1/20th the GDP per capita of the United States, but a four-times-higher GDP per capita than the nearby country Haiti.
  2. Since the 1970s and 80s, Jamaica has experienced serious problems with poverty and unemployment. Through the 90s, unemployment remained around 15 percent, with poverty above 25 percent. The unemployment rate is currently 14 percent and poverty is 16 percent.
  3. A serious hindrance to Jamaica’s development has been slow rates of economic growth. In the past 30 years, Jamaica has had an average annual GDP growth rate of less than one percent. The slow growth rate is a major cause of persistent poverty in Jamaica.
  4. Relationships between Jamaican officials and crime groups cause widespread corruption, which results in many of Jamaica’s problems. The corruption not only hurts law abiding Jamaican citizens, but makes foreign investors far more hesitant to get involved in Jamaican industry.
  5. Public education in Jamaica is not entirely free. There is a registration fee and other school expenses that are not covered by the government. As a result, many of the nation’s most poor children are not able to attend school.
  6. Jamaica jumped 27 places in the 2015 Doing Business ranking, as the Jamaican government has improved its credit rating and decreased the national debt. It is hoped that the improved ranking will increase investment and alleviate poverty in Jamaica.
  7. The World Bank has a positive outlook for Jamaica’s economy, with forecasts of the country’s GDP growth rate climbing to over two percent in 2017.
  8. The Jamaican Government is currently working with the UNDP and the European Union to alleviate poverty on both a macro and micro level. Poverty alleviation and achievement of Millennium Development Goals remains a top priority for the Jamaican government.

Despite Jamaica’s history of poverty and some ongoing problems, economic forecasts for the country remain optimistic. It is possible that Jamaica will experience an economic resurgence and alleviate problems of unemployment and poverty in coming years.

John English

Photo: Pixabay

As of January 2014, Jamaica had an unemployment rate of 14.9%, which was a decrease from the 15.4% in December 2013.

Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley’s celebrity in the U.S. and openness about his use of marijuana has formed a reputation for Jamaica as being an island where marijuana use and sales are legal. Jamaica is in actuality a very conservative country that prohibits the use and distribution of marijuana.

The growth of marijuana crops, in fact, have steadily declined because of the war on drugs by the U.S. and other competitors, but this has not hindered American travelers from visiting Jamaica in hopes of experiencing the effects of marijuana that Bob Marley openly supported.

Regardless of the decline, Jamaica still has a vast supply of marijuana tourists from the U.S. and all over the world. Jamaica is still the lead smuggler of marijuana into the U.S., which brings a great deal of people into the country to buy weed and explore the cannabis culture in Jamaica.

Many growers are quickly learning that making money off of tourists is quite easy when it includes marijuana. Nine Mile, famous for being the hometown of Bob Marley, offers many different marijuana tours, each of which take relatively large groups of Americans, Germans and Russians through small marijuana farms.

These tours are also common in Negril, Jamaica, and are slowly adapting to become common in places such as Colorado and Washington state, where marijuana has become legalized.

With these tours, average-to-minimum waged locals are able to make a decent chunk of money by letting tourists explore their farms and sample their inventory, often leading many of the tourists to purchase their product.

One Jamaican marijuana farmer dubbed “Breezy” sells his bags of marijuana through the wall-hole of a museum, where marijuana tourists line up and smoke weed, usually just for the sheer novelty that Bob Marley smoked weed on the same island.

One tourist traveling from Minnesota stated, “I can get stronger stuff at home, but there’s something really special about smoking marijuana in Jamaica. I mean, this is the marijuana that inspired Bob Marley.”

The large amount of marijuana tourism that is illegally occurring in Jamaica begs the question of why it hasn’t been legalized.

Marijuana could prove to be a great benefit and a pillar for health tourists. One Jamaican scientist named Henry Lowe, who was a partner in developing a marijuana-based glaucoma treatment, believes that legalizing marijuana could bring in even more tourism than there already is.

By legalizing marijuana, attention and money is estimated to be pulled from gangs and arresting large criminal parties and be refocused on other important matters, such as creating official jobs for those living below the poverty line and helping lower class growers gain a larger following. Overall, the island would benefit and reap massive economic gain by legalizing marijuana and freeing up money.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Trading Economics, The Guardian, Telegraph
Photo: High Times Caribbean