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Are Taxis Safe In Jamaica?

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Are Taxis Safe in Jamaica | Local Route TaxiAre Taxis Safe in Jamaica | Local Route Taxi

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

There are many ways to get around Jamaica, for tourists, it is usually the resort's complimentary transportation service, private rentals or private transport services. But for us locals, it is the route taxi system that works best for us.

We often take for granted how freely we are able to move around the island, but I do understand it can be a little daunting to travel around on your own in a new country. 

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But route taxis are not half as intimidating as you think. As our main mode of transportation, route taxis, operate on a specific route for a predetermined price. Pick-up and drop-offs are done at a specific location for each route to avoid confusion.

They are all regulated by the Transport Authority of Jamaica, which is responsible for setting the prices and notifying the country of fare increases.

You won’t see yellow taxis like in New York, taxis can vary both in model and colour. This is because each driver owns his own car and it isn’t on lease from a taxi company. So how do we differentiate between taxis and private vehicles?

What Do Jamaican Taxis Look Like

  1. Red Plate - The most identifiable mark is the red public passenger vehicle (PPV) license. Route taxi drivers are required to have a special license and insurance that covers all the passengers in the vehicle in case of accidents.

  2. Route Taxi Sign - The words Route Taxi is written on both front doors of the car. This is not in any particular colour as most taxi operators use it to express their creativity and it is usually a theme carried through to the interior of the car as well.

    The starting point and destination for example, “Mandeville - Kingston” should be written on both doors as well. Usually, if they are passing through another town on the route, they will have “via” that route written on it as well.

  3. Transport Authority Sticker - A transport authority sticker should be on the windshield.

  4. Yellow Taxi Globe - The bright yellow globe with the word TAXI written in bold black letters should be on the top of the vehicle or at least the dashboard. 
  5. Horizontal chequered pattern - A horizontal black and white chequered pattern of about 3 inches should be all around the middle of the car.

  6. Transport Authority ID - Each driver has a Transport Authority ID from which you should be able to identify the driver of the vehicle easily. It has an image of the driver and his correct name.

  7. Uniform - Each driver has a uniform which can either be a button-down or polo shirt (the colour doesn’t matter). The shirt however should have the Transport Authority badge on it.

It is important that you look out for these identifying marks on the vehicle and its driver, especially if you are travelling without a guide.  There are oftentimes what we call “robot taxis” (persons operating as taxis without the proper license).

More often than not they are genuinely just operating as taxis than trying to harm you. But, even if they are just operating a taxi, if there should be an accident, they will not have the proper license or insurance for you to be treated for your injuries.

You might be left footing the bills on your own. They can also be a little overzealous and might overcharge, but if I am honest, route taxis might do the very same, i.e overcharge you.

Tips For Taking Route Taxis

  • Ask a local about the fare. Even I do this at times if I am unsure what the trip will cost. If you aren’t aware of what the fare is, the driver might use the opportunity to charge a couple of dollars extra.

  • If you have a deadline, you are better off finding another mode of transport or leaving with more than enough time to get to your destination. Route taxis, while reliable, will not leave until they have a full load of passengers heading to their destination. If you hear the phrase “one and ready, two and drive” get comfortable, it is at least another 20 minutes.

    But these are the moments you really see Jamaica, there are peddlers in the park or at the stand selling nuts, patties, fruits, drinks, water or even soup or porridge depending on the time of day. One thing I can guarantee you is that there will be music playing somewhere.

    If you really are in a rush though, you can pay for the additional seats or ask for a charter, which are two different things. Paying for the seat means you will pay for the seats not yet filled and the driver will leave with however many passengers he/she has.

    A charter means you (or your group) will be the only person/s in the vehicle and this is considerably more expensive.

  • Carry Jamaican cash. When taking taxis, 50 and 100-dollar bills are important.

  • If your driver is honking a little more than you might be used to, don’t worry. Jamaican drivers honk for every reason. It is used to alert persons of their presence around a corner (if you have seen Jamaican corners, you’ll understand why), in traffic, potential dangers ahead (an accident or roadblock), for pleasantries between friends, to show gratitude and finally, to alert other passengers of traffic police officers are up ahead.

  • Larger towns will have official, clearly labelled bus stops or taxi stands but smaller routes may just have taxis parked at the unofficial taxi stand. This might be by a big tree, the most frequented shop in the square or just an empty lot of land that just evolved into a stop over time.

  • Buses will give you a ticket when you’ve paid since you pay before the bus leaves and there are way more people travelling on it. But in a car, you will pay when you get to the destination in most cases.

Since there are so many individual people taking a taxi, there will be multiple stops along the journey. Sometimes when you finally get to your stop, you are with a whole different set of individuals than when the trip began.

Just note that taxis are easier to navigate if you are travelling light, meaning not much luggage, not a large group and not many small children. The average taxi fits 7 passengers so be mindful of that. Also, Jamaican taxi drivers do push the envelope and are frequently overloaded.

But if you want to experience real Jamaica, this is the route to go. You might even get a travel story to share with your friends which will start like “I was in a taxi in Jamaica, and this lady beside me said…”

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Return to Jamaica Travel Guide from Are Taxis Safe In Jamaica?
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References & Sources For Are Taxis Safe In Jamaica?

  1. Getting Around Jamaica via Route Taxis - Road Affair, 
  2. Are taxis safe in Jamaica? - Celeberinfo,
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