Kingston – Jamaica’s capital and largest city – can also be referred to as the “Reggae Capital of the World.” It’s hard not to get into the groove when traveling to Kingston. Home to the Bob Marley Museum – not surprisingly the most visited attraction in Kingston – the city is flowing with culture and a Rastafarian vibe. Several other reggae legends hail from Kingston including Buju Banton and Sean Paul. Tourists booking flights to Kingston will find themselves immersed in the reggae influence.
Kingston is home to Devon House, a mansion with an adjoining park that once belonged to Jamaica's first black millionaire, the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the Hope Botanical Gardens & Zoo. Had enough of the city? Head to Kingston’s Hellshire and Lime Cay beaches. Downtown Kingston is slightly more dispiriting – reports of crime, congestion and general chaos are standard complaints of the area. One thing is for certain about Kingston – you’re bound to have a good time. Travelers booking Kingston flights and accommodations will find themselves among more bars and clubs than anywhere else in Jamaica.
With little seasonal variation in the weather, Jamaica is pleasant year-round. Kingston is in the dry part of the island and sees little rain. What rain it does get falls mostly between May and November. Summers are hot, with temperatures reaching the 90s (Fahrenheit). Winters are balmy with daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s, cool trade winds, and cool evenings.The hurricane season is June through October, but the storms rarely hit Jamaica.
Best Time to Fly to Kingston
Across the island, mid-December through mid-April is the peak season for visitors and also for Kingston flights and hotel rates. Reservations need to be made at least a couple months in advance, especially if you are booking Kingston flights for Carnival, which is March and April in Kingston.
May through mid-December is considered the off season, and most hotel rates drop from 20 to 40 percent. Package tours and flights to Kingston are also typically lower during the off season.
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Getting around Kingston
As long as you don’t walk around at night, it’s great to explore downtown Kingston by foot. Taxis are great for short distances, but it’s better to hire a car and driver for the day. Make sure you take only Public Passenger Vehicle (PPV) taxis, which can be identified by their red PPV plates. Either hail or call ahead for a cab. Drivers are required to have their fares posted. Make sure you agree on a fare before you get in the cab, and be aware that fares will be more expensive between midnight and 5am. Your hotel can help you arrange a moped and motorcycle rental if you prefer to get around on your own. You can rent a car to get around, but the cost can be high. You’ll usually get your best rate when you book your Kingston flight. It might be less expensive to hire a car and driver, instead of renting your own car, and you’ll be able to avoid dealing with local drivers.
Kingston Travel Information
- The Jamaican tourist board runs an excellent Meet the People program, which enables visitors to stay with Jamaican families and experience the genuine culture of the country. The program is especially good in Kingston – a city which can feel a touch intimidating to foreigners. Seeing the sights with locals is the best way to learn your way around, make sure you don’t miss out on anything, and also to stay in the safe areas.
- Though most beach lovers only pass through the city on their way to the resorts scattered about the island, there are plenty of beaches near to Kingston. Lime Cay is very popular as it is set on its own uninhabited island, with a pristine beach, all accessible within just 15 minutes from Port Royal. You can usually persuade a local fisherman to give you a lift there and back from the port.
- The Blue Mountains are a short drive outside Kingston. Visit the coffee plantations of Jamaican’s famous Blue Mountain coffee, take a hike through the forest, enjoy the views, or just come for some peace and quiet…
- To discover the history and culture of the town, take an “Olde Jamaica tour” – available through the tourist office. You’ll visit churches and museums, many dating back to the 17th-century, and learn the history of the town.
- Safety is an issue in Kingston – be prepared, but don’t let suspicions ruin your holiday. The town is divided into two parts, downtown and New Kingston. The latter is safe to walk round in the day, though keep your bag and any money close to you. At night, it can feel more dangerous. It is often safer to take a car. Downtown can feel very threatening to tourists at most times of the day and night. Usual precautions can help avoid most crime. If possible, visit the downtown area with a local.
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