Why go to Montego Bay?
After a day on the beach, visitors can snag souvenirs and tasty jerk chicken right at the terminal
Locals are pushy, crime is a concern, beaches are crowded and Dunn's River Falls is 90 minutes away
Take precautions, and go with the flow
Montego Bay Cruise Port Facilities?
There's not a whole lot to see or do at the port itself, save for browsing the usual smattering of shops selling touristy items like Tortuga rum cakes and Red Stripe Beer baseball hats, complete with bottle openers in the visors. There is a small, indoor tiki bar of sorts inside the airy but dated terminal building, just in case you can't be bothered to venture farther afield for a tropical drink, but it lacks atmosphere in a big way. The port does serve its purpose as a departure point for catching taxis into town, and there's a Jamaica Tourism Board kiosk inside, too, where you can get tour advice and area info.
Just outside of the official port complex, behind a chainlink fence, is a rather ramshackle shopping area called the Montego Freeport Shopping Center. It's little more than a collection of beachwear and souvenir shops and empty offices. There is one homey-looking restaurant, Swizzle's, which sells inexpensive jerk specialties; the crowds, however, seem to be mostly due to the fact that there's free wireless Internet with your food or beverage purchase. Though you'll find a few restaurants within about 10 minutes' walking distance of the port (including a juice bar and seafood restaurant), you're better off heading into town for the most options and atmosphere.
Good to Know?
While there aren't too many touts outside the terminal building itself, you're likely to be approached with offers for everything from tours and souvenirs to more illicit things in the town of MoBay itself. A firm "No, thank you," usually does the trick if you're not interested. Marijuana or ganja is smoked openly, but make no mistake: Drugs are illegal in Jamaica.
Mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies can be particularly brutal in Jamaica, due to its tropical climate. Be sure to use insect repellent frequently to avoid bites and potential illness. And don't forget the sunscreen, either.
Jamaica is known for its high crime rates, so be careful when carrying cash, purses or wallets, and leave any unnecessary valuables stowed in your in-cabin safe.
On foot: Downtown Montego Bay is a 20-minute walk from the cruise port along a two-lane road that's fairly busy with traffic. Unless the weather is cool and you're up for some exercise, definitely spring for a taxi instead. As long as you're walking in daylight hours, safety is not an issue.
Taxis: Taxis line up where you exit the terminal building, and all of the taxis arriving there are licensed JUTA (Jamaica Union of Travelers Association) vehicles. (Look for the stickers.) Touts will often try to beckon you hither (and off port property) from behind the chainlink fence of the external shopping area, but you're best off going with a licensed JUTA taxi departing from the port itself for haggle-free, set fares. The cost of a cab ride from the cruise port to downtown Montego Bay is $5, and if you get off anywhere along the way, you'll have to pay another $5 to get back into town with another taxi or back to the ship. Rates are listed inside the terminal for taxi fares to popular north coast destinations, too, such as Falmouth and Dunn's River Falls.
Shuttles: If you'd like the option to hit a few of the town's sites (the Market, the beach, the Hip Strip) throughout the day, it's worth buying a Hot Spots Shuttle pass, which allows you to get on and off an air-conditioned bus as much as you like throughout the day for a flat $15 fare. The shuttle departs from the cruise ship terminal, and tickets can be purchased inside the port.
Car rentals: There are no car rentals at the port, but you can take a taxi to Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport, where Hertz, Budget, Avis and several local companies are all represented. Expect to pay between $65 and $150 per day, and don't forget that Jamaicans drive on the left!
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The Jamaican dollar is the national currency, but U.S. dollars are readily accepted at most places, including all of the favorite haunts in Montego Bay. Be prepared: If you pay with U.S. dollars, your change might be returned to you in the local currency. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.
There is no ATM machine at the Montego Freeport port, but cash machines can be found throughout town. Several stops along the Hot Spots Shuttle have Scotiabank ATM's, including the Harbour Street Craft Market, the Yacht Club and the Hip Strip across from the Jamaica Bobsled Cafe.
English is widely spoken and understood in Jamaica. But, when the locals talk among themselves, it's with a colorful patois, based on English but with a thick accent and different vocabulary that makes it hard for new arrivals to understand.