Your Ultimate Kingston Travel Guide 2023
Welcome to Kingston, Jamaica! Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, Kingston has something for everyone. From its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture to its vibrant nightlife and unique attractions, Kingston is an ideal destination for anyone looking to explore and experience something new. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your time in Kingston. So get ready to explore the beauty and culture of this fascinating city! You may also want to check out our San Juan travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Kingston
- Visit The Bob Marley Museum: Bob Marley is an icon of reggae music and the Bob Marley Museum, located in his former home, offers visitors a glimpse into his life and legacy.
- Explore The National Gallery of Jamaica: This art museum is the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean and houses an impressive collection of Jamaican art.
- Walk Through Emancipation Park: This public park honors the country’s history of emancipation and features beautiful gardens, sculptures, and a jogging trail.
- Tour The Devon House Mansion: Built in the late 1800s, this mansion was once owned by Jamaica’s first black millionaire and now serves as a museum offering a glimpse into the island’s colonial history.
- Visit The Kingston Craft Market: Located in the heart of the city, this market offers a range of handcrafted goods, including clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. Visitors can browse the stalls and haggle with vendors for the best prices.
Where To Stay In Kingston
- New Kingston: New Kingston is the commercial and financial hub of Kingston, and it’s the best place to stay if you’re looking for upscale hotels, shopping malls, and entertainment options. It’s a safe and clean area with easy access to transportation, making it ideal for business travelers and tourists alike.
- Half-Way-Tree: Half-Way-Tree is a bustling neighborhood that’s known for its lively street markets, authentic Jamaican cuisine, and nightlife. It’s also a transportation hub with many bus and taxi routes, which makes it easy to get around the city. If you want to experience the real Jamaican culture, this is the neighborhood for you.
- Downtown Kingston: Downtown Kingston is the historic center of the city and is home to several iconic landmarks, including the Bob Marley Museum, the National Heroes Park, and the Kingston Waterfront. It’s a lively neighborhood with lots of street vendors, art galleries, and restaurants that serve traditional Jamaican dishes.
- Liguanea: Liguanea is an upscale residential neighborhood that’s known for its quiet atmosphere, beautiful parks, and proximity to the Blue Mountains. It’s a great neighborhood for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but still be close enough to the main attractions.
- Constant Spring: Constant Spring is a residential area that’s located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It’s a peaceful and scenic neighborhood with many green spaces and hiking trails. There are also many restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers in the area, making it a great place to stay if you want to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Jamaica.
Top Kingston Hotels
- The Spanish Court Hotel: Located in the heart of New Kingston, the Spanish Court Hotel offers a luxury experience with its modern design and amenities. The hotel features a rooftop pool, a spa, a fitness center, and two restaurants serving Jamaican and international cuisine.
- Terra Nova All Suite Hotel: This boutique hotel is set in a historic mansion and offers spacious suites with a private balcony or patio. The Terra Nova also has two restaurants, a bar, a pool, a spa, and a fitness center.
- Courtyard by Marriott Kingston: The Courtyard by Marriott Kingston is conveniently located in the financial district and offers comfortable and modern rooms. The hotel features a rooftop pool, a restaurant serving Jamaican and international cuisine, a bar, and a fitness center.
- Knutsford Court Hotel: The Knutsford Court Hotel is a great value option in the heart of New Kingston. The hotel has a pool, a restaurant serving Jamaican and international cuisine, a bar, and a fitness center.
- Pegasus Hotel Jamaica: The Pegasus Hotel Jamaica is a landmark hotel in Kingston with a rich history. The hotel offers spacious rooms, a pool, a fitness center, two restaurants, and a bar. The Pegasus is also home to the popular nightclub, Fiction Lounge.
Where To Eat In Kingston
Kingston is a haven for food lovers, with countless restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the city. From Michelin-starred fine dining to charming street-side cafes, there is something for everyone in Kingston. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Kingston:
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- Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant: Located on the waterfront, Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant is a must-visit spot for seafood lovers. The restaurant serves authentic Jamaican seafood dishes such as fried fish, lobster, and conch. Don’t forget to try their famous escoveitch fish!
- Sweetwood Jerk Joint: Jamaican cuisine is incomplete without jerk chicken, and Sweetwood Jerk Joint serves the best jerk chicken in Kingston. The chicken is cooked to perfection and is smothered in a delicious jerk sauce. The restaurant also offers other Jamaican dishes such as curry goat and oxtail.
- Devon House Bakery: Devon House Bakery is famous for its mouth-watering patties, a popular Jamaican snack. The bakery also offers Jamaican-style bread, pastries, and cakes. It’s the perfect spot for a quick snack or breakfast.
- Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records: Owned by the world-famous Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt, Tracks and Records is a sports bar and restaurant that offers a variety of Jamaican dishes and cocktails. The ambiance is lively and perfect for a night out with friends.
- The Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel: The Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel offers a fine dining experience in Kingston. The hotel’s restaurant serves a fusion of Caribbean and International cuisine, and the ambiance is elegant and sophisticated. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a special occasion.
How To Get Around Kingston
Getting around Kingston can be an adventure in itself, but there are several transportation options available to make your travels easier. Here are some of the best ways to get around Kingston:
- Public Transportation: The public transportation system in Kingston includes buses, minibusses, and taxis. Buses are the most common mode of transportation, and they operate on set routes. Minibusses are slightly smaller and more flexible than buses, but they tend to be more expensive. Taxis are also readily available, but they are the most expensive option.
- Car Rental: If you prefer to have more independence when exploring the city, renting a car might be the best option for you. There are several car rental agencies available, but keep in mind that driving in Kingston can be challenging, especially during peak traffic hours.
- Motorbike: If you are feeling adventurous and want to explore the city at your own pace, consider renting a motorbike. It’s a popular mode of transportation for locals and tourists alike, but it can be dangerous if you’re not familiar with the roads and traffic rules.
- Walking: Kingston is a relatively compact city, and many attractions are within walking distance of each other. If you’re comfortable walking, this could be a great way to save money and get some exercise while exploring the city.
- Bicycle: Renting a bicycle is another eco-friendly and affordable way to get around Kingston. You can explore at your own pace and get some exercise at the same time.
As the capital city of Jamaica, Kingston experiences tropical weather throughout the year. However, there are slight variations in the climate from season to season.
- Spring (March – May): The spring months in Kingston are characterized by warm temperatures, with an average high of 86°F (30°C) and a low of 75°F (24°C). It is also the driest time of the year, with only a few scattered showers.
- Summer (June – August): Summer in Kingston brings slightly hotter temperatures with an average high of 90°F (32°C) and a low of 78°F (26°C). This is the time of year when Jamaica experiences the most rainfall, particularly in the form of thunderstorms and occasional hurricanes.
- Fall (September – November): In the fall months, Kingston experiences more moderate temperatures with an average high of 89°F (32°C) and a low of 77°F (25°C). This season also brings some rainfall, although less than during the summer months.
- Winter (December – February): Winter in Kingston is slightly cooler, with an average high of 84°F (29°C) and a low of 72°F (22°C). It is also the driest time of year, with clear skies and low humidity.
Overall, Kingston’s climate is warm and tropical, with year-round temperatures ranging between 75°F (24°C) and 90°F (32°C). Visitors can expect plenty of sunshine and some rainfall, particularly during the summer months.
Best Time To Visit Kingston
The best time to visit Kingston, Jamaica is from December to April, as this is the dry season. The weather is sunny, warm, and perfect for exploring the city and taking part in outdoor activities. Temperatures average around 26-28°C during the day and dip to around 20-22°C at night, making for comfortable weather conditions.
While the summer months of May to August can be a good time to visit for those who want to avoid the crowds and enjoy cheaper travel costs, the rainy season can bring a lot of rain and humidity. September to November is the peak of the rainy season, and the humidity levels can be high. If you plan on visiting during this time, make sure to bring rain gear and be prepared for wet weather.
It’s also important to keep in mind that hurricane season runs from June to November, and there is always a risk of tropical storms and hurricanes in the region during this time. Make sure to keep an eye on weather forecasts and any travel advisories before planning your trip.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Kingston depends on your preferences and what you want to do during your trip. If you’re looking for sunny weather and outdoor activities, the dry season is your best bet. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and don’t mind the rain, the summer months can offer some great travel deals. Just be sure to stay up-to-date on weather conditions and travel advisories to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
How To Stay Safe In Kingston
Kingston is a bustling city with a rich culture and history. While it offers plenty of excitement, it’s important to prioritize your safety when traveling to the city. Here are some tips to help you stay safe during your trip to Kingston.
- Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: It’s important to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Stay alert and avoid walking alone at night, particularly in secluded areas.
- Stay In Safe Areas: When booking your accommodation, make sure you choose a safe neighborhood. Popular areas include New Kingston and Kingston 6, which are both safe and convenient for travelers.
- Use Reputable Taxis: When getting around Kingston, it’s best to use reputable taxis. You can ask your hotel to recommend a taxi service or use a ride-hailing app such as Uber.
- Avoid Wearing Flashy Jewelry Or Carrying Large Sums Of Cash: As with any major city, it’s best to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Leave expensive jewelry and large amounts of cash at your hotel and only take what you need for the day.
- Be Cautious Of Scams: Unfortunately, scams can be common in tourist areas. Be wary of people offering you unsolicited help or deals that seem too good to be true.
- Respect Local Customs And Laws: Jamaica has its own unique customs and laws, so it’s important to respect these during your trip. This includes avoiding drug use, as it’s illegal and can result in severe penalties.
By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to Kingston. As with any destination, it’s important to stay aware and take precautions to prioritize your safety.
Kingston Customs and Etiquette
When traveling to a new place, it’s always a good idea to learn about the local customs and etiquette. Kingston, Jamaica is no exception. Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting:
- Greetings: Jamaicans are generally friendly and welcoming, so it’s common to exchange greetings with strangers. The most common greeting is “hello” or “hi.” You may also hear “respect” or “bless up” which are used as a sign of acknowledgement and respect.
- Clothing: While Jamaica is known for its laid-back lifestyle, it’s important to dress appropriately when visiting Kingston. Revealing clothing is generally frowned upon, especially when visiting places of worship. Dress modestly, but also take into account the hot and humid weather.
- Language: Jamaicans speak English, but you may hear locals speaking Jamaican Patois, a Creole language with influences from African, Spanish, and other languages. It can be challenging to understand at first, but don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
- Respect: Jamaicans place a high value on respect. It’s important to show respect to elders, authority figures, and those in positions of power. Don’t use derogatory language or gestures, and try to avoid any confrontations or arguments.
- Tipping: Tipping is common in Kingston, especially in restaurants and bars. A gratuity of 10-15% is usually sufficient.
By respecting local customs and etiquette, you’ll not only avoid any potential misunderstandings, but you’ll also have a more enjoyable and immersive travel experience in Kingston.
Other Things To Know About Kingston
If you’re planning a trip to Kingston, there are a few things you should know about the city before you go. For starters, Kingston is the capital city of Jamaica, a beautiful Caribbean country that is famous for its stunning beaches, reggae music, and delicious cuisine.
The currency used in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (JMD), which is usually abbreviated as “J$” or “JA$”. While US dollars are also accepted in many places, it’s a good idea to have some Jamaican dollars on hand for smaller purchases.
The official language of Jamaica is English, but you’ll also hear Jamaican Patois, a Creole language that incorporates elements of English, Spanish, and West African languages. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help if you need it – Jamaicans are known for their friendly and welcoming nature.
When it comes to time zones, Kingston is in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) zone, which is the same as Montego Bay and New York City. If you’re coming from a different time zone, be sure to factor in any jet lag when planning your itinerary. Overall, Jamaica is a beautiful and fascinating country that offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation. By knowing a few key things about Kingston before you go, you can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Kingston Travel Costs
When it comes to planning your trip to Kingston, it’s important to keep in mind the various expenses that you may incur. Here’s a breakdown of some common travel costs to help you budget accordingly:
- Accommodation: Depending on the type of accommodation you’re looking for, prices in Kingston can vary. Hostels and budget hotels can range from $15 to $60 per night, while mid-range hotels may cost around $70 to $150 per night. For luxury accommodations, you can expect to pay $200 or more per night.
- Food And Drink: If you’re looking for affordable food options in Kingston, you’ll find plenty of street vendors selling local dishes like jerk chicken or rice and peas for around $3 to $5. Restaurants can vary in price, with mid-range options costing around $15 to $30 for a meal. If you want to splurge on a fancy meal, expect to pay upwards of $50 per person.
- Transportation: Taxis in Kingston can be relatively cheap, with prices ranging from $3 to $10 depending on the distance traveled. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, local buses and minibusses are available for around $1 to $2 per ride. Uber and other ride-sharing services are also available in Kingston.
- Activities: There are plenty of free or low-cost activities to enjoy in Kingston, such as exploring local markets, visiting museums, or taking a walking tour. Other activities like boat rides or admission to popular attractions like the Bob Marley Museum may cost around $15 to $20 per person.
Overall, traveling to Kingston can be relatively affordable, especially if you opt for budget-friendly accommodations and food options. It’s important to research and plan ahead to ensure that you have enough money for the activities and experiences that you’re interested in.
Finding Affordable Flights To Kingston
If you’re planning a trip to Kingston, Jamaica, finding affordable flights can be a challenge. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some helpful tips on how to score a good deal on your flights to this vibrant city.
- Use Flight Search Engines: Start by searching for flights to Kingston on popular flight search engines such as Kayak, Expedia, or Skyscanner. These websites will help you compare different airlines and prices to find the best deal.
- Be Flexible With Your Dates: Flights to Kingston can be more expensive during peak season, which is typically from December to April. Consider traveling during the off-season, which is from May to November, when prices may be more affordable.
- Book Early: The earlier you book your flight to Kingston, the better your chances are of getting a good deal. Try to book at least 3-4 months in advance to secure a lower price.
- Look For Deals And Discounts: Keep an eye out for deals and discounts on flights to Kingston. Airlines often offer special promotions during the off-season or holidays, so be sure to check their websites or sign up for their email newsletters to stay up-to-date on their latest offers.
- Fly With Budget Airlines: Consider flying with budget airlines such as Spirit Airlines, Frontier, or JetBlue, as they often offer lower prices than major airlines. However, be aware that these airlines may charge additional fees for checked baggage, seat selection, and other services.
By following these tips, you can save money on your flights to Kingston and enjoy more of what this vibrant city has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!
Backpacking Kingston Suggested Budgets
If you’re traveling on a budget, Kingston offers plenty of options to make your trip affordable without sacrificing quality. Here are some suggested budgets for backpackers traveling to Kingston:
Low Budget: $25-$40 per day
If you’re on a tight budget, you can still enjoy Kingston without breaking the bank. Staying in hostels and guesthouses can cost as little as $10-$20 per night, and street food and local markets offer inexpensive dining options. Take public transportation or walk to save on transportation costs.
Mid-Range Budget: $40-$75 per day
For those who want to indulge a bit more while still keeping an eye on expenses, mid-range options abound in Kingston. Expect to spend around $30-$50 on accommodation in a budget hotel or Airbnb, and sample some of the city’s fantastic local cuisine at mid-range restaurants. You can also opt for organized tours or excursions, which can range from $10-$30 per person.
Luxury Budget: $75+ per day
If you’re willing to splurge, Kingston offers a range of luxurious experiences, including upscale hotels, fine dining, and private tours. You can expect to spend upwards of $100 per night on accommodation, and enjoy high-end restaurants and cocktail bars. Private drivers and tour guides are also available for an added cost.
No matter your budget, Kingston is a vibrant and exciting destination that’s well worth a visit. By planning ahead and making smart choices, you can enjoy everything the city has to offer without breaking the bank.
Kingston Money Saving Tips
If you’re planning a trip to Kingston, Jamaica, you might be wondering how to save money while still experiencing everything this vibrant city has to offer. Here are some tips to help you stick to your budget:
- Stay In A Hostel Or Budget Hotel: There are plenty of affordable accommodations in Kingston, from budget hotels to backpacker hostels. These options will help you save money on your lodging so that you can spend more on experiences.
- Eat Like A Local: Instead of dining at fancy restaurants, try street food or local eateries in Kingston. You can save money and still have an authentic dining experience.
- Use Public Transportation: Taxis and private cars can be expensive in Kingston. Try using the public transportation system, including buses and the Knutsford Express, a luxury bus service that travels across Jamaica.
- Buy Local Products: If you’re looking to bring home souvenirs, try buying local products from markets and small shops. You’ll find unique and authentic gifts that won’t break the bank.
- Explore On Foot: Kingston has many interesting neighborhoods and sights that you can explore on foot. Walking is free and gives you a chance to get a real sense of the city.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to experience the best of Kingston while staying within your budget.
What To Pack For Kingston
Packing your luggage for Kingston largely depends on what time of the year you plan on visiting and what activities you have planned. Here are some essentials that you should consider bringing:
- Light Clothing: Kingston can get quite hot and humid, so pack light and breathable clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or linen.
- Comfortable Shoes: Make sure you have comfortable shoes for walking around the city, as some streets can be uneven.
- Sunscreen And Insect Repellent: Protect your skin from the sun and mosquitoes.
- Rain Gear: It can rain heavily in Kingston, so a rain jacket or umbrella is essential.
- Electrical Adapter: Jamaica uses type A and B electrical plugs, so bring an adapter if necessary.
- Travel Insurance: Make sure to get comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, lost luggage, and trip cancellation.
- Medications And Prescriptions: If you take prescription medication, make sure to bring enough for your entire trip, and keep them in their original packaging.
- Cash And Cards: Jamaica accepts US dollars and major credit cards, so bring both.
- Camera Or Phone With A Good Camera: Kingston has plenty of picturesque spots, so don’t forget to capture them!
- A Backpack Or Tote Bag: Carry all of your essentials in a sturdy bag.
Remember to pack light, as you don’t want to be lugging around a heavy suitcase while exploring Kingston. Keep in mind that you can always purchase some items locally, so don’t worry if you forget something.
Can You Drink Tap Water In Kingston?
No, it is not recommended to drink tap water in Kingston or anywhere in Jamaica. The water quality may not meet the standards of some travelers, and it is generally safer to stick to bottled or filtered water. However, you can use tap water for bathing, brushing your teeth, and washing dishes. Some hotels and accommodations may provide bottled water for their guests, but it is always better to double-check with them beforehand. Staying hydrated is essential, so make sure to stock up on water when you can.
Other Things To See And Do In Kingston
Kingston has a lot more to offer than just the top 5 tourist attractions. Here are some other things to see and do in the city:
- Visit Bob Marley Museum: Bob Marley is one of the most famous Jamaican musicians, and his former residence in Kingston has been turned into a museum. You can see his personal belongings, instruments, and even his recording studio.
- Emancipation Park: This public park is a great place to relax and unwind. There’s plenty of green space, walking trails, and a large fountain that lights up at night.
- National Gallery Of Jamaica: This art museum is the perfect place to explore Jamaican art and history. You’ll find an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artwork.
- Port Royal: This historic town is located just outside Kingston and was once the pirate capital of the Caribbean. You can take a guided tour of the old fort and learn about the town’s rich history.
- Devon House: This grand mansion was built in the 19th century and is now a popular tourist attraction. You can take a tour of the house, stroll through the beautiful gardens, and even try some of their famous ice cream.
- Hellshire Beach: This beautiful beach is located just outside Kingston and is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying some local seafood.
- Coronation Market: This bustling market is the perfect place to experience Jamaican culture and try some local food. You’ll find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to spices and souvenirs.
- Trench Town Culture Yard: This community was once home to Bob Marley and other famous Jamaican musicians. You can take a guided tour of the area and learn about the local culture and history.
With so many things to see and do in Kingston, you’ll never be bored during your stay. Don’t be afraid to explore and discover your own hidden gems in this vibrant city.
The Bottom Line
Kingston is a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage and a range of exciting experiences to offer. From its stunning natural beauty and vibrant nightlife to its museums, galleries, and restaurants, Kingston has something for everyone. While it is important to take safety precautions when traveling to any new destination, the locals in Kingston are friendly and welcoming, and visitors are sure to feel at home in this beautiful city.
Whether you are a solo traveler, a couple, or a family, there are plenty of affordable travel options to suit your budget. By following the tips and advice in this guide, you can plan the ultimate trip to Kingston and experience all that this vibrant city has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Start packing your bags and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in Kingston, Jamaica!