AirBnB Jamaica – What you need to know before you decide to book

AirBnB Jamaica – Everything You Need to Know Before You Book

Thinking about renting an AirBnB in Jamaica for your next vacation? You’re not alone. More and more people are making the switch from hotels to AirBnBs for a more private and personalized experience. But before you make the leap, there are a few key things you might want to consider. Here’s all you need to know about AirBnB Jamaica: safety, where to find one, and how to pick the best one for your group. When AirBnB started, it took the world like a storm and turned the travel industry upside down. Jamaica was no different. Even with the popularity of all-inclusive resorts, more and more villas and vacation rentals entered the marketplace. Before you scratch the itch to travel to Jamaica, get answers to the top questions that people ask, or should ask, about booking an AirBnB in Jamaica in a post-Coronavirus world.
Jamaica vacation rental
AirBnB Jamaica … merging vacations with experiences

Table of Contents

The Airbnb Jamaica scene …

Are there AirbnbS in Jamaica? Yes! The Airbnb Jamaica scene is thriving thanks to an agreement between Airbnb and Jamaica in 2016 and another in 2017. With over 6000 active Airbnb listings, Jamaica was one of, if not the, largest market in the Caribbean. Read on to find out the most common questions that people ask about renting an AirBnB in Jamaica.

What is an AirBnB villa?

AirBnB is a listing site, like VRBO or TripAdvisor, or, on which homes are available for short-term rental. For some reason, AirBnB is now such a part of popular culture that has become both a noun and a verb. A term we are now hearing is an “AirBnB villa”. The bottom line is that whether you call it an AirBnB, an AirBnB villa, a villa, a vacation rental, or a holiday home, we are talking about the same thing – a property that is available for rent on a short term basis.

Airbnb Jamaica- Is it legal?

Airbnb is legal in Jamaica but, currently, the vast majority of offerings technically are “illegal” or unregistered rentals. This is probably true in most cities where Airbnb is present, so that’s not unusual. To offer a tourism product in Jamaica, the property is supposed to have a license issued by the Jamaica Tourist Board through the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo). This is the company that inspects properties and sees to it that they are operating at an appropriate standard. The process is a bit of an undertaking to go through, but, having gone through it, I must say that it has its merits. The process of getting licensed is very involved, in terms of time, cost and resources. Many Mom and Pop locations simply cannot meet their standards and will continue to be “illegal” rentals as long as they are able to participate.. The required insurance premiums alone, not to mention the various required fees and taxes, will cost more than what many locations will make off of Airbnb rentals in the short term. This means that certified properties tend to be more committed to being in the market long term, not just testing the waters or offering vacation experiences of variable levels of quality. Read our blog post about the value of renting a licensed villa in Jamaica to see why you should choose a licensed property.

Does the AirBnB in Jamaica that you are renting have a safety plan?

There isn’t much talk about COVID any more; but, it’s still a thing! All properties must have a plan in place for keeping both staff and guests safe from Corona virus. This is not to time to be looking for cheap deals. You need a place that is safe and committed to staff training and cleanliness. Read our blog post to learn about Mais Oui Villa’s Stay Safe Program.
Hand sanitizer - Mais Oui Villa Jamaica COVID-19 Stay Safe Program
Mais Oui Villa Jamaica COVID-19 Stay Safe Program

Airbnb Jamaica – Why luxury is not guaranteed

Currently, most of the properties on Airbnb Jamaica are budget properties if they come without full staff. This is true even if they have the word “luxury” in the description.
A 5-star rating on AirBnB does not mean that it is a 5-star property
Luxury is relative. What you want as a traveler is to know what to anticipate for your hard-earned travel dollar. Put simply – Jamaica is more expensive than say Mexico or the Dominican Republic. So, cheap places in Jamaica almost always equal cheap product. If you are just looking for clean sheets and running water, that’s fine. Be sure that you and your host have similar expectations.
Don’t expect 4 or 5-star accommodations for 1 or 2-star pricing. That is a recipe for disappointment.
Read our blog post about why you shouldn’t rent a cheap villa in Jamaica. Higher-end places are popping up with great frequency on Jamaica AirBnB listings, widening the range of options on the market.

Can you book an AirBnB Luxe or AirBnB Plus in Jamaica?

AirBnB Luxe and AirBnB Plus are AirBnB’s effort to enter the luxury market. AirBnB Luxe is available in Jamaica with relatively few properties listed. AirBnB Plus is still only available in a few areas of the world and has not yet been rolled out in Jamaica. (If you search for AirBnB Plus Jamaica, you actually get the main AirBnB website.) The Luxe properties have their own website and are also on the regular listing. The main differentiator is price. Higher-priced properties, in general, will be more likely to be in true “luxury” category. Typically, these homes are large, beachfront or near the beach, with full staff, and amenities to match. These homes also have names that you can easily find on a simple Google search.

Jamaica AirBnB or Resort – Should you pick an AirBnB or a hotel for your Jamaica vacation?

Good question. The answer to this question will depend on your needs and budget. If, for example, you have two families traveling together, you might want to consider a staffed vacation home. On the other hand, if it’s only one or two people going, a hotel might make more sense. Read this article to help you to pick the best option for you: 12 Questions to See if You are the Jamaica villa rental or the hotel type.

Can you rent an all-inclusive AirBnB in Jamaica?

There are very few villas in Jamaica that offer an all-inclusive option as the only choice. Some villas have a meal plan which can be added onto the cost of the villa rental to create what would be considered an all inclusive package. As opposed to all-inclusive hotels, the all inclusive option at villas is intended to raise the level of service and to offer more convenience for the guests as opposed to creating a budget experience. Read our blog post: Embracing Freedom: Why You Don’t Need an All-Inclusive Villa in Jamaica for a Memorable Vacation

Is it safe to book an AirBnB in Jamaica?

A few unfortunate incidents involving AirBnBs around the world have been reported. To reduce your risk of a scam, read this article: 19 Ways to Stay Clear of Vacation Rental Scams. Since no one can guarantee safety, the best advice is to choose vetted AirBnBs, properties that are licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board. Read the reviews. Pay attention to your interaction with the owners. Ask questions about potential safety concerns such as the presence of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Read this article on the value of renting a licensed villa in Jamaica.

In which area should you book your AirBnB in Jamaica?

“Airbnb Ocho Rios” or “AirBnB Montego Bay” might be top searches on Google; but, don’t forget that there are six main tourist areas in Jamaica from which to choose. Each area has a different vibe which should be considered when you decide where to stay. Read our article entitled How the Heck Am I to Decide Where to Stay in Jamaica. In the era of COVID, you might find some of the less crowded tourist areas more attractive options for keeping safe. Download our FREE Jamaica Travel Guide to learn more about vacationing in the Discovery Bay area.
Jamaica vacation insider guide

5 Things to Pay Attention To Before You Book an Airbnb in Jamaica

1.  Is the villa staffed or not staffed?

Traditionally, villas in Jamaica come staffed, usually with at least a cook and a gardener. With the introduction of Airbnb in Jamaica, some villas have used the model of AirBnB and or VRBO in the US where there is no regular staff services provided during the stay but a crew cleans the property upon guest departure or as needed. A private chef might be able to be hired as needed. Make sure you understand what type of property you are booking. Do you want to have to clean up after yourself? Do you want to cook? Or, do you want the luxury and peace of mind of a fully staffed Airbnb villa in Jamaica? Additionally, you must pay attention to these 4 other considerations:

2.  Pictures

At the time of this writing, Airbnb hasn’t been sending out photographers to people’s homes in Jamaica so the pictures that you are likely to see for most properties photos provided by the owners. Professional photography is generally seen only among the more serious hosts. Make sure you like what you see and that the pictures are current.

3. Reviews

For those properties that have reviews, make sure the reviews sound legit and not written by family or friends. Hint:  Google is your friend. Most homes in Jamaica have names. Google the names of the property and or the location(s) you are considering for your vacation. If you can’t find the name, Google the images since many properties use the same pictures on different listing sites. You might even find the property’s website which would be a major score! Look them up on Facebook. Read their reviews there and elsewhere. If a property has no reviews, definitely ask for references. Read this blog post to learn 13 Simple Ways Vacation Rental Reviews Can Help You Pick Great Rentals

4.  Location

Get detailed information about the location. The local experience is great but you need to know where you are going. What attractions are nearby? Ask about safety features of the property and the area. And don’t just be satisfied with “Everything will be ok, mon.” Get specifics.

5.  Answers to Your Questions

Airbnb Jamaica, like many of the online listing sites, doesn’t allow you to talk directly to the owner or the person who maintains the listing for fear AirBnB will be cut out of their referral revenue. To ensure their profits, this is their business model. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help you because it is a barrier between you finding out as much as possible before you book. The Airbnb listings really do not provide a lot of information. Since you have to make the decision to book based on a relatively small amount of information, make sure you ask questions. Don’t just ask questions about the property. Vet the host as well. Pay attention to the quality of the answers to your questions when you communicate through the Airbnb platform. Make sure you are definitely satisfied.

What’s Great about Sites like Airbnb Jamaica?

Airbnb became the best way for locals to get involved in the tourism movement. In the process, they quickly amassed a large number of active properties on their site. As a result, sites like Airbnb are a great way to become familiar with available properties in Jamaica. Their large advertising dollars allow them to show up on the first few pages of Google and other search engines. Individual properties struggle to have an online presence. They simply do not have the funds to compete with giants like Airbnb.

Is There a Drawback to Booking on AirBnB Jamaica?

The answer to this question depends on your perspective. While Airbnb Jamaica is great for finding properties that you might not otherwise find on your own, all is not necessarily a bed of roses. If you are looking to rent a villa or a high-end product, pay attention. You might be better off booking direct. Why?
  1. Save money
Airbnb charges the guests a fee. It is a fee that AirBnB adds on to the cost of the booking as a booking or service fee. This service fee can suddenly make affordable properties seem unaffordable. From AirBnB’s own website: “When a reservation is confirmed, we charge guests a service fee between 5% and 15% of the reservation subtotal. Guests see this fee on the checkout page before they book a reservation.” This fee is often a source of confusion for guests when they book. Be aware that this fee is not charged by the owner. It is the fee that AirBnB charges you to book through their site. If you think Airbnb is the only one charging guests a service fee, guess again. VRBO, TripAdvisor, and FlipKey all do the same thing. As a result, many villa vacation rental owners, property managers, and even hotels are part of the movement to educate guests about the value of booking direct. The first BookDirect Guest Education Day was February 7, 2017. Just search on Twitter for #bookdirect. Let’s do a little experiment. To book Mais Oui Villa at full occupancy for a week at 2024 rates, can you guess what the service fee is on Airbnb? A whopping $US2520.01 on top of the cost of the villa. Ouch! Airbnb service fee - Book direct to save at your Discovery Bay Jamaica villa rental And this has nothing to do with taxes or the tip for the staff, which should be 10-15% of the cost of the rental depending on the season. Think of what you could do with an extra US$2520 in Jamaica. Let’s see … You could pay the airfare for a few extra persons to come with you (depending on where you are flying from) … You have stayed an extra night … could have hired a private van and driver service for more days … You could have gone on a private yacht charter … You could have shrimp and lobster more often … You would have that much more towards the gratuities for the staff at the end of the stay (Talk about staying local!) So, the best rate is available from the owner simply because there is no additional booking fee.
  1. Communicate with the owner or property manager directly
If you are coming to Jamaica with a group, you have to be more discerning with your choice of lodging than if you are coming by yourself or as a couple. Remember, you have to pick a home that will please the whole group – a  potentially daunting task! You need to ask questions to make sure that the property you choose is best suited for your group – before you book. Sure, you can ask questions by email but it’s not the same as speaking to a person. There is a certain amount of trust that is necessary between both parties, whether renter or host, and that is best developed with a good old-fashioned conversation. The goal here is to achieve the elusive balance between getting what you pay for and getting what you’re after with an Airbnb experience. The listings on Airbnb contains limited information about the properties. As a result, you are expected to make a decision to book with limited information. Many owners have more detailed information to share; however, they can’t, because that would violate AirBnB’s rules.

Are there alternatives to AirBnb? How do you find AirBnB villas in Jamaica?

There are several alternatives to AirBnB such as VRBO, Trip Advisor/FlipKey,, and Expedia. These online travel agents all charge a service fee which can add several hundred of dollars to the cost of your AirBnb. There are commission-based villa rental agencies that promote tens to hundreds of listings. There is no service fee to you but the fee for the owners is steep. You can also rent direct from the owner, the way it was done in the good old days. Google the name of the house and find their website. Send them an email or give them a call. See the vibe you get. If you are comfortable, book direct. Read this blog post: The Alternative to Airbnb that Savy Travelers Know. There are many Airbnbs in Jamaica with private pool available, especially if you are looking at properties in the tourist areas on the more Northern side of the island, between Negril and Port Antonio. This is where the filters on Airbnb and the other listing sites are helpful. You can search for the amenities that are most important to you. Make sure you read the description for any villa that you choose. Many private Airbnbs or villas in Jamaica have their own private pool; however, some gated communities have a communal pool. Be sure that the pool in the listing is private!

How do you find a Jamaica AirBnB with chef or staff?

No worries. The process to find a staffed villa is the same as described above. Since unstaffed villas are also listed on AirBnB, the key is to read the listing carefully to make sure that that property is staffed, and staffed to the level that you desire. At a minimum, staffed villas in Jamaica come with a cook or chef, housekeeper, and groundsman. The more higher-end properties have butlers, laundresses, and other staff.

Are you expected to tip the staff at AirBnB villas in Jamaica?

Absolutely. The staff is an integral part of the villa experience and tipping of the staff is an expectation. Read this article – The Stressfree Guide to Tipping at Jamaica Villas and Vacation Rentals.
Mais Oui Villa vacation

So, what’s the Real Deal About Airbnb Jamaica?

Know what is entailed with booking through sites like Airbnb. The fees charged are not excessive if they provide you with the peace of mind you are after by booking through this sort of listing site. For a low-end and low priced property, the fees on AirBnB are not that high and chances are you will not be able to find that listing elsewhere on the internet. Airbnb might give you some added security with your payment. This is important to many folks. For higher-end properties, vacation rentals or villas, chances are you will find the owner’s website or the property manager’s website as well as blogs and social media accounts. You will be able to find past reviews. You will now have access to a lot more information to make sure you are renting a legitimate property. You can book through Airbnb, if you so choose, or simply book direct from the owner safely, save on fees, and plan your custom villa vacation with the assistance of the owner! Shameless plug … For those who want an experience that marries privacy, luxury, high-touch personalized service, unparalleled amenities, and sustainability, look no further than our 8-bedroom staffed villa, Mais Oui, the perfect choice for family vacations and celebrations. So, if you have a special occasion coming up in the next year – a major birthday, graduation, or anniversary or for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or whatever the occasion, get your family and or friends together and come visit us at Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. We’d be happy to host your group. Mais Oui provides one of the best family vacations someone can ask for. We just got home from a 7 night stay at Mais Oui and the owners and staff exceeded all of our expectations. Sherry and Darrel made sure every part of our trip was covered and that we would feel comfortable and safe at their home. The staff is top notch. Adam S. Adam S.Google review This experience will never be forgotten. The photos of the grounds do not do it justice, it is better in person. The staff really did go above and beyond in every area. Thomas P. Thomas P.Google Review Previous Next If you want to book us on Airbnb, click here for the link. If you want to book direct, click here. Either way, we’d love to have you. Mais Oui Villa in Jamaica side view - ‘Til next time. Think and dream Jamaica! Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals. Visit our website: Give us a call: 833.624.7684 (toll free) or 914.709.0457 Like us on Facebook: Follow us on Pinterest: Follow us on Instagram: @MakeItJamaica Subscribe to our YouTube channel:

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!