Getting through the Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica as Quickly as Possible

How to Get Through the Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica as Quickly as Possible

You are excited about your trip. Your ticket is booked for the Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica, airport code MBJ.

You can’t wait to get to where you are staying and kick your shoes off. But first, you’ll need to get through immigration and customs at the airport without any hiccups.

What happens on arrival in Jamaica to keep everyone safe from COVID-19

Temperature is checked. Hand sanitizer is given. Masks are mandatory.

Here are the things about landing at the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that no one will think to tell you ahead of time …

Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Welcome to Jamaica!

Cell phone use at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica

Jamaica has very strict use about cell phone use when landing and in the airport
  • When you are landing in Jamaica, cell phones have to be all the way off. Unlike in the US, they cannot be in airplane mode.
  • You can use your cell phone once the aircraft has landed and you are on your way to immigration. Once you get to immigration, cell phones may not be used until after you have cleared customs.

Filling out the Jamaica immigration form

The Immigration and Customs form is available online here. The airlines still distribute the paper version.

Here are some key points to help you fill to fill out the form properly.

  • Read the definitive blog post on the topics entitled “Top Mistakes in Filling Out the Jamaica Immigration and Customs Form”. 
  • Carry a black or blue pen with you as the immigration form may only be filled out with one of those two colors.
  • The front of the form is the Immigration Form. The back of the form is the customs form.
  • Each person, including children, will need a properly completed immigration form. If you want to be asked to leave the line and let others go ahead of you, have the form incomplete or do not have one for your child.
  • Only one person per family living in the same house, the “head of household” needs to complete the back of the form for customs.
  • You must know the address at which you will be staying otherwise they will hassle you. Our villa has had situations where Immigration has called to verify that we have guests arriving. If you are staying at a hotel it is a little easier because you could just say the name of the hotel and the town. Usually, that is good enough.
  • Double-check your form to make sure you filled it out properly. They won’t let you stand at the immigration desk to make corrections. You have to step aside to keep the line flowing.

Peak travel times at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica

  • The five busiest months for arrivals at Montego Bay’s airport are March, June, July, August, and December, with July being especially busy. This makes sense as it coincides with many holidays, including school holidays. September, October, and November see the fewest number of arrivals every year. Hint, those are great months to snag deals!
  • The busiest time of day with flight arrivals is between 11am and 2pm. See airplane arrival times here.
  • Many flights arrive within minutes of each other. Again, having your form properly completed is very helpful in keeping the lines moving. Supposedly, the facility is designed to process 500 people an hour. I cannot attest to that fact but so claims the facility.
  • If you have a group traveling together, especially if some are coming in on separate flights, and you don’t mind spending about $US50 each, consider using Club MoBay. They meet you on arrival and help you through immigration and customs. Plus, you get a nice place to relax with TV, internet, and free snacks until everyone in your group arrives before heading off to your driver. You must book the service at least 48 hours prior to travel to be accommodated.

Distance from the airplane to Immigration at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica


There are several gates, but for most, it is a long walk from the airplane to immigration. Keep this in mind if you have physical disabilities.

There is an elevator, should that be necessary; however, that is at almost the end of the long walk. And, of course, they have wheelchair service, should you need it. Make sure this is booked with the airline ahead of time to avoid delays.

Bathrooms at the Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica

  • There are bathrooms before you join the line to go through immigration. Most people don’t know that so they are almost always empty and clean! 
  • The bathrooms in the waiting area outside of customs are similar to the ones before the immigration area. They have an adequate number of stalls and are usually clean.

Kiosk versus immigration line

There are about 10 kiosks in the immigration area; but, I still can’t figure out who gets to use them. I have been given different answers. Most recently, I was told that only people arriving on flights capable of transmitting the passenger information to the kiosks ahead of time are given access to the kiosks. It seems that people traveling with minors do not get to use the kiosks at all.

Baggage Claim

  • Unlike some other airports, you get to use luggage carts for free!
  • Sometimes the baggage handlers take the suitcases off the carousel and put them to the side to make room for all the luggage from the airplanes that are landing. So, look among those bags before you assume your bags are lost.
  • Make sure you have luggage tags that are easily identifiable so that you can spot your bags easily. Nothing is worse than searching through hundreds of black suitcases looking for your black bag that only has the name tag that you had filled out at the airline counter.


Don’t pack pests, please. Respect Jamaican laws.
  • There are three types of lines in customs: Nothing to Declare, Passengers with goods to declare, and Special passengers, which is generally for wheelchair passengers and unaccompanied minors.
  • Tourists usually use the “Nothing to Declare” lines. These lines are longer but move quickly.
  • The lines for “Items to be Declared” are always shorter (fewer people) but they are for people who actually have things to declare. These are people who have checked “Yes” to Items 11B-15 on their Immigration form. Usually, these are Jamaican residents who have goods purchased abroad that exceed their US$500 duty-free limit. Depending on who the customs officer is, he or she has the right to send you back over to the “Nothing to Declare” line if they think you are merely joining the line to get ahead of everybody else.
  • Don’t pack a pest. All agriculture items must be declared.
  • Pets are also not allowed.

Currency Exchange

Jamaican money. Photo credit D. Looney

The official currency is the Jamaican dollar but it is the US dollar that is most desired!

The Bank of Jamaica sets the official exchange rate for foreign currency. There is a range that is then seen on the market based on those rates.

Always check the Bank of Jamaica’s website to see the most current exchange rates.

Note that if you are exchanging foreign currency, such as US dollars, for Jamaican dollars, you need to look at the selling price. If you are exchanging Jamaican dollars for foreign currency, you need to look at the purchase or buying rate. It’s confusing and comes into play if you need to convert Jamaican dollars back to US dollars upon departure.

There are foreign exchange services just after immigration before you get to baggage claim. The more you exchange the better the rate. The question to ask yourself is why would I, as a tourist, want a lot of Jamaican dollars instead of US dollars when the hotels and tour operators have their prices in US dollars. The answer lies in how much you will be living like a local.

I have never exchanged money at the airport. I get much better rates at the local cambio.


  • Luggage carts may not go outside. They are allowed as far as the reception area outside of customs.
  • You are free to carry your own bags; however, there are porters just outside of the customs area to help you take your bags outside for a fee of US$1 per bag. They seem to have some sort of organized rotation system that they use to offer assistance.

Ground Transportation at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica

  • The reception area outside of customs has hotel lounges, tour operators, and car rental agencies. Every second person will be asking you if you want a ride. To prevent confusion and for peace of mind, make sure to make transportation arrangements prior to your arrival. It is a wonderful feeling to arrive knowing that someone who you can trust is waiting for you at the airport. Plus in this era of Coronavirus, you want to make sure you choose a provider who takes steps to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
  • Social distancing is expected in public transportation. This means that if you are traveling with people who are not from your household, you can expect seating with reduced capacity.

Hopefully, these tips will take the stress off arriving at Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica. The process is actually quite easy, whether or not you use Club MoBay.

Expect that it will take longer to get through the airport given the Coronavirus pandemic; however, with everything I have told you, you should be able to get through customs and immigration as quickly as possible and then be off to a great vacation.

If you are staying at Mais Oui, your driver will be waiting to transport you to the villa in a well-maintained, comfortable, air-conditioned bus, the perfect setting to get a little rest after several hours of traveling.

Do you have any suggestions that I missed? Send me a note or write a comment.

If you are traveling as a group, consider a stay at a villa. Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay is an 8BR boutique Jamaica villa that is perfect for families and groups. Amenities galore. Great central location to allow you to explore all that Jamaica has to offer. We are about 45-50 minutes from the Montego Bay airport – close enough so you don’t have a tiring drive home but far enough to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city of Montey Bay.

‘Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!


Considering a visit to Jamaica? 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.

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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!

22 Responses

  1. hey! me again! I’m wondering if you’ve ever had an issue bringing your phone/electronics through customs? I have an iPhone and I’ve been reading forums that say you can’t bring anything over $500US into the country. Does this include cell phones? If so, what should I do? I need my phone to contact my family once we arrive. Does this mean I say yes I have item over $500US on the form and then I go to a different line? Do they confiscate the items? Do you pay duties on them? No one seems to know the answers to my questions..hopefully you can help! thanks 🙂

    1. Hi there,
      Jamaican customs officials will not bother you about items for your personal use such as your cell phone, laptop or ipad. There is no need to declare these items.
      Think and dream Jamaica.

  2. I go yearly to Jamaica, this year, American Airlines gave us the wrong form, the entire plane had to fill out new forms…..there were only 2 different things on the form….what a pain!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Joan. Annoying right? It is not uncommon for them to give the wrong info on the airplane. Sometimes they say children don’t need their own forms. Or they say it is one form per family. I just cringe when I hear that. I correct the people around me who half the time prefer to listen to the agent. Half the time I want to ask them if they didn’t read my article before coming ha ha! And yes, as you probably know, the immigration officials are extremely strict about the info on those forms. Actually, I am updating that post as well to include the new form

  3. I have to bring some prescription medications that I take daily, how do I pack them and what do I need?

    1. Hi Judy,
      Thanks for commenting.
      As long as your medicines are for your personal use, there is nothing to worry about. Keep them in the original prescription bottle bearing your name. All medicine should be in your hand luggage. That way, if you unfortunately lose your luggage you will have your medicines with you!

  4. My daughter is getting married at Ocho Rios Beaches, and I am packing welcome bag goodies for the 40 guest that are coming. Small tubes of sunscreen, aloe Vera gel, ibuprofen, “Emergency vitamin C” packets and such. Is there anything I need to know before going thru customs. I do need to declare them, correct? Is there a $ amount not to exceed?

    1. I also want to add, that my daughter and future son in law will have bridal party gifts in their luggage. jewelry and day packs. No need to declare them?

      1. Your daughter and future son in law would each have the US$500 duty-free exemption. Plus those “gifts” are not staying in Jamaica. The bridal party will be taking those gifts home with them.

  5. I’m diabetic and use a insulin pump. Do I have to declare that? I also have syringes for my insulin in case my pump stops working for some reason. Just want to know if I’m going to have any issues going through customs with all my diabetes supplies while coming for vacation.

    1. So sorry for the delay in responding to you. Our son is diabetic as well and has a pump. If you have the insulin along with the syringes, you don’t get hassled. Just don’t have the syringes without the insulin. We pack the insulin supplies in a cooler bag. When he was first diagnosed we asked for it to be hand checked. We have since had it go through the scanner without any issues. We also let the agents know that he has a pump on. They almost always do a pat-down. I think agents now are a little more aware of insulin pumps but it can be a little bit of a hassle. Nevertheless, go on vacation and have a great time!
      P.S. An extra tip … Carry an extra glucose test kit and twice as many supplies as you need. You don’t want to worry about running out of supplies on vacation.

  6. Hello, do you have a suggestion for how early to arrive at the airport when heading back to the US from Jamaica? Is 2 hours before departure early enough?



    1. Thanks for contacting us. We usually arrive 2 hours prior to departure and that has worked out for us. Make sure you allow enough travel time to get to the airport.

  7. Thank you Sherry! My wife and I are going to spend a week there this summer to celebrate our 20th Anniversary! We cant wait.

    Thanks again,


    1. I just saw your message. Congrats on your 20th anniversary, Jeremy! That’s a milestone. If you haven’t finalized your plans yet, consider bringing a group of family and friends to celebrate with you. Talk about creating memories. You could even do a vow renewal if you wanted to. You could even make it a surprise. There are so many things we could do to make it really special. Please don’t get me started 🙂 We love wedding anniversaries at Mais Oui. The villa sleeps 17 but could handle a few more. Please contact us through our website if you are interested.

  8. Hi,

    We are getting married in a different state than where we live in the U.S. We will leave the wedding and then fly to MBJ for 5 days before returning to where we live. Will we have a problem having wedding gifts in our luggage? Not sure how much they will add up in value.

    1. This isn’t my area of expertise, but technically you could be charged duty if they don’t believe your story. In Jamaica, the limit is US $500 per family. Since you do not live in Jamaica and could prove your itinerary, you might get a sympathetic customs officer. Just make it clear that the items will not be staying in Jamaica and will be returning to the US with you. There is also the question of if you have to declare them when you return to the US . . .

  9. appreciate the tips. Is there any updates for 2022? We have a trip planned for May.

    I just found out about Club Mobay. Do people typically wait awhile for their transportation to their resort? I know the perk of Mobay is to fast track though immigration/ security.
    Thanks 😉

    1. Thanks for commenting on our blog.
      You no longer need a travel authorization form for entry (as of March 2022). On my visit on March 5, 2022, temperature checks were done and hand sanitizer was offered. There was no requirement to quarantine.

      Our driver for Mais Oui Villa is usually early. Sometimes our guests may have sone people arriving on separate flights but they would like to wait for each other at the airport to save on the cost of airport transfers. Club Mobay Lounge is a nice place to wait. Here is an article about Club Mobay.

    2. Sorry for the delay. My previously detailed answer seems to have disappeared into the sunset!
      Club Mobay is great, especially if you have different people traveling together but arriving at different times. You could wait for each other at the Club Mobay lounge, if it makes sense for you, to save on additional airport transfers, which can be expensive. Our driver is usually quite prompt so rarely do I get time to savor the delights at Club Mobay.

  10. Hello, We would like to bring some groceries in our checked bag to defray some of cooking costs(spices,maple syrup,etc.). What would be the best way to handle that pertaining to customs?

    1. Generally, it is ok to bring pre-packaged grocery items (dried or canned goods) with you. If you like particular cereal, for example, those would be good to bring as they are more expensive in Jamaica and you also don’t get the variety that you would be used to in the US. Maple syrup, pancake mix are also good ideas. Do not bring pork of any kind. Do not bring any raw meats, fresh fruits, or vegetables, or anything with soil. Technically you can’t bring coffee in without duty. After all, won’t you want to try Jamaican coffee? 🙂
      Hope this helps!
      Think and dream Jamaica

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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!