14 Things Everyone Should Know Before Going Shopping in Jamaica (Updated 1/3/2022)
Jamaica in September
Everyone wants to know … What’s there to do in Jamaica in September? What’s the weather like? Is September a good time of year to visit Jamaica?
We answer those questions plus give a few insider tips to help you enjoy your vacation.
1. Fair warning … The shopping areas are not like the mega-shopping malls back in the US.
Even in the tourist areas, many of the “malls” in Jamaica are on a much smaller scale than in the United States. There aren’t any outlet malls.
Most of the malls are one or at most two stories high. Most aren’t high-rise buildings with multiple stores of all varieties.
In the tourist areas, the malls usually are anchored by duty-free jewelry stores and surrounded by your standard souvenir shops.
2. Don’t assume that because Jamaica is a foreign country everything is cheap.
That would be a mistake.
Remember that very little is produced in Jamaica so most items are imported. Also, energy costs (electricity and petrol) are very expensive.
Expect, therefore, that anything that is imported will cost more in Jamaica than it would in the US. This is the same in other tourist island destinations, including Hawaii. So, no, I wouldn’t buy the $10 wine because it definitely will not be like a $10 bottle of wine in the US!
By the same token, shopping in Jamaica is not like St. Bart’s where everything costs an arm and two legs.
3. Do not come to Jamaica expecting to buy the latest fashions at the malls.
Jamaicans love to dress up but the truth is those who can afford it get their threads during their off-island trips to Miami, New York or such places.
For those who are not frequent flyers, many have relatives or friends abroad who bring these items down as gifts or for sale.
There are great local designers, mostly in Kingston and Montego Bay and if you don’t mind going out of your way a little, you could check them out.
4. Jamaica does not have Walmart.
We have Megamart and Pricemart, which are like Sam’s club or Costco.
I repeat there is no Walmart in Jamaica.
Really, I mean it, there is no Walmart in Jamaica.
5. Vendors in the resort areas, especially the craft markets, have a reputation of being pushy, which can be a big turn-off for some people. See for yourself before you pass judgment. Read this blog post – Hacks to Survive the Craft Market.
6. Craft markets and some stores, like jewelry stores, do allow bargaining. If you don’t like to haggle, you might want to skip those stores.
7. Make sure you have done your own homework so you know what the price range is for these things back home.
Duty-free stores sell a lot of jewelry, perfume, and brand name handbags. Like every island in the Caribbean, it is not uncommon to get a “$3000 necklace at 50% off just for you” deal. It may sound like a bargain, and could be a bargain, but how do you know if you don’t have a frame of reference?
8. If you want T-shirts and trinkets you can pick almost any shopping place. They all have similar items.
9. Cruise ships spell crowds. Avoid going shopping in Ocho Rios, Falmouth or Montego Bay on cruise ship days as it will be crowded, for sure!
10. Jamaica’s general consumption tax rate (GCT), is 16.5%.
Established stores, except duty-free stores, will charge this on taxable items. The craft vendors and open markets do not.
This tax is not a service charge or a tip. It is Jamaica’s equivalent of a sales tax.
11. The US dollar, in particular, is widely accepted in the tourist areas.
There is no need to change much money into Jamaican dollars unless you are living like a local.
Establishments that cater to tourists take both US and Jamaican dollars. Hotels and attractions generally have their prices in US dollars. You need Jamaican ID to get Jamaican rates at some places.
12. Carry small bills so that you can have as close to exact change as possible.
Three big reasons.
Firstly, many places give change in Jamaican dollars. You don’t want to accumulate too much local money then have to worry about converting it upon departure.
Secondly, foreign coins are not accepted.
Thirdly, you can’t exactly be bargaining over a $5 mug and whip out a $50 to pay!
13. If you are quoted a price in Jamaican dollars but you only have US dollars or British pounds, make sure you find out the exchange rate that is being offered before you pay.
Vendors can set their own rate, which may or may not be in your favor.
14. Credit cards are widely accepted.
The local merchants generally don’t charge a fee; but, you should check with your credit card company to see if there is a convenience fee of any kind.
Also, find out what exchange rates will be used for your transactions.
It is also not a bad idea to let your credit card company know that you will be out of the country and to expect charges from Jamaica. This will reduce the likelihood of your card being frozen when you try to use it. It is not fun if this happens.
Visa and Mastercard are the most accepted.
You may as well leave your American Express card at home. Most places won’t take it.
Shopping in Jamaica
So, knowing the ground rules and some secret hacks about shopping in Jamaica will make it so much easier to shop in peace. You will know what to expect to plan accordingly.
Want to know more about shopping in Jamaica?
Read these blog posts
5 Places to Go Shopping on Jamaica’s North Coast
Unlikely Places to Go Souvenir Shopping in Jamaica
‘Til next time.
Think and dream Jamaica!
Sherry, Darrell and Darrian
P.S. If you are traveling with a group, consider booking a villa for your Jamaica vacation. Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay is an 8BR boutique Jamaica villa that is perfect for multi-generational families and groups. Amenities galore. Great central location to allow you to explore all that Jamaica has to offer.
Visit our website: https://makeitjamaica.com/
Like us on Facebook: https://facebook.com/MakeItJamaica
Give us a call: 833-624.7684 (toll free) or 914.709.0457
Follow us on Instagram: @MakeItJamaica
Sign up for our newsletter and immediately get our Free Discovery Bay Insider Guide to discover what you won’t find in the guidebooks.