Many tourists ask if they should use Jamaican dollars or United States dollars when in Jamaica. The answer, as explained below, is that it depends on a number of factors. Where you stay and where you shop (where you spend your money) are the two most important factors.

Jamaican Currency First, the official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar. Jamaican bills (banknotes) come in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 dollars. Jamaican coins come in 1, 5, 10, and 20 dollar denominations (older coins, which currently have no real value but are still legal, come in denominations of 1, 10, and 25 Jamaican cents).

For more information on Jamaican bills (banknotes) see:

http://www.boj.org.jm/currency/curren...

For more information on Jamaican coins see:

http://www.boj.org.jm/currency/curren...

General Second, most places in Jamaica, but not all, related to the tourist industry will accept both Jamaican dollars and United States dollars. Places that are not related to the tourist industry often will only accept Jamaican dollars. You need to ask yourself where are you staying in Jamaica and where will you spend money.

Third, places that are located away from the major tourist areas, not in or near Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, etc., will more often than not use only Jamaican dollars. However, most places, even in remote areas of the island, related to the tourist industry will often accept both Jamaican and United States dollars. However, as every merchant can set their own exchange rate, places away from the tourist areas tend to give very poor exchange rates for all foreign currencies if they normally price their goods and services in Jamaican dollars.

Fourth, foreign coins such as US silver dollars and Canadian loonies and toonies are not usable in Jamaica. Use foreign banknotes (aka paper money, aka bills, aka notes, aka cash) only. You should also exchange any Jamaican coins to banknotes in your home currency, if possible, before you leave Jamaica as they will have no value when you return home.

All Inclusive Resort Are you staying at an all inclusive resort? If yes then you will see that all prices at the resort will be in US dollars, for example for such things as tours and spa services, and you should pay in US dollars.

Some all inclusive resorts operate using a 'cashless' system requiring guests to charge all incidental expenses to their room account and do not allow tipping. Payment for any incidental charges will be made when checking out of the resort and most people will do so by way of a credit card or debit card. It is, therefore, totally possible that those who stay at an all inclusive will never need any type of money (aka cash, aka banknotes, aka bills, aka notes, aka paper money) while in Jamaica.

Most people who stay at all inclusive resorts will never need to have or to use Jamaican dollars and in many cases will never need any cash for a stay in Jamaica.

Large Non Inclusive Resort Are you staying at a large hotel which is not all inclusive? If yes then you will see all prices at the hotel in US dollars, for example for such things as meals, drinks, tours, and spa services, and you should pay in US dollars.

Small Non Inclusive Resort Are you staying at a very small hotel, bed and breakfast, etc.? If yes then prices may be in either currency. Contact the hotel to find out which currency they use for room charges plus food and drink, if offered. The smaller and more 'Jamaican' the hotel the more common it is for a small hotel to use Jamaican dollars. Check the exchange rate and use the currency with the lowest cost (in most cases this will be Jamaican dollars). Only a very small percentage of small hotels, mainly away from the major tourist centers, accept only Jamaican dollars.

Shops, Bars, Vendors, etc. Are you at a bar, vendor stall, street vendor, beach vendor, shop, etc. that sells mainly to tourists? If yes then prices will probably be stated in US dollars and you should consider paying in US dollars. However, if a such a bar, vendor stall, street vendor, beach vendor or shop will also accept Jamaican dollars you will often get a poor exchange rate when using US dollars. In many cases one will pay 10 or 15 percent more to use US dollars. Remember that each bar, vendor, shop, etc. can set its own exchange rate. Do the conversion yourself and use the best currency.

Note: At many small shops and with almost all vendors, all prices for goods can and are expected to be bargained. This bargaining will include both the cost of any goods and the exchange rate for any currency conversion which is or which becomes part of the transaction.

Are you at a bar, vendor stall, shop, supermarket, etc. that sells mainly to Jamaicans (except for places like supermarkets, these are not common in most of the major tourist areas)? If yes then you should note the currency being used from the prices on signs, or tags on shelves, or on labels on the items being sold or you should ask which currency they use. They may take one or the other or both currencies. However, if a such a bar, vendor stall, or shop will accept US dollars it is often at a poor exchange rate. In many cases one will pay 10 or15 percent more to use US dollars. Remember that each bar, vendor, shop, etc. can set its own exchange rate. Do the conversion yourself and use the best currency.

In Jamaica there are two types of taxies: route taxies and tourist taxies. Route taxies are mainly used by Jamaicans and normally price rides in Jamaican dollars. Tourist taxies are mainly used by tourists (aka private charter) and normally price rides in US dollars. Some drivers will accept either currency. If they accept either currency, do the conversion and use the best currency to pay for the ride.

If you stay at a large all inclusive resort and do not leave the grounds except to go to the airport to return home then plan to only use US dollars. If you stay at a small bed and breakfast and eat, drink, shop, etc. in true Jamaican shops then plan on using only Jamaican dollars. For the majority of travelers only US dollars are required. For most of the rest of tourists to Jamaica, mainly US dollars will be used with a minority of purchases made in Jamaican dollars. Only a small percentage of travelers will need to exchange large amounts of foreign currency into Jamaican dollars.

Change Note that by Jamaican law change may always be made in Jamaican dollars. Many hotels and shops do not give change in US dollars or any other foreign currency. If you pay in US dollars it is best to pay the exact amount or to use $US1 or $US5 bills (aka banknotes). If you pay in any currency other than Jamaican dollars and the change is given in Jamaican dollars the hotel or shop will set the exchange rate and the rate will normally be to the advantage of the merchant.

Not From US Tourists who normally use a currency other than the US dollar at home (in their home country) should see the following table. In using the table below you first need to determining if you will be spending Jamaican dollars or US dollars when in Jamaica by reading the sections above. Second, you need to ask if your normal (home) currency is highly convertible or not. Some of the highly convertible currencies are: Euro, British pound, and Canadian dollar while most others currencies are not highly convertible in Jamaica.

   Normal (home) currency is highly convertible Normal (home) currency is not highly convertible 
Mainly spending US dollars 

If your normal currency is other than the US dollar, and if that currency is highly convertible, and if you will be mainly spending US dollars (as outlined above), exchange your normal currency to US dollars in your home country (not in Jamaica). Some of the highly convertible currencies are: Euro, British Pound, and Canadian dollar. Converting your normal currency into US dollars while possible may not be easy, under some conditions, to do in Jamaica. In addition, the conversion in Jamaica may cause two exchange fees to be levied (fees to convert your currency to Jamaican dollars and then convert Jamaican dollars to US dollars).

Note: Scottish Pounds are not considered to be a highly convertible currency in Jamaica. They should be 'converted' to English Pounds in the UK if you plan to bring Pound notes to Jamaica.

Example: You live in France and your normal (home) currency is the Euro. Convert Euros to US Dollars in France.

If your normal currency is not highly convertible and if you will be mainly spending US dollars (as outlined above) then convert your normal currency to US dollars in your home country.

Tourists who normally use a currency that is not highly convertible should also attempt to pre-pay as many expenses as possible before leaving home (for example paying for their hotel in advance) to reduce currency conversion issues.

Example: You live in Zimbabwe and your normal (home) currency is the Zimbabwean dollar. Convert Zimbabwean dollars to US dollars in Zimbabwe.

Mainly spending Jamaican dollars

If your normal currency is other than the US dollar, and if that currency is highly convertible, and if you will be mainly spending Jamaican dollars (as outlined above), exchange your normal currency to Jamaican dollars on arrival in Jamaica (not in your home country). If you wish to bring Jamaican dollars from home on the airplane to Jamaica, convert only the amount you might spend on your first day in Jamaica. Exchanges rates to convert your normal (home) currency to Jamaican dollars is much better in Jamaican than in other countries. Some of the highly convertible currencies are: Euro, British Pound, and Canadian dollar.

In addition, do not convert your home currency, for example Euros, to US dollars in your home country and then convert the US dollars into Jamaican dollars in Jamaica. Avoid the extra conversion fees by doing only one conversion from your normal currency (home) into Jamaican dollars and do that conversion in Jamaica.

Note: Scottish Pounds are not considered to be a highly convertible currency in Jamaica. They should be 'converted' to English Pounds in the UK if you plan to bring Pound notes to Jamaica.

Example: You live in France and your normal (home) currency is the Euro. Convert Euros to Jamaican dollars after you arrive in Jamaica.

If your normal currency is not highly convertible and you will be mainly spending Jamaican dollars (as outlined above) then convert your normal currency to US dollars in your home country and then do a second conversion into Jamaican dollars, when you arrive in Jamaica, as needed.

Tourists who normally use a currency that is not highly convertible should also attempt to pre-pay as many expenses as possible before leaving home (for example paying for their hotel in advance) to reduce currency conversion issues.

Example: You live in Zimbabwe and your normal (home) currency is the Zimbabwean dollar. Convert Zimbabwean dollars to US dollars in Zimbabwe. In a second currency exchange transaction, convert US dollars to Jamaican dollars after you arrive in Jamaica.

Some, but not all, of the larger hotels and some, but not all, up scale shops will also accept selected highly convertible currencies for large purchases (for example your entire hotel bill or a solid gold Rolex watch). Few if any small shops or small hotels will accept currencies which are not highly convertible (currencies other than the British pound, Euro, Canadian dollar, or US dollar).