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Most resorts have relationships with the taxi companies. If you book your taxis through the resort service desk you will have a set price and avoid the surprise at the end of a taxi ride. An advantage is that the round trip fare can be, at some hotels, charged to your room. You will be responsible for the tip to the driver. The disadvantage is that part of the fare goes to the resort and is why you will find them higher priced than off-resort taxis. You can almost always save money by simply walking to the street and using the taxis found there.
There are two basic kinds of official taxi service in Jamaica: charter taxis (aka 'tourist taxi') and route taxis. These official taxis are identified by having RED license plates with white letters (one of which is 'P'), indicating they are officially licensed as taxis and insured for riders. Many other drivers earn money on the side calling themselves taxi drivers - they will have only normal (white) plates. They are also usually safe - but you cannot ensure they have insurance to cover you in case of accident. Use only an official taxi while in Jamaica.
Example of a charter taxi or route taxi license plate.
Charter taxis are the common type, like a taxi in the United States, Canada, England, etc. - a privately hired taxi that takes you and your party directly and exclusively to your destination. Always negotiate the fare with the taxi driver BEFORE you get in! These are handy for multiple stop errands - i.e. bank, then grocery, then pick up a friend, then back to hotel.
The other taxi type are route taxis that will stop and pick up/drop off anyone along their route. Think of them as small-scale mass transportation for a set, very low price per person.They will have a sign on the side of the taxi listing their route. If you need to go to a location past the end of their route, you will need to transfer to a different taxi that goes that route. These taxis are handy for point-to-point rides, but not really for multi-stop errands.
The cheapest place to secure a charter taxi is often at the main taxi stand in town.
The following table shows the differences between a private charter taxi, aka 'tourist taxi', and a route taxi.
Charter Taxi - aka 'tourist taxi'
|License plate is ...||red with white letters and digits. One letter is 'P'. For example 'PA1234'.||red with white letters and digits. One letter is 'P'. For example 'PA1234'.|
|Goes to ...||wherever you specify.||the places listed on the side of the taxi (aka 'the route'). Normally this is a pair of towns, the name of a road, etc.|
|Stops en-route ...||only if you ask the driver to stop.||frequently to pick up and drop off people.|
|Private?||Yes, only you and your party.||No, taxi is shared with others.|
|Requires a change of taxi to reach your destination?||No||Maybe. Depends on where you start, where you want to go to and the route of the taxi.|
|Negotiate the fare for the ride?||Yes, always negotiate the fare before you enter the taxi.||No, the fare is set by law but you should confirm the price before you enter the taxi.|
|The fare is ...||per taxi. May be one way or round trip and may include waiting time at your destination or along the way.||per person, one way.|
|The currency of the fare is ...||normally in United States dollars.||normally in Jamaican dollars.|
Consider hiring a driver from a resort or guest house and let them do the driving; rates are comparable to a rental car company with insurance. In Jamaica insurance is mandatory--yes, mandatory. This insurance fee will be waived if you charge your rental to one of the few credit cards (World/Elite Mastercard) that cover you in Jamaica (most do not). Gasoline is very expensive in Jamaica compared to the USA and cheaper than the UK. It is hard to find off the main paved roads and the roads are rough. Side roads also often contain cows, goats, chickens, etc. Speeding and other traffic laws are strictly enforced on locals and tourists alike. If you insist on renting a car, watch out for wild drivers especially at night, few highway signs, fewer accurate maps and a lot of road construction. Get a car with a trunk for safekeeping your things. Always look both ways before moving. Get a detailed road map before you go.
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