We have always flown into the Sangster International airport in Montego Bay, it's the closest airport to the resort areas of Ocho Rios (2 hours), Negril (1 1/4 hours) and Montego Bay (10-20 minutes).
Getting through immigration/passport control isn't too bad although it can be a bit of a wait if you arrive at a popular time. The luggage has always arrived before we've gotten through and is off the carousel.
We use package operators which include transfer to the resort, if you travel with Apple, FunJet, Air Jamaica Vacations, etc., you will want to look for someone with a sign from the company or wade through all the taxi drivers and find the numbered stands which have the package companies listed.
Many of the resorts, if you book directly with them, have storefronts at the airport where you go to find out how to transfer to the resort. I saw one for Couples, Sandals, Ritz Carlton and several others.
If you are renting a car, the car rental agencies are in the terminal. I saw an ATM but it was not affiliated with a bank. We have not used Jamaican money on any of our trips, USD are widely accepted.
When you are flying back home, there are several liquor stores and souvenir shops. Prices on souvenirs were higher than what you would find at the markets but not excessive. I think liquor is just a bit more expensive if you don't want to lug it to the airport, remember that you can't have liquids over 3 ounces if you are not checking luggage and you can't buy it after security if you are not flying direct and not checking luggage.
Most people who come into Montego Bay's airport will have prearranged transfers through the company they booked their package through. In 2008 we booked through Expedia on Air Jamaica, they had an optional transfer add on for about $15 per person round trip which is less expensive than taking a taxi for 2 people. We had a voucher from Expedia, went over to the Air Jamaica desk and in less than 10 minutes we were on our way to the resort.
In 2009, we booked through Orbitz and it was $22.75 per person round trip. We arrived late in the day due to some flight problems and the airport was empty, we had to wait for a long time for Jamaica Tours to get us on a shuttle bus to where we were going. I think it would have just been better to get a taxi. On the way back they were on time but they pick you up over 3 hours in advance and the airport is only 15-20 minutes away.
Air Jamaica was by far the most expensive option but it was the only direct flight available on the way down and when you fly in the winter from Chicago you want to get somewhere warm as fast as you can and without the increased odds of weather delays by having a stopover.
We used to use Apple Vacations or FunJet to book our warm weather vacations but they are no longer the cheapest deal in town, I checked Expedia, Air Jamaica Vacations, Orbitz and Travelocity and found that Expedia could give us the best deal.
Air Jamaica is pleasant to fly on and leisure travelers are less likely to remember to ask for those coveted exit row seats. The exit rows are HUGE on Air Jamaica, you could easily fit two more rows of seats in the space.
Air Jamaica cut a lot of their flights so I reluctantly booked flights with Delta with a stop each direction and it turned out to be a VERY long day, we were supposed to arrive in Jamaica just before noon, we ended up getting there around 7 pm with not one but two stops on the way down. And that was thanks to a nice employee at Northwest who saw that Air Jamaica had an earlier flight than they did and booked us on that instead of getting there even later. I felt like we were on an episode of "The Amazing Race" as my husband ran back and forth between Delta and Northwest trying to get us down there that day, although Delta and Northwest have merged, their computer systems are apparently have not yet.
It's always a risk booking connecting flights, this time it was a mechanical problem and a very short connection in Atlanta, but there are also frequent weather delays in Chicago. A lot of folks on our plane were going to places that only had one flight a day from Atlanta and I don't know if they were even able to get where they going at all.
I'll certainly be very reluctant to ever do that again!
To get a taxi.... either ask for the taxi rank... in Port Antonio you can grab a cab in the petrol station or at the bus station....
If you are out on the road in the 'sticks', just wave at passing taxi's, dont be put off if people are already in the car, there's always room for more on someones knee!
The larger of the two main international airports on the island is Sangster International in Montego Bay, catering mainly for holiday flights. Situated towards the Ironshore area, it is currently undergoing expansion. The domestic terminal is to the left as you look, although some international flights call at Kingston.
Once checked in, you must pass security and immigration. At busy times (Easter, US spring break etc.) you should allow at least an hour to do this as the queues become horrendous.
Once in the departure area, there is a reasonable selection of shops and refreshment facilities, although prices for souvenirs tend to be high. There is also the official shop for the Jamaican bobsleigh team with the actual machine itself. They are currently looking for corporate sponsorship, if you’re interested!
Refreshments are quite expensive inside the airport with a bottle of Red Stripe beer costing a hefty$3:50US. On the upper level, there is also another branch of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville chain, although I really wouldn’t recommend it (see my separate tourist trap tip).
If you have time, you might want to refresh yourself at either of the two fast food restaurants situated before security. There is the ubiquitous Island Grill on the left as you look at the airport (see separate tip), and the Groovy Grouper on the right beside arrivals. The Grouper is probably marginally my favourite of the two.
Smokers are catered for in the B&H lounge on the upper level on the right hand side just after immigration. You are welcome to sit there and smoke or watch the TV without obligation to buy a drink. This is just as well, as they are expensive here.
If you are arriving at Sangster, allow a good amount of time to clear Immigration and customs, both of whom are very thorough. The arrivals area has separate lounges for various of the larger holiday companies (Sandals etc.), and the almost obligatory Margaritaville.
Porters, who wear red caps, are available at a cost of $1US per bag or equivalent in local currency.
As usual, excursions booked through the cruise lines have travel taken care of. For those who want to go out independently, cabs and cars for hire are plentiful just outside the cruise terminal.
Cars to various popular locations can be had for about $15 per person. On our trip, we found a driver who took us around the city for the afternoon at $20 per person. With nine of us, the cost was a little over $200 with the tip.
There are many non-stop flights into Montego Bay. Hopefully you have one from your hometown or nearby. Many airlines fly here so book a flight and go on your own or purchase one of the many package deals available.
JUTA Tours is the main transportation company in Montego Bay. They provide day trips, airport transfers, and just regular taxi service in their mini-buses. The best driver was Byron, who took me on the "Montego Highlight" tour. From the extravagance of The Richmond Hill Inn, to the poverty of the 12-and-a-half housing project, to the beauty of the lowland coffee plantation, Byron showed me more of the real Montego Bay. The price of that tour is $30 per hour (NOT per person).
the ride from the airport to your hotel can be the most expensive taxi ride you will take in your entire life. some hotels are just a few hundred yards from the airport, but taxi drivers always charge the airport ride, which is several us dollars. if you do not want to pay, and if you are staying close enough, you can walk to the airport. weird, isn't it?
I am lucky enough to live in the Atlanta area, and Delta flies non-stop to Mobay in about 2 1/2 hours. They have really upgraded the airport in the last few years, much for the better. There is a little longer walk, now, when you get off the plane to Customs, but airconditioned and comfortable. I actually miss the old days when they let you off out on the tarmac, down the steps into the Jamaican sunshine! Once you have filled out the forms and gone through the lines (there is a bathroom close by for those with small bladders like me.) there is a place to exchange money if needed. I usually get about $200 US changed for smaller roadside shacks that may not take US$$. Downstairs is the luggage carousel and then out into the main area where resorts have desks set up for assistance---If you are staying at a large beachside resort, most times they will have a bus waiting outside to take you there. Otherwise you have to negotiate with all the solo drivers to take you to your resort. Negril is about 1 1/2 hours away, and will normally be about $80 for the one way trip, shared between all travellers.
Going back home, there are lots of cool shops that sell mini bottles of Appleton Rum, Blue Mountain coffee, and other Jamaican goodies at fair prices. I usually wait til I get here to buy those items for presents back home. There are a few good places to get a meal while waiting for your flight, or one last Red Stripe for the road!
The best way to get from Montego Bay to Negril is still Champion Tours. Another visit to the beautiful caribbean island of Jamaica and we had excellent service again from our local guide. We received complimentary drinks upon pickup at the airport and had a great kick off to our trip on our way to our hotel on the West End in Negril. If you need transportation to Negril or want to go on some tours use the contact info below. We still highly recommend Champion's services. And we look forward to coming back!
The local drivers are very agressive and but road rage is not the correct term for their interactions. I think it's pretty much understood that everyone is in a free for all upon the roads so they put up with traffic much better then i do when stuck in rush hour. Also, be careful when flying along these twisty mountain roads because you might come upon a herd of cattle crossing or just standing in the roads.
Ken's Jamaica Dream Vacation is the best! It's the personal touch he gives to all of his private tours at competitive prices too! We were in Jamaica from May 10-17 and planned 4 excursions through Ken. When we first started emailing Ken, we were trying to get the most bang for our bucks. We had no idea what an incredible person he was! He can do any excursion that you come up with and make as many stops along the way as you would like, and it's your own personal excursion. There are no stops at other hotels or over crowded buses, but the part that impressed my group the most was the personal touch that he adds to each excursion. Ken is extremely knowledgeable about the history of the entire island and kept us entertained the entire time. Plus, he is an all around great guy! Through Ken, we floated down the river on the Martha Brae River Raft. We went to the best zip lines in Jamaica and visited the haunted Rose Hall Mansion at night! We also did the Cool Runnings catamaran to Dunns River Falls. We were all dreading the 2 hour ride to Ocho Rios on this one, but Ken made even the ride over enjoyable for us! We are already planning our trip to Jamaica for next year and plan to keep Ken busy the entire time! He is our extended family, and we can't wait to see him again!
I used Ken with a group of 9 from May 10 -17 for all of our excursions, and now I won't tour with anyone else in Jamaica! My wife, who was planning our wedding in Jamaica, found him on trip advisor through a review of our resort, and he was so highly recommended that we only wanted to travel around the island with him. She then tortured him with a million emails to make sure all of the excursions were perfect. Ken is a saint with the patience of Job! I really liked Ken because he is a genuine, down to earth kind of guy. He's not one of these flashy and pushy or stand-offish guides that I have had in the past. He was so friendly and knew everything past and present about Jamaica. Plus, you are getting your own personal tour! If you don't see a trip listed on his website that you want to try, just email him. He can do any trip for you and make as many stops as you want along the way. Over our week in Jamaica, we did the Martha Brae River Ride, Zip Lines, Rose Hall at night, the Cool Running's excursion and made many shopping trips. Each excursion with Ken was great experience! My wife is already planning our next trip to Jamaica and has already picked 4 new excursions for Ken and is working on more! Get ready Ken! Lol!