The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar ($, J$, JA$). It comes in notes of $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000. Coins in circulation are $20, $10, and $5 (with smaller coins being almost worthless). As of December 2012, the exchange rate hovers around JA$93 for US$1.
The US dollar is widely accepted in places most tourists visit. Indeed, all hotels, most restaurants, most shops, and almost all attractions in major cities will accept the US dollar. However, be aware that some places accept the dollar at a reduced rate (although it still may be a better rate than exchanging money beforehand). While it is possible for someone visiting only touristy places or for a few hours to not see the Jamaican currency at all, be advised that US dollars won't be accepted at a lot of "local" shops on the outskirts of cities and in rural areas.
Always stay up-to-date on the exchange rate and carry a calculator. Some places might try to make you pay ten times as much if you pay in US dollars. The cost of living in Jamaica is comparable to the United States.
US dollars, Canadian dollars, UK pounds, and euros are easily converted to Jamaican dollars at forex cambios and commercial banks island wide.
Buy products made on the island as they are cheap and you are supporting the local economy.
Prices are usually higher in tourist areas like Negril and Ocho Rios. Shops in "tourist traps" usually have higher prices than native ones, and you'll see the same items on offer in them.
Credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard and to a lesser extent American Express and Discover are accepted in many business establishments, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurants in Kingston, Montego Bay, Portmore, Ocho Rios and Negril and most other major towns. A curious exception is petrol stations which mostly require cash. There are a few petrol stations in uptown Kingston that will accept a credit card, but most will not
Cash advances from your MasterCard, VISA, Discover or American Express credit card will be quickly available at commercial banks, credit unions or building societies during normal banking hours. For cash advances on a non-Jamaican bank issued Mastercard or VISA cards or any American Express or Discover card, be prepared to show your foreign issued passport or overseas drivers license.
A bit of advice if you are paying for "fully inclusive" when you arrive or any other big ticket item such as tours, when you are there, take travelers checks in $'s. There is something like an 8% additional charge on a Visa or Mastercard transaction. Hotels and resorts usually give the worst exchange rates.
ATMs are called ABMs in Jamaica and are widely available in every parish and almost all ABMs in Jamaica are linked to at least one overseas network such as Cirrus or Plus and sometimes both. Indeed, the safest way for a visitor to transact business in Jamaica is to use an ABM to withdraw your daily cash requirement directly from your overseas account in local currency, as flashing foreign currency, foreign credit cards or large quantities of cash might draw unwanted attention, and will almost certainly be disadvantageous when bargaining for the best price.
Don't be alarmed if you go to an ATM and you find an armed guard as he is there to protect you.
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