Jamaica Travel Tips: Should You Exchange USD for Local Currency?

As soon as you get out of customs at the Montego Bay airport you will notice a prominent currency exchange available to get Jamaican Dollars, but should you make the exchange?

First, the quick and easy answer is no. Use USD as you travel in Jamaica. It is preferred by Jamaicans and if you use Jamaican dollars you will end up spending more.

Montego Bay Airport

I learned this by experience on my first trip to Jamaica. We took some money for tipping on our trip but realized when we arrived that it was not going to be enough so we went to the ATM and got some Jamaican dollars. I liked the Jamaican currency because the denominations were worth less, making it easy to tip smaller amounts for minimal services vs with $20 bills we had from the US.

We realized we made a mistake when we would ask for taxi prices and they would give a price in dollars and be disappointed that we had Jamaican dollars so they would increase the price. For example they might say a taxi is $40USD or JMD$7500, when that is closer to $50 when exchanged.

We also noticed disappointment from people when we tipped in JMD vs USD.

The biggest reason you do not want to get your currency exchanged in the airport is it is a rip off. They give you a horrible exchange rate.

If for some reason you do need more cash, find an ATM at a bank for the best exchange rate and lowest amount of fees.

The best thing to do is to bring USD in various denominations. $1 bills are great for tipping a bellhop a few dollars, $5 or $10 bills are great for hospitality workers, or $20 for tour guides.

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