Kingston, Jamaica Report of what it's like to live there - 01/21/09

Personal Experiences from Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica 01/21/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I lived in Japan.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Living there now, 1.5 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Travel is pretty cheap from Kingston. A flight to Miami takes only about an hour and half.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing can be pretty nice, depending on your paygrade. Alot of people live in Powell Plaza. It is a huge tower that used to be an Hotel that is now made into a housing complex. Most people that live there seem to like it. Personally I am glad I don't.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are very expensive. You will spend alot more than you would in the states and not get near the quality. Household supplies will be the same. Some things will not be available here. There are times when things will be completly unavailable.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Clothes, you can't but any good ones here, makeup, if you are light colored you won't be able to get any here. Computer software.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are some fast food places here like KFC, Burger King and Wendy's, but they are not as good as stateside! There are a couple resturants in Kingston that are really good and decent prices.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There are alot of mosquitos. Also the mosquitos here carry dunga fever. I personally have known several people who have gotten it from a mosquito bite.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We go by pouch system. Mail comes to the Embassy 2x a week. It can be late as well. It takes a while for mail to get here. Order things early, especially for Christmas.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help can be cheap. There are always helpers and nannys always looking for a job. Finding a trustworthy, hard worker can be a little harder to find.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Powell Plaza has a gym, it is pretty nice. The Marine house has a small gym but that is only for certain people. You could get a membership at some out in Kingston, but I have heard they are really expensive.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Most places here will use credit cards. You may get hassle but you can use them. There are ATMs around the city, but it is best to use the one at the Embassy or go in the daytime.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a small Baptist International churh here pastored by American missionaries. There are lots of local churches here as well.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are local newspapers that are english speaking. You can read American newspapers from the internet. American Magazines are harder to find, they have some. If you have a subcribtion it will take a while for it to get here. There is American TV. It is average price.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is spoken here, but the Jamaican accent can be very hard to understand sometimes.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They will see alot of difficulties. There are no ramps, not many elevators and not much acomadation for them.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I am sure they are, but we have been told not to take public transportation due to high crime

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A vehicle that can take rugged terrain, the roads can be very bad. Also something that is set up higher, when it rains it floods! There are some local restrictions on how big a car can be. Embassy personall sell their vehicles alot when they leave.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

They do have high speed internet now, you can get your cable and internet through FLOW

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone here has a cell phone and they are easy to come by. You can get one here very easily. You will probably pay more, just like anything else you buy here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

You can not bring a pet here from America. It is against Jamaica Govt. Law. You could get a stray here, they are everywhere.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

In the local community, No! The Embassy does have jobs for EFMS

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

For work it is normal work clothes like in any office. Out in Kingston you could wear anything!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Like any city, it has pollution. Kingston is also very dirty with trash everywhere on alot of streets.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Normal immunizations for Americans. Most get them before they come.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Very High. You need to always be on alert. Lots of beggers on the streets and they can get mean. Windows need to be up and locked at all times. Try to only use the ATM at the Embassy, if you can, otherwise it can be scary. Do NOT use the ATMs after dark. Crime here is very high and affects how you live your life here. I don't go out much after dark.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you have major health concerns you may not want to come here. Pregnant women are sent back to the States to have babies. Health care is okay, but I would not want to stay one day in a Hospital here!

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is very nice. It is always warm here, summer is really hot! Rainy season is about 2x a year and it can be pretty bad, especially with the Hurricane Season!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is one International School here. I do not have a child in it. I have not heard good things about it. Some of the parents I know are taking there kids out and sending them elsewhere or to boarding schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are alot of preschool and daycares. My child is in Rainbow Land and loves it. The cost is about the same as any good city preschool. The teachers are great.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The International school has some things available, but not like the states.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is about medium sized.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on who you talk to. Overall it is pretty good I guess.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The social life here in Jamaica starts really late and stays up through the night. They like to party. There are small groups of families that get together to do family things.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It will be whatever you make it. I don't think it is the best for families. There is high crime and not a lot for your children to do.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No, they are very much against anything of the sort!

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, people with light colored skin may see some prejudice.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Kingston doesn't have a lot to offer. Bars, nightclubs some good resturants. If you want to find something to do, leave Kingston and drive to the country or Montego Bay.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Local artists have nice paintings. Local crafts.

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9. Can you save money?

No, things here are expensive and you will want to use extra money to travel outside of Kingston or Jamaica all together.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If I had the choice to go somewhere else I would of picked alot of other places, but I have met some good people.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Coats, gloves, winter boots.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, shorts, all summer clothes.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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