Retire To Jamaica: The Pros And Cons You Must Know

jamaican flag

When you think of Jamaica, you think of reggae, good food, and breathtaking beaches. Is it a great place to enjoy your retirement? Here is what I’ve discovered.

Retiring in Jamaica is cheap and a relaxed lifestyle. But aspects of the island that makes up for this are the delectable cuisine, the mesmerizing beaches, and the friendly people.  Downfalls to consider are the higher crime, the sporadic power cuts, and the occasional hurricane.

It’s allowed to live or vacation in Jamaica for up to six months if you are an American citizen. But what happens if you fall in love with the country’s culture, its beaches, and its people and you want to retire there? Here are the ins and outs of what you should know.

What are the Pros of retiring In Jamaica.

  1. The Food – One of the main attractions in Jamaica is the authentic Jamaican dishes. From the variety of seafood dishes to jerk chicken and bammy on the side, the cuisine in Jamaica is as diverse and unique as the reggae sounds of Bob Marley.
  2. The People – A shared comment from every tourist who visited Jamaica is how friendly Jamaican people are. There’s a general unhurried attitude among the people of the island.
  3. The Entertainment – Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae, and entertainment is everywhere.
  4. Lower Cost of Living – This is an obvious one that you will see later in this article when we discuss the costs of living there.
  5. The Beaches – being an island you have many beaches and the relaxed lifestyle that goes with it.

What are the Cons of retiring in Jamaica.

  1. Crime Level – Due to the poor education system and low employment rates in Jamaica, some parts of Jamaica are prone to experience a higher level of crime. According to United Nations estimates, since they gained their independence in 1962, Jamaica has had one of the highest murder rates in the world. One of the leading instigating factors of violence in Jamaica involves their laws about same-sex activities between males, which gave them the stigma of being one of the most homophobic nations on earth.
  2. Power outages – There are about 8 power outages a year that can affect any area and are mainly due to extreme weather conditions like the cyclones that have passed through.  These outages has been reduced 30% from the previous year with the implementation of smart grid technologies by the JPS (Jamaican Public Service) who provide the power.  
  3. Medical Insurance – A real challenge for ex-pats in Jamaica is medical insurance. Healthcare in Jamaica is free to all citizens and legal residents, which means that the public hospitals and clinics are usually overrun with injuries of violence due to the high crime rate.

Healthcare System In Jamaica.

Unfortunately, Jamaica does not have one of the best healthcare systems in the Caribbean. Since healthcare is free for all citizens, the queues are often endless, and the conditions at public hospitals and clinics are below standards.

There are about ten private hospitals across Jamaica if you have a decent insurance plan to cover your care should you become ill. If you see a private physician in Jamaica, it will cost between $70 – $130 for a standard doctor visit and the difference in price is the time the appointment takes. A proper insurance plan depends on your age and how comprehensive your coverage will be, but it might cost you between $19 up to $258 per month. Consider shopping around for ex-pat health insurance or international citizens insurance.

Here are some of the biggest national Private Health Care Providers:

Places To Live In Jamaica.

Different factors contribute to the high violence in Jamaica. Whether it’s due to illiteracy, lack of job opportunities, or an area rife with gang and organized crime activity, some areas stand out as riskier than others. Here are a few examples:

St ElizabethSt James
St MaryHanover
St ThomasSpanish Town

Taxes In Jamaica

If you spend 183 days or more in Jamaica, you are considered a citizen in a tax context. Whether you earn a pension or a statutory income while you reside in Jamaica, Jamaica and the United States have a tax treaty regarding a double taxation law. You will still be required to submit tax returns in both countries, but you will only be subject to pay one country’s tax. If your statutory earning in Jamaica is above $11,712.18, you will be taxed 25%. If it’s above $46,845.72, you will be taxed 30%. However, if you draw income from Social Security, it won’t be taxed by the Jamaican government, but as with a pension from employment in the United States, you will be liable to pay tax in America only.

Currency In Jamaica.

Jamaica may not be one of the most economically developed countries, but there are a few benefits when comparing currencies. After Jamaica gained its independence in 1962, they started using the Jamaican dollar (J$), but practically everywhere you travel still accept the U.S. dollar as currency. The cost of living is cheap even though some items are very expensive and scarcely available, like household items, toiletries, and milk. You can easily get by on a monthly budget of about $600-$800, calculating your food, transport, utilities, and recreation.

Housing In Jamaica.

Deciding between buying or renting a house in Jamaica depends on how long you will be staying there and how deep you want your roots to grow. Renting an apartment will average around $250 – $500 a month, whereas buying a property of about 900 square feet with two bedrooms and low-end finishes will generally cost you about USD 63,000 (or 8.5 million JMD). If you like high-end coating, the cost will most probably range around USD 99,000 (or 13.4 million JMD).

Driving In Jamaica.

As part of the Commonwealth, motorists in Jamaica drive on the left-hand side of the road, and roads are poorly tended and in disrepair due to neglect. Thanks to large potholes, inadequate signage, and aggressive local drivers, you should take extra care to avoid driving in Jamaica until you have become accustomed to the local traffic usage. Another aspect you should heed is that roads are often flooded from too much rain and obstructed from being used. Jamaica’s weather is tropical, hot, and humid, and it rains quite often on the island.

As an American citizen, your driver’s license will only be valid for a limited time. If you would like to continue driving in Jamaica, acquire an international driving permit from your home country before moving. You will be able to drive using this permit for a minimum of a year before applying for a Jamaican license which will then last you five years.

If you prefer not to drive at all while you’re living in the country, the other options are busses, but they are overcrowded, their routes are limited, and their driving is sometimes worse than the motorists. Or you can take taxis, but they can sometimes charge exorbitant fees.

Can You Become A Citizen Of Jamaica?

Americans have the opportunity to stay for at least six months in Jamaica without a visa. If you want to extend your stay, you will need to apply for residency status, whereby they’ll require confirmation of financial independence while you’re in the country. To err on the safe side, it is probably better to apply for a residence permit while still on American soil.

Becoming a Jamaican citizen through the laws of naturalization consist of the following steps:

  • Residing in Jamaica for at least twelve months before applying for citizenship.
  • You are a person of good character without a criminal record.
  • And you intend to be a resident of Jamaica for the foreseeable future.

If you qualify, you will petition the Immigration department of Jamaica who will consider whether you have lived in the country long enough and if you pose a threat to public or national security. On approval, you will take an Oath of Allegiance.

10 Helpful Tips For Living In Jamaica.

  1. Jamaica’s tap water is safe to drink.
  2. It’s a good idea to invest in a car when you have moved to Jamaica.
  3. Don’t expect to rush around Jamaica. People are naturally laid-back and relaxed.
  4. Contrary to popular suspicion, Marijuana is not legal in Jamaica.
  5. Jamaica experiences a hurricane roughly every 10-11 years. Hurricane season usually lasts between June 1 to November 30.
  6. Stick to buying local food rather than buying imported items.
  7. Don’t underestimate the cuisine from roadside jerk shacks.
  8. You should stick to crowded areas at night and avoid sightseeing after hours since some of the parishes are regarded as unsafe.
  9. Ensure that you get your necessary vaccinations before traveling to Jamaica.
  10. Consider investing in a generator when you live in Jamaica since power outages are very common.


Jamaica is utterly inviting with its lush beaches, friendly people, and exquisite cuisine. The island is the perfect place to retire and spend your hard-earned pension. But as with all paradise destinations, there are just a few things to keep in mind. As long as you’re not affected by the high crime rate and the tropical, humid weather, Jamaica is the perfect place for you to relax and enjoy the mellow culture in your old age.


Recent Posts