If you are ever fortunate enough to include Jamaica on your travels, you will need the Jamaican dollar in your pocket to help pay for your food, drink and anything else you wish to buy. It may not be the only dollar currency in the world and it does use the dollars and cents decimal system, but as you will see the Jamaican dollar has a history all of its own.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

There are seven coins in use and in circulation at present. The smallest of these is the one cent coin. Other than that there is the 10 cent, 25 cent, $1, $5, $10 and $20 coins. It is more unusual to have higher denomination coins in circulation as we have here for a dollar currency.

At present there are also five values of Jamaican banknotes available. These are the $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000 dollar notes. As you can see, most of the notes are very high in value compared to those of other dollar currencies. The highest for many other dollar currencies is often $100, and yet for the Jamaican dollar the lowest one is $50, with the highest one hundred times bigger than this in value. This is just one of the things that stands out about the Jamaican currency.

From past to present – the history of the Jamaica dollar

The history of the Jamaican dollar goes back to the time when it became an independent country, after British rule of Jamaica ended. Before this occurred the country used the Jamaican pound, as it was then known.

Jamaica was granted independence in 1962 but it was not until another seven years had passed that the government decided to swap the Jamaican pound for the Jamaican dollar.

Part of the reason for this was due to the old imperial form of the pound. At this time there were 240 pennies to the pound and it was measured in pounds, shillings and pence, in much the same way it was in Britain. The move to a decimal currency made sense, so it also made sense for those in charge to opt for a dollar currency as well. Hence the Jamaican dollar was born. Today you will see amounts written in the currency displayed as J$, to distinguish it from the many other dollar currencies in use around the world.

How to get hold of Jamaican dollars

You might be surprised to learn some major destinations and venues in Jamaica will happily accept US dollars as well as Jamaican dollars. This might be worth bearing in mind if you want to get hold of some cash to take with you. Indeed some people recommend that any traveller’s cheques you take on holiday with you should be in US dollars. This can make them easier to exchange than they would be if you were to use any other currency.

Furthermore a lot of venues that are focused on serving tourists are happy to take US dollars. The problem arises when you rely on this and then find the destination you are going to doesn’t accept them. So while it is good to have some US dollars on you, make sure you don’t go empty handed and forget your Jamaican dollars too. Taking a mix of both is the best option.

The good news is you can get cash out quite easily in many locations in Jamaica. The main areas are usually well served by cash machines that will take foreign cards. Do be advised that it is a good idea to notify your bank or card issuer that you are visiting the country though. The last thing you want to do is to arrive there and use your card only to find it is rejected. Some card issuers may believe it is being used fraudulently if you haven’t told them beforehand you would be using it abroad.

Of course you can also buy meals, drinks and souvenirs by using your credit or debit card to make payment. Smaller locations and shops are more likely to request cash though, so it is wise to have some on you wherever you go.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Jamaican dollar

This is easy to do. Simply visit your chosen currency converter – either online or by using an app – and enter the amount you want to convert. Choose your home currency and then choose the Jamaican dollar as the currency you want to convert that amount into. You’ll get a straight conversion rate in return. This means the amount given won’t include any commission you might have to pay when getting the cash you need from a bureau de change.

If you need to find out more about Jamaica or about visiting the country, the best website to visit is the official Jamaican High Commission website for the United Kingdom. This can be found at http://www.jhcuk.org/.

Travelling safely with Jamaican dollars

Kingston is said to be the part of Jamaica that has the highest crime rate, so it is wise to be cautious if you pay a visit. However the same could be said of many major cities around the world, so common sense should prevail at all times. If you are careful and you make sure not to go into any suspect areas at night or alone at any time, you can increase the odds of having a safe visit that is essentially free of problems.

As is the case all over the world, most criminals love an easy target. This is particularly true when it comes to tourists. It is wise not to carry any more cash on you than you need to. Furthermore be vigilant whenever you get cash out of a bank machine. These are easy targets for some criminals to try for.

If you are staying in a hotel or other similar resort you may be given safety advice to follow. Make sure you know what it is and stick to it at all times – it is given out for good reason. Perhaps most importantly, if you are unlucky enough to be the victim of a robbery, do not resist whoever is robbing you. Give them your money and anything they ask for and call the police when they have left.

This may put you off visiting Jamaica altogether but it is important to keep things in context. Even though there are violent crimes that take place there regularly, most people who visit have a great time and return home with no problems at all.

Where to spend your dollars in Jamaica – and what to spend them on

Where shall we begin? There are as many ways to spend your dollar as you can think of. Jamaica is a stunning place to visit, especially if you are into your water sports. These range from the more sedate, such as swimming and snorkelling, to the more advanced such as scuba diving. Remember to ensure your travel insurance covers you for such activities if you decide to try them.

When it comes to finding somewhere to visit, Kingston – the capital – is top of many people’s lists. It can be found towards the south eastern region of the island, it was created over 300 years ago and it is often the first thing people think of when they think of Jamaica. It sits on the waterfront and if you are going to spend a day or two there, make sure you don’t miss Port Royal. These ruins were caused by a massive earthquake and shortly after these events the capital was born.

Where else is there to visit on the island? Well, Port Antonio is a short distance north east of Kingston, on the opposite coast line. While it has a wonderful beach and almost demands you wind down and enjoy it, it also has a historic side that includes Fort George. It was originally built back in 1729 but it was used in the First World War as well. While it doesn’t look as majestic as it would have done in its heyday, you can still see some of the cannons and visit the Munitions Building.

If you head to the north west of the island you will find the famous Montego Bay, another big draw for many tourists to try. It is sometimes referred to as MoBay and lots of cruise ships call in here en route to and from other destinations. As such it is usually very busy with tourists wanting to make the most of everything it has to offer. If you want beaches, Montego Bay has them. If you want great shopping, it has that too. Whatever you want to do you can be sure Montego Bay offers you the chance to enjoy the best Jamaican holiday.

While the island is far from the cheapest place you could visit, you will enjoy cheaper food and drink than you might think. Make sure you try jerk chicken while you are there as this is one of the most famous dishes associated with Jamaica. You may be surprised to learn it isn’t the national dish though. This accolade belongs to ackee and salt fish. Ackee is a fruit that is grown locally which you should definitely try while you are there. Salt fish is exactly what it sounds like, and the two are served together.


Jamaica may well have a problem when it comes to crime, but on the whole it is a great place to enjoy a holiday. For the most part the people here are friendly and there is a laid back approach to life. It is not hard to see why when you realise how wonderful the surroundings are.

If you are used to living life at a faster pace it may take some time to slow down to the local way of life you will experience in Jamaica. You’ll come to enjoy it once you settle in though, so you can make the most of your time on the island.

Jamaica Dollar – JMD

2 thoughts on “Jamaica Dollar – JMD

  • September 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    This report surprised me in places. I had always had this vision of Jamaica being a nice relaxed and friendly place where you could have a great holiday with no worries. I wasn’t aware that gay people didn’t exist in their eyes, and I certainly didn’t know anything about the crime that seems to take place there.

    I do agree that if you are careful and – more to the point – sensible, you should have a great time. But as someone with gay friends I’m not sure I could visit somewhere that didn’t approve. I’ll have to find another island that is more forward thinking!

  • May 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I always rather fancied heading to Jamaica before reading this. I agree with Ben; the report has revealed some things I’d rather not have read. Although having said that it is best to know in advance; I probably won’t visit now.


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