Public Transport – Route Taxis

There are no trains in Jamaica, and there are only buses in the capital city Kingston (I think, although I didn’t go there). There’s a luxury coach called the Knutsford Express which is about £15 per ticket which basically goes round the whole island taking you to the main cities (Ocho Rios or “Ochi”, Negril, Kingston etc), but that’s for longer trips rather than just traveling within your town.

“Route taxis” are the everyday form of public transport in Jamaica. They work a bit like buses because they each have a set route which is painted onto the side of the car, for example “Ocho Rios – Colegate – Claremont” (Colegate and Claremont are two villages up the mountains from Ocho Rios).

The taxi can deviate a bit from its route, which is how we managed to get taxis from Megan’s house (it’s not on a main road). We had the numbers of 5 local route taxi drivers so we called them to see where abouts on the route they were, and if they were near our area, we asked them to swing by Megan’s place so we could get in. The same thing happened on the way back from Ochi so we could get out at her house rather than on the exact route.

The route taxis charge per person, so the drivers don’t want to set off on the route until they’ve got enough people in the car to make it worthwhile. The cars aren’t big but the standard number of people travelling in them (in my experience) is 6 including the driver, meaning there are 4 people in the back (where there are only 2 seats).

The law says you have to wear a seatbelt but this very rarely happens. I tried a few times but they were broken, and normally it’s impossible anyway because there are too many people for the seats. In England I wouldn’t feel safe like that but for some reason it seemed ok in Jamaica.

The roads are AWFUL (full of potholes). People drive round the potholes rather than over them, even if this means driving in the wrong lane (well imaginary lane because there are no road markings). A combination of this and the complete disregard for the speed limit meant that every car journey was like a roller coaster. People also don’t seem to see a problem with driving when drunk/high, so that adds to the roller coaster experience sometimes.

The taxi from Megan’s house to Ochi normally costs 200 jamaican dollars which is 2 US dollars, so with 5 passengers the driver would make around 10 US dollars for a 20 minute drive.

It might sound like I hated being driven in Jamaica but it was actually quite fun, and I didn’t see anyone crash so I guess they know what they’re doing.

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