Jamaica is famous for its reggae music, friendly people, and vibrant culture. But it’s also one of the world’s most beautiful countries, with a diverse landscape that features lush rainforests and spectacular beaches.
The residents of Jamaica enjoy a relaxed lifestyle with a warm climate and affordable cost of living. This idyllic setting has attracted many American over the past decade, who are looking for a warm location to enjoy their golden years.
But how affordable is Jamaica? Can a retiree on an average income live in Jamaica? How much income is needed to retire in Jamaica comfortably? In this guide, we’ll answer these questions and many more as we take a closer look at the cost of living in Jamaica.
- Jamaica has become a popular retirement location because of its climate, relaxed way of life, affordability, great food, amazing culture, and friendly locals.
- Consumer Prices are about 40% lower in Jamaica than in the United States (including rent)
- Jamaica is the 90th most affordable nation on the cost of living index
- Real estate is cheap in Jamaica, particularly if you intend to live outside of the major city centers
Why Retire In Jamaica?
Jamaica is a small Caribbean island nation located to the south of Cuba. It is famed for being the birthplace of reggae music and the legendary musician Bob Marley.
However, there is much more to Jamaica than music, including amazing food and a vibrant topography of mountains, rainforests and stunning beaches. The Jamaican people are among the friendliest in the world and welcoming of expats. The main reasons why American retirees are moving to Jamaica include:
Retiring in Jamaica is much more affordable than retiring in the United States.
Jamaica is located very close to the equator, so experiences warm weather virtually all year round, with temperatures ranging between 71°F (22°C) and 96°F (36°C). There is no real winter season and the beaches are swimmable all year round. The perfect location for retirees looking for a warm place to retire.
You will never run out of things to do while in Jamaica. The country is packed with historical locations, tourist attractions, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, restaurants, cafes, sports clubs, horse riding, bobsledding, swimming pools, theaters, nightclubs, bars, and much more.
- Cultural diversity
People from all around the world come to Jamaica. You will find many different races, religions, and cultures happily mixing together. This makes Jamaica a very exciting place to live.
If you are a music lover, you’ll find Jamaica to be a slice of heaven. Reggae and Dancehall music are the most popular options and there are music venues everywhere.
- A great place to start a business
If you are only semi-retired, you’ll quickly discover many business opportunities to pursue in Jamaica.
Where Does Jamaica Rank In The Cost-Of-Living Index?
The Cost Of Living Index calculates how affordable it is to live in different countries, based on the cost of consumer items like clothing, food, and transportation.
Currently, Jamaica is the 90th most affordable nation on the list of 138 countries on the list with a cost of living index of 53.16. In other words, it is cheaper than 48 countries and more expensive than 89 of the countries listed.
Jamaica is slightly cheaper than countries like Panama, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Croatia, Spain, and Greece. It is slightly more expensive than countries like Malaysia, Ghana, Albania, Serbia, Romania, and Vietnam.
To give you a point of reference, the United States is the 112th most affordable nation on the list of 138 countries, with a cost of living index of 71.92. To break it down further:
- Consumer Prices are about 28% lower in Jamaica than in the United States (not including rent)
- Consumer Prices are about 40% lower in Jamaica than in the United States (including rent)
- Restaurant prices are about 53% lower in Jamaica than in the United States
- Rent is about 60% lower in Jamaica than in the United States
- Groceries are about 22% cheaper in Jamaica compared to the United States
Related: Cost of Living in St. Croix
Food & Dining In Jamaica
Jamaican food is delicious. They use a mixture of cooking techniques and ingredients from several culinary traditions including the French, Portuguese, Indians, Chinese, and Spanish. Jamaicans combine tropical fruits, meat, vegetables, and seafood in exciting ways that result in delicious new flavor combinations.
Eating out in a restaurant setting is very affordable in Jamaica compared to the United States. This means retirees have the opportunity to go out regularly and sample all of the incredible food that Jamaica has to offer.
If you enjoy cooking, you will also be able to pick up cheap fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs, meat, and fish at the local markets.
Cost of restaurants in Jamaica
A basic meal at an inexpensive restaurant $600.00 JMD ($4.00 USD)
A three-course meal mid-range restaurant for two people $6,000.00 JMD ($40.00 USD)
McDonald’s Combo Meal $750.00 JMD ($5.00 USD)
Cost of groceries in Jamaica
Milk (regular, 1 liter) $340.00 JMD ($2.30 USD)
A loaf of White Bread (500g) $330.00 JMD ($2.25 USD)
Rice (white, 1kg) $140.00 JMD ($0.90 USD)
Eggs (dozen) $380.00 JMD ($2.55 USD)
Cheese (1kg) $1330.00 JMD ($8.95 USD)
Chicken Breast Fillets (1kg) $630.00 JMD ($4.25 USD)
Beef Round (1kg) $800.00 JMD ($5.40 USD)
Tomato (1kg) $300.00 JMD ($2.05 USD)
Potato (1kg) $375.00 JMD ($2.50 USD)
Water (1.5-liter bottle) $150.00 JMD ($1.00 USD)
Bottle of Wine (Affordable, mid-range) $1,800.00 JMD ($12.10 USD)
Domestic Beer (0.5-liter bottle) $260.00 JMD ($1.75 USD)
Imported Beer (0.33-liter bottle) $345.00 JMD ($2.30 USD)
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro, or other popular brands) $1,200.00 JMD ($8.00 USD)
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) $121.00 JMD ($0.80 USD)
Transportation Costs In Jamaica
Jamaica has a modern transportation system which mostly consists of roadways and railways. There are also three international airports, several regional airports, and many docks.
If you decide to retire in Jamaica, you will probably get around by car or bus most of the time, but you may even find yourself riding a bike to go to the shops or a local cafe. Locals that live on the coastline sometimes use a boat to visit other coastal areas, which is a great way to take in the scenery while traveling.
Purchasing a Vehicle In Jamaica
Most American retirees will purchase a car while living in Jamaica, because it is the most convenient way of getting around. If you decide to buy a new imported car, you can expect to pay more than you would in the United States. This is due to Jamaica having a smaller economy and less valuable currency. However, used cars offer decent value for money.
You can expect to pay about $33,000 USD for a new Volkswagen Golf or $26,500 USD for a Toyota Corolla in Jamaica. The same vehicles would only cost $23,000 USD and $21,500 USD respectively if bought in the USA.
In terms of second hand vehicles, you could get a 2014 Toyota Corolla for about $10,000 USD, a 2017 Honda Accord for $23,500 USD, and a 2014 BMW 730Li for $33750.00 USD.
Cost Of Getting Around Jamaica Using Public Transport
- One-way Ticket (Local bus) $100.00 JMD ($0.70 USD)
- Monthly Pass (Local bus) $5,000.00 JMD ($33.00 USD)
- Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) $250.00 JMD ($1.70 USD)
- Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) $355.00 JMD ($2.40 USD)
Cost Of Housing & Utilities in Jamaica
The low cost of housing is one of the main reasons why retirees move to Jamaica from the United States. It’s possible to rent a very comfortable apartment or house in Jamaica at a fraction of the cost of renting in a major U.S. city like Los Angeles, Orlando, or Chicago.
The design aesthetic of Jamaican homes is also much more exciting than the homes in American cities. You can find really quirky homes in a wide variety of architectural styles in Jamaica.
Cost of Apartments in Jamaica (Rent per month)
Located in a major Jamaica city:
(1 bedroom) $73,500.00 JMD ($495.00 USD)
(3 bedrooms) $151,500.00 JMD ($1,025.00 USD)
Located outside of a major city center
(1 bedroom) $43,000.00 JMD ($290.00 USD)
(3 bedrooms) $105,000.00 JMD ($705.00 USD)
Cost of Houses in Jamaica (Rent per month)
The price of renting a house in Jamaica will vary greatly depending on its location, build quality and the amenities it offers. Prices can range anywhere from $300 USD to $5,000 USD per month. Homes in the middle of Kingston are the most expensive option, particularly if they are on the larger side.
Many retirees choose to rent homes in country clubs or estates, as they are safe, gated communities with excellent amenities. A two-bedroom home in a country club in Saint Ann Parish might cost about $1,100 USD a month.
However, for this price, you will enjoy a gym, large swimming pool, breakfast bar, walking trails, BBQ areas and other excellent amenities. A large three bedroom home in a gated community might cost an additional $300 or $400 USD.
More luxurious homes in the middle of Kingston can cost anywhere between $2,500 USD and $6,000 USD per month. For this price, you will receive a very large and stately home with great views.
If you are on a tight budget, you can find modest 2-3 bedroom homes for as little as $400 to $600 per month in areas like St Catherine and St Elizabeth.
Buying Property In Jamaica
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying or selling property in Jamaica, which is great news for retirees interested in settling down for the long term. The price of real estate is very affordable compared to the United States. However, one more, luxury houses and those within the centre of Kingston can be very expensive.
It is always advisable to obtain advice from a local real estate lawyer when purchasing real estate in Jamaica. They will check that there are no conflicting interests against the property you want to purchase.
In terms of price, you can expect to pay about:
- $50,000 USD for a quarter acre block of land in a location like Newark Grove, Spur Tree Hill
- $100,000 USD for a 2 bedroom bungalow in Lottery, Rose Hill, Manchester
- $240,000 USD for a 2-3 bedroom bungalow in a gated community
- $260,000 USD for a 2 bedroom apartment overlooking the water in Montego Bay
- $270,000 USD for a large detached 5+ bedroom home in location like Saint Mary or Avondale Heights
- $500,000 USD for a luxury villa in White House, Westmoreland, Jamaica
- $750,000 USD for a stunning 11 bedroom, 10 bathroom mansion located in Ocean Ridge Drive, Rio Nuevo, St. Mary
Utility Costs In Jamaica
Utilities and Internet access are both very affordable in Jamaica. The warm climate makes heating unnecessary and most homes have solar hot water, which can help you reduce your energy bills even more.
For the average 2-3 bedroom home, the cost ofElectricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, and Garbage disposal is about $15,000 JMD ($100.00 USD) month. Internet (60+ Mbps, Unlimited Data) will cost about $5,250.00 JMD ($33.00 USD)
Employment & Income in Jamaica
If you are only semi-retired, you’ll be happy to learn that Jamaica is a great place to find employment or start a new business. The economic situation has been quite good in recent years, with the unemployment rate halving between 2013 and 2020. Many expats start tourism businesses, cafes, or restaurants after moving to Jamaica.
The average monthly salary (after tax) in Jamaica is about $97,000.00 JMD ($656.77 USD). However, you can achieve a much higher salary if you are a highly skilled worker.
Childcare Expenses in Jamaica
The rates for childcare, pre-school, and public school is quite reasonable. You can expect to pay about $30,000 JMD per month ($204.00 USD) for full-day private day care or kindergarten.
Healthcare & Medical Expenses in Jamaica
Jamaica has a decent health care system with well trained doctors and excellent medical facilities. There are clinics and hospitals in all parishes on the island, but they do vary in terms of size and the level of care they can provide.
Health care is free for all citizens and legal residents living in Jamaica, while non-residents must pay up-front fees. Unfortunately, there can be long queues when accessing services in the public health system. For this reason, many retirees choose to purchase private health insurance and use the private health care facilities in Kingston or Montego Bay. While this is more expensive, you can access high-quality medical care as soon as it is needed.
Enrolling in an international health care plan is often the best option for accessing private medical facilities. The cost of these insurance plans will vary based on your age, health, gender, what the plan includes, which countries are included, and several other factors. However, you can expect to pay anywhere between $3,000 and $20,000 per year.
Cost of Clothing & Shoes in Jamaica
Clothing and shoes are reasonably priced in Jamaica, with many cheap products being imported from China, Taiwan, and Bangladesh. There is also a small local textiles industry that makes traditional and bespoke items. If you want to wear the latest clothes from European or American designers, expect to pay a premium. Typical prices are:
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) $4,900.00 JMD ($33.00 USD)
1 Summer Dress or Spring Skirt (Popular chain store) $3,500 JMD ($23.00 USD)
1 Pair of Running Shoes (Nike or Adidas) $8,000.00 JMD ($54.00 USD)
Pair of Men’s Business Shoes $19,500.00 JMD (USD $70.00 USD)
Taxes & Legal Information in Jamaica
The Jamaican government encourages foreigners to move to their country and have generous tax arrangements for retirees. Here is a short overview of your tax obligations when retiring in Jamaica.
Do US Citizens Have to Pay Taxes While Living in Jamaica?
If you are still a U.S. citizen, you will have IRS taxation obligations even while living in Jamaica. This can include:
- IRS form 40 must be lodged if you earn more than $10,000 USD per year. This lodgment is required even if your income is derived from a foreign country.
- IRS form 8938 must be lodged if you overseas assets worth more than $200,000 USD (per person).
- FinCEN form 114 (known as a Foreign Bank Account Report or FBAR) must be lodged if you have more than $10,000 USD in a foreign bank account or investment account.
Fortunately, there are deductions on income tax paid in Jamaica, so you will avoid double taxation. The Jamaican government shares information with the IRS, so they will know how many assets you own in Jamaica.
Income Tax in Jamaica
Expat retirees who live in Jamaica intermittently are only taxed on the income that is earned in Jamaica.
However, this will change if you spend more than 6 months in Jamaica each tax year, if you own a home in Jamaica, or if you visit Jamaica for at least 3 months per year for 4 years consequentially.
When this occurs, you will be considered a Jamaican resident for taxation purposes. This means you will pay tax on worldwide income above a tax-free threshold (currently $11,712.18 USD). The tax rate is progressive, starting at 25% then reaching 30% for high income earners (currently $46,845.72 USD).
Even if you are taxed in Jamaica, it’s important to remember that you are protected against double taxation. This means you will never be taxed on the same income in both Jamaica and the United States.
Your Social Security and pension payments will never be taxed by the Jamaican government, however, they still might be taxed by the U.S.
Capital Gains Tax in Jamaica
There is currently no capital gains tax in Jamaica. However, there are transfer taxes and stamp duty on the sales of shares and real estate.
VAT Tax in Jamaica
Jamaica has a General Consumption Tax (GCT) of 15% on certain items.
Real Estate and Property Tax
There are a number of fees and taxes associated with buying and selling real estate in Jamaica. They include:
- Legal fees: 1.50% – 3.00% (+16.50% GCT) for both buyer and seller
- Stamp duty: 2% for both buyer and seller
- Registration fee: 0.25% for both buyer and seller
- Transfer tax: 5% for seller
- Real estate agent fee: 3% – 5% (+ 16.50% CGT) for seller
Is There Retirement Tax in Jamaica?
There is no retirement tax in Jamaica as social security and pension payments are 100% tax free. However, you may be taxed on other sources of foreign income (as mentioned above).
Inheritance Taxes in Jamaica
There is no inheritance tax in Jamaica, however, if an estate includes property it will be taxed.
Property can be transferred to beneficiaries in one of two ways in Jamaica: inter vivos (while you are still alive) or mortis causa (after death).Transfers that occur while you are still alive will be taxed at a flat rate of 7.5%.
For transfers tat occur after death, properties will be taxed ay the market value minus any debts, funeral expenses, and estate administration costs. Properties up to $100,000 JMD (about $8,100 USD) are tax exempt. The value of the property over this amount is taxed at 7.5%.
Cost of Entertainment In Jamaica
Jamaica is a vibrant country with an exciting culture. It’s the perfect retirement destination if you want to remain active during your golden years. You’ll never run out of things to do, from hiking through lush forests, sunning yourself on the beach, or checking out local reggae acts.
In terms of entertainment costs, you will spend about:
- $2,600.00 JMD ($18.00 USD) for two movie tickets
- $4,000.00 JMD ($27.00 USD) for two theater tickets
- $6,000.00 JMD ($41.00 USD) for dinner for two at a local pub
- $13,000.00 JMD ($94.00 USD) for three course dinner for two with wine and desert
- $755.00 JMD ($5.10 USD) cocktail at a local club
- $495.00 JMD ($3.30 USD) for a cappuccino
- $360.00 JMD ($2.45 USD) for beer at a local pub
- $5,600.00 JMD ($38.00 USD) for a monthly gym membership
What to Expect Before Arriving In Jamaica to Live
Here is some additional information about the other costs which you might incur when retiring in Jamaica.
Jamaica Immigration Costs
Americans can stay in Jamaica for up to six months without a visa, which is great for retirees who want to get a sense of what life in Jamaica is like. If you love Jamaica and intend to stay for longer, you will need to apply for residency status.
To obtain residency, you will need:
- A Valid National Passport
- Evidence of financial status and means of support (social security, pension, cash, rental income etc)
- Certified Copy of Birth Certificate;
- Evidence of Marital status – Marriage Certificate, particulars of spouse, children and other dependents;
- Medical Certificate of good health;
- Police Certificate from the state from which you are migrating;
- Two (2) Passport size photographs;
- Reasons for seeking permanent residence in Jamaica;
- Names and addresses of two reputable references or acquaintances.
Can I Use USD in Jamaica?
Yes, the majority of stores will accept U.S. currency. However, it’s always useful to have some Jamaican currency as certain shops will only accept JMD. Be aware that even when you pay in USD, your change may be in JMD.
How Much Cash Can I Bring into Jamaica?
Travelers are allowed to bring up to $10,000 USD in undeclared cash and other assets into Jamaica. If you wish to bring in higher amounts, you will need to declare it.
How Much Does it Cost to Live Comfortably in Jamaica?
A retired couple can enjoy a ‘comfortable lifestyle in Jamaica for between $800 and $2,000 per month. This figure includes plenty of money for rent, food, entertainment, fuel, utilities, health insurance, clothing, and other essential purchases.
The main factor in determining the cost of a comfortable lifestyle is where and how you choose to live. If you decide to live in a 2-3 bedroom rented home within a gated estate, the rent alone might cost $1,100 USD per month. However, if you chose a 1 bedroom flat in a regional area, your rent could be as low as $300 USD per month.
Sample Jamaican Monthly Budget
Rent: $400 USD for a one/two bedroom flat
Utilities: $100 USD
Transportation: $40 USD
Fuel (Car): $20 USD
Food: $100 USD
Eating Out: $150 USD
Entertainment: $100 USD
Internet: $33 USD
Health Insurance: $100 USD
Clothes/Shopping: $100 USD
This budget comes to a total of $1,143 USD. For this price, you will live a very exciting lifestyle with plenty of eating out, visits to coffee shops, attendance at live music gigs, and seeing the sights around Jamaica.
Jamaica is a wonderful place to live and quite affordable compared to the United States. If you decide to retire there, get ready to enjoy many relaxing days sitting on the beach or sipping cocktails by the pool as you listen to reggae. The stunning natural environment, great food and friendly people really do make it one of the world’s best retirement destinations.
Related: Caribbean Islands That Speak English