Jamaica Currency Exchange Guide

Jamaica is a stunning Caribbean country that captures the hearts of visitors everywhere. From its vibrant culture, stunning beaches and diverse landscapes, Jamaica is truly one of the gems of the Caribbean. With rich cultural experiences and plenty of recreational activities, there’s something for all types of travellers to enjoy. From world-class golfing to thrilling heights on Bob Marley’s Nine Mile – there’s no end to what you can experience in Jamaica. Be it historical sites, romantic dining or breathtaking views, this lush destination has everything that a traveller will seek. Come discover Jamaica and be enchanted by its colourful beauty and infectious spirit – you won’t regret it!

General Jamaica Currency Information

What is the currency of Jamaica?

The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (JMD).

What do Jamaican notes & coins look like?

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Jamaican banknotes come in a variety of denominations, ranging from $50 to $5000. All notes are the same size (145 x 68 mm) and feature a unique watermark corresponding with the portrait printed on that particular note. Additionally, the serial number is printed twice within the design; vertically along the left side and horizontally at the far right.

The date of printing and signature of the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica likewise appear as part of each note’s design. Special symbols are printed across all notes except for those valued at $1000 or $5000, where bold numerals indicating such value are placed instead at the bottom right corner. Lastly, each note bears on its face a portrait of either a Jamaican national hero or a former Prime Minister, while the back of each bill features a Jamaican landmark or scene.

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All Jamaican coins are adorned with the country’s official crest on the obverse, representing loyalty to Jamaica. The reverse side of each coin features a commemorative portrait of a national hero; Sir Alexander Bustamante for the $1 coin, Norman Manley for the $5 coin, George William Gordon for the $10 coin and Marcus Garvey for the $20 bimetallic coin, which is composed of nickel-plated steel on its inner core surrounded by an outer layer of nickel-brass. With these carefully chosen designs, Jamaican currency pays homage to inspiring figures who have left a lasting legacy in their homeland.

Economy

Since the country gained independence in 1962, Jamaica has seen a shift in its economy towards services such as tourism and finance, with mixed results. As the state stepped back from taking a major role in the economy in the 1980s, thanks to economic liberalisation and structural adjustment, it opened up private enterprise as the principal driver of economic growth.

Agriculture remains one of the main pillars of Jamaica’s economy, with sugarcane being the major crop, along with its by-products, molasses and rum. It is estimated that agriculture accounts for about 1/20 of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the source of livelihood for 1/6 of the island’s workforce.

Brief currency history

Uniquely distinct from all the other dollars used in the British West Indies, the Jamaican dollar (as well as the Cayman Islands dollar) is valued at half-pound sterling. Unlike its counterparts which draw reference to either US or Spanish dollar unit, this particular unit stands alone.

On 30th January 1968, the Jamaican House of Representatives voted unanimously for the introduction of a decimal currency, which provided the opportunity to introduce a complete Jamaican coinage. This replaced the pound sterling, which had previously been in use. The Committee responsible for making decisions about the design of this new unit identified several important considerations to ensure its successful implementation.

Coins were to be made as close as possible to the previous foreign coins in terms of size and weight, while further changes, such as different portraits and mottos, would feature on banknotes. The newly designed coins and bills entered circulation in 1969, becoming an indelible part of Jamaican currency history ever since.

In 1994, Jamaica decided to restructure its currency system. The story of Jamaican currency can be traced back to 1994 when the Council of Ministers approved a new monetary structure. This switch saw the $5 banknote replaced by a coin, with the $1 being replaced by 25 cents and 10 cents, getting a new appearance.

Additionally, 5-cent coins were abandoned, and new denominations of coins included 1, 10 and 25 cents, $1 and $5. Later in 1999, a further addition was made with the inclusion of a 10-cent coin.

Subsequently, in 2000, two more modifications were implemented via the introduction of a $1,000 note and a $20 bimetallic Marcus Garvey commemorative coin, representing Jamaica’s first national hero. More recently, in 2009, a new $5000 note was released, which bore the portrait of The Rt. Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer.

The new 2022 series of Jamaican banknotes, set to be introduced in the last quarter of 2022, features six denominations – including the new $2000 note. This introduction is a result of the Minister of Finance and the Public Service’s announcement last 8th of March 2022, as it is intended to facilitate smoother handling of cash transactions.

Bank of Jamaica is delighted that these new notes will soon be available to both individuals and businesses alike, providing convenience and ease with daily operations. In due course, the current series will be replaced by the more efficient bills from this new edition.

Taking Travel Money to Jamaica

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What currency should I take to Jamaica?

If you’re travelling to Jamaica, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollars (AUD) for Jamaican dollars (JMD) before you leave.

Is it better to convert currency in Australia or Jamaica?

Converting currency in Australia before travelling to Jamaica can be much more beneficial for your budget as you will more than likely get more bang for your buck. Furthermore, carrying pre-converted travel money gives you peace of mind when travelling – so you won’t have to worry about finding for a trustworthy money exchange when you’re there.

Where to convert currency?

Crown Currency Exchange provides foreign currency exchange solutions with a competitive exchange rate and no additional fees. With an exemplary history of over two decades in the foreign currency industry, our reliable services ensure that you get a convenient, cost-effective and secure foreign exchange service. Get your foreign currencies sorted today with Crown Currency Exchange, and make sure all your foreign currency needs are taken care of.

How much can I take to Jamaica?

When travelling to Jamaica, you will be pleased to learn that there are no restrictions on the amount of local or foreign currency you can take with you. However, it is important to note that if you are carrying more than US$10,000 in currency or its equivalent, then this must be declared upon arrival. Taking the time to inform customs officials of your cash reserves upon arrival can help ensure a smooth transition into Jamaica without any additional problems or delays.

Is tipping customary in Jamaica? How much is expected?

Tipping is not mandatory in Jamaica, although it’s customary to leave a small tip for good service. Let’s dive into the details of how to tip while you’re visiting this beautiful Caribbean island.

Restaurants & Bars: In most restaurants and bars, a 10-15% tip is standard. This number increases slightly when dining out at nice restaurants or trendy bars.

Hotels: If you’re staying at a hotel during your trip, it’s customary to tip between AUD $1-36. It’s common practice to give your bellboy and valet some extra money for great service. You should also consider leaving a small token of appreciation for your housekeepers if they go above and beyond while cleaning your room during your stay. 

Taxis: When using cabs in Jamaica, there isn’t an exact rule on how much to tip the driver; however, 10% is generally acceptable.

Tour Guides: When taking a tour, it’s customary to tip 10-20% of the cost of the tour. However, if the tour is particularly expensive, 5% may be more appropriate. If the tour has both a guide and driver, an AUD $7-14 per passenger gratuity is expected.

Spas: If you’re visiting a spa while in Jamaica, check to see if tips are even allowed and if there’s an included gratuity fee on your bill. If tips are accepted, and you feel the service warrants one, 10% is usually sufficient.

Can you bargain in Jamaica?

If you’re shopping in Jamaica, bartering and bargaining should definitely be part of the process. Your initial offer should be about half of what you deem the item to be worth; Jamaicans truly relish haggling. Don’t get deterred if no agreement is reached on your first negotiation, just accept and simply walk away. You may even find that they come after you to continue the conversation.

What is ATM access like in Jamaica?

Access to ATMs in Jamaica is easy in more populated areas like Kingston, Montego Bay and Mandeville, as well as around popular resorts. However, more remote areas may only have cash withdrawals available at petrol stations. It’s important to keep safety in mind when withdrawing money from an ATM; opt for those located within locked vestibules and be sure they are well-lit.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

When it comes to budgeting for a trip to Jamaica, it is suggested that you have around JMD $6,500-7,500 (AUD $62-72) set aside per day. This will cover daily necessities like meals, hostel accommodation, and bus transportation. You could also take advantage of some of the free activities available on the island, such as sunbathing on the beach or swimming at various locations. If you want to include drinking in your daily routine, it is advised that you add an extra 400-1,200 JMD to your day’s funds.

Moderate

Planning a vacation on a moderate budget? JMD $16,000-18,000 (AUD $153-172) per day should have you covered. With that amount of daily budget, you can find an awesome Airbnb in the area, enjoy some delicious local flavours at eateries nearby, treat yourself to a few drinks out and about, get around by catching taxis instead of walking and even go for some fun outdoor activities like rafting or snorkelling.

Luxury

With an extravagant budget of JMD $35,000 (AUD $335) per day or more, you can enjoy all the perks of the high life. Book yourself into a swanky hotel, dine out in style for all your meals, treat yourself to drinks of choice and rent a car for transportation. Plus, take part in as many activities and tours as your heart desires – the only limit here is your imagination!

Currency details

Currency:

Jamaican dollars

Currency code:

JMD

Currency symbol:

$

Central bank:

Bank of Jamaica

Nickname:

None

Currency sub-unit:

Cent = 1/100 of a Dollar

Bank notes:

$50, $100, $500, $1,000, $2,000, $5,000

Coins:

1¢, 10¢, 25¢. $1, $5, $10, $20

Must-do's while you are in Jamaica

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1. Explore Downtown Kingston

To truly experience Jamaica’s unique culture, take some time to explore downtown Kingston. From art galleries and museums to bars and restaurants, there is a lot packed into this bustling city which serves as Jamaica’s cultural capital. Spend a day meandering through downtown Kingston, and you are sure to discover some hidden gems that will make your trip unforgettable. 

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2. Visit Dunn's River Falls 

Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular attractions. It’s an awe-inspiring sight! Climb up the terraced falls and bask in the beauty of nature at its finest. You can also take a dip in one of the many pools peppered throughout the falls—a great way to cool off on a hot day! 

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3. Satisfy Your Taste Buds with Jerk Chicken 

No trip to Jamaica would be complete without trying some jerk chicken from a roadside stand or market stall. This flavour-packed dish has been around for centuries and is renowned around the world for its unique blend of spices and slow-cooked tenderness. Be sure to bring your appetite (and perhaps a bottle of hot sauce!) when trying this Jamaican classic. 

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4. Listen To Reggae Music 

Jamaica is known as the birthplace of reggae music, so it only makes sense that you should take some time out during your visit to immerse yourself in this beloved genre. Hit up one of Kingston’s live music venues or simply listen in on one of Jamaica’s street corner jams; no matter what you choose, you are sure to appreciate just how influential reggae has been on modern music today.

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5. Soak Up The Sun On Seven Mile Beach 

You can’t visit Jamaica without spending some time lounging on its white sand beaches! One of its most popular beaches is Seven Mile Beach, located near Negril, which stretches for 7 miles along western Jamaica’s coast. With warm waters, plenty of beach activities, bars and restaurants—Seven Mile Beach is an ideal spot for sunbathing or swimming with family or friends.

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