As a local living in a resort area, every now and then I’m approached by tourists looking for help.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, like myself, they’re on a budget and attempting to save wherever they can.
Face facts, resort life can be pricey, especially if you don’t know where and how to find deals.
An issue I struggle with is transportation. With the state of the Jamaican economy, I’m not too keen on replacing my car anytime soon.
I’ve temporarily said “adios” to buying gas and insurance; standing up in long lines at the tax office to renew fitness and registration; and, the big daddy of them all, finding a trustworthy mechanic who won’t take advantage of my slim knowledge of vehicle mechanics and charge me an arm, leg and maybe an eyeball and a few teeth for what he calls “service”.
(If I sound vex, it’s because I’ve sustained great financial blows to the pocket and am yet to recover mentally.)
Anyhoos, I do what most Jamaicans and tourists do. I take taxis.
Now, there are taxis, and there are taxis . . . and then there are taxis.
In Jamaica, we have taxis available for hire, and we have route taxis.
Let’s tackle the route taxis first.
Route taxis are licensed to take public passengers to prescribed destinations via prescribed routes. They operate similar to a public bus system.
Not all route taxis are created equal. The only thing equal about them is their fare structure which, these days, is anywhere from US$1 up, depending on where along his prescribed route the driver drops you.
When you flag down a route taxi or when a cabby blows his/her horn at you, which in Jamaica means “Are you coming?” (and if you are, just stick out your hand and he/she will pull up beside you), be prepared for anything.
Be prepared for:
1. A ride that leaves you feeling like a race-car passenger at Dover.
2. A ride that leaves you feeling like a sardine squashed by three other sardines in a tin built for three.
3. Power windows with no power.
4. Seat covers made from old t-shirts or any rustic substitution for missing vehicle parts like horns, windows and door handles.
5. Blaring music recorded from a sound-system session.
6. An earful of IrieFM (which can be convenient when you want to catch the news or listen to a call-in programme).
Mark you, not all route taxis pose a risk to your health.
On this side of the island, I’ve found the route-taxi cabbies to be quite jovial and mannerly–for the most part. They seem to be conscious of the importance of giving tourists a good overall experience. If you’re a local, however . . . let’s just say, dem don’t always treat you so delicately.
Taxis for hire are licensed to take you anywhere you want to go, even as far as another parish.
I find that the chartered taxis provide a generally safer experience. Di only problem is, they can be pricey, bad-bad. Plus, their fees may or may not be negotiable.
But, trust mi, in Ochi, there are so many taxis (like, whole heap), you don’t have to waste time haggling with an unyielding cabby. Move on to the next guy. If he gives you a reasonable price and good service, ask him for a business card. You might need him in the future.
The highest fee I’ve heard of, since living in these country parts, is US$30 for a seven-minute-long trip into Ocho Rios.
What can I say? As a frugal person, I couldn’t wrong the tourist who was quoted that particular rate for seeking out alternate transportation. Even if it meant getting squashed in the back seat of a 1990 Corolla station wagon during the blazing summer heat with no air conditioning, except di breeze blowing in his face through the window.
In Jamaica, if you’re on a tight budget, be wise when seeking transportation.
Make sure any taxi you decide to take is licensed as such. You can spot them from afar by their red PPV licence plates. Up close, you should see a Transport Authority sticker on the windshield and a Transport Authority identification card/badge in the vehicle or on the driver.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have them answered before you hop into the cab.
Ensure you agree on the total fare and destination. Route taxis have their route clearly marked on the front doors. Please find out if your destination is on the driver’s route before getting in.
And, please, listen to me. From time to time, private individuals may stop–out of the blue–to offer you a ride. Respectfully decline. Remember what maw and paw taught you: don’t take rides from strangers. The same rule applies in Jamaica.
Catch yuh next time!
Peace and love,
Interesting notes for you:
1. Dover Raceway is found near Brown’s Town, St. Ann, and is a popular venue for car and motorcycle races organized by the Jamaica Race Drivers Club (JRDC).
2. Transport Authority is the licensing agency for all public and commercial vehicles as well as the regulator and monitor of public transportation in Jamaica.
Image of Taxi Logo Highlighted is courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Original image of Finish Flag is courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Original image of Sardines is courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Original image of Old Speaker Isolated is courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Image of Line of Taxis is courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net