Factor in exchange rates, ATM fees, foreign transaction fees on credit cards and the NO Tipping policy at Couples and figuring out how much cash to bring with you can be a pain.
Do you plan to bring back souvenirs? Do you plan to purchase some local herbs? Services from the hotel? What about excursions?
Keep reading to find out how much cash you need.
Cash is king…
In Jamaica, cash is still very much accepted everywhere and only shop vendors and hotels will accept your credit card. They may also add on a processing fee for your purchase.
Thus, cash is king and you will have more haggling power if you have cash in hand.
US or Jamaica Dollars are the preferred currency. Some will take Canadian, but US Dollars seem to be the most preferred.
NO Tipping!… Well, sort of…
It is true – you do not tip ANY Couples employees.
However, you will encounter people who are not Couples employees who will be expecting a tip.
Red Cap Porters
The very first ones are the “Red Cap Porters” – these unionized porters will take your luggage from the Couples Lounge to the bus that will take you to the resort.
They expect $1 per bag. They will be waiting when you return to the airport.
We always tip the bus driver $10/person unless they do an outstanding job and talk about the local towns along the way or they’ll play some reggae music for you – in that case, we’ll add another $5 to the total – so $25.
You will see lot’s of musicians at the resort – they are not Couples employees either and it’s nice to give them a couple dollars or more as they won’t ask or go out of their way for tips.
Put That Wallet in the Safe!
The nice thing is – once you are at the resort – you can put your wallet away and forget about money as you really should not be tipping any employee at all!
Just grab a couple singles here and there for the musicians.
It’s OK to use your credit card to pay for items you purchase in the gift shop, private dinners or the spa. You will not be charged for these services and items until you check out.
Couples may put a hold of $300 on your card until your departure.
If you do not have a credit card, they will require $300 cash to hold as a deposit.
If you received resort credit – it’s important to make sure you have something stating how much credit you are due as soon as you check in.
This way when you check out, there are no surprises.
If you are paying cash for all of these services, then knowing some of the spa prices and service prices ahead of time is necessary.
There are some nice things to bring back. Painted shells with our names and friends/family members names are great gifts/souvenirs.
Most of the souvenirs are priced between $10-50 and comprise of the usual items you would expect – hand made crafts (beaded necklaces, bracelets, baskets) etc. – paintings and wood carvings.
NOTE: If you bring a very large wood carving back, US Custom’s may pull you aside to X-Ray your carving.
Planning to purchase some local herbs? A quarter ounce will run you $40-60 – and up to $80 for premium buds if you purchase from Kaya House.
If you need to go to the store or anywhere in town, a taxi will typically run $50 for both ways and that includes them waiting for you to do whatever you need. We usually tip $10 so consider going anywhere $60.
Can be very, very expensive.
Factor in at least $100/person – more if you want to do things like swim with the dolphins, ride ATVs or go to Mystic Mountain and ride zip lines etc.
Most excursions take credit cards but if they’re accepting your credit card, then the excursion is going to be very expensive – probably closer to $140/person.
The more off the beaten path, or local excursions will typically cost less but they’ll want cash.
For example – an hour long boat ride/tour with a local fisherman will cost you $40. Renting the Couples boat for a sunset cruise is $300 but they’ll happily take your credit card.
The Final Rip-Off
Your vacation is done and it’s time to head home. You have a few dollars in your pocket for tips and figure you’re good…
Almost – the last place you’ll need cash is for what I call the – “The Final Rip-off!”
Also known as the Montego Bay Airport.
Here you will find Wendy’s Hamburgers for $8 (no, not the combo! Just the burger). Quizno’s sandwiches that cost close to $20. And tiny pizzas for $10.
Factor in the foreign transaction fees and it’s one crappy, expensive lunch.
I personally do not like using my credit card in places like that so I save $30 for the airport for the two of us.
Club Mobay is a good alternative, but I found it to be rather boring as there’s at least stuff to look at in the airport.
Ok, How much do I need then?
Figure $100 for tips, $100 for an emergency like getting sick and needing medicine (taxi and expenses) and $50 for the airport at departure and you could actually get away with just $250-$300.
We add $100 for souvenirs but lately only spend $50 or so.
Our biggest expense has been excursions – we usually participate in Keith’s Bamboo Crew ($70+ depending on season) – we even did that twice one year.
NO Big Bills!
No-one – except maybe the hotel – will be able to break your big bills.
I bring $200-250 in small bills (10s, 5s, 1s) – and the rest in 20s. I’ll throw in a couple $100 bills for emergencies or anything unexpected – so far I’ve always brought them home or used them to pay for spa services.
Split it Up!
Once you have your cash, you and your partner should split it up so that neither has the full amount in case it gets lost or stolen.