Jamaican Language and Common Phrases

What languages are spoken in Jamaica?

The most commonly spoken language is Jamaican English, and then Jamaican Patois.

Jamaican English is the official language of Jamaica and is widely used in media, education, government, and business. The English used in Jamaica has mostly British grammar and spelling in its colonial history, but American English has also changed it over the years.

The majority of Jamaicans do not speak English as a mother language but learn it as a second language in school, the first being Jamaican Patois.

The most widely spoken language in the country is Jamaican Patois (also known as Patwa and Jamaican Creole).  While Jamaica is the official language, many Jamaicans speak Patois in their day-to-day casual conversations. Compared to 50,000 English-speaking Jamaicans, 2.7 million speak Jamaican, a kind of Creole English born during the slave trade. 

The Jamaican Patois is a blend of African languages, English, Arawak (the original Jamaican language), Portuguese, French, Irish, Chinese, Spanish, and Scottish. It was considered to be the worst language in its history but it has since been regarded as the language of liberty and independence in Jamaican history.

In addition to English and Jamaican Patois, what language do the Jamaicans speak, if anything? Arawakan, spoken by the indigenous people known as Taino, is Jamaica's only living indigenous language.

Jamaican boy with green eyes - Burning the culture barriers
Learning Jamaican language concept. Young woman standing with the Jamaica flag in the background. Teacher holding books, orange blank book cover.

Learning the Jamaican Language


It is good to learn a couple of phrases and words Jamaicans use in their everyday conversations when planning a vacation in Jamaica or start doing business there.

The official language of Jamaica is English, which means that tourists to Jamaica who speak English have no trouble interacting entirely with the local population. But learning more about Jamaican ducks can help you connect with the local people and make your journey or business a more positive experience.

It's not about mastering the local language to speak it fluently. To the local people you meet and communicate with on your journey, attempts to respect the local style of speech should be courteous.

If you take the time to listen to it you can easily understand the dialect. When the speaker is excited, words normally emerge fairly rapidly, but when there is a general conversation, the words come out much more slowly and are easier to understand.

"Patois" from Jamaica is conveyed as much by gesture and drama as by rhythm and sound. This is how people exchange thoughts and emotions with very passionate people. The language appeared as the voice of a special and proud people, far more than a means of communication.

Common Phrases in the Jamaican Language

Some common Jamaican phrases you might come across or find useful:


  • ‘Small up yuhself’

A good phrase to know when using crowded buses or taxis. It simply means making space.

Notice how similar it looks to the English phrase “Small up yourself”. 


  • ‘Weh Yuh Ah Seh’

The translation of the word to English is equal to "What are you saying?" or otherwise "How are you doing?" The sentence can also be spelled as' weh yaw seh.'


  • ‘Inna di morrows’

Used for saying goodbye.    "Tomorrow" will be the literal version, which means "see you later."


  • ‘Boonoonoonoos’

Boonoonoonoos is a word for love in the Jamaican language. In Engish, this means "special person". When visiting Jamaica, if you have a loved one with you, we suggest calling them a  "boonoonoonoos friend" to share your feelings. It is often used to denote things or objects that are also pleasant.

Jamaican man walking on the coast holding the Jamaican flag
  • ‘Mi Soon Come’

Literally, the Jamaican word means: I am there. But don't be mistaken if you’re told to come soon. The island's weather is much more slow and sluggish than the rest of the planet, so this expression could be interpreted from a few hours to a few days.


  • ‘Wah Gwaan’

If you heard the speech of former US President Barack Obama when he visited Jamaica ahead of his second term, you might have heard him greet his audience using this phrase. It is an informal welcome which means “How are you?” or “What’s up?”.


  • ‘Kick Up Rumpus’

Kick-up rumpus means getting a nice riotous time. It was also the title of Colourman and Jackie Knockshot's hit 1985 album.


  • ‘Lickkle more’

In other words, ‘see you later’ or ‘goodbye’. For example, mi see yuh likkle more den – means I’ll see you later then.


  • ‘Irie’

To say "all is well," the Jamaican proverb "Irie" is also used. Be conscious that to greet others, Jamaica has several varieties. When someone asks "How are you?", "My Irie" would be a reasonable response.


  • ‘Ya Mon’

"Man" is an important word in the Jamaican language for the locals and is often used when you speak to someone, whether it is a child or adult. "No problem" or "yes" is the English version of the Jamaican word "ya mon". For instance, if someone suggests to you a rum runner, you may want to say "Ya, mi!"


  • ‘Chaka-Chaka’

Chaka-chaka is used when something is being perceived as low performing, disorganized, and messy.


Shipping Motor Vehicles to Montego Bay, Jamaica

Shipping motor vehicles to Montego Bay, Jamaica: All the things you need to know

Whether you are currently a resident who has been living abroad, you are on a temporary work transfer, or just enjoying a really lengthy vacation, you want to drive your car around Jamaica when you arrive. The only problem is that there is an ocean between you, and you obviously cannot drive your vehicle across the water. The solution is to ship it. Send it ahead to be ready to drive upon your arrival.

 Shipping motor vehicles to montego bay jamaica from UK


If you are a returning resident or individual, you are allowed to import one motor car and one light commercial vehicle, two light commercial vehicles, or one light commercial vehicle and a regular commercial vehicle, not to exceed a total of two vehicles within a three year span of time. Before you do anything else, there are four things you need to know about shipping motor vehicles to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Prepare the proper documents and get approval to ship motor vehicles

Container shipping your vehicle

If you ship other household goods with your vehicle, you won’t have to prepare the car, and everything is then sealed inside a 20 or 40-foot container. The car is secured to avoid movement during shipment. The container method is considered the safest way to ship motor vehicles.


Know the steps to take to ship motor vehicles

First, apply for approval.

Before you will be able to ship your motor vehicle or motorcycle to Montego Bay, Jamaica you will need to apply to the Jamaica Trade Board for an Import Licence and receive approval. Do this through the Jamaica Customs Agency. It is also a good idea to check with the Embassy of Jamaica to obtain all of the most up-to-date information about import laws for motor vehicles to Montego Bay.

If you require further assistance you can contact the Jamaica High Commission in the UK prior to export of your vehicle.

Gather the necessary documents for shipping motor vehicles to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

How much does it cost to ship a package to jamaica and what paperwork is neededTo get approval for shipping your vehicle, you will need to gather together the necessary documents. These include:

The import licence will be issued by the Trade Board Limited. It will authorize you to import your motor vehicle. To gain approval, you will need to show proof of ownership by presenting the vehicle registration document. This title must be issued by the government of the country where the vehicle was purchased and the VSC or vehicle title will be required at the port of entry.

The Sea Waybill or original Bill of Lading/Order must be obtained from the local clearing shipping agent with detailed information about the vehicle as well as the date it landed on the island and the port of entry.

The invoice needs to come from the supplier and is required for all vehicles being shipped.

The Bill of Sight is a document with details about the motor vehicle that is being imported and is prepared and signed by the broker and then certified by Customs.

The Tax Compliance TCC will be obtained from Tax-Adminsitration Jamaica. This has to be from a main Tax office in a Parish of Jamaica.

Finally, the Simplified Administrative Document (eSad) is an electronic document that can only be completed by a licensed Customs Broker. It lists all of the particulars of the vehicle, the importer’s name, shipping information and the Customs duties are recorded. It is completed by the Customs Broker and submitted to Customs.

You will need to locate a suitable customs broker in Jamaica when you attend. There are plenty of agents to chose from and these persons are frequently located at the wharf, or you can locate a list of verified brokers from UK Jamaica high commission.

How is the Value of your motor vehicle determined?

Determining value and duty

Costs calculation shipping vehicles and motors to Jamaica Kingston Montego Bay from UK

Import Duty, special consumption tax and GCT is compounded. A processing fee and environmental levy is tallied and included in the aggregate Duty. Customs will assign the value to the motor vehicle in order to determine the duty.

You can view list of calculated duties on this link

The WTO Agreement states that invoices should be presented to Customs so the proper value can be derived. There are special circumstances that may allow concessionary rates of duty on vehicles, such as when the importer holds a job or position that entitles them to a concessionary rate of duty for importing motor vehicles. Those who qualify are farmers, senior teachers, and government traveling officers. The Ministry of Finance must grant these concessions upon approval of an application submitted through the proper governmental channels.

Custom’s levies in Jamaica are high, so expect to pay as much as 60 percent or more of the cost of the car as custom duty. Just make sure you stay mindful of the expenses when shipping motor vehicles to Montego Bay, Jamaica.


Limitations for importing motor vehicles

Does the age of the vehicle matter?

Generally speaking, the vehicle cannot be older than 4 years. If you are a resident of Jamaica who has been living abroad, you are allowed to import two vehicles within three years with proper documentation.

In order to be able to drive your vehicle on the island, your International driving license is valid for one year after which time you will be required to attain a local Jamaican license. Jamaican car insurance is required before you can drive the vehicle away from the customs department. Light commercial vehicles, such as pick-ups, panel or window vans, trucks which seat between 9 to 14 passengers, and unladen weight less than 300 kg or 3 tons cannot be older than six years. Motor cars and motorcycles have a five-year limit.

Trucks used for transporting cargo weighing between 3,000 to 4,000 kg have a fifteen year limit, those weighing between 4001 to 8000 kg have a fourteen year limit, and those over 8000 kg have a twenty five year limit. Buses used to transport passengers have between twelve and twenty year limit depending on their seating capacity.


Limitations on Shipping Vehicles from UK to Jamaica

Limitations for importing motor vehicles

Motor vehicles that are damaged or are in salvaged condition are strictly prohibited for import.

Also, legally, you are prohibited from selling your vehicle for at least one year after it has been imported.

If it is damaged during shipping , you will need to wait about three years.

Contact us for more useful information related to shipping to Montego Bay, Jamaica from the UK using one of our social links below.

Living in Jamaica

Living in Jamaica

Living in Jamaica is an exciting experience. Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

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