Phoning Home (and everywhere else) from Jamaica

Calling home, or making calls in Jamaica, can be an expensive proposition. Some bring their US cell phones..that can present a very, very expensive surprise when you get home if you aren’t careful. Some rent a Jamaican cell phone for around $10/day. Some book an airport transfer with a driver who will lend a Jamaican cellphone for free.  I like to have my own Jamaican cell phone as it allows me to move around and be in touch with whoever I need to.

In the past I used Digicel but that phone finally aged out at around 10 years old so this trip I needed a new one. I heard about Hi-Lo supermarket in Negril possibly having some of the newer LIME phones (JA has Digicel, LIME and used to have Cable and Wireless, not sure what happened to that or if it turned into LIME?) .  I couldn’t get a handle on how much they were before my trip but my driver was cool with me stopping to check. I needed some groceries anyway.

So….Hi-Lo has a counter near the front where you go to sign credit cards and stuff, that’s where they are. Mine was $2500J (less than US$25) and came with $100J credit, 90 minutes international calling time and 200 text messages and a SIM card all included. I added $200J more for local calls bringing the total to $2700J for all.

The guy at Hi-Lo put in the SIM card and loaded up my credit and activated everything for me so I walked out with a fully functional phone, ready to go. Calls within Jamaica were around 10 cents a minute and I never came close to using all of my texts or international minutes. For $2.50US a day I could keep in touch with everyone…my friends in Jamaica and those with us on the trip (those that chose to buy/rent/borrow a phone or set up a plan on their US phones, anyway), drivers for pickups, restaurants for “I am bringing a ton of people” warnings, everything.

I will bring it next time and though I may need to buy a new SIM card (around $8US?) I will be able to use it again. If I want to load it remotely every few months from here I may be able to keep it activated.

The phone is light and thin and the battery lasted FOREVER without a charge.  Texting was old school (press a number repeatedly to get the letters, you know), but the phone had a built in radio, so that was cool. I stored my contacts on the phone, not the card, so hopefully they’ll still be there next time.

In any case, having a phone of my own for this trip was extremely valuable as there were 100+ of us all over the place and I was able to keep in touch with most everyone.

If anyone knows a better deal, let me know in the comments, but this was perfect for me.

Funny thing: When I got home it welcomed me to the US and is currently roaming on AT&T. I just made a call on it to a US number.  I wonder if I use it occasionally if I can keep the SIM from de-activating…..

If you only want to use a phone on wifi and have an Android phone, then I recommend Google Voice + Groove IP. That allows unlimited free calls and texts over wifi to a number you choose (a US number). You can give that number to your friends and family at home and they call you and it’s a domestic call for them. You call for free too – but only as long as you have wifi.

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4 Replies to “Phoning Home (and everywhere else) from Jamaica”

  1. Hi great post. I was just in Negril this month (July 14). I got the same phone, not at Hi Lo but at the plaza across the street there is a Lime office upstairs. I reloaded back here in the states and I'm trying to figure out how often I have to reload to keep it active – every month? Let me know if you find out and thanks!

  2. They answered quickly!

    Inactive mobile phone numbers are generally recycled after 9 months of no recharge activity. We recommend you TopUp regularly in order to remain active. TopUp may be purchased at any LIME store, supermarkets, pharmacies, local shops, recharge vendors and popular kiosks around the island. You may also purchase TopUp at anytime, from anywhere at http://bit.ly/1Dg2Swr

Thoughts? Questions? I'd love to hear them!