Jamaica can be an expensive place to move around. There is public transportation in and between towns in the form of buses, minibuses and route taxis, but if you are traveling a long distance this can mean very crowded, hot, not-on-a-schedule travel that can take a really long time. Not to mention that it’s tricky to use if you have a suitcase to lug around, as many travelers to JA do.
There are also charter taxis (cars, vans, buses, SUVs). These are the easiest, most comfortable option as they are specifically licensed, insured and gladly take you from Point A to wherever Point B may be, and wait for you too, if appropriate. But sometimes they can be expensive, especially if you are going a good distance, say from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, or Treasure Beach, or Kingston.
Sometimes I rent a car. That makes sense when I am moving around a lot and the $50 or so a day is reasonable, and if I feel like driving. The freedom of having a car is great but it comes with a lot of responsibility too.
Sometimes I just want to go from one place to another safely, quickly, comfortably and not pay hundreds of dollars to do it. This is where the Knutsford Express bus service comes in.
I first took the Knutsford Express bus in 2008 when traveling from Ocho Rios to Kingston. I enjoyed it then and have been glad to see it expand to serve not only Montego Bay-Ocho Rios-Kingston, but add Negril and a south coast route, from Sav-la-Mar to Luana to Mandeville to Kingston.
The Knutsford is on a schedule and only stops where it stops. It will not drop you at your hotel, or a town it passes through, and it takes its on-time reputation very seriously. I would compare it to a Megabus or Greyhound in the US, but a higher end experience.
I took it this trip from Sav to Kingston then a couple of days later, from Kingston to MoBay.
The Knutsford route from Negril to Kingston is via the north coast, through MoBay and Falmouth and Ocho Rios then Kingston, but this is a 5 1/2 hour ride and not the way anyone would normally drive to Kingston from Negril (unless you want the nice, smooth north coast highway, even though it takes longer). Had I gone that way, it would have been very easy as the Knutsford Express office is right by Bar B Barn, next door to Bourbon Beach on Norman Manley Blvd aka the beach road. (Ironically, the office is at almost the same spot where “De Buss” was parked for so many years!)
I opted instead to take the south coast route from Sav-la-Mar which is 4 hours. The cost was about $20US. I did call ahead and make a reservation, and I recommend doing that. Even though my bus wasn’t full, you never know.
My friend and long-time driver Chicken picked me up in Negril and took me to the Knutsford office in Sav. Chicken works mainly out of Negril and I very highly recommend him for any type of transfer or tour. He’s a solid dude who I have known for many years.
|Chicken with his smallest vehicle, a 4WD Land Cruiser.|
|Loved the SUV but he also has a bus that seats 20-something people.|
I checked into the office, got my ticket, paid my fare (credit card or cash is fine). I was given a tag for my bag and a cold bottle of water. Right on time the bus pulled in.
This is the office in Sav. It’s easy to find as it is directly next to the only traffic light in town, in a strip mall. Just look for this sign:
I took the seat right behind the driver so I could look out the front. I love the south coast highway and as I haven’t been on it all the way for a few years, I wanted to see as much as I could. By the way, not only does the bus have air conditioning, it plays movies on large-ish screens and has great wi-fi. The staff is 100% professional and friendly and courteous. I was probably the only tourist on the bus as it seems to be favored by business people, students and Jamaican folks visiting other parts of JA.
This was our route (google is so cute with the 3 hour estimate. Ummm….no. This is Jamaica.)
On the south coast route the first stop heading east is Luana (not far from Black River). It is an official rest stop of the sort you might expect in the US, but much nicer. There are clean, large restrooms, a bar with reasonable prices, a Juici Patty (Jamaican chain that sells patties and other fast food), convenience store, and a jerk center.
I picked up a Heineken and 1/4 lb of jerk pork and 1/4 lb of chicken and paid less than $10 for all of it. The jerk was good, too.
Next stop after Luana was Mandeville, up in the “Jamaican Alps”. Mandeville is at one of the highest points in mid-Jamaica. It’s an interesting city with a lot of returning residents and retirees, due to the climate (it’s cool there). To get there we drove up Spur Tree Hill, which is always a neat experience for me because of the views as we zigzag up the mountain. I was amazed that this huge bus could deal with that, and the construction on the south coast road between Sav and Luana, because there are MAJOR potholes and the road is narrow and parts of the road are one lane only because of the work being done. Our driver was great.
When we arrived in Mandeville, there’d been an accident. Didn’t see an ambulance but the damaged cars, police and a large crowd had gathered and getting by was tricky, though we did, easily, and still were on time.
The rest of the trip was smooth. The T1 expressway (toll road) begins just past May Pen and getting from there to Kingston is FAST now.
I also took the Knutsford from Kingston to MoBay to get my return flight home. I slept most of the way, but want to note that it went on to the airport after stopping at its MoBay office so there was no need to take a taxi. When it’s not going on to Negril, I guess it does this.
I was visiting Kingston to visit my friend T. She sent a driver to
meet me at the Knutsford office on Dominica Drive in New Kingston (uptown),
close to many hotels and office buildings. We went on to her house and
the rest I’ll have to tell in another post….
Continue reading this series:
Scooting Around Negril and the Countryside