On May 31st, just before the start of the summer tourist season, the United States Department of State issued a level three travel advisory for several parishes in Jamaica due to crime. The parishes included in the advisory were: Westmoreland, St. James, St. Ann, St. Catherine, Hanover, Clarendon, Kingston and St. Andrew, and Montego Bay. Specific areas of each parish that should be avoided are included in the advisory.
According to the advisory, “Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Emergency services vary throughout the island, and response times may vary from U.S. standards.”
The advisory points out that the homicide rate in Jamaica has been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere for several years. It also states that even United States Government personnel are not allowed to travel to the areas listed in the advisory. They are not even allowed to use public buses or drive in certain areas of Kingston at night.
More information regarding the specific areas in each parish that should be avoided can be found on the Department of State’s Website. For travelers, one of the most visited parishes would be Montego Bay. Several areas in Montego Bay that are listed as areas where violence and shootings occur regularly include Canterbury, Flankers, Glendevon, Mount Salem, Norwood, Paradise Heights, and Rose Heights. While the advisory can be off-putting, it should be noted that Jamaica is one of the most booked destinations and many travelers visit each year without issue. Provided visitors remain aware of their surroundings and use good sense, a visit to the beautiful island of Jamaica should be a wonderful experience.
The Department of State recommends the following if traveling to Jamaica:
- Walking and driving at night should be avoided.
- Public buses should be avoided.
- Secluded areas and situations should be avoided.
- If faced with a robbery attempt, do not physically resist.
- Keep a low profile and always remain aware of your surroundings.
Travelers should also keep in mind that popular tourist areas such as Montego Bay tend to be very safe and beautiful, provided guests do not visit any areas more prone to crime. Resorts and urban areas that are more well developed tend to be safer, and most resorts have around-the-clock security. If visitors are only planning to stay on resort grounds and take taxis to popular tourist destinations while visiting Jamaica, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Many of the recommendations listed out by the Department of State are things that individuals likely do in their own home countries. However, visitors should take extra care to follow them while traveling to Jamaica. In addition to avoiding the areas laid out in the travel advisory and following the recommendations listed above, visitors should also think about the following the additional safety tips below.
Travel Safety Tips for Jamaica
- Leave the Bling at Home: Expensive jewelry, watches, or other items that draw attention should be left at home. Wearing them in popular tourist areas makes you a target to would-be thieves.
- Be Careful at ATMs: If an ATM is needed, visitors should try to use them in busy areas where an attempted robbery is less likely to occur.
- Switch it Up: Sticking to the same routine or going to the same places each day allows thieves to learn your routine, making you an easier target. There is a lot to see in Jamaica, so why not try something new?
- Money Matters: Try a money belt or a hidden money clip. Try not to keep all your money and credit cards together in one spot. If robbed, you are less likely to lose everything from the event.
Travelers interested in visiting Jamaica should consider the advisory from the Department of State as a guide for staying safe in the country. If the areas listed in the advisory are avoided, and the recommendations above are followed, visitors should find a trip to Jamaica to be a safe and wonderful experience.
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