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Jamaica is a country too beautiful to be missed and there are plenty of safe places to visit. As a Jamaican local who has grown up traveling solo around my country, I have plenty of advice on how to stay safe. The media often reports a different story, and you may be worried that Jamaica is unsafe. However, most crime against travelers in Jamaica is centered around petty theft.
Here are some tips on how you can stay safe while traveling in Jamaica.
Millions of travelers visit Jamaica each year, staying in resorts, Airbnbs, and villas. One of the key concerns travelers should have on the island is petty theft.
To avoid theft, keep your valuables and jewelry out of sight, don’t walk with your cell phone out, and before you book your accommodation ask if it provides a safe to keep your valuable items in, and if all doors and windows in your room have locks.
While out walking in Jamaica, look out for motorbike riders who can quickly snatch your handbag, phone or other valuables that are within reach.
Remember, most petty thefts are non-violent in nature, but if someone tries to rob you, don’t resist and just hand over the item to avoid getting injured or risking your life.
Jamaica has a high crime rate, but much of it is focused on gang violence in the inner-city, in communities that you're unlikely to visit as a traveler. Ask your accommodation which areas to avoid if you’re unsure.
While it is unlikely you will be a victim of drug trafficking in Jamaica, it is important to be careful to keep an eye on your bags and belongings at all times.
As a visitor, you’re more likely to be offered marijuana (locally known as ganja or weed), than you are to be used to smuggle drugs.
However, contrary to popular belief, the use of ganja is merely decriminalized in Jamaica. According to Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Act, persons are allowed to possess a maximum of two ounces of marijuana, and anything exceeding this amount can result in a fine or jail time.
You cannot leave Jamaica with these two ounces. If any amount of marijuana is found in your possession at the airport, it will be confiscated, you will be fined or jailed, and you will most definitely miss your flight.
Other drugs are illegal in Jamaica and penalties are severe, including jail time.
Your best option is to simply not do drugs.
The government has stepped in to help enhance security in the travel and tourism sector by assigning special police to patrol on foot and bicycle. These police can be seen around major tourist sites.
There has been an extended state of emergency, since January 2020, in several parishes important to tourism. These “zones of special operations” (ZOSO) are often in inner-city communities, away from high tourism areas. The extended state of emergency is to ensure increased levels of security for both locals and visitors on the island.
Travelers are rarely victims or targets of crime in Jamaica, but there are some areas in Kingston, Negril and Montego Bay that are considered a higher risk.
Communities such as Cassava Piece, Tivoli Gardens, Downtown, Trench Town, Arnett Gardens, Denham Town and Mountain View are sometimes prone to crime but are limited to locals and not targeted to travelers.
Tivoli Gardens, Downtown, and Trench Town, have sites of historic cultural importance in Jamaica, and have reputable organized tours that take visitors into the community and are safe so long as you stick with your guide and follow their advice.
Kingston Creative Artwalk offers monthly walking tours around Downtown Kingston, highlighting its colonial history and art influences, and is guided by more than 70 local volunteers.
Culture Yard in Trench Town guides visitors around the community where reggae legend Bob Marley lived, and showcases the influence of Trench Town on reggae music.
Areas to avoid include Norwood, Clavers Street, Hart Street, Rose Heights, Canterbury and Flankers. It’s highly unlikely any travelers would visit these communities, but avoid them as they are unsafe.
Considered to be more popular than Kingston, Negril is a small resort town on the north west side of Jamaica. Stick to the well-traveled areas, such as West End, which are generally safe.
Take particular care at night in Negril, and take taxis to avoid walking alone.
Ocho Rios and Falmouth are the two main cruise port towns in Jamaica, plus there’s a newly opened cruise port in the historical town of Port Royal.
Tourist police, who are wearing white hats and shirts with black pants, can be found all around the cruise ports. Since they were introduced in 2008, their presence has helped to reduce pickpocketing, petty theft and prevented potential armed robberies. They also act as impromptu guides for new travelers to Jamaica.
While visiting the port towns, keep your valuables out of sight from others and on you at all times.
Jamaica has a vibrant nightlife, especially in major towns such as Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. There are numerous nightclubs and outdoor parties that showcase our dance and music culture every night.
But, be aware that walking around, especially alone, after dark is not recommended. If you must walk somewhere, stick to main roads and more populated areas.
It’s better to use a chartered or registered taxi (indicated by a red license plate) instead of walking or using public transportation at night. Here are several Jamaican taxi companies that you can call to charter a cab:
An important rule to follow, based on discussions I’ve had with local LGBTQ+ activists and friends, is to limit all public displays of affection while in Jamaica.
Jamaica is conservative, and despite its large gay population, there is no noticeable LGBTQ+ tourism scene. There are, however, some hotels and tours in Jamaica which are LGBTQ+-friendly.
Jamaica is a great destination for families. There are lots of family-friendly accommodation options to choose from, but ask before you book to make sure there are kid-friendly facilities. If you’re traveling with children, here are a few tips to keep everyone safe:
Jamaica is relatively safe for women to travel alone, but unfortunately, sexual harassment and sexual advances are not uncommon – especially against female travelers.
However here a few quick safety tips to consider:
Travel with insect repellent because Jamaica has mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and chikungunya virus, especially after long periods of rain. Also, follow these preventative measures to minimize the chance of being bitten by a mosquito.
Vaccination from Yellow Fever is required before entering Jamaica but only if you are traveling from a Yellow Fever-endemic country. Other travel vaccinations recommended for Jamaica by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include, Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and rabies.
If you get unexpectedly sick or injured overseas, your medical bills could be expensive. Make sure you pack travel insurance, with 24/7 emergency assistance.
Jamaica is a destination where you should exercise extra safety precautions – be alert not alarmed. Use your common sense and you should have no troubles traveling in Jamaica. And don’t forget to buy travel insurance – get a quote below.
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From rental cars to taxis and buses, here's how to get around and use the public transport safely in Jamaica.
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