Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you have a safe and memorable journey.
One of the biggest problems tourists face in Jamaica is petty theft. Thieves are on the lookout for jewelry, cash and valuable electronic items such as cameras, cell phones and iPods. Most resorts provide safes so you can store items of value in your room, which is obviously recommended. Better yet, leave the bling at home.
Keep in mind that while most thefts are non-violent in nature that could change quickly if you resist. If you do happen to be held up, by all means hand over whatever it is the thief wants and get away safely.
Jamaica has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world. These dangerous and deadly crimes are not isolated to locals - several tourists have lost their lives there in recent years so you should be especially careful to avoid risky areas and use common sense when visiting.
Sexual assault against female travelers is also an issue, so women should avoid traveling alone and not drink to excess. Some of these reported assaults occurred within the confines of a resort, so women should be cautious at all times, regardless of where they are.
There is an ongoing threat of gang violence, particularly in the Kingston area, however it rarely affects tourists. Drug exportation is far more dangerous, and remains a huge business in Jamaica.
Criminals have been known to smuggle drugs anyway they can, including through the use of unsuspecting tourists, so be very careful to keep your bags and belongings with you at all times. If you are caught with narcotics on you, even if you claim innocence, you could face jail time.
The government has stepped in to help enhance security and crack down on crime, assigning special police to patrol by foot and bicycle. Unfortunately, the police are still somewhat understaffed and there have been some reports of police corruption, so the impact they have on thwarting criminal activity is minimal. Also, keep in mind that since tourism drops off somewhat during the hurricane season (September to November), police often use this time to take vacations, so law enforcement may be especially understaffed during this time.
The best way to truly protect yourself is to use common sense, avoid dangerous areas and remain alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Some areas in Kingston and Montego Bay are considered a higher risk of crime and violence. These areas should be avoided, particularly when there is word of a possible protest as demonstrators often erect road blocks making travel in and out nearly impossible.
Cassava Piece, Tivoli Gardens, Trench Town, Arnett Gardens and Mountain View.
Norwood, Clavers Street, Hart Street, Rose Heights, Canterbury and Flankers.
You're advised to stay away from the inner city areas of Kingston and New Kingston and avoid wandering around alone at night in Ochos Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. Any time you are out after dark you should do so only in the safety of numbers. Go with your gut - if you're heading into an area that you feel may be unsafe, avoid it. Better to be safe than sorry.
After reading all of this you may be concerned that Jamaica is too unsafe of a place to visit. On the contrary, Jamaica is a country too beautiful to be missed. From towering mountain ranges to generations-old plantations, cascading waterfalls and pristine beaches – not to mention some good ackee and saltfish! There are plenty of safe places to visit within the country and as long as you use your common sense and know what things to watch for and avoid, you will enjoy an amazing and unforgettable trip.
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