The island of Jamaica offers visitors some of the most incredible experiences, from exciting outdoor adventures amid Caribbean landscapes to luxuriously relaxing lounges on white sandy beaches that stretch on for miles. Despite all of these hassles and annoyances, Jamaica is still an amazing place worth visiting. As long as you know what things to watch out for and how to avoid them, your trip will go off without a hitch.
It's no secret that Jamaica is somewhat known for the widespread use of illegal drugs there. In fact, although it's not official, Jamaica is believed to have the highest marijuana use in the world. Despite all this, drug use is illegal.
Chances are at some point (or several) during your stay you will be approached by a local and offered some "ganja". If you're caught in possession of illegal drugs, you may be arrested, charged and imprisoned. The conditions in Jamaican jails are less than ideal, and the justice system is questionable.
Other drugs often found in the region include cocaine and heroin, both of which are considered to be extremely potent in Jamaica. Not only are they against the law, but partaking in either is extraordinarily risky.
Many Jamaican residents make their money from selling tourist merchandise (usually handmade) and offering services, such as massage or hair braiding.
While it may seem like a great way to take a little piece of your trip back with you, unfortunately many of these street vendors can get aggressive in their sales pitches.
Some will simply call out to you as you walk past, others will follow you around, and some may even attempt to physically pull you in to their shops. Your best bet is to avoid eye contact and be polite, but firm. If you're having problems, ask for help from a nearby police officer.
You might see people begging on the streets, particularly in touristy areas, since these are the areas they are most likely to receive handouts.
It may seem like an annoyance, but take a moment to consider the widespread poverty in Jamaica. Feel free to contribute if you're so inclined, but don't feel obligated. Again, just a firm but pleasant "no, thank you" should suffice.
Jamaica has its fair share of scams against tourists, particularly involving local transport. If you're approached by a young citizen offering you a ride on their moped or canoe to a popular point of interest, beware. Once you arrive at your destination, he'll likely insist that you only paid for a one-way trip and demand more money to bring you back.
Prostitution is a problem on the island and many of these girls can be just as persistent as the local street vendors. Male travelers should be cautious.
Female travelers should be aware that a lot of women come to Jamaica for what's known as a "renta-rasta" or "renta-dreds". These are slang terms referring to a casual relationship where the woman gets companionship, attention or intimate relations, and the man receives money or gifts in return.
Because of this common arrangement, females traveling alone may be propositioned by local Jamaican men. It's a good idea to always travel in groups for this reason, especially at night.
Use of various date-rape drugs is an ongoing issue at nightclubs and bars, as well as private parties. Victims are drugged, rendered unconscious and then robbed and often assaulted.
If you plan on partaking in the local night life, be sure to do so with caution. Never accept drinks from strangers, always watch your drinks being poured and keep them in your hand (or at least in your sight) at all times.
Jamaica is one of the most homophobic and gay unfriendly countries in the Caribbean, despite its large gay population sadly there is no noticeable gay tourism scene.
Violent acts, harassment and threats against homosexuals have been reported including the murders of local gay activists. Some have had their homes set on fire.
There's little help from the government or local authorities, as even they have been known to discriminate and make derogatory comments toward those of a different sexual orientation. Similarly, complaints and reports of such harassment or crimes are often ignored. Public displays of affection including handholding are severely punished.
Despite this, there are some hotels and tours in Jamaica which are gay friendly so it's a case of doing your research should you choose to head to there.
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Sadly Jamaica has a dangerous side. Find out about the crime tourists face, and places to avoid before you go there.