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Jamaica is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean, with millions of tourists arriving every year for its sandy beaches, crystal waters, and all-inclusive resorts. Unfortunately, Jamaica also has one of the world's highest per-capita murder rates, and a 2019 state of emergency cast a spotlight on the island's violence—specifically in Kingston, parts of Montego Bay, and Spanish Town. The state of emergency has been lifted, but crime is still a real problem in parts of Jamaica—due to drugs, poverty, and gang activity. That doesn't mean that tourists should avoid the island altogether or simply lock themselves up at gated hotels. The trick to staying safe and enjoying a Jamaican vacation is to stay mindful of the legitimate crime threats, while participating in everything Jamaica has to offer tourists.
Wondering about Montego Bay's safety? We covered it.
Jamaica Safety: Where Tourists Should Not Go in Jamaica
As of publishing, the U.S. State Department has listed Jamaica at a level two travel advisory. For some comparison, the same travel advisory is currently listed for France and Germany. Level two simply means that travelers should extend caution when visiting Jamaica. However, there are three main areas where the U.S. government recommends advises tourists should not visit…
- Cassava Piece
- Downtown Kingston, defined as between Mountain View Avenue and Hagley Park Road, and south of Half Way Tree and Old Hope Roads. Downtown Kingston includes Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens, and Arnett Gardens.
- Grants Pen
- Clavers Street
- Hart Street
- Rose Heights
Jamaica Safety: Common Types of Crime in Jamaica
Gated resorts and hotels are not immune to violent crime, though the vast majority (if not all) of these types of properties make visitors’ safety a top concern. All vehicles entering the property go through a security checkpoint, and only registered guests and staff are allowed through the front gate. However, if something does go awry, Jamaica’s emergency services are under equipped and may not be able to respond swiftly or thoroughly to calls for help or reports of violence. Tourist police are on patrol in the streets, cruise ports, and beaches in and around Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. You can spot them by their uniform of white hats, white shirts, and black pants. This police force is specially trained to assist tourists and be on the lookout for petty theft, such as pickpocketing. Hotel theft and beach theft are also crimes to watch out for.
As we mentioned, Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The vast majority of violent crimes is against Jamaicans, but tourists and expats have lost their lives on the island. Sexual assault (especially on women) is also a problem in Jamaica. LGBTQ travelers should note that Jamaica is not a gay-friendly country. Harassment, violence, and threats against members of the gay community have been reported. Credit card skimming is another common type of crime that impacts tourists.
Jamaica Safety: Tips for Staying Safe in Jamaica
Along with avoiding the areas of Jamaica deemed unsafe for tourists by the government, there are multiple ways to keep yourself and your belongings safe while visiting the island. Firstly, leave your valuables at home. Jewelry, laptops, pricey cameras, and gadgets don’t need to go on a Jamaican vacation. If you must bring something of value, leave it in the hotel safe. Keep your phone, cash, and room key in a waterproof bag that you can take with you in the ocean (don’t leave these items unattended). Be sure to lock your hotel room windows and doors, even while you’re in the room and while sleeping at night. Common sense safety behavior is important: don’t walk alone after dark, limit alcohol consumption, and don’t flash cash and jewelry. Though Jamaica has a reputation as a marijuana-friendly country, drugs are actually illegal on the island and fines and prison time can be imposed on tourists who partake. Consider paying cash when possible, to avoid credit card skimming. Taking a shuttle organized by your resort might cost more than a taxi, but it’s a secure way to get around the island. Tourists should also avoid public transportation, and keep an eye on their food and beverages to avoid drug spiking. If you’re very nervous about crime and criminal activity in Jamaica, your best bet is to stay at a larger resort with 24-hour security. Don’t be afraid to ask management for safety tips and recommendations, and keep an eye on the U.S. State Department’s website for updated warnings.
Jamaica Safety: Natural Disasters in Jamaica
Just like everywhere else in the Caribbean, Jamaica is at risk for natural disasters, particularly hurricanes and earthquakes. The island was largely left untouched by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which swept through the Caribbean in 2017, temporarily shutting down operations in less-lucky islands like St. Bart’s and Puerto Rico. However, even hurricanes that don’t land on Jamaica’s shores may impact flights and shipped goods in and out of the island. Hurricane season in Jamaica typically runs from June through November, with the peak period from early August through the end of October. Statistically, the chances of a serious hurricane hitting Jamaica during your vacation are very slim, but visitors still need to be cautious. If you’re traveling to Jamaica during the peak of hurricane season, it might be wise to invest in travel insurance. For safety’s sake, keep your eye on the news and consider downloading the American Red Cross’ hurricane app, which pushes hurricane alerts and provides information on shelters and evacuation services.
A Caribbean earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 hit Jamaica in late January of 2020. Some buildings were temporarily evacuated and the quake launched a tsunami warning, though there were no casualties reported and damage was minor. On the plus side, prices for Jamaica hotels and flights typically dip during hurricane season.
Planning a Trip to Jamaica? Check Out These Hotels:
Located in peaceful Trewlaney Bay (one of the safest parishes in Jamaica), Excellence Oyster Bay is a luxury adults-only property with a light-hearted vibe. From the gorgeous ocean-facing pool to the pristine beach and numerous dining options (no reservations required and lobster doesn’t cost extra), the vibe is elegantly casual. Rooms are spacious and design-forward. Most feature large terraces, private jetted tubs, plunge pools, or beach views. There’s also a modern gym with state-of-the-art equipment, and a beautiful spa featuring a relaxing hydrotherapy circuit. Upgrade to the Excellence Club for private check-in and an exclusive restaurant.
The Cliff Hotel is a Jamaican hotel with villas. The resort provides a scenic retreat tucked into the cliffs of Negril. Spacious standard rooms, expansive suites, and huge private villas all come with cheerful Caribbean style and expansive water views. The gardens are particularly special, making this a popular pick for Jamaican weddings and private events. For relaxing, the hotel offers direct access to the cliffs and multiple pools. An all-inclusive restaurant option is available and the cliffside restaurant has panoramic views. Wedding parties often book villas for their nuptials.
Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay is one of the most luxurious adults-only all-inclusive resorts on the beach in Jamaica. The Preferred Club is the way to go if you want a reserved pool, optional swim-out rooms, beach area, lounge, and all facilities at the trendy Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa. The 350 rooms at Secrets Wild Orchid offer tasteful contemporary decor, four-poster beds, jetted soaking tubs, separate rainfall showers, and free restocked minibars. Expect furnished terraces with views of either the gorgeous ocean or the manicured gardens.
What to Wear in Jamaica
Best-Selling Women’s Beach Look
Men’s Summertime Daywear
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