Jamaica Risk Report
Security travel advice for Jamaica
Threat level: Medium–High
There is a very low threat of terrorist activity in Jamaica, although visitors should remain vigilant as attacks may take place against UK or U.S. tourists or assets on the island.
The main security concern in Jamaica is the level of violent crime including gun and knife crime. Gang culture is widespread and clashes between these gangs will often break out as many of them are involved in organised crime. Areas where regular shooting take place are West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town and some parts of Montego Bay. Tourists should avoid these areas if possible or remain on high alert when travelling there.
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Recent Security Risk Events
On the 18th of January 2018, Jamaica declared a State of Emergency in St James Parish and Montego Bay and issued a warning for all tourists to stay within Hotel complexes and not to venture out around the Island. This warning was issued following a series of fatal shootings on the Island. Police have begun a crack-down on Gang related activity that has got far worse in recent years. Jamaican newspaper the Gleaner reported that there were 335 murders in the St James parish in 2017.
On the 18th of March 2018, a state of emergency was also declared by Jamaica in St Catherine North State for 14 days.
Travel at night is not at all advised and it is not uncommon for the police to impose curfews at short notice during operations or periods of unrest.
Tourists are advised to be very careful not to draw attention to themselves when outside of hotel complexes and be aware of their surroundings at all times as violent robberies and sexual attacks do happen frequently.
Take care when withdrawing money from banks and ATMs and paying for food in restaurants. Organised gangs and opportune thieves will be on the lookout for those displaying wealth.
Hotels do have a good overall level of security including security guards and attacks on hotel complexes are quite rare but have been known to happen in the early hours or during the night.
It is advised to only use Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) taxis, it is best to organise these via your hotel rather than hailing taxis in the street. All Tourist Board (JTB) taxis will carry a prominent blue JTB sticker on the front windscreen and all drivers will carry photo identification. You should check for both of these before entering any taxi.
Jamaica has been an active member of the British Commonwealth since its independence from Britain in 1962. It is also members of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States. The country has served two 2-year terms on the United Nations Security Council.
Jamaica has no diplomatic or international disputes with its neighbouring countries and it enjoys close ties to the United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America alongside other Caribbean nations.
Visitors from the UK and U.S. are permitted to drive in Jamaica with a valid UK or U.S. driving licence for a period of up to 6 months however the safer option would be to travel around the island by official tour or via taxi. Discuss this with your tour operator or hotel and they will assist you with what is most suitable.
The roads are outside the main city and towns often very poor and the general standard of driving in Jamaica is not at all the same as European or U.S. standards, speeding and drink-driving are common. Care should be taken on the roads and drivers are advised to drive defensively. Jamaica has a very high road traffic accident rate and deaths on the roads are common.
Car hire is hassle free with many international car hire firms operating on the island. If you do decide to self-drive it is important that you plan your route and make sure you understand the security implications as there is very poor signage along the roads. It is strongly advised that you do not drive at night.
Drivers and front seat passengers must wear seat belts at all times and if you are riding on a motorcycle, it is advised that a helmet is worn at all times.
Currency: Jamaican Dollar
Time now in Kingston:
Visitors to Jamaica from the UK and U.S. many stay for a period of 90 days without a visa. All visitors must ensure that they have a passport that is valid for at least 90 days beyond the length of your stay. You will be required to show evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Jamaica and be in possession of a return or round trip ticket.
It is advised that visitors to Jamaica are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider a Hepatitis A vaccination.
Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Jamaica, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
The standard of medical facilities differ greatly across Jamaica and even the best facilities are not the same standards as UK or US hospitals or clinics. Medication can be hard to source and visitors are advised to carry enough personal medication for the duration of their stay in Jamaica.
Dengue fever and the Zika virus are present in Jamaica and can occur throughout the year. In rural areas, personal hygiene is very important and only bottled water should be consumed. You can find more about the diseases here: Zika virus facts
Dengue Fever facts
HIV and AIDS are an issue in Jamaica it is advised to exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Jamaica regularly suffer severe weather including hurricanes. Hurricane season in Jamaica officially runs from June 1 to November 30 but strong storms can take place at any time throughout the year. It is possible to get a hurricane update if you dial the emergency number 116.
The country also suffers from earthquakes. It is very important that visitors to Jamaica are aware of the alarms and drills for both and that they ensure that they are keep up-to-date with local weather warnings and news.
U.S. Embassy Kingston
142 Old Hope Road,
Telephone: +1 876 702 6000
British Embassy Kingston
28 Trafalgar Rd,
Telephone: +1 876 936 0700
Other useful info
Police emergency: 119
Medical emergency: 110
Fire emergency: 110
Air-Sea Rescue: 119
Coast Guard: (876) 967-8031/8223/8190-3 Kingston
Coast Guard: (876) 973-3256 Discovery Bay
Hurricane Update: 116
Red Cross: (876) 926 7246
Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Relief: (876) 928 5111/4
Salvation Army Disaster Operation Centres: (876) 929 6190/2