A country of legendary status, Jamaica is one of the most culturally fascinating and vibrant countries on the planet. Home to an overly well-known musician, a fast bloke, and rum, this Caribbean gem is a top tier place to visit.
But with many travel advisories highlighting several issues, is it really a safe place to visit?
The reputation for crime may have you asking “is Jamaica safe to visit?” and it’s a fair question.
We’re going to provide all the answers you’re looking for in this Jamaica safety guide, with everything you need to ensure your trip to Jamaica is trouble free. We love travelling smart, and one of the best things you can do is to be here, stocking up on our extreme travel wisdom…
Let’s dive into the Jamaican situation!
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Jamaica Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Jamaica. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Jamaica.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
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- Is it Safe to Visit Jamaica Right Now?
- Safest Places to Visit in Jamaica
- 14 Top Safety Tips for Travelling to Jamaica
- Is Jamaica safe to travel alone?
- Is Jamaica safe for female travellers?
- Is Jamaica Safe for Families?
- Getting around Jamaica Safely
- Crime in Jamaica
- Jamaica Safety FAQs
- So, is Jamaica safe for travel?
Is it Safe to Visit Jamaica Right Now?
Whilst you should steer clear of certain areas, travelling to Jamaica is generally safe. There are some unbelievably awesome places to visit, and the history and culture are astounding.
The biggest safety issue that Jamaica faces is crime. This is a nasty side of the country and has resulted in Jamaica’s unfortunate reputation in recent years. The media has painted a pretty bleak picture, and whilst you’ll be avoiding areas where gang violence is rife, there are instances of isolated incidents which are concerning for every traveller.
Tourists are more likely to face petty crime and robbery, but keeping an eye out, travelling smart, and using your common sense (especially at night), can help you minimise this risk. It’s worth investing in travel insurance, since medical expenses can be high, and the Jamaican health system less than straightforward.
Another safety issue can be the hurricane/tropical storm season. This runs from September to November and can completely batter the island. If possible, avoid visiting Jamaica during this time of the year.
Overall, whilst Jamaica does come with some health warnings, it is safe if you stay cautious, and travel smart. It has a ton of culture to offer travellers, and if you’re visiting the Caribbean, it is a hard place to leave off the list. Just remember to be crime smart, and don’t flaunt those valuables!
Upwards of 4 million travellers visit Jamaica each year, and the majority of visits are trouble-free.
Safest Places to Visit in Jamaica
Jamaica is, as previously stated, a generally safe Caribbean country. However, some areas are much better suited to a good tourist visit than others. There are some fantastic places to stay in Jamaica, and you don’t have to sacrifice amazing experiences for extra safety. I’ve listed some great areas below!
- Ocho Rios: Located on Jamaica’s northeastern shore, Ocho Rio is the most popular tourist destination on the island. A former fishing village, this city is where you’ll find a majority of Jamaica’s all-inclusive resorts. It’s one of the most family-friendly areas on the island since crime statistics are very low.
- Port Antonia: Located on the northern coast of Jamaica, this town is home to a number of great natural attractions, including waterfalls, the Blue Lagoon, animal exhibitions and more. Same as Ocha Rios, crime statistics are just as low, but you might get to experience a little extra local culture in Port Antonio.
- Negril: Located on the northwestern coast of the country, this is where you’ll find more stunning beaches, gorgeous natural scenery and a wide variety of cultural attractions. If you’re visiting for the first time or with your family, Negril is a great base for beginning to explore Jamaica.
Places to Avoid in Jamaica
Unfortunately, not all places in Jamaica are safe tourist hubs. The general rule is; the further you go into rural areas, the more dangerous it gets. Avoid getting stuck in slum/shack-looking areas. Whilst they may present a side of the country worth knowing about, they tend to be far less safe.
- Kingston: Kingston is Jamaica’s capital city, and it’s BUSY! There are tons of interesting attractions, but the crime rates are probably the worst. This is where you’ll find most gang activity, robberies and violence. Some parts of Kingston, like Cassava Piece and Grants Pen, are a no-go for tourists, while others are okay as long as you visit during the day.
- Montego Bay: Just like Kingston, Montego Bay is a popular tourist destination, but it’s also known for pickpocketing There are lots of places to stay in Montego Bay that come in gated communities, which offer much better security. In particular, watch out for:
- Rose Heights
- Salt Spring
- Spanish Town: With a tagline of “the valley of death”, it’s not worth coming here at all. Just don’t do it. There are large quantities of gang violence, violent crime, drug trafficking and sexual assault. You should reconsider travel to this area.
As a tourist, you shouldn’t be affected by Jamaica’s gangs, so don’t be put off from travelling to this stunning country. To help you travel smart and have an epic time, we’ve shared some top safety tips for travelling to Jamaica.
- Be vigilant in these areas – In Kingston: West Kingston Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town. In Montego Bay: Flankers, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights, Mount Salem. These are definitely places to avoid in Jamaica.
- Watch your back at ATMs – Robberies can happen. Try to use ATMs only in busy areas.
- It’s a good idea NOT to look flashy – Expensive jewellery, smartwatches, and other swag is a big fat target for a potential thief.
- Avoid going to the same restaurant every night – This can make you a target as thieves get to know your routine.
- Try not to use buses at night – It’s better to take a taxi. Buses can be sketchy.
- Your money, or your life – If someone tries to rob you, this is the real scenario. Hand it over; it’s not worth it.
- Get your hands on a money belt – no one suspects hidden cash in your belt (even though people do it).
- Make sure where you’re staying is secure – Lockable doors/windows, a safe, security, gates, etc. If you don’t have one yet, make sure you purchase a padlock before you go.
- Ganja was decriminalized in 2015 – But possession is still illegal. There are often police roadblocks and they will search your car. Other drugs are completely illegal.
- Don’t take pictures of ganja fields when you’re out hiking – It may look cool or whatever, but this can upset the owners of said fields.
- Be polite but firm to hustlers – Selling drugs, sunglasses, or whatever, just say “No, thank you,” firmly and politely. Stick to your guns.
- The sun can be dangerous – Wear sunglasses, cover-up, and go in the shade when the sun’s at its hottest. Limit your time in the sun.
- Keep an eye on local news for hurricanes – Know what to do in the event of a hurricane; it could literally save your life.
- Aside from mosquitoes, protect against no-see-ums – You don’t see them. They hang around the water and are very annoying. Cover up (especially at dawn/dusk), use repellent, and burn coils if possible.
Travelling alone in general means being more of a target for petty crime. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible or you shouldn’t do it, it just requires a lot more preparation and caution before you start exploring the island. Here are some things you need to think about before heading out alone.
Travelling to Jamaica Alone – Tips and Pointers
- Think about where you’re heading and what you’re doing. It’s not a good idea to be winging it, wandering around towns looking a bit lost, or looking like you don’t know what to do. Petty crime is often opportunistic, and if you make yourself a target, you aren’t doing yourself any favours.
- Get chatting to some local people! They’re really friendly and most will be happy to help you out and give you good local tips. Not everyone is a violent crime-loving maniac. Most people are nice!
- There are some really cool hostels to stay at around Jamaica: perfect for intrepid travellers looking to meet new people. Often with amazing, good food on offer, and run by local rastas who’ll give you a warm welcome. Stay at this safe hostel while you’re in Jamaica.
- Don’t ghost your friends and family. Make sure you keep in contact with people back home so that they know what you’re doing.
- Let travelling friends or your guesthouse know what you’re doing. You don’t want to go missing without anyone realizing that you’re gone.
- Try to travel in daylight hours as much as possible. This will decrease the risk of anything bad happening to you when you’re on the road.
- Keep your money safe. Have a money belt handy and keep your money and cards in different places. It’s horrific if you have all of your stuff in one bag and then that bag goes missing.
- Don’t get too intoxicated. If you’re heading out for the night, to drink or smoke, don’t get too crazy. Know your limits. There’s no easier way to get exploited than by being messy.
Is Jamaica safe for female travellers?
It might seem more than a bit overwhelming to travel to Jamaica as a female traveller, solo or otherwise, but women do go there.
Sexual harassment and assaults aren’t rare in Jamaica. They, unfortunately, do happen, even to tourists. A lot of Jamaican women have to put up with this as part of their lives. It isn’t completely a no-go country for females, but it does lean towards the more unsafe side.
This is difficult female solo travel for sure, and there are high risks.
- If you get chatting with somebody and you don’t want their attention, stop engaging with them. That means no eye contact and ignoring them. Any replies are basically seen as a challenge and men will try to win you round.
- Don’t tell people where you’re staying or what your plans are. People who seem overly interested are probably sketchier than you think, so ignore them, lie, or just remove yourself from the situation.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings out of politeness. What about your feelings?
- If someone’s really hassling you and it’s beginning to get worried, make a fuss. Not joking: shouting “FIRE!” may be more effective than shouting “HELP!”
- Rape and sexual assaults in Jamaica are sadly not uncommon. You should always stay smart as a female traveller, be aware of your surroundings, and not put yourself in a situation where you are at risk.
- Dress modestly to reduce harassment levels.
- When you’re checking in anywhere, don’t use a title. Ms, Miss, Mrs – anything that implies your marital status, don’t use it.
- If you’re in a ground-floor room or if you have a balcony, you should definitely make sure that your windows (and doors) are locked. These types of rooms are the ones people will be trying to get into.
- Follow simple safety precautions: locking your door when you’re inside; using chains/bolts for extra security, and always use the spy hole if somebody knocks unexpectedly.
- If your key has a room number on it, don’t leave it lying around. Local people may be able to recognise both what hotel the key is for and make a note of your room number, too.
- Join tours and use drivers to get around. Read reviews online, ask other travellers, talk to your accommodation staff and find trusted people and companies to use.
Is Jamaica Safe for Families?
Whilst Jamaica is a great travel destination for families, the high crime rate should make you triple check your plans before heading out.
Crime is less of a worry when you travel with a family, as you are more likely to select safer locations in general. However, this does not mean you are immune. You are perceived as wealthy, and this will make you a target. Stick to the areas we mentioned at the start (Ocho Rios, Port Antonia, Negril), and your trip should go smoothly.
Note that the sun can get quite strong during the day and that mosquitos are literally everywhere. Protecting yourself and the tribe against these bloodsucking critters will make your holiday a whole lot less whiny. If you’re travelling with a toddler, just know that breastfeeding in public isn’t kindly viewed, and you might get some tricky looks/ comments.
Getting around Jamaica Safely
Transport in Jamaica mirrors that of most developing countries. There is an effective but reasonably grungy city bus network, and buses called ‘coasters travel between cities and towns.
There is a fleet of genuinely licensed taxis, which are set apart by their red number plate. A whole bunch of illegitimate taxis are flying around too, including motorbike taxis. These can be super cheap but are a little less safe.
Hiring a car is a great idea because distances between points of interest are quite large. Unfortunately, prices of hire cars have recently skyrocketed, so this can be pricey. Hiring a private driver may work out better for you, as you avoid having to drive in new (and often worse) conditions!
Crime in Jamaica
The U.S. travel authorities rate Jamaica as a level 3 country due to high crime. There are areas you should completely avoid due to increased gang violence and violent crimes, and you should stay alert to the possibilities of robbery and pickpocketing. Jamaica’s murder rate is one of the highest in the world, which should make you double (or triple) check your Itinerary.
In tourist areas (and even all-inclusive resorts) emergency services can vary, and local police response times can be slow. Crime does occur in the tourist industry, and you should exercise caution when you visit Jamaica.
Reports of robberies on the route from Norman Manley international airport to various accommodations have been made, although most journeys are trouble-free. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from travelling on public buses, and from driving in certain areas at night.
Laws in Jamaica
It is legal to carry a very small amount of Ganja in Jamaica. Every year, British nationals are arrested for trying to traffic ganja and other drugs out of the country. LGBTQ+ squad members should be aware that there are some laws against same-sex intercourse, so it is best to turn off the affection whilst travelling here unless you keep things MI5 level private.
It is actually pretty crucial to have extra protection when travelling in Jamaica, since things actually can and do go wrong. Don’t make the classic mistake of waiting for things to go wrong. Eventually, they will…
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Jamaica Safety FAQs
For a travel destination like Jamaica, there are lots of different things you have to consider when it comes to safety. We’ve listed the most common question, answers and facts to make your trip as easy as possible.
So, is Jamaica safe for travel?
Yes. There are crimes, but it’s mainly isolated in certain areas – areas you probably won’t be going anyway. It’s fairly safe for tourists in Jamaica.
You will have no issue if you’re just resort hopping during your stay. If you actually want to experience the culture, people and what this country has to offer in full detail, there are definitely a few things you need to be aware of.
That being said, if you use your common sense, avoid sketchy areas and ask locals for recommendations, you’ll have the time of your life in Jamaica without having to see the nasty sides.
Be smart and travel well. Book yourself into some locally run guesthouses, watch your surroundings, make your security a priority and have an awesome experience.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!