Jamaica is often viewed warily by travelers who read about the country’s high crime rates and wonder whether it is a safe place to visit. Of course, millions of tourists visit Jamaica each year without incident, but many also remain holed up in all-inclusive resorts for the entire duration of their trip due to safety concerns.
The good news, however, is that travelers can enjoy a great experience getting out and seeing the “real” Jamaica, as long as they remain mindful of the legitimate threat of crime in places where it does occur. Below are some tips on how to stay safe while traveling in Jamaica.
Places to Avoid in Jamaica
While tourists are rarely victims or targets of crime in Jamaica, there are certain areas in Negril, Kingston and Montego Bay that are regarded as high risk crime hotspots.
A more popular destination than Kingston, Negril is a tiny resort town located on the north western part of the country. When visiting Negril, be sure to stick to the well-traveled areas like the West End, which are generally safe. Take extra care if out and about at night, and always use a taxi instead of walking alone.
Certain communities in Kingston are prone to crime against locals not travelers. These include Downtown, Trench Town, Cassava Piece, Tivoli Gardens, Arnett Gardens, Denham Town and Mountain View.
That said, Downtown, Tivoli Gardens and Trench Town have sites of cultural and historic importance in Jamaica. There are reputable organized tours to take tourists into these communities, which are safe as long as you stay with your guide and follow their advice.
If visiting Montego Bay, be sure to avoid areas such as Flankers, Norwood, Canterbury, Hart Street, Rose Heights and Clavers Street. While it is highly unlikely that tourists would visit these communities, avoid them anyway as they are not safe.
Which is the Safest Place in Jamaica?
In general, you’re going to be safe just about anywhere in Jamaica as long as you avoid the dangerous spots listed above. That said, the safest places in Jamaica are the resorts. Generally, every resort is quite safe, as most crime occurs outside these areas. Moreover, resort areas are patrolled by resort police.
That said, while resorts are great for protecting tourists, they also limit their ability to venture into the interior of the island, immerse themselves in the local culture and enjoy the warm-hearted people that make Jamaica a wonderful place.
Is Jamaica Safe Outside the Resorts?
Yes, there are plenty of safe places to visit outside Jamaican resorts. That said, crimes of opportunity such as petty theft, pickpocketing and bag-snatching, are common in major tourist areas. Therefore always use your common sense and:
- Avoid flashing cash or valuables.
- Go on excursions organized by reputable tour operators only.
- Ask the resort front desk to recommend a trustworthy driver whenever you need to hire a taxi.
- Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times.
- Use the hotel safe to secure your valuables.
- Protect your cell phone, which is a popular item for theft.
Is Jamaica Safe to Drive Around?
Yes, it is safe to drive around in Jamaica, as long as you consider the following road safety advice:
- While the coastal road linking popular tourist destinations such as Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay has been improved in recent years, most roads in Jamaica are poorly maintained with little signage. Small roads are often unpaved, narrow, winding and crowded with pedestrians, bicycles and livestock.
- Driving is on the left in Jamaica, and the roundabouts can be confusing for drivers used to driving on the right.
- Taxi passengers are required and recommended to use seat-belts at all times.
- Avoid parking on the street. Instead, find a spot inside a residential compound, in a parking lot with an attendant, or within your view. When shopping, park as close as possible to the store entrance and away from dumpsters, bushes, or large vehicles. Lock all doors, close the windows and hide any valuables in the trunk.
What is the Safest Way to Travel in Jamaica?
Public transportation is not recommended in Jamaica as hazardous driving conditions often lead to accidents. Moreover, buses are often overcrowded which makes it easier for criminals to operate.
While taxis are much safer and will get you to wherever you want to go, they can drain your budget. If you must take a taxi, avoid unmarked taxis. Only use taxis ordered from hotels and authorized by the Jamaica Union of Travelers Association (JUTA). Do not share a taxi with strangers. Jamaican taxis are not metered, so be sure to agree on the fare in advance.
Car rentals in Jamaica are reasonably priced and will get you where you need to go. However, you’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the roads, most of which are poorly maintained.
The safest way to see Jamaica is probably via the shuttles provided by all-inclusive resorts. That said, most resort shuttles run on pre-determined routes and stopovers, meaning you’re not likely to see much outside the set sightseeing itinerary.
Is Jamaica Safe for Families With Kids?
Yes, Jamaica is perfectly safe for families traveling with children. The country offers plenty of family-friendly accommodation options to choose from. Just be sure to confirm before you book that your chosen accommodation has child-friendly facilities. If traveling with young children, here are some tips to help keep them safe:
- When visiting crowded places, be sure to keep your family close together so as to avoid someone getting separated from the rest. You may also have a code word to keep the kids alert and know when they need to remain by your side.
- While larger hotels and resorts on Jamaica’s north coast tend to be more family-friendly, it is easy to find other accommodation suitable for families throughout the island.
- Keep an eye on children constantly while at the swimming pool or beach.
Is It Safe for Babies?
Yes, Jamaica is safe for babies to visit. However, as with most sunny destinations, you may need to adjust some of your habits to enjoy an incident-free holiday with baby in tow:
- Only give your child boiled or bottled water.
- Always peel fruit and give them cooked veggies.
- Consult your pediatrician to evaluate your situation before departure. Make sure baby vaccinations are up to date.
Is Jamaica Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women may want to avoid or postpone travel to Jamaica. But if you do decide to travel to the country during your pregnancy, be sure to protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. If you are pregnant, always use protection or avoid sexual contact altogether while traveling in Jamaica.
Is Jamaica Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
While Jamaica is relatively safe for women traveling alone, incidents of sexual harassment do happen – especially towards female travelers. If you’re a woman traveling alone, here are some tips to help keep you safe:
- You may experience frequent catcalling by Jamaican men. Respond by being firm but polite. Rather than ignoring them completely, simply say that you are in a hurry therefore you cannot stop to chat.
- Do not go hitchhiking.
- Do not walk alone at night or in areas with poor lighting.
- Dress modestly when you go out.
- Never leave your drink or food unattended or even in the care of strangers.
- Do not accept snacks, drinks, cigarettes or gum from strangers.
- Always be alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Be wary of “friendly” strangers.
- Avoid excessive drinking, particularly at the resorts.
- Always ensure that your room doors and windows are securely locked at night.
Is It Safe for Gay Couples to Travel to Jamaica?
An important rule for gay couples to follow while traveling to Jamaica is to limit any public displays of affection. This is because sexual acts between individuals of the same sex are prohibited by Jamaican law, and those convicted can face prison sentences.
Jamaica is a conservative country. And despite its large LGBTQ+ population, there is no noticeable gay tourism scene. That said, there are some hotels and tours in the country that are gay friendly.
Is Jamaica Safe During Hurricane Season?
The official hurricane season in Jamaica stretches between the months of June to November. However, the country is usually very wet in May and October. At this time, small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes, thereby exposing you to serious risk or hampering your access to essential services.
If you do decide to visit Jamaica during the hurricane season:
- Stay informed on the latest weather forecasts. Local weather forecasts provide sufficient warnings and evacuation procedures.
- If there is a hurricane at the time of your visit, be sure to stock up on non-perishable foods such as canned foods, in advance.
- During the storm, stay away from windows.
- Be ready to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or even cancelling the entire trip altogether.
- Carry emergency contact information of your tour operator or airline.
- Follow the instructions and advice of Jamaican authorities.
Is it safe to use ATMs and Credit Cards in Jamaica?
Yes. But do note that credit card and ATM fraud does occur in Jamaica. Therefore, you need to be cautious when using debit or credit cards. Always:
- Use ATMs situated in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business premises.
- Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others.
- Avoid using card readers with irregular or unusual features.
- Cover the keypad with one hand when entering your pin.
- Check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements.
Is Jamaica safe after dark?
Jamaica has a vibrant nightlife, particularly in major towns such as Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Each night, there are many nightclubs open and outdoor parties taking place that showcase Jamaica’s world-famous music and dance culture.
However, walking around, especially alone, after dark in Jamaica is not recommended:
- If you must walk somewhere, stick to main roads and more populated areas. Avoid visiting isolated areas at night.
- It is safer to use a chartered or registered taxi at night rather than walking or using public transportation. Never use buses at night.
- Always maintain a high level of awareness and alertness, especially at night.
- Only go out in groups of people that you know.
- Never resist if you are a victim of crime, as this may lead to the use of violence.
Are Jamaica’s beaches safe?
Yes, it is safe to use the beaches in Jamaica. However, rescue services may not be at par with international standards. This is because some Jamaican resorts and hotels do not have lifeguards on the beaches or even warning systems for local water conditions.
As such, beach lovers visiting Jamaica should note the following:
- Generally, private beaches with security guards are safer than public beaches.
- Do not leave your belongings unattended on the beach while swimming.
- Avoid visiting beaches at night.
- When booking recreational activities at the beach, only use professional guides or tour operators.
- When renting water sports equipment, check to ensure that it is safe and in good working condition.
Is it safe to visit Jamaica’s cruise port towns?
Yes. Jamaica’s cruise port towns are safe to visit. Just be sure to keep your valuables out of sight from others and on you at all times.
The main cruise port towns in Jamaica are Ocho Rios, Falmouth and the historical town of Port Royal. Tourist police in white hats and shirts with black pants can be found all around the cruise ports, and their presence has helped reduce incidents of petty crime. The police also act as impromptu guides for visitors in Jamaica.