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Travel Security Advice for Jamaica

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jamaica_mapJamaica_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Jamaica is a developing nation of over 2.6 million people. Facilities for tourists are widely available. International airports are located in Kingston and Montego Bay.  Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Jamaica for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Jamaica are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

U.S. Embassy Kingston

142 Old Hope Road
Kingston, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 702-6000
Facsimile: (876) 702-6018
Public Hours are M-F 8:00-11:00

Consular Agency in Montego Bay
St. James Place, 2nd Floor, Gloucester Avenue
Telephone: (876) 952-0160.
Public Hours are M-F 9:00-12:30
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The U.S. Embassy also has consular responsibility for the Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory.

Consular Agency Cayman Islands
Cayman Center Unit B-1, 118 Dorcy Drive
Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island
Public Hours are M-W-F 8:00-14:00
Telephone: (345) 945-8173

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For additional information on travel conditions in the Cayman Islands, please refer to the Cayman Islands Consular Information Sheet.

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

All Americans traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter the United States.  U.S. citizens traveling by sea must present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport or a passport card for entry to the United States.  While passport cards are sufficient for entry into the United States, they may not be accepted by the particular country you plan to visit; please be sure to check with your cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements. Passport cards are an acceptable travel document for entry into Jamaica

FOR SEA TRAVELERS.

Visitors must have a return ticket and be able to show sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or extended stays are required to have a current U.S. passport and visa issued by the Jamaican Embassy or a Jamaican Consulate. There is a departure tax for travelers, which is regularly included in airfare. For further information, travelers may contact the Embassy of Jamaica at 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202) 452-0660; the Jamaican Consulate in Miami or New York; honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles.

Visit the Embassy of Jamaica website for the most current information about Jamaican visas for Americans.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Jamaica.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Violence and shootings occur regularly in certain areas of Kingston and Montego Bay.  Embassy employees as well as private Americans are advised to avoid traveling into high-threat areas including, but not limited to, Mountain View, Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens, Cassava Piece, and Arnett Gardens in Kingston, and Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights, Clavers Street and Hart Street in Montego Bay.  Sudden demonstrations can occur, during which demonstrators often construct roadblocks or otherwise block streets. Travelers to Kingston may wish to  check with  the U.S. Embassy for current information prior to their trip.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State reminds American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Crime, including violent crime, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay. While the vast majority of crimes occur in impoverished areas, the violence is not confined. The primary criminal concern for tourists is becoming a victim of theft. In several cases, armed robberies of Americans have turned violent when the victims resisted handing over valuables. Crime is exacerbated by the fact that police are understaffed and ineffective. Additionally, there have been frequent allegations of police corruption Tourists should take all necessary precautions, always pay extra attention to their surroundings when traveling, and keep windows up and doors locked while in a vehicle.  Travelers should avoid walking alone, exercise special care after dark, and always avoid areas known for high crime rates.

In 2009 the Embassy received several reports of sexual assaults against American citizens, including two cases of alleged sexual assaults at tourist resorts.  Americans should maintain careful watchfulness, avoid secluded places or situations, go out in groups and watch out for each other.  Don’t be afraid to ask or call out for help if you feel threatened or encounter individuals who make you feel uncomfortable.  Report any suspicious activity to the U.S. Embassy, local police and, if appropriate, to the hotel’s management.As a general rule, do not leave valuables unattended or in plain view, including in hotel rooms and on the beach. Take care when carrying high value items such as cameras, expensive cell phones or when wearing expensive jewelry on the street. Women's handbags should be zipped and held close to the body. Men should carry wallets in their front pants pocket. Large amounts of cash should always be handled discreetly.

The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to avoid inner-city areas of Kingston and other urban centers, such as those listed in the section on Safety and Security, whenever possible. Particular caution is advised after dark and in downtown Kingston and New Kingston. The U.S. Embassy also cautions American citizens not to use public buses, which are often overcrowded and are a frequent venue for crime.

To enhance security in the principal resort areas, the Government of Jamaica has taken a number of steps, including assignment of special police foot and bicycle patrols. However, in 2008 and 2009 a number of American families reported having been robbed inside their resort hotel rooms while they slept. Particular care is called for when staying at isolated villas and smaller establishments that may have fewer security arrangements. Some street vendors, beggars, and taxi drivers in tourist areas aggressively confront and harass tourists to buy their wares or employ their services. If a firm "No, thank you" does not solve the problem, visitors may wish to seek the assistance of a tourist police officer.

Illegal drug use is prevalent in some tourist areas, leading to numerous American citizen arrests and incarcerations in Jamaica every year.  Possession or use of marijuana or other illicit drugs is illegal in Jamaica.  American citizens should avoid buying, selling, holding, or taking illegal drugs under any circumstances. There is anecdotal evidence that the use of so-called date rape drugs, such as Ruhypnol, has become more common at clubs and private parties. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal narcotics are especially potent in Jamaica, and their use may lead to severe or even disastrous health consequences.

In addition to a number of lottery and investment scams, relatives of U.S. citizens visiting Jamaica and U.S. citizens who are prisoners in Jamaica have received telephone calls from people claiming to be Jamaican police officers, other public officials, or medical professionals. The callers usually state that the visitor or prisoner has had trouble and needs financial help. In almost every case these claims are untrue. The caller insists that money should be sent by wire transfer to either themselves or a third party who will assist the visitor or prisoner, but when money is sent, it fails to reach the U.S. citizens in alleged need. U.S. citizens who receive calls such as these should never send money. The U.S. Embassy has also received reports of extortion attempts originating in Jamaica where the caller threatens the victim if they do not send a sum of money.  Another financial scam reported is theDamsel in Distresswhere a partner met over the Internet falls into a series of unfortunate events and needs money with the promise of rewards at a later date (such as an in-person meeting).  Contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the Embassy's Consular Section at telephone (876) 702-6000 for assistance in confirming the validity of the call.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see beginning of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you replace a lost or stolen passport, find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Jamaica is 119.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Persons violating Jamaica’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Jamaica are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Airport searches are thorough and people attempting to smuggle narcotics are often apprehended.

Prison conditions in Jamaica differ greatly from prison conditions in the United States. Prisoners are provided only the most basic meals and must rely upon personal funds, family and friends to supplement their diets, provide clothing, and supply personal care items such as toothpaste and shampoo. Packages shipped from the United States to prisoners are subject to Jamaican import taxes and are undeliverable when the recipient lacks the funds to pay the duties.

Jamaican law contains specific prohibitions on certain sexual activities. These prohibitions have been used to target homosexuals and trans-gendered individuals. Violations can result in lengthy imprisonment.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Harassment, threats, and acts of violence have been targeted at homosexuals in Jamaica.  Government officials have been known to make derogatory comments toward homosexuals, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread.  It has been reported that police do not always investigate reports of harassment, threats, or violence targeted on the basis of sexual orientation of the victim.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against taking any type of firearm or ammunition into Jamaica without authorization from the Jamaican Ministry of National Security. Entering Jamaica with a firearm or even a single round of ammunition is a serious crime that can result in a long prison sentence.  Mace, pepper spray and knives also are prohibited and may not be brought into Jamaica without specific authorization from the Jamaican Ministry of National Security.

Fresh fruits, vegetables and uncooked meats are not permitted to be brought in or out of the country and may be confiscated by customs officials. Pets may not be brought into Jamaica, except for dogs from the United Kingdom that have been vaccinated for rabies and only after six months quarantine.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington or one of the Jamaican consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our Customs Information.

Jamaica, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has put measures in place in the event of an emergency or disaster. General information is available on the subject via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care is more limited than in the United States. Comprehensive emergency medical services are located only in Kingston and Montego Bay, and smaller public hospitals are located in each parish. Emergency medical and ambulance services, and the availability of prescription drugs, are limited in outlying parishes. Ambulance service is limited both in the quality of emergency care and in the availability of vehicles in remote parts of the country. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals in Jamaica often require cash payment prior to providing services. If a medical evacuation is required, the Embassy recommends you contact the American Citizen Services Unit at (876) 702-6000 for assistance.

HIV/AIDS restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Jamaica.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Jamaica is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Drivers and pedestrians should remember that, unlike the United States, driving in Jamaica is on the left-hand side of the road. Breakdown assistance is limited in urban areas and virtually unavailable in rural areas. Nighttime driving is especially dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible. As noted above in the section on Crime, public buses are often overcrowded and are frequently a venue of crime. Travelers who use taxicabs should take only licensed taxicabs having red-and-white PP license plates or taxis recommended by their hotels.

Most roads are paved, but suffer from ill repair, inadequate signage, large pot holes, and poor traffic control markings. Roads are often subject to poorly marked construction zones, pedestrians, bicyclists, and, occasionally, livestock. The lack of pedestrian crosswalks requires special vigilance for all pedestrians. Driving habits range from aggressive speeding and disregard for others to inexperience and over-polite behaviors creating uncertainty and hazards to pedestrians. In February 2009, an American tourist in Jamaica was killed while attempting to cross a busy stretch of road to his hotel. The American was hit by an overtaking car after another vehicle had stopped and waved him across. Roads in rural areas (including near major tourist resorts in Montego Bay and Negril) are often traveled at very high speeds and pedestrians should take special care when attempting to cross.

Drivers should maintain special care when entering traffic circles (“roundabouts”), which are often poorly marked and require traffic to move in a clockwise direction. Motorists entering a roundabout must yield to those already in it. Labeling of roundabout exit points is exceptionally confusing, often making it difficult to determine which exit to take to continue toward the desired destination. Failure to turn into the correct flow of traffic can result in a head-on collision.

The A1, A2 and A3 highways are the primary links between the most important cities and tourist destinations on the island. These roads are not comparable to American highways, and road conditions are hazardous due to poor repair, inadequate signage and poor traffic control markings. The B highways and rural roads are often very narrow and frequented by large trucks, buses, pedestrians, bicyclists and open range livestock. Highways are traveled at high speeds, but are not limited-access.

Drivers and passengers in the front seat are required to wear seat belts, and motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets. Extreme caution should be used in operating motor driven cycles. Several serious and even fatal accidents take place each year involving American tourists riding in taxis without seat belts. All passengers are strongly encouraged to use vehicles equipped with seat belts.

For specific information concerning Jamaican drivers permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please see the Consulate of Jamaica in Chicago website or contact the at 1-800-JAMAICA.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the Jamaica Tourist Board and the National Road Safety Council of Jamaica website for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Jamaica’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Jamaica’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Jamaica dated February 26, 2009, to update sections on Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information regarding Jamaica HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)........

There is also a Malaria Warning for Jamaica HERE....

Regards

The SW Team............

 

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