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Country Reports

Jamaica Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica (population 3 million) should take certain precautions during their trips due to prevailing security- and health-related concerns.

CRIME

Violent crime is a significant risk in the country, particularly in the capital Kingston and Spanish Town, and is fueled by poor economic conditions and high unemployment. Most crime in the country is gang-related and victims are usually native Jamaicans, although visitors are sometimes affected. Jamaica has recently experienced an uptick in homicides after five years of decreasing violent crime; homicide rates increased by 20 percent in 2015 and another 12 percent in 2016 (to 50 murders per 100,000 inhabitants). This trend has continued into 2017.  

Incidents of pickpocketing and petty theft are relatively common in tourist areas. Other common crimes include home burglaries, carjacking, express kidnappings, lottery scams, telephone fraud, credit card fraud (e.g. skimming: 1 in 28 ATMs believed to be affected), and extortion.

Exercise common sense and conceal valuable objects or signs of wealth. Areas of Kingston that are considered unsafe include Mountain View, Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens, Standpipe, Cassava Piece, Grants Pen, and Arnett Gardens; in Montego Bay: Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights, Clavers Street, and Hart Streetfall.

If assaulted, follow all orders and never offer resistance, as criminals are often armed and gun violence is relatively common.

To crack down on crime, the Jamaican authorities can implement Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs), allowing security forces to impose a curfew in the zone (up to 72 hours), establish identity checkpoints, and conduct searches, seizures, and detentions without warrants. Deadly clashes between security forces and criminals occur on a relatively regular basis, both within and out of ZOSOs.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISK

Protests, although not frequent, have been known to turn violent. Avoid all protests as a precaution.

Various acts of political violence were reported in advance of legislative elections held in February 2016, although election day was calm. The next elections will take place in or before 2021.

TRANSPORTATION

Driving conditions can be dangerous in Jamaica, including on many highways, due to poorly maintained roads, lack of signage, and unsafe driving habits. Driving at night should be avoided as it is particularly hazardous. Note that Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road in this former British colony.

Due to crime concerns, it is advisable to drive with windows closed and doors locked; all personal possessions should be stored out of sight. Avoid parking on the street and use garages or attended parking lots whenever possible. Due to the risk of carjacking, always be aware of your surroundings and leave room to maneuver between your car and the car ahead.

Public transportation should be avoided, as buses are often overcrowded and passengers are easy targets for opportunistic petty criminals. Taxis associated with hotels are considered relatively safe.

NATURAL RISKS

Travelers should also be aware that hurricane season lasts from June through November, with the highest risk of storms in September. Storms often provoke landslides, power outages, and severe transport disruptions. Several recent hurricanes have been particularly devastating to the island, notably Tropical Storm Nicole in September 2010, which left some 20 people dead. It is advisable to stock up on essential goods (e.g. food, water, medications, etc.) in anticipation of possible business closures during or after a hurricane or tropical storm. Note that acts of looting are common after storms.

Jamaica is within an active seismic zone and, consequently, is susceptible to earthquakes.

HEALTH

Medical services outside of Kingston and Montego Bay are limited; healthcare costs can be high throughout the country and facilities often demand payments in cash in advance. All visitors are advised to subscribe to comprehensive medical insurance prior to travel.

Tap water is generally considered safe to drink in urban areas, particularly in hotels and resorts, although bottled water should be consumed in poorer, rural areas.

There is a risk of contracting a number of mosquito-borne diseases in Jamaica:

  • Dengue fever is endemic to Jamaica, including in urban areas. Nearly 2300 cases were reported in 2016.
  • Cases of malaria are occasionally reported (e.g. two cases in January 2017).
  • Chikungunya is present in Jamaica.
  • A large Zika virus outbreak hit the country in 2016. Case rates have fallen considerably in 2017 but the disease remains a threat. While the virus is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects have been established. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

It should also be noted that Jamaica has a relatively high rate of HIV-AIDS.

LEGAL

Male homosexual activity is illegal in Jamaica, and is punishable by prison sentences. Additionally, homophobia is widespread and LGBTQ visitors may face harassment.

Climate

Jamaica has a tropical maritime climate with steady temperatures all year long. The rainy season lasts from May until December. The northern coast receives more rain than the southern coast. Hurricanes sometimes strike the island between June and November.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +1 876 Police: 119 Fire Dept.: 110

Electricity

Voltage: 110 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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