Safety and security
Crime levels are high, particularly in and around certain areas of Kingston and Montego Bay. Gang violence and shootings are common, although usually confined to inner city neighbourhoods. Be especially cautious if you’re travelling to West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View, Spanish Town and certain parts of Montego Bay, including Flankers, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights and Mount Salem.
As part of security enhancement measures, the Government of Jamaica is taking in areas of concern and has issued States of Emergency in the following areas:
- The Parish of St James, including Montego Bay, which has been extended until 31 October 2018
- St Catherine North State (focused on Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk), which has been extended until 2 October 2018
- Specified boundaries in parts of Kingston Central, Kingston Western and St Andrew South Police Divisions, as of 23 September 2018.
The Jamaican government has also extended Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in certain neighbourhoods in Kingston (Denham town and other areas in West Kingston).
These measures allow the military to support the police in joint security operations in response to recent violence and shooting incidents.
The motive for most attacks on tourists is robbery. There are mobile police patrols, but you should take steps to protect yourself and your belongings. Be vigilant at all times, even if you’re staying with friends and family. Don’t walk alone in isolated areas or on deserted beaches, even during the day. Take particular care when withdrawing money from ATMs. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or wear eye-catching jewellery. Try to vary which restaurants you use. Using the same place too often might make you a target for thieves. Avoid using buses at night.
Most hotels and resorts are well guarded, but robberies can occur. Follow hotel security procedures. Use hotel safe, lock windows and doors and report suspicious activity. If you are in residential accommodation, make sure proper door locks and window grilles are fitted and consider employing a guard and fitting a house alarm. Gated and guarded compounds are normally the safest type of accommodation.
Criminals have targeted visiting British nationals and those returning to resettle permanently in Jamaica. Before returning to resettle, seek advice from the Jamaican High Commission in London and the local Jamaican Information Service. There have been some violent incidents, including armed robbery, murder and rape. There is also a risk of sexual assault against tourists. You should maintain at least the same level of personal safety awareness as you would at home, including at popular events. The FCO has guidance for women travelling abroad that may be helpful.
Don’t resist in the event of an attempted robbery. If you need the police in an emergency, call 119.
Public order incidents and demonstrations can occur across Jamaica, and may cause significant disruption to traffic and public transportation. You should avoid all demonstrations; they have the potential to turn violent and are often used by criminals as cover for robbery and theft.
The Jamaican police may impose curfews at short notice for specific towns or areas.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
Travelling to and from Norman Manley International Airport
There have been outbreaks of violence in recent years in the Mountain View area on the route between Kingston and Norman Manley International Airport. Therefore, you should avoid the Mountain View Avenue route and use the alternative signposted Humming Bird route via South Camp Road instead.
The British High Commission has previously received reports of British nationals being robbed when travelling to private accommodation from Norman Manley International Airport. Be especially vigilant when travelling from the airport to your accommodation.
You can drive in Jamaica using a UK driving licence for up to 6 months. If you aren’t familiar with Kingston, don’t drive in the city. If you get lost, you risk putting yourself and your passengers in personal danger. Some hire cars and minibuses don’t have seatbelts fitted in the rear. Check with the hire car company before you arrive.
Road accidents and fatalities are common. Many roads are badly maintained with poor signage. Roads in rural areas are narrow, winding and poorly lit at night. Speeding and drink-driving are common.
Drive defensively, and take great care on the roads, whether you are in a vehicle or a pedestrian. Drivers and front seat passengers must wear seat belts at all times. Keep the windows up and doors locked. Be particularly vigilant when stopping at junctions or traffic lights. Criminals are known to use techniques which distract drivers to gain access to vehicles to steal handbags and other items of value.
Motorcycle riders must wear a helmet.
Hurricanes, tropical storms and road-works can temporarily block roads. Check your route in advance.
Only use Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) approved taxis or minibuses for excursions, airport transfers and sightseeing. Don’t hail a taxi in the street and don’t share a taxi with strangers. Most hotels and resorts have assigned JTB drivers who carry photo ID and display a prominent blue JTB sticker on the front windscreen.