Jamaica

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Safety and security

Crime

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. Public order incidents and demonstrations can occur in Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay. You should avoid all demonstrations. Criminals often use these events as cover for robbery and theft. You should be particularly vigilant in these areas.

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. There have been some violent incidents, including armed robbery, murder and rape. Before returning to resettle, seek advice from the Jamaican High Commission in London and the local Jamaican Information Service.

Don’t resist in the event of an attempted robbery. If you need the police in an emergency, call 119.

Local travel

The Jamaican police may impose curfews at short notice for specific towns or areas. 

Air travel

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. You should avoid the Mountain View Avenue route during the hours of darkness 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.

Road Travel

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.

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Contrary to popular belief, it’s illegal to smoke marijuana (‘ganja’) in Jamaica. There are penalties for all drug offences, including those involving ganja. Every year many British nationals are arrested for attempting to traffic ganja and other drugs.

In April 2015, legislation came into force to decriminalise possession of small amounts of ganja. Possession of up to 2 ounces will continue to be illegal, but will be punishable by a fine of JMD500 which is payable within 30 days. Severe penalties will remain in place for other drug related offences, including attempting to export narcotics.

All prison sentences are served in Jamaica. Prison conditions are harsh. Pack all luggage yourself and don’t carry anything through customs for anyone else.

Jamaican laws make certain homosexual acts illegal. The attitude of many Jamaicans to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people is hostile.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Jamaica. Visitors are usually granted entry for a maximum of 90 days. The date by which you must leave Jamaica will be stamped in your passport. If you wish to extend your stay beyond this date you will need to apply to the Jamaican Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency. Overstaying without the proper authority can result in detention and/or a fine. For further information about entry requirements, see the website of the Jamaican High Commission.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry to and exit from Jamaica. If you’re travelling via the United States using an ETD you’ll need to get a US visa as ETDs are not valid for entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme. (VWP).

Arrival and departure taxes

Arrival and departure taxes are usually included in the cost of your ticket, but this isn’t always the case for charter flights. Departure tax is US $35 for air passengers. Check with your carrier if you’re unsure whether the tax has been included in your ticket. Landing fees for cruise ship passengers are usually included in the cost of the cruise.

Customs regulations

Personal imports of meat and dairy products from the UK are banned. Customs officials may search baggage and will destroy banned foodstuffs.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika, Dengue fever and Chikungunya have been confirmed in Jamaica. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

UK health authorities have classified Jamaica as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

There has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases of Dengue fever in Jamaica during the first half of 2016. Dengue fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year.

For more details about the Chikungunya virus outbreak, see the website of the National Health Network and Centre.

The standard of medical facilities, both private and government operated, can vary throughout Jamaica and may not meet UK standards; getting access to medication can be challenging.

Medical treatment can be expensive with doctors and hospitals often expecting immediate cash payment for health services. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

The 2013 UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic estimates that around 28,000 adults aged 15 or over in Jamaica were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1.7% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 110 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from June to November. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

Jamaica is prone to earthquakes. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.