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Jamaica

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica because of high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources of information about possible new security risks.
  • Due to ongoing violence in the parish of St James, including Montego Bay the Jamaican Government has extended a state of emergency until 2 May 2018. Expect road closures and travel delays in the area. Be alert, avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent, possibly involving the use of firearms. Road closures may occur at short notice. Plan any journeys in advance and monitor local media for updates. Authorities may impose curfews at short notice.
  • Violent crime, including armed robbery and murder, occurs frequently in Jamaica. The most dangerous areas are Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay. See Safety and security.
  • Violence can erupt in Kingston with little or no warning. There are high levels of lawlessness and gang violence, particularly at night. Be alert and comply with instructions from security authorities.
  • The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. See Natural disasters.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Kingston headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular assistance. The Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provides consular assistance to Australians in Jamaica. See Where to get help.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

You don't need an entry visa for Jamaica for tourism for stays of less than six months, or for business for stays of less than thirty days. But, as visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Jamaica for up-to-date information. Visa information is available from the Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo.

If you're travelling to Jamaica through the United States, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you're required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Check with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate regarding your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. 

More information: United States of America travel advice.

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all travellers over one year of age arriving from or having transited through a yellow fever endemic country.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.

If you’re forced to hand over your passport, contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Safety and security

Crime

Violent crime, including armed robbery and murder is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay. It is often gang-related and perpetrators may be armed.

In Kingston, avoid Tivoli Gardens, Whitfield Town, Payne Land, West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Denham Town, Hannah Town, Arnett Gardens, Olympic Gardens, Harbour View, Central Village, Spanish Town, Mountain View, Trench Town, Cassava Piece, Canterbury, Norwood and Rose Heights.

In Montego Bay, avoid St Clavers Avenue and Hart Street, Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights and Mount Salem.

Gang violence along Mountain View Avenue has led to motorists being shot in the crossfire. Avoid using this route when travelling to Norman Manley International Airport. The risk of robbery when travelling to and from Norman Manley International Airport increases at night.

Don't walk alone and be particularly careful after dark. Avoid visiting beaches and using buses at night, and always keep windows up and doors locked while in vehicles. Public transport is often overcrowded and a venue of crime.

Crime, including sexual assault and robbery, has occurred after travellers have accepted 'spiked' food or drink, including in tourist resorts. Don't leave your drink unattended or accept food or drinks from strangers. Be wary of approaches from overly 'friendly' strangers. There have been reports of sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by resort staff and other tourists. 

If you're attacked or robbed, don't resist. Criminals are often armed and you could be seriously injured or killed.

Don't accept rides from strangers or use unofficial taxis as travellers have been robbed and assaulted. Use taxis authorised by the Jamaican United Travellers' Association (JUTA), which can be ordered from the hotel or by a uniformed attendant at the airport.

Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag snatching occurs, particularly in Old Kingston. Valuables such as jewellery, handbags, phones and cameras can make you a target for criminals. Avoid showing signs of wealth.

Ensure your accommodation has adequate security, such as guards or security fences, particularly in villa-style accommodation.

Credit card and ATM fraud is increasing in Jamaica. Take care when using credit cards at supermarkets and other retail outlets and be aware of your surroundings when using ATMs. Keep your credit card in sight when making purchases.

Civil unrest and political tension

In Kingston, be alert, take precautions to ensure your safety and comply with instructions from relevant security authorities. Violence has occurred in Kingston with little or no warning.

Due to ongoing violence in the parish of St James, including Montego Bay, the Jamaican government has extended a state of emergency until 2 May 2018. Expect road closures and travel delays in the area. Be alert and follow the advice of local authorities.

Avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent, possibly involving the use of firearms. Road closures may occur at short notice so plan any journeys in advance. Authorities may impose curfews at short notice. Monitor local news reports for the latest information.

Impromptu demonstrations, often with roadblocks, can occur along the roads leading to Norman Manley International Airport.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Driving in Jamaica can be hazardous due to poorly maintained roads, speeding and the presence of pedestrians and vendors on roads. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you're twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Jamaica than in Australia. Public transportation is not safe due to high levels of crime and overcrowding. Breakdown assistance is limited in urban areas and virtually unavailable in rural areas. Weather conditions can make some roads impassable. Night time driving is especially dangerous and should be avoided, especially outside of the cities of Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril.

When driving between Norman Manley International Airport and Kingston, take the South Camp Road (also known as the Humming Bird Route) rather than Mountain View Avenue, where frequent altercations between rival gangs occur.

More information: Road safety and driving

The safety standards you might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports such as diving and yachting. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment beforehand and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.

The Government may impose curfews at short notice in specific towns or regions in response to crimes.

Air safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Jamaica.

More information: Air travel 

Laws

You're subject to the local laws of Jamaica, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and possession of illegal drugs, including marijuana, may lead to imprisonment. Travellers are thoroughly screened for drug possession on departure from Jamaica.

Homosexuality is illegal and penalties range from two to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour. Verbal and physical aggression towards homosexuals occurs.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Public nudity and indecent language can lead to arrest.

It is illegal to buy, sell or wear camouflage style clothing.

Helmets are required on mopeds, motor scooters and motorcycles and seat belts need to be worn in cars and taxis.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas can be prosecuted in Australia.

Information for dual nationals

More information: Dual nationals 

Health

There is limited transmission of Zika virus in Jamaica. Protect yourself from mosquito bites. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas.

More information: Department of Health

Get comprehensive travel insurance to cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for a your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It's important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinationed before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) and our health pages provide useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in all tourist areas and in Kingston is reasonable, although emergency medical services are located only in Kingston and Montego Bay. In remote areas, medical care is limited. Costs for treatment can be very high. Hospitals and private medical facilities require patients to pay up front or take a credit card impression as a guarantee of payment before providing medical care. If covered by health insurance, patients are required to pay a deposit on the cost of treatment in public hospitals. Serious medical problems may require a medical evacuation to Miami. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

There is only one hyperbaric chamber in Jamaica, located in Discovery Bay Marine Lab near Ocho Rios.

Health risks

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever are common during the rainy season (June to December). Cases of chikungunya virus have also been confirmed. Seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache as they are possible symptoms of dengue fever and chikungunya virus. Take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. For further information see the WHO's factsheets on dengue fever and chikungunya.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, leptospirosis and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Boil drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Natural disasters 

Hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur, particularly in mountainous areas. Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

During hurricane season, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. For nformation on hurricane or severe weather see U.S. National Hurricane and Tropical Prediction Center, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly.  Contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents (i.e. passport, photo IDs, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Jamaica is located in an active earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, including the Caribbean.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

The national emergency number is 119. Obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia has a Consulate in Kingston headed by an Honorary Consul which provides limited consular assistance (not including the issue of passports). Contact details for the Consulate are.

Australian Consulate, Kingston

80-82 Second Street, Port Bustamante
Kingston 13, Jamaica.
Telephone: (1 876) 361 1332
Email: marjory.kennedy@jashipco.com

Full consular assistance is available from:

Australian High Commission, Port of Spain

18 Herbert Street, St Clair
Port of Spain
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Telephone: (1 868) 822 5450
Fax: (1 868) 822 5490
Website: trinidadandtobago.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in the Caribbean
Email: ahc.portofspain@dfat.gov.au

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, you can contact the 7 day 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources