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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.
  • A state of emergency remains in place until October 2018 due to ongoing violence in the Parish of St James, including Montego Bay, and in St Catherine North, including Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk. Authorities have also extended Zones of Special Operations in areas of West Kingston. Anticipate road closures and travel delays. Monitor local media and follow instructions issued by local authorities. 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. Comply with instructions from security authorities. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings - they can turn violent, possibly involving firearms. See Safety and security.
  • Roads can be closed and curfews can be imposed at short notice. Monitor local media for updates. Plan accordingly.  See Local travel.
  • 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.

Entry and exit

Visas

You won't need a visa to enter Jamaica if your visit is:

  • for tourism and you'll stay for less than six months, or
  • for business and you'll stay for less than thirty days.

In other circumstances, you'll need a visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Jamaica for up-to-date information. Jamaica doesn't have a High Commission, Embassy or Consulate in Australia. Its nearest mission is the Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo.

If you're travelling to Jamaica through the United States, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or another US point of entry, you must meet US entry/transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with a US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. More information: United States of America

Other formalities 

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if you're arriving from, or transiting through, a country or area where yellow fever is endemic. Infants under one year of age are exempt. More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

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.

Money

The local currency is the Jamaican dollar (JAD). Declare all currency on arrival. Only exchange foreign currency for JAD at commercial banks and exchange bureaux. International credit cards can be used in tourist facilities in major centres. ATMs are not widely available outside Kingston and Montego Bay. Use only ATMs in secure locations such as hotels as criminals target ATMs in less secured areas – see Safety and security.

Contact your bank to ensure that your cards will work in Jamaica.

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. Perpetrators are often armed.

Areas particularly prone to violent crime include:

  • in Kingston – 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 – St Clavers Avenue and Hart Street, Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights and Mount Salem
  • Mountain View Avenue, between Kingston [FE2] and Norman Manley International Airport.

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

Sexual assault, robbery and other crimes have occurred after travellers accepted 'spiked' food or drink, including in tourist resorts. There have been reports of sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by resort staff and other tourists. 

Travellers have been robbed and assaulted after accepting rides from strangers or using unofficial taxis.

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. Public transport is often overcrowded and a venue of crime.

You could also encounter credit card and ATM fraud.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution  throughout Jamaica.
  • Be alert to your surroundings at all times.
  • Don't use unofficial taxis or public transport. Use taxis authorised by the Jamaican United Travellers' Association. See Local travel.
  • Don't accept rides from strangers.  
  • Make sure there is a high level of security at your accommodation, particularly in villa-style accommodation.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing or displaying expensive watches, jewellery, cameras, phones or tablets/laptops.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed, doors locked and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Don't use ATMs on the street. Use ATMs in daylight hours in hotels, shopping centres or other controlled areas.
  • Don't walk alone.
  • Avoid visiting beaches at night.
  • Avoid using Mountain View Avenue when travelling to and from Norman Manley International Airport.
  • Be wary of approaches from overly 'friendly' strangers.
  • Don't leave your food or drink unattended.
  • Never accept food, drink, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances.
  • Keep your credit card in sight when making purchases, including at supermarkets.
  • If you're attacked or robbed, don't resist. Criminals are often armed and you could be seriously injured or killed.

Civil unrest and political tension

A state of emergency remains in place until October 2018 due to ongoing violence in the Parish of St James, including Montego Bay, and in St Catherine North, including Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk. Authorities have also extended Zones of Special Operations in areas of West Kingston. Anticipate road closures and travel delays. Monitor local media and follow instructions issued by local authorities.

Demonstrations and other public gatherings can turn violent with little or no warning, particularly in Kingston. Firearms may be used.

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

Authorities can close roads and impose curfews at short notice.

  • Avoid all large gatherings, protests and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media for reports of road closures, curfews and planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Be ready to adjust your travel plans in response to any road closures and/or curfews.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.

Terrorism

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

Local travel

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators aren't always met, especially for adventure activities such as diving and yachting. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • use only reputable, registered tour operators
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Road travel

You're twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Jamaica than in Australia. Driving hazards include poorly maintained roads, speeding and the presence of pedestrians and vendors on roads. Night-time driving is especially dangerous.

Weather conditions can make some roads impassable. Authorities can close roads at short notice, including for security reasons. See Safety and security.

Breakdown assistance is limited in urban areas and virtually unavailable in rural areas.  

By law, seat belts must be worn in cars and taxis.

Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Always use your seatbelt.
  • Avoid driving at night, especially outside 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). Avoid Mountain View Avenue. See Safety and security.
  • Get up-to-date advice on road closures and curfews that could affect your movements before you travel by road. See Safety and security.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Jamaica with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Helmets are required on mopeds, motor scooters and motorcycles. Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles.

Taxis

Use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Travellers using unofficial taxis have been robbed and assaulted. Use taxis authorised by the Jamaican United Travellers' Association (JUTA). You can order JUTA taxis at hotels or via a uniformed attendant at the airport.

Public transport

Public transport is not safe due to high levels of crime and overcrowding.

Boat travel

Cruise liners and stopover in Jamaica. More information: Travelling by boat

Air travel

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 local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Drug laws

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

Other laws

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

Activities that are illegal in Jamaica include:

  • homosexuality - more information: LGBTI travellers
  • public nudity
  • use of indecent language
  • buying, selling or wearing camouflage style clothing
  • failing to wear an appropriate helmet while riding on a moped, motor scooter or motorcycle
  • failing to wear a seat belts while driving or riding in a car or taxi.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Read Dual nationals

Local customs

Homosexuality is not widely accepted. Verbal and physical aggression towards homosexuals occurs. More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

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

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.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof, including with treated mosquito nets
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, leptospirosis and tuberculosis) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in tourist areas and in Kingston is reasonable. In remote areas, medical care is limited. Emergency medical services are located only in Kingston and Montego Bay.

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. In public hospitals, you may only need to provide a deposit towards the cost of treatment, provided you're covered by health insurance.

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

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to Miami or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters 

Jamaica can experience hurricanes, severe storms, earthquakes and tsunamis

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System and Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency.
  • follow the advice of local emergency officials
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • seek local advice before entering affected areas.

If you're travelling to Jamaica during hurricane season or following a natural disaster, monitor weather reports and contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected. Contact your airline for the latest flight information. 

Hurricanes

Hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur, particularly in mountainous areas. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning.

If there is a hurricane or severe storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. Roads may be blocked. Power, communication systems and other essential services could be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a hurricane may not be available for all those who stay.

If a hurricane is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

More information:

Earthquakes

Jamaica is located in an active seismic zone and can experience earthquakes. Familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures for each place you stay and visit. More information: Earthquakes

Tsunamis

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

To receive tsunami alerts, register with the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local or regional authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, 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.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Police: 119
  • Fire services: 119 
  • Ambulance: 119 

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

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

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for 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 services and conducts passport interviews. You can get full consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Australian Consulate, Kingston

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

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

Check 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, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources