Jamaica

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 28 October 2013.   It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica because of high levels of serious crime.

Jamaica overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica because of high levels of serious crime.
  • In the past, violence has erupted in Kingston with little or no warning. In Kingston, you should be vigilant, take precautions to ensure your safety and comply with instructions from relevant security authorities, due to high levels of lawlessness and gang violence.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings in Jamaica as they may turn violent, possibly involving the use of firearms. Authorities may impose curfews.
  • The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate below for detailed advice.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Kingston headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular assistance (not including the issue of passports). The Australian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provides full consular assistance to Australians in Jamaica. See under Where to get help for more information.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Jamaica for the most up to date information.

If you are travelling to Jamaica through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Civil unrest/Political tension

In the past, violence has erupted in Kingston with little or no warning. In Kingston, you should be vigilant, take precautions to ensure your safety and comply with instructions from relevant security authorities.

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent, possibly involving the use of firearms. Demonstrations and protests may occur at any time across the country. You should monitor local news reports. Authorities may impose curfews.

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

Crime

We advise you to 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 and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Violent crime, including armed robbery, kidnapping and murder, is common, particularly in the Old Kingston area. There is also a high incidence of crime in West Kingston, Grant's Pen, Tivoli Gardens, August Town, Harbour View, Denham Town, Hannah Town, Payne Island, Mountain View, Trench Town and Arnett Gardens in Kingston, Flankers and Mount Salem in Montego Bay (excluding resort areas) and Spanish Town. Violent crime is often gang-related and perpetrators may be armed. An increase in gang violence along Mountain View Avenue has seen motorists 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.

Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag snatching occurs, particularly in Old Kingston.

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. You should attempt to keep your credit card in sight when making purchases.

Due to the increased risk of robbery and assault, we recommend that you do not walk alone and that you exercise particular caution after dark. Avoid visiting beaches and using buses at night, and always keep windows up and doors locked while in vehicles. Be wary on public transport as it is often overcrowded and frequently a venue of crime.

Due to the high levels of serious crime in Jamaica, we recommend you ensure your accommodation has adequate security, such as guards or security fences, particularly if you are staying in villa-style accommodation.

Crime, including sexual assault and robbery, has occurred after travellers have accepted 'spiked' food or drink, including in tourist resorts.

You should not accept rides at any time from unknown individuals or use unofficial taxis as travellers have been robbed and assaulted. We recommend you 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.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Jamaica.

Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You should be careful to avoid the loss or theft of your passport. Travellers are likely to experience significant delays and expense arranging the replacement of travel documents in Jamaica where there is no resident Australian Embassy or High Commission.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Driving in Jamaica can be hazardous due to poorly maintained roads, excessive speed and the presence of pedestrians and vendors on roads. For further advice, see our road travel page.

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. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment beforehand and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Jamaica, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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

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

Homosexual acts are illegal and penalties range from 2 to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour. Verbal and physical aggression towards homosexuals occurs. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Public nudity in non-designated areas 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 Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationalspage provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will 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 will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations 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) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in all tourist areas and in Kingston is good, however 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 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. The minimum cost of a medivac would be $A20,000.

Jamaica has one hyperbaric chamber, the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, located in St Ann parish.

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever are common in Jamaica, especially during the rainy season (June to December). The Jamaican government has reported a significant increase in the cases of dengue in December 2012. We recommend that you 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.

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. We encourage you to discuss your vaccination requirements with your doctor before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.

Where to get help

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
You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Port of Spain:

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: www.trinidadandtobago.embassy.gov.au
Email: australianhighcommission.pos@gmail.com

If you are travelling to Jamaica, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Jamaica is subject to hurricanes. The 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.

If you are travelling to Jamaica during hurricane season, you should 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. Information on hurricane or severe weather conditions can be obtained from the U.S. National Hurricane and Tropical Prediction Center, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should 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 who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo IDs, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

Jamaica is located in an active earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, including the Caribbean. See the Tsunami Awareness page for more information on tsunamis.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife

Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.