Is Jamaica a safe destination for reggae tourists? With an annual murder rate between 1200 and 1500 on a population of not even 3 million, Jamaica is one of the top five countries with the highest murder rate in the world. Most killings are crime or gang related and others are passion crimes, revenge killings or contract killings. There are also a lot of extra-judicial killings by the police. It is a truly terrible thing that keeps the country down in so many ways. These undeniable facts do not mean Jamaica isn't a safe tourist destination.
safe for tourists
Tourists hardly ever get murdered in Jamaica. When a tourist dies on the island it is mostly in a traffic accident. Sometimes tourists also drown while swimming, and in 2014 a tourist died because a jet ski hit him while swimming (not the first jet ski incident). Sometimes a tourist does get killed, as in 2013 when a US tourist was caught in crossfire between police and criminals and when an eight year old London Schoolgirl was shot dead in a bar when a man opened fire following an argument.
Some say the main reason tourists do not get killed more is because they do not venture outside of their all-inclusive compounds. This is definitely not true because lots of people are travelling Jamaica off the beaten track nowadays. They are going to places where tourist did not used to venture, they mingle and party with the locals. And they always make it back home. Tourism is important for Jamaica and all Jamaicans know this.
This is not to say that there is no pickpocketing and petty theft (especially in the resort areas). This is not to say your guesthouse might not be broken into. And this is not to say that armed robberies do not occasionally involve tourist and could turn violent if victims resist (so don't). We’ve read accounts of all these but have never experienced any of them in the eight years we have been visiting Jamaica. Just saying.
You can get yourself in trouble if you are looking for it though, rest assured. Here’s a couple of things that we feel just do not make too much sense in doing: flashing huge amounts of cash, looking for cocaine, jumping in a stranger's car at 4 a.m. while drunk to drive to a next party, getting totally shit-faced in a downtown go-go club while you are alone. If you do indulge in any of these, the worst that will probably happen is that you will somehow ‘lose’ all of your money, but this kind of behavior might end up worse no matter in which country you are.
So you’ll be all right if you don’t act stupid, aren’t overly naïve, use your manners and above all your common sense. Basically all the things your mama thought you.
A real, in your face kind of danger, is traffic. Everything goes slow in Jamaica except for traffic. Tourists do get involved in traffic accidents and there is a lot of reckless driving, also by taxis and coaster buses. The pedestrian is definitely the most vulnerable of road users so always be very focused when on foot. Use sidewalks wherever they are available. You're expected to. Be careful when you cross the road and remember which side to look first. Also look out for man-sized potholes that can swallow you whole. We've taken lots of taxis and coasters and have walked a many miles and have not been involved in any incident or accident yet. Just saying.
Mosquitos all year long are one of the downsides of Jamaica that you have to deal with. Mosquitos come out at dusk, that’s also when they enter your room. If you have bad luck, they could hit you with more than just bites and itches. A new kind of mosquito has landed in Jamaica not so long ago that can infect you with a disease called Chikungunya or 'Chick-V' as Jamaicans call it. It is a nasty disease that causes fever and severe joint pains. In the unfortunate case you catch it the fun is over at once and you’ll be in bed with a lot of pain. Effects like arthritis and bad joint pains can linger for months. The chance of getting Chick-V is small but there are dozens of cases of tourists that have caught it. There is an even smaller chance that a dengue infected mosquito bites you and you get dengue fever. Recently, the same Aedes Aegypti mosquito that that caries the Chik-V and dengue virus, has brought a new virus called 'Zika' to the Island. Symptoms are comparable to Chick-V but less severe. There are no medicines you can take to prevent or treat Chick-V, Zika or dengue so all you can do is try not to be bitten. Consider taking a mosquito net, although Chick-V infected mosquitos mostly bite during the day. Use mosquito repellent with deet.
when in need
When in need you can reach the nearest police station by dialing 119.
Dial 110 for an ambulance.