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Is Jamaica Safe To Visit?
If you are booking a trip to Jamaica with your kids-you may find concerned friends and family members warning you of the dangers of Jamaica. Jamaica does have terrible gang and drug problems including violence but this is limited mostly to the inner neighborhoods of Kingston and some inner neighborhoods in Montego Bay.
As a tourist you will not be visiting these nor will you stumble upon them by accident as they are located high in the hills. I lived in Jamaica for a year with my family and can attest to the high levels of security in the tourist areas. There are tourist police that routinely patrol there.
The tourist areas of Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios are generally quite safe to visit and you shouldn't hesitate to explore them. You are highly unlikely to encounter any violence in the tourist zones.
Should you leave your resort?
- Absolutely! If you don't- you will be missing the best parts of Jamaica! You will miss that succulent spicy Jerk chicken cooked up from a roadside steel drum served with fresh sourdough bread. You won't be able to stop by the local fruit stands to sample some of the most delicious fruits in the world! You will miss having friendly conversations with your new Jamaican friends. You will also miss the gorgeous water falls and lush country side. You will miss out on a flaky Juicy Beef patty for lunch. Most Jamaicans are friendly and welcoming-although like anywhere, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch.
What to watch out for?
- Theft is a minor problem in the tourist areas. I did hear of one lady having an expensive gold chain ripped off of her neck when I lived there. It is however rare. Use common sense with your valuables. Don't bring flashy or expensive jewellery on your trip. Don't leave your purses or cameras unattended at the beaches. Use your hotel safe or if one is not available, hide your money in a sock in a locked suitcase or carry it under your clothes in a fanny pack. Be careful at the money changers-be sure you are the last one to count the money before doing the exchange or visit a bank. Be aware of the exchange rate so you don't get ripped off during any exchanges. Avoid isolated ATM machines, especially at night.
- The handicraft markets are not for everyone as some of the shopkeepers can be quite aggressive (There are also many charming and funny ones too!) Shopping here, however, is one of the best ways to support the local economy. The vendors often use high pressure sales to complete a sale. Bargaining is used here. You should offer a lower price until you can agree on a price. If you are not happy with their price then just stick to your price and start to walk away. If the price you are offering them is still profitable for them they will call you back to complete the sale. If you are not truly interesting in purchasing an item, it is best to not inquire about it. Once you show interest-they will try their best to convince you to purchase it. If you don't want to deal with the pressure then you can always buy your souvenirs at the shops.
- We all know Jamaica is famous for the green stuff. Iamaica is in the process of decriminalizing small amounts of weed. Tourists who are caught smoking or purchasing it usually end up in jail and with a fine. Although drugs are commonly offered to tourists, it is highly unlikely you will be approached when you are with your family.
Hiring a driver
- Ask your hotel to arrange a reputable driver for you so you can explore this beautiful island with your family. Be sure to agree on a price before setting out. Ask them to stop at their favorite restaurant or jerk stand for a meal. Juta taxi service is also a good option as they are licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board. Avoid traveling with that friendly Jamaican you met on the beach-as they may not have the proper insurance to transport passengers (or none at all!). There is also a scam (though rare) where the driver will cause a minor accident or have the car "breakdown", you will then be pressured to pay for the repairs at an inflated price (at his friends garage) or be trapped where you are.
- The water is safe to drink and food poisoning is rare-even at roadside stalls. My family has eaten at many delicious road side stands and small restaurants and have never gotten sick. The food is delicious here-so don't miss out!
- There are no vaccinations required for traveling to Jamaica, but you should consult with a travel doctor as he or she may have some recommendations (eg for a hepatitis vaccination).
- Always travel with medical insurance for your family. Be sure it covers emergency airlift service back to your home country in case of a major illness or accident. The hospitals are not a very nice place to visit (long waits and uncomfortable facilities), however medical care is available here for emergency care (cash payments). There are also doctors you can visit for a fee if you have a minor illness.
- Pack a mini medical kit with adult and children's pain relievers, cold medicine, bandaids and polysporin for any minor cuts and scrapes. Don't forget your sunscreen and mosquito repellant too!
There are so many fun things to do here besides relaxing at the beautiful beaches. You can climb the waterfalls, go ziplining in the rainforest, search for crocodiles along the Black River and visit the tranquil fishing village of Treasure Beach. So don't hesitate to venture out with your kids just use common sense and stick to the tourist attractions and areas.
So is Jamaica safe for tourists? YES!!!!
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Is Jamaica Safe?