Safety in Jamaica: everything you need to know

Safety in Jamaica is a common concern, especially for the high level of violent crimes and criminal activity that we hear about on the news.

It is not a secret that many areas in Jamaica can be dangerous, and the high rate of any sort of criminality from sexual assault to petty crime is a fact, unfortunately.

However, it is also true that Jamaica it’s not only that. I have lived in this beautiful country, the birth place of Reggae Music, for almost two years and went back multiple times for work and vacation as a solo traveler, driving all over the place and having a blast.

That is why I can tell you that if you know where you are going, and you follow some common sense rules, you can have the time of your life and appreciate all the beautiful things about Jamaica. And trust me there are a lot.

Jamaica beach - Safety in Jamaica
Jamaica beautiful beaches Photo from Canva

This popular tourist destination is indeed one of the most beautiful among the Caribbean islands, so rich in culture and natural wonders.

Its food is one of a kind, the people are some of the kindest and funniest I have ever met, and the lush vegetation is overwhelming (in a good way of course).

And yet there are places that you should avoid like for example Spanish town and many other areas of Kingston. I will also talk about it in this post.

After you read this thorough guide about Jamaica safety you will be able to plan your unforgettable trip to this incredibly unique country and have a blast.

Is Jamaica open for tourism now?

Jamaica has reopened its borders to international visitors for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no vaccine requirement or test to enter Jamaica!

Find more information on the official Jamaican Tourist Board site.

safety in jamaica
On the way to treasure beach.. here I intentionally got lost to check out a side road

How to stay safe while traveling in Jamaica – safety tips

1. Don’t walk alone or drive at night

Don’t walk on the street at night either on your own or with people. And if you are driving around don’t drive at night, never. In the next paragraph, I will tell you more about driving in Jamaica.

2. Do not flaunt your wealth

Crime is a fact in Jamaica and petty theft too, you can’t deny it. But tell me a place in the world where there are no crime-related issues. If you live in NYC or Chicago or Milan, or any other big city, wouldn’t you have the same concern?

You just need to be careful and smart anywhere you go.  For example, why on earth would you bring your diamonds and pearls on a vacation where you are supposed to lay back and relax and live on your flip-flops and pareo?

You can also leave your belongings in the hotel safe when you are not using them, but leaving your precious items at home would be a much smarter idea. 

And don’t show off too much of your wealth. Stay low profile in third-world countries is always a smart choice.

floating device in wood on a river
Marta Brae River Photo from Canva

3. Stay away from drugs

Remember that drugs are illegal in Jamaica, no matter how popular marijuana is, it’s still illegal.

So drugs are an issue if you look for them or accept them.

Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about it. If you expose yourself to drug dealers and jump into that kind of situation, that’s where you might have trouble.

You will be offered drugs while walking on the beach or on the street.

Just don’t panic, say no, kindly, and walk away… sometimes they are a bit insisting, but usually harmless and if you are nice, you end up having a walking companion talking about life and philosophy.

4. Be kind but assertive with insistent street and beach vendors

Beach vendors can be very annoying but not dangerous. You can be relaxing on your beach chairs and maybe sleeping and they just don’t care, they would come over and offer you all the possible services: paragliding, fishing, jungle tours, ganja (marijuana) tours, drugs (of any sorts)… and sex. oh yes, for real!

And you can tell them no 10 times and they will ask you many times more in the same day. If you don’t make a big fuss about it, you are going to have a lot of laughter.

One time I got mad at a boy who woke me up while I was taking a nap on the beach to ask me if I wanted to go paragliding.

He told me to relax, there was no reason to get mad. I had to laugh. He was right after all.  When you have offers like that you just say no thanks and smile and you won’t have any problem.

They might be a little insisting sometimes but harmless. Another time  I was on the beach in Negril and a lady offered me mushrooms or other drugs.

When I refused them, she started to insult me while walking away. I laughed! What can you do, right?

I think this kind of situation just makes your day funnier and eventful if you take it in the right way. You can’t change things but you can avoid being affected by them because that’s the only situation where you have control.

Montego Bay Jamaica
Photo from Canva

5. Sex tourism in Jamaica

Ladies, this is for you (but also men, be aware).

Ok! let’s talk about sex in Jamaica.

Sex tourism is quite common there. I have seen a lot of Jamaican male acquaintances seeing off their “girlfriend” at the airport departure gates and moving straight to the arrival to pick up the next “girlfriend”.

That was hilarious. I don’t believe both girls (and the other 10) didn’t know they were not the one and only, or if they didn’t know, it’s because they didn’t want to see the truth.

But how does it work and why? They will find you at a party on the beach or at the hotel, where they are possibly working in the entertainment (of course) or in the restaurants.

They approach you in the most charming way, making you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, and they are very good at it.

They are most of the time super fit, with that kind of sculptured body that you only see on magazine covers.

Jamaica safety
Photo from Canva

They are also professional dancers, of course. And you just can’t help falling in love. They will tell you about their poor living condition which, unfortunately, in the majority of the cases, is true, maybe a little magnified.

They will pull out the nurse/saver in you that will put an end to all their misery. But that is all artfully put in a very subtle way that you don’t realize it.

You will start hanging out together and… you will pay for everything.

On your way home, while crying a river on the plane, you still don’t realize that you are insanely hooked.

As soon as you reach home you will rush to western union and send out the first of many money transfers because he swore that you are the most important woman in his life and without you, his world will fall apart.. and some other craps like that.

And you cannot leave him now because (in your mind only) “he needs you”.

Obviously, it’s not always the case. There are stories that were real love stories but very few and still they came to an end, eventually.

If you want to have fun go for it, just make sure you keep it as it is, beautiful and short, use protections of all sorts (for heart and wallet included) and, although I am sure you are a beautiful woman, just remember that all that flattering goes to others too, and probably at the same time.

I know what you are thinking now, and no, he’s not different. It’s always the same story.  I hope you just want to have fun! 😉

Now, sometimes if you just hang out on the beach or at a night bar you might be approached in a not-so-flattering way, well depending on the point of view. Let’s say it can be a bit rude or gross. Don’t take it personally. Just ignore them or have a  laugh.

A warning for men, too

And my dear men friends, the same goes for you, most of the time. Jamaican women are beautiful, but if you hook up a girl in a nightclub, especially if she is much younger than you and beautiful, chances are, she’s either a prostitute or you wake up without your valuables. I have heard about such episodes many times while I was living in Jamaica.

Things to do in Jamaica - Boundless Roads
Y.S. Falls – Jamaica

6. Avoid dangerous neighborhoods

There are neighborhoods in Montego Bay and in Kingston that I would definitely avoid but you don’t even need to go there to enjoy Jamaica. Cassava Piece, Tivoli Gardens, Trench Town, Arnett Gardens, and Mountain View are the places to avoid if you are in Kingston.

In Montegobay just stay along the coast and you are fine. 

7. Be cautious when choosing tours

Jamaica is a spectacular country and you will want to explore it. Otherwise, why go? Right?

You can either grab an organized tour or ask a taxi driver to take you or just rent a car.

All ways are good just remember to ask the price before boarding the taxi.

They are in general very honest and great guides too, but you will always find the bad guy, everywhere in the world.

The authorized taxi company is called Juta tours and they always work with big hotels.

They are a bit more pricey but safe. Or if you are staying in a small hotel ask the reception and they usually work with independent but trustworthy taxi drivers.  

Negril beach
The beach – Photo © Sunset at the Palms Negril

8. Sunburns

Always remember you are in a tropical environment – the sun hits bad even on a cloudy day. Therefore please make sure you wear sunscreen all the time and drink a lot of water.

9. Be aware of invisible mosquitoes (sand flies)

You are in the tropics so mosquitos are a thing, but you may not know about sun flies or sand flies, those useless tiny little creatures are born for hunting you, usually at sunset on the beach but sometimes even in your room.

You won’t see them but they are there and you will feel them after about 5 to 8 hours with horrible bites on your legs. Be aware of those and use a repellent.

10. Make sure you are staying in a secure place

Jamaica can be expensive so you may be tempted to choose a cheap hotel on the beach or in the jungle. That is ok, but make sure it’s a safe place to stay. Check the reviews and make sure they are trustworthy.

You may want to check out my post on the Best hotels in Negril for some recommendations from somebody who has seen almost all the hotels in Jamaica!

If you are feeling fancy, check out my article on the top luxury resorts in Jamaica.

11. Do not take photographs of marijuana fields when hiking

You will easily find safe tours to amazing hiking spots in Jamaica and you may bump into marijuana cultivation fields. Make sure you do not photograph them to avoid any issues.

12. Check the hurricane forecast before booking

If you are traveling during the summer, hurricanes are a thing in Jamaica. I was there during three possible hurricanes that eventually became tropical storms, luckily, but it could have been bad.

It’s recommendable to avoid those situations.

However if you happen to be there during a hurricane just follow the instructions from the hotel management. And that is one reason why it would be better to book a safe place.

13. Use a safety belt for your docs and money

Make sure you leave all your valuables at home, but take the essentials with you such as your passport, cash, and credit card and store them in a convenient safety belt below your clothes.

14. Street food… Yummy!

I love to purchase street food in Jamaica. It is the most delicious. I always felt it was made under proper hygienic conditions in the majority of the cases.

As for fruit sold on the street, they have an artful way to cut it without touching it with their hands. It’s even fun to watch. (see n.11) You can check out here my guide to Jamaican food.

Jamaican Jerk chicken
Jamaican Jerk chicken Photo from Canva

15. Getting stomach bugs in Jamaica

Maybe it was just my impression but I found Jamaicans in general obsessed (in a good way of course) with personal hygiene and cleanness.

I have been into very humble homes and even though their conditions were poor, I was impressed with the extreme cleanness.

One time I was helping a lady who was struggling to send her son to school and I went to visit them in their house, which was more of a shelter than a home.

It was made of sheet metal and wood and it might have been 10 sqm big.

I went inside and it was impeccable, smelling of Lavanda and super tidy.

I was impressed.

Therefore I wouldn’t worry too much about this aspect, especially if you go and eat in local places, you are safe… and you will love it. (I am talking in general of course, then there are always exceptions, as in every place).

Negril beach
Photo from Canva

If you have stomach problems it might be just because you have changed the environment and your stomach doesn’t recognize your new bacteria 😉 I am not a doctor but that’s what doctors have always told me. 

16. Staying healthy in Jamaica

 In Jamaica, there are no requirements for any vaccines, and common tropical diseases such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya have been detected in Jamaica too but the only way to protect you from them is by using Deet and other mosquito repellents.

If you need to see a doctor you can ask the reception of your hotel and they can call one for you or you can get a taxi and go to the closest clinic.

The big all-inclusive hotels have a nurse clinic within the premises of the hotels and in case of need, the nurse will call the doctor for you.

Please remember that if the doctors come to the hotel they will overcharge you for the service.

Unfortunately, the Jamaican health system is not one of the best when it comes to hospital infrastructure. They have recently opened an international hospital in Montego Bay “Hospiten”  which should be a totally different story and very expensive.

Although we always hope nothing happens to us but it’s always safe to make sure we have insurance.

I am using World Nomads or SafetyWing and that’s what I recommend. Here also a good read on why we need travel insurance and how to choose the right travel insurance for you.

Travel Insurance from World Nomads. Get a quote.

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Driving in Jamaica

Yes, you can rent a car in Jamaica and drive around to discover this beautiful lush, and colorful island and you will have a blast! I assure you.

There are car rentals at the airport and they are super organized for the pickup and drop off so you don’t have to worry about your arrival or departure time.

But it’s better to rent a car in advance. One time I was almost left without a car because I didn’t book in advance.

Check out the Discover Cars platform to compare car rental prices.

Renting a car in Jamaica tips

Safety in Jamaica
Road to Kingston International Airport Jamaica
  • If you wish to rent the car for just a couple of days you can rent it from the hotel and they will bring the car to you.
  • There are many companies, local and international. You can choose according to the best price. Check on discover cars for the best car rental deal
  • You can check out this site that compares all international companies’ prices. I have used it in Mexico and found a great deal, besides they have great customer service. However, I would suggest you should check out the company directly and compare prices and inclusions.
  • I would ask for full insurance, with no deductible.

Driving in Jamaica – Safety tips on the road

Once you got have your car all set you are ready to discover the island.

Jamaica Safety in Jamaica
@ Jakes in Treasure Beach

Here are some more tips about driving in Jamaica:

✔ To find your way is quite easy. Besides, nowadays with a GPS on your phone or if you rent one at the car rental, there is no way you can get lost unless you want it.

The most difficult part I found was around Treasure beach, where I got lost one time. However, that is a place on the south coast that you should definitely visit. If you do, you must stay at Jacke’s.  

✔ Some of the main roads have been fixed however you will easily bump into potholes close to the city centers and villages. Be very careful, some of them are huge and you can damage your car.

Men selling water on the street
Photo by Evieanna Santiago on Unsplash

✔ The main cities like Montego Bay and Kingston are quite busy and congested with traffic and not easy to drive around. Kingston especially was my nightmare, because you don’t really want to end up in any of the unsafe areas such as Tivoli Gardens or Trenchtown.

✔ So make sure you check well the map before driving so that you know where you are going. 

✔ It is common to see people walking on the sides of the roads, be careful not to run over them ;). and that brings us to the next point.

✔ In cities, you will see a lot of vendors in the proximities of traffic lights. Some of them sell the most hilarious things, they are fun to watch and most of the time I try to buy something, be it water or some nuts, something for the road.

✔ The ones that used to get on my nerves are those that want to clean your window at all costs, even if you say no. I always get mad at them. But one time something happened. So, one of these guys started to clean my window and I got so upset I was screaming at him.

He smiled,  stopped cleaning, and said “sorry sorry, while,  drawing a heart on the front window with the cleaning soap and then wiping it out, keeping his big smile on his face. The message was clear: “Just chill girl!” I had to laugh and felt very bad for having screamed at him.

They have a hard life trying to make an honest living with these kinds of random jobs. It’s good to support them. My screen was already spic and span clean. But I learned the lesson. I don’t remember if I gave him a tip then. I hope I did.  

✔ The same happened with car washers, sometimes even if you say no, they would do it and hope for a tip. If before I got mad, I now believe that it’s good to reward them with a tip, for the above reason. 

✔ Never drive at night as you can either bump into a path hole and break your car or into somebody and kill him/her.. so try to organize your itinerary so that you are in your hotel before sunset. Besides it’s not uncommon to see livestock leisurely crossing the road, so remain alert at all times.

Every time I had a punched tired, I always found nice people pulling over and helping me and changing my tire. I find Jamaican particularly kindhearted and genuinely willing to help others.

One time I realized I had no gas in my tank and people were fighting to help me. I know sometimes they might be expecting a tip but not all the time.

So if it happens to you do not panic if somebody is approaching you. Just try to understand their intentions and trust your gut feelings, without prejudice.

The majority of the time they just want to help.

✔ On the other side be aware that there are criminals, just like in any other place in the world so just be wise and always careful. 

✔ Try to respect the speed limits so that you don’t give the police a reason to stop you. They do lots of random speed checks. If they stop you for any reason, just stay calm and be kind.

✔ The majority of the police officers are just doing their job. In case you have the feeling they are looking for a tip, just ignore it or pretend you don’t understand and humbly accept the ticket. In two years I have never been asked for bribes and I was driving all over Jamaica and been stopped many times for the speed limit.

Not because I am a pirate, but because it’s easy to exceed 10 or 20 km when the roads are straight and deserted and that is where they stand. Smart! 

All inclusive hotels in Negril - Boundless Roads
7 miles beach Negril Photo from Canva

The safest places to visit in Jamaica

There are plenty of safe places in Jamaica so here below I will share them by areas.


Negril is considered the party town in Jamaica from Jamaicans. That’s where locals want to go for the weekend when they want to unwind and have a staycation and party with great music all night long.

Emancipation day on August 1st is the biggest event of the year! If you don’t like crowds, don’t come to Jamaica on those days.

Its popular seven miles beach is one of the best beaches in Jamaica and where you will find both beautiful boutique hotels and all-inclusive resorts.

There you also find lovely bars and restaurants where to try the delicious Jamaican food. You can check out my post on the best restaurants in Negril for some recommendations. I have tried them all.

Make sure you don’t miss the roadside jerk shacks, for the best Jerk Chicken ever!

The west end on the cliff side is also an amazing side of Negril where you find beautiful hotels and restaurants including the famous Rick’s cafe where locals show their diving abilities by jumping from the high cliffs.

There are so many things to do in Negril. That’s where I used to live and what I consider one of the best places to spend a vacation in Jamaica.

Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios is the second most popular vacation destination in Jamaica. It’s more for all-inclusive resorts but you will also find a cute small town and incredible tours to enjoy.

Among the best things to do in Ocho rios, do not miss the Dunn’s River Falls, the Mystic Mountains, and Marta brae river, besides checking out all the pristine beaches in the surroundings.

From Ocho Rios, you are also very close to Bob Marley’s house, which you can visit with organized tours.

You will find a lot of incredible beaches and great restaurants here too.

Jamaica Safety
Dunn’s River Falls .. a little crowded Photo from Canva

Port Antonio

Port Antonio is a lesser known travel destination in Jamaica and yet my favorite.

This is where there has been less construction, so the hotels that you find are more boutique hotels and luxury home rentals.

But you will also find thriving nature and spectacular beaches and the famous blue lagoon.

Surfers love to check out Boston Bay and Long bay for some good waves. Check out Boston bay for the best Jamaican Jerk Chicken as that’s where it was first created.

You can fly into Kingston and then take a private transfer from Kingston airport to Port Antonio. It’s about 2 hours drive on a spectacular, scenic road through the Blue Mountains.

Things to do in Jamaica - Boundless Roads
Reach Falls – Port Antonio Photo from Canva

Treasure beach

Treasure beach is even a more off-the-beaten-path destination in Jamaica and yet spectacular. Check out Jackes in Treasure Beach! A spectacular laid-back chic boutique hotel on the beach where to spend a few days and relax.

On this side of the Island, the west coast you don’t find the beautiful beaches that you usually find in Jamaica but the place is still remarkable.

Every year you can participate in the Calabash International Literary Festival right here on treasure beach. An amazing gathering of international writers and literature lovers.

In Treasure Beach is totally safe to walk around and relax by the beach or pool.

best hotels
Jake’s Treasure beach – View from the roof top of a cottage

Dangerous Places to Avoid in Jamaica

Montego Bay

Montego Bay is not completely unsafe. If you stay in the city center by the seaside and along the coast, you will find amazing hotels, beach clubs, and restaurants, such as the popular Doctor’s cave beach and Margaritaville for example.

There are many cruise ships coming into Montego Bay and taking tours all over Jamaica. So some days may be busier than others.

But that will also make the city safer, especially in the most touristy areas where there is more local police around.

Kingston ( certain areas)

Kingston is a huge city and some of its neighborhoods are not even visited by the police. These would be Spanish town and Tivoli gardens.

And yet if you know where to go it’s still an interesting city to visit. I would suggest you move around with organized tours or with locals who know very well their way around.

Do not miss the Bob Marley Museum and a hike to the Blue Mountains. If you are ready to splurge stay at Strawberry Hill and enjoy the spectacular views over Kingston from their infinity pool.

Jamaica Facts

Local currency: Jamaican Dollars
Credit cards: Generally Accepted
Capital City: Kingston
Population: 2.961 million
Area: 10,990 square km (4,240 sq mi) –  the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola)
Location: 145 km (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 km (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic);   215 km (134 mi) south east of the Cayman Islands 
Main Religion: protestant
Climate: Jamaica’s tropical climate brings warmth all year round, but the winter and spring are classed as the dry season while summer is considered hurricane season
Driving: left side

How to move around Jamaica Safely

Public transportation in Jamaica is not the best and public busses not reliable. That is why I believe the best way to visit jamaica and move around is either by car rental or joining organized tours.

Organized tours are the perfect solution if you don’t feel comfortable driving on your own or you just want to have a relaxed vacation and don’t want to be bothered by organizing everything and driving around.

In fact that would require a certain level of attention and caution, of course, while if you are with an organized tour you are in the hands of your knowledgeable guide.

Things to do in Jamaica - Boundless Roads
Black river – Jamaica Photo from Canva

Is Jamaica Safe? FAQ

Is it safe for tourists in Jamaica?

As explained in this article, Jamaica is safe for tourists to travel and enjoy this beautiful country. You just need to be mindful of where you are going but that is exactly the same as for any other country, even your own. So some good common sense rules will work just fine to keep you safe.

Is Jamaica safe for white tourists?

Common sense rules apply to any tourist of any color.

Is Jamaica safe for solo female travelers?

Yes, even solo female travelers are safe to travel in Jamaica, just make sure you avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations, like walking on the street or on the beach at night alone, and never leave your drink or food out of sight. Avoid taking and buying any kind of drugs, but that should go without saying.

What should I avoid in Jamaica?

✔Avoid wondering around Kingston and Montego bay on your own in areas that are not touristy, especially at night

✔ Don’t accept rides from strangers

✔ Don’t ignore road street food shacks (they usually have the best food)

✔ Don’t be scared to explore

✔ Don’t walk or hike in the jungle on your own

✔ Don’t accept drugs

✔ Don’t leave your personal belongings unattended

✔ Don’t jump on a taxi before having agreed on the fare

Is Montego Bay safe?

If you stick to the coast Montego Bay is safe. But you should avoid walking alone at night and wandering around the inland neighbors, especially on the hills behind the Airport. That is not a recommended area.

Monkey Island Blue Lagoon
Monkey Island Port Antonio Photo from Canva

Which Caribbean island is the safest?

That’s difficult to say as all the Caribbean islands are pretty safe in general but they also have their obscure areas. You always need to mind where you are going and be aware of your surrounding. The safety tips shared in this guide are also applicable to any other island.

What is the safest part of Jamaica to visit?

Negril, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and Treasure beach are the safest areas in Jamaica

Is Jamaica worth visiting?

If you ask me, I may be biased as I lived in Jamaica for 18 months and traveled a lot for many years afterward so to me Jamaica is one of the most fascinating islands and the one with the most profound identity and cultural heritage.

So yes, it’s indeed worth visiting Jamaica and on my travel guide to Jamaica I am sharing all about it

Is Jamaica or Bahamas better?

They are both amazing islands and great caribbean destination for a wonderful vacation. I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one is best. Check out my guide on The Bahamas to find out.

How many days do u need in Jamaica?

Ideally to see the entire island you should book 15 days at least. Depending on what you want to see and do, of course. But if you only hava a few days, that’s ok too. Just pick one or two tours and enjoy some beach time from your hotel.

Can you leave the resort in Jamaica?

Of course, you must leave the resort. If you don’t, you are not allowed to say you have been to Jamaica 😂, if the only thing you did was laying on the hotel sun bed on the beach!

Rent a car, hire a taxi or join a tour and explore the beautiful island. You will thank me later! 🙂

Kingston Jamaica by night
KIngston Jamaica by night Photo from Canva

Safety in Jamaica: final thoughts

I hope with this article I helped you have a better understanding on safety in Jamaica and made you decide to travel there without any concerns.

Keeping an open mind but being careful and doing your research will help you having an amazing and seamless vacation in Jamaica, whether you are traveling alone with friends or family or a partner.

This is basically all I can say about safety in Jamaica. Be smart and wise, just like any other place in the world.

Other than that respect the culture and the people and they will respect you in return. It’s a beautiful country that I consider home in some way. I hope you will enjoy it fully. 

Make sure you try the delicious local dishes in their restaurants where locals go, outside your hotels. I have written an entire guide on how to move around and what to see.

For further reading about Jamaica

➡️ Jamaica Travel Guide
The best restaurants in Jamaica
All-inclusive resorts in Negril Jamaica and other hotels
The complete guide to the delicious Jamaican food
20 Delicious Negril Restaurant Options For The Best Jamaican Food
The 12 best luxury resorts in Jamaica

Planning a trip soon? Here are My Recommended Travel Resources.