Last week, the Bahamas were changed from “take normal precautions” to “exercise increased caution” after a record of 18 murders in the capital of Nassau since the start of the year. While almost entirely related to localized violence between rival gangs, the government agency warned Americans to remain “vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.”
A week later, the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica issued a travel alert reminding travelers that the State Department had changed its advisory for the Caribbean nation to Level Three’s “Reconsider Travel” level earlier in the year. The highest “Avoid All Travel” level in the four-tier advisory system is reserved for active war zones and countries with authoritarian governments.
‘When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted…’
“Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents,” reads the travel advisory. “When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted to a conclusive sentence. Families of U.S. citizens killed in accidents or homicides frequently wait a year or more for final death certificates to be issued by Jamaican authorities.”
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Both the embassy and the State Department have been drawing attention to the string of homicides, sexual assaults, armed robberies and home invasions in particular.
Even so, Jamaica remains an incredibly popular travel destination among travelers from all over North America. At around the same time as the travel advisory came out, Delta Air Lines (DAL) – Get Free Report named the country’s Montego Bay among the cities seeing the most new demand among its customers while over 1.3 million tourists from the U.S. came to the country after it opened up from the pandemic in 2021.
Going to Jamaica anyway? Here are some tips for staying safe
“The homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere,” the advisory reads further. “[…] Emergency services and hospital care vary throughout the island, and response times and quality of care may vary from U.S. standards. Public hospitals are under-resourced and cannot always provide high level or specialized care.”
For those who do want to take advantage of the country’s sandy beaches and well-known food and music culture, the State Department recommends avoiding secluded places and not walking alone at night.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) can be used to give the government the ability to locate one’s whereabouts in the event of an emergency while thinking through a personal contingency plan is also a good idea.
And as with most international travel, buying traveler’s insurance can help avoid a steep bill in the event that one needs medical help while overseas.
“Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance,” the note reads. “U.S. citizens with medical emergencies can face bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, with air ambulance service to the United States in the range of $30,000-50,000.”