The U.S. government has raised its travel alert level for Jamaica amid a spate of murders in the Caribbean nation, urging Americans to reconsider visiting the island “due to crime and [unreliable] medical services.”
The State Department announced the change, to its Level 3 travel advisory, for Jamaica just a few days after it issued a warning about the Bahamas, which remained at a Level 2 advisory, urging Americans to “exercise increased caution,” despite a series of murders there.
The warnings about travel to the popular tourist destinations come as many Americans are planning and booking their vacations for the year ahead.
The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica warned that “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.”
It added that Jamaican police “often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.” The advisory said that hospitals and ambulances are not always reliable and some private institutions may require payment up front.
“The homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere,” the State Department noted.
According to statistics published by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the nation — which has a population of about 2.8 million — had recorded 65 homicides between Jan. 1 and Jan. 27 of this year. While that represents a significant drop from the same period the previous year, when there were 81 homicides, the number of shootings and people injured in crimes increased this January compared to last. The data show a major drop in the number of recorded rapes in January 2024 compared to the previous year.
The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, the nation’s oldest, reported on Monday that this monthly’s murder tally of 65 included 19 murders during the previous week alone.
In the Bahamas, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said in a message published on Jan. 24 that there had been 18 murders in the capital city since the start of the year, which had “occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets.”
It said most of the recent killings were linked to gang violence and urged travelers to “exercise extreme caution in the eastern part of New Providence Island (Nassau)” in particular, and to be extra careful if walking or driving at night.
“Do not physically resist any robbery attempt,” the embassy warned, adding a suggestion for visitors to review their “personal security plans.”
Tourism is a huge sector for Jamaica’s economy, and Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett told the country’s lawmakers in December that he expected a “spectacular growth pattern” seen during 2022 and 2023 to continue.
“The island should record a total of 4,122,100 visitors for the period January to December, 2023,” he said, according to a statement on his ministry’s website. “This would signal an increase of 23.7% over the total number of visitors recorded in 2022.”
According to the ministry, tourism brought roughly $4.2 billion into Jamaica’s economy in 2023.