Jamaica is a developing nation of over 2.5 million people. Facilities for tourists are widely available. International airports are located in Kingston and Montego Bay.
U.S. citizens traveling as tourists can enter Jamaica with a U.S. passport or a certified U.S. birth certificate and current government issued photo identification. Visitors must also have a return ticket and sufficient funds for their stay. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or extended stays are required to have a current passport and visa. A departure tax must be paid by each traveler. For further information concerning entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Jamaica, 1520 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone (202) 452-0660; or the Jamaican consulate in Miami or New York; or honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles. Internet: http://www.caribbean-online.com/jamaica/embassy/washdc/.
Gang violence and shootings occur regularly in the Kingston metropolitan area. Some inner-city neighborhoods are occasionally subject to curfews and police searches. Impromptu demonstrations sometimes occur, during which demonstrators often construct roadblocks. These events usually do not affect tourist areas, but travelers to Kingston can check with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy for details.
As a general precaution, tourists should pay attention when traveling, particularly when traveling abroad. There is always the possibility for petty theft and criminal activity, including violent crime. Crime is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston. In several cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent after the victim resisted handing over valuables. The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to exercise caution when traveling to and from Kingstonís Norman Manley Airport via Mountain View and Windward Road, especially after dark, because of the crime threat in the neighborhoods that they traverse. The U.S. Embassy also advises its staff not to use buses, which are often overcrowded and have proven to be a frequent venue for crime. Visitors should exercise care walking outside after dark and should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates.
The Government of Jamaica has taken a number of steps, including assignment of special police foot and bicycle patrols, to enhance security in the principal resort areas. Particular care is called for at isolated villas and smaller establishments that may have fewer security arrangements. Travelers should be more cautious in unfamiliar surroundings than they are at home. In particular, valuables should not be left unattended anywhere, including at the beach.
Relatives of U.S. citizens visiting Jamaica and U.S. citizens who are prisoners in Jamaica have received telephone calls from people alleging that they are Jamaican police officers or other public officials. The callers state that the visitor or prisoner has had trouble and needs financial help. The caller states that money should be sent to the caller who will assist the visitor or prisoner. Money is sent, but fails to reach U.S. citizens in need. U.S. citizens who receive calls such as these should contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the Embassyís Consular Section at 1 (876) 935-6044 for assistance in confirming the validity of the call.
Medical care is more limited than in the United States. Comprehensive emergency medical services are located in Kingston and Montego Bay but public hospitals are located in each parish. Emergency medical and ambulance services are more limited in outlying parishes. Ambulance service is limited both in the quality of emergency care, and in the availability of vehicles in remote parts of the country. The Jamaica Defense Force operates helicopters, which can be used when necessary to transfer critical patients.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Jamaica is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor
Drivers and pedestrians should constantly recall that driving in Jamaica is on the left-hand side of the road. Travelers who use taxicabs should take only licensed taxicabs having red-and-white "PP" license plates. As of November 1999 drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts and motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets. A number of U.S. citizens who have rented motorbikes have been seriously injured, often because the rider was not wearing a helmet. Extreme caution should be used in driving motorbikes on unfamiliar roads.
Roadblocks occasionally used by residents to draw attention to particular issues, and street dances that draw large crowds and effectively block traffic, require extreme caution by drivers.
For specific information concerning Jamaican driverís permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Jamaica web site.
Jamaica, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has put measures in place in the event of an emergency or disaster. General information is available on this subject via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
According to a 1996 report by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, after heavy rains, pollutant levels at Walter Fletcher Beach in Montego Bay and Turtle Beach and Sailorís Hole Beach in Ocho Rios, can exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water quality standards.
Some street vendors and taxi drivers in tourist areas are known to confront and harass tourists to buy their wares or employ their services. If a firm "no thank you" does not solve the problem, visitors may wish to seek the assistance of a tourist police officer.
Americans living in or visiting Jamaica are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston and obtain updated information on travel and security within Jamaica. The Consular Section is located on the first floor of Oxford Manor Building, 16 Oxford Road, Kingston, telephone 1 (876) 935-6018. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with window services available 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., except local and U.S. holidays. For emergencies after hours, on weekends, and holidays, U.S. citizens are requested to call the U.S. Embassy duty officer through the main switchboard, telephone 1 (876) 929-4850 through 59. The Chancery is located three blocks away in the Jamaica Mutual Life Center, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5.
The Consular Agency in Montego Bay is located at St. James Place, 2nd Floor, Gloucester Avenue, telephone (876) 952-0160.
Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The U.S. Embassy also has consular responsibility for the Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory (refer to the British West Indies Consular Information Sheet for additional information). The Consular Agency in George Town, Grand Cayman is located in the office of Adventure Travel, Seven-Mile Beach, telephone 1 (345) 946-1511; fax 1 (345) 945-1811; Internet e-mail: consulus@candwky. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday-Friday.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Jamaicaís Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Jamaicaís air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1 (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.