Is It Safe to Go to Montego Bay, Jamaica?

Montego Bay/Oyster

A surge in violence on the tourist-popular Caribbean island of Jamaica has prompted officials to declare of state of emergency in parts of the country. The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have issued travel warnings and advisories to their citizens about visiting these regions. In recent weeks, there have been numerous violent crimes, ranging from armed robberies to murder, in St. James Parish (where popular resort town Montego Bay is located) and parts of St. Catherine Parish. As such, mandatory curfews have been issued for these areas, and tourists have been advised not to leave their resorts.

The U.S. states in its level two travel advisory from January 10: "Violent crime, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicide, is common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from driving outside of Kingston at night."

With the state of emergency in effect, the Jamaican government has deployed extra military force to the affected areas. Authorities claim that the majority of the crimes are related to gangs, lottery scamming, the illegal trafficking of weapons, and extortion. 

Historically, Jamaica has had issue with crime -- there were 337 murders in St. James Parish alone in 2017 -- but the uptick in violent crime, particularly in a tourist area, is unusual.

While the governments of the U.S., Canada, and the U.K, have not issued a "do not go" warning, which equates to a level four or five advisory from the U.S., tourists visiting Jamaica should exercise extreme caution, particularly in St. James Parish and St. Catherine Parish. Other regions of Jamaica, including Negril, are not affected by the state of emergency and curfews, but tourists to these areas should also be alert. Jamaican officials insist that the country is safe for tourists.

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