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Jamaica - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime and the state of emergency in St James Parish.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Jamaica. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
In response to a significant increase in violent crime, the Jamaican government extended, on March 18, 2018, the state of public emergency initially set for the St. James Parish - which includes Montego Bay. It now includes the St. Catherine Parish in Greater Kingston; with a focus on Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk. Joint police-military forces have been deployed to these areas to conduct operations to address organized crime and gang activity and to restore public peace.
If you are staying at a resort in the affected area of St-James Parish, continue to restrict your movements beyond resort security perimeters. If you decide to travel outside these perimeters, use transportation arranged or provided by the resort. Use organized tour operators for excursions and travel to and from the airport. If you are in the affected areas, be extremely vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local news.
Crimes of opportunity, including petty theft, pickpocketing and bag -snatching are common in major tourist areas. Ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure at all times. Do not carry large amounts of cash or show signs of affluence. Protect your cell phone, a popular item for theft. Be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing money from automated banking machines (ABMs). Remain vigilant at supermarkets and retail outlets, as credit card and ABM fraud is a risk in Jamaica.
Violent crime, including armed robbery and murder, is a problem in large cities, particularly in Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay. The availability of firearms is widespread, and most violent crimes, especially murder, involve firearms. Despite the presence of police in major urban areas, drug- and gang-related violence, including shootings, continues to be a significant problem. There is a risk of becoming the victim of crossfire in these areas. Police may impose curfews with short notice in areas where gang activity is a concern. While reports of violence perpetrated against tourists are actually very low, maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Some inner-city and disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Kingston have a significant gang population and high incidences of violent crime and should be avoided. These include Tivoli Gardens, Whitfield Town, Payne Land, West Kingston, Grant’s Pen, August Town, Denham Town, Hannah Town, Arnett Gardens, Olympic Gardens, Harbour View, Central Village, Spanish Town, Mountain View, Trench Town, Cassava Piece, Canterbury, Norwood and Rose Heights. You should also avoid some parts of Montego Bay, namely St. Clavers Avenue and Hart Street, Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights and Mount Salem.
Do not walk alone while visiting the island, even during the day. Go out in groups with people that you know. Exercise extreme caution in all regions of the country after dark and avoid visiting beaches and isolated areas at night. Do not use buses at night. If you are a victim of crime, do not resist, as this may provoke the use of violence.
Be wary of “friendly” strangers. There have been reports of alleged sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by resort staff and, in some cases, by other tourists. Women travelling alone are often harassed. Refrain from excessive drinking, especially at all-inclusive resorts. Although most hotels and resorts are well guarded, always ensure that your hotel room doors and windows are secure. Use the hotel safe to secure your valuables; however, be aware that there have been a number of incidents in large resorts involving theft from hotel room safes by hotel staff. Do not leave valuables in plain view, even while you are in your hotel room. Enquire with reception upon check-in on security precautions related to theft from hotel rooms. Vigilance is recommended when staying in smaller or isolated establishments with less security. Compounds that are gated and guarded are considered the safest accommodations in the Kingston area.
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Credit card/ABM card-skimming is a concern, and travelers should keep their credit cards within sight while making transactions at stores and restaurants.
Water safety standards may not be comparable to Canadian safety standards. Hotels and resorts may not have lifeguards on beaches or may lack warning systems for local water conditions. While private beaches with security guards are generally safer than public beaches, never leave your personal belongings unattended when swimming.
Demonstrations occur and can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Jamaica has experienced election-related violence in the past that has resulted in the destruction of property in some neighbourhoods. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Unlike in Canada, traffic drives on the left in Jamaica. Coastal roads are in fair condition, but driving in the interior is dangerous due to narrow, winding and badly maintained roads, which are also poorly lit at night. Weather conditions can damage or render some roads temporarily impassable. Stay on main roads as much as possible. Speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol are common. Motorists should keep vehicle windows closed, doors locked and valuables hidden. Roadside assistance is available island wide.
When driving between Norman Manley International Airport and Kingston, take the South Camp Road (also known as the Humming Bird Route) rather than Mountain View Avenue, which can close on short notice.
Public transportation is not safe due to high levels of crime and overcrowding.
Knutsford Express offers reliable and comfortable bus transportation between major towns.
Avoid taking unmarked taxis due to the risk of robbery and sexual assault. Use only taxis ordered from hotels and authorized by the Jamaican Union of Travellers Association (JUTA). These are identified by red-and-white “PP” licence plates and a lime-green JUTA sticker on the window. Since taxis are not metered, agree on the fare in advance.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance and that sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition. Many tour operators do not conduct regular safety checks. Avoid excursions that are not recommended by tour operators.
General security information
Police officers regularly patrol tourist areas and can offer assistance. Security personnel and front-desk hotel staff can also offer assistance in most emergencies.
Jamaica Tourist Board offices are located throughout the island and have direct radio links with local police and information on safe public beaches.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Jamaican authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for the expected duration of your stay in Jamaica. Alternatively, you may present a government-issued identification with photograph, along with an official birth certificate.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Not required (for stays up to six months)
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Overstaying a visa or entry stamp is a criminal offence and can lead to jail time, heavy fines and deportation. You may obtain an extension for a visa at any immigration office.
An onward or return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required upon entry to Jamaica.
You must complete and sign a Jamaican Immigration Landing Card, usually given to travellers upon check-in at the airport or during the flight, and present it to an immigration official upon arrival in Jamaica. On the card, you must indicate the full address of where you will stay, including the parish, and if you are staying in Kingston, the district. You must retain the card and present it to immigration officials upon departure from Jamaica.
You need a permit to work in Jamaica. Persons found working illegally may be held in a local prison until arrangements for their return to Canada are made at their own cost.
An airport tax of JMD$1,800 (about C$20) is charged upon departure. This tax is normally included in airline ticket prices, except for charter flights.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - February 12, 2018
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Medical services and facilities
Good to excellent medical facilities exist in all tourist areas and in Kingston. Medical care and hospital facilities in remote areas are limited. Medical expenses can be very high. Ensure you have adequate medical coverage for the duration of your visit to Jamaica. It is normal for clinics to request payment up front or to take credit card information as a guarantee of payment prior to providing medical care. While outpatient and private doctors are very good, serious medical emergencies will require medical evacuation due to lack of equipment.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
There is no prisoner-transfer agreement in place between Canada and Jamaica.
Possession of illegal drugs (including marijuana in excess of two ounces, or 56 grams) is a severe offence and may lead to lengthy jail terms. Departing visitors are thoroughly screened for drug possession. Many Canadians are serving prison sentences for drug crimes, in some cases unwittingly. Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else. When leaving Ocho Rios and Montego Bay by cruise ship, you may be searched by local authorities for drug smuggling. You should be accompanied by a witness when undergoing such procedures.
Effective April 15, 2015, Jamaica’s Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 decriminalized the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, which will be punishable by a fine and will not result in a criminal record. Smoking marijuana in public places remains prohibited. Despite the new legislation, Jamaican security forces will continue to enforce the country’s strict laws against the possession and trafficking of narcotics, in accordance with international agreements to combat drug trafficking. Do not attempt to depart Jamaica and cross international borders with any amount of marijuana.
Inappropriate conduct (public nudity in non-designated areas and indecent language) can lead to arrest.
It is illegal to wear, buy or sell army or police camouflage clothing.
There are import and export regulations on items such as firearms, produce and pets. Entering the country with a firearm or even a single round of ammunition is considered a serious crime. Contact the High Commission of Jamaica or one of its consulates (Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Victoria) for information regarding customs requirements.
Visitors can drive in Jamaica with a valid Canadian driver’s licence for up to six months. Residents must obtain a Jamaican driver’s licence.
Other traffic laws
It is mandatory to wear a helmet on mopeds, motor scooters and motorcycles, and to wear a seatbelt in cars and taxis. Visitors are subject to heavy fines for non-compliance.
The laws of Jamaica prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Jamaica. See Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians abroad for more information.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Jamaica.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Jamaica, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
The currency is the Jamaican dollar (JMD). Most of ABMs accept international debit cards displaying Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus or Plus logos. Credit cards are widely accepted. There have been reports of an increase in fraud and identity theft. Remain vigilant when using your credit or bank cards in public places such as restaurants and retail venues.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
Jamaica is located in an active seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes. In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 119
- medical assistance: 911
- firefighters: 911
Kingston - High Commission of Canada
Montego Bay - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Kingston and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
You may call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa toll-free at 1 800 387-3124.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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