• Angella Berarey

Why Tourists Are Safe in Jamaica

You’ve booked your trip or set your sights on Jamaica as your next adventure and then you read the government advice website from the country you are in and think…. really?  Is it that bad?  Am I in danger?  What is all this about...?  I only want to go on holiday…. I’m not planning on moving there!

Having looked at the British government advisory on travel to Jamaica, I was at first quite horrified.   On reading again, it became quite clear that this report is not written by someone ‘on the ground’ in Jamaica.  It also bears little relevance to tourists coming to Jamaica for a 2-week holiday.  There is a great difference between being a tourist for a couple of weeks and being a returnee resident or a foreign national staying with family in local areas.  It appears that whomever writes this ‘advice’ does not bear this in mind and consequently scares away potential travellers to Jamaica.

It seems that the government advice is doing more damage to the Jamaican economy than the criminals are doing with their violence amongst themselves.  If I was to be so bold, I would call it nothing short of criminal, to misdirect people unnecessarily about their safety in Jamaica, which only leads to further destabilisation of an already fragile economy.  As I am ‘on the ground’ and have been so for the more than 30 times I have made prolonged trips to Jamaica, I would like to explain why tourists are in fact, very safe and so much safer than in many other countries.  

In truth, the violence against tourists in Jamaica is extremely low and always has been.  This is not to be confused by the violence against foreign nationals and returnee residents in Jamaica, which is an entirely different matter.

If you are a visitor to the island enjoying its beauty for a couple of weeks or more, you really have nothing to fear apart from the sun.

I write this as I am hearing the concerns of those people who say “… it looks wonderful, but will I be safe?”

Why wouldn’t you be safe?  You are visiting a country where the people are proud, happy & friendly and love nothing more than to show off their island paradise in the hope that you will return with your friends and family.  They are also well aware that as a visitor, you are giving a much needed boost to the economy of their country.  

The violence in Jamaica and especially in St James & St Catherine North where there is currently a State of Emergency introduced earlier in 2018, is internal between the criminals.  ‘Scamming’ as a so called occupation was introduced by Nigeria to the Jamaican’s and as with anything that churns out large sums of cash, there is always the inevitable feuding between family/friends who feel they have not been dealt with fairly when it comes to the dishing out of ‘earnings’.  This then leads to violence with the use of guns in an attempt to settle those disputes.  The disputes then turn into a ’tit for tat’ exchange between groups, be it gangs, families or groups of friends and the killings escalate.  As the killings reached a level where we were seeing multiple daytime murders in uptown, prominent areas of Montego Bay, the army was called in and most law abiding citizens were pleased for this intervention.  The army’s role is to seize the weapons and seek out those criminals and take them off the street.  As a result, tourists will see checkpoints on the border of neighbouring parishes, in an attempt to prevent the criminals moving themselves and/or weapons to other parishes.

The soldiers have not been put on the street to keep tourists or any ordinary citizens safe from these criminals, as the aforementioned people have not been in the past and are still not targets of this violence.  The soldiers are there to apprehend criminals.  

There are areas in Jamaica that your own government will tell you not to visit and I would find it hard to believe any tourist could get so lost and stumble into these places.  In Montego Bay they warn against going to Flanker, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights and Mount Salem.  Around the Kingston area, they warn against travel to Grant’s Pen, August Town, Harbour View & Spanish Town…. these places are certainly not on any tourist map!  

Would it be a high priority to tell a tourist visiting Britain, to stay away from Moss Side, a tourist to USA, to stay away from Compton and a tourist to Canada, to stay away from Alberta?  Visitors to Jamaica generally like to explore the islands natural beauty and are not going to suddenly find themselves in areas they shouldn’t be.   If a visitor did find themselves in an area warned against by their own government, the probability of them being directed to their intended destination in a safe and friendly manner would be very high, just as I am sure would happen in less salubrious locations throughout the world.  Wherever you go in the world, use your common sense!

In all honesty, you, as a tourist on the island, are really not worth the hassle of robbery by the criminals you are being warned about, as there is just not enough money in it for them.  Why take your watch or wallet for a few hundred dollars when they can take many thousands more over the phone?   You are much more likely to fall victim to a Nigerian or Jamaican ’scam' and the criminals can and do earn a lot more money from you when you are in your own country.  It is worth remembering that criminals make up just a tiny percentage of most if not every country and that the majority are law abiding citizens.

You have no reason to fear choosing Jamaica for your next dream holiday destination.  In 2016 over 200,000 British nationals visited Jamaica and most of these visits were trouble free.  In any country you visit, there are petty crimes such as pickpockets etc and in a lot of countries, (some very close to your home country), the threat from terrorism is very real.  This is not so when you visit Jamaica.

I have been a solo traveller all around Jamaica for years.  I have my own vehicle and stay in places off the tourist trail.  I travel at all hours of the day and night as I know the roads and the areas and I exercise common sense.  I wouldn’t expect a ‘2-week tripper’ to do the same but I also wouldn’t like them to think that they have to stay on resort and not take advantage of being in such a beautiful place and going out to enjoy it!

Come, explore, have fun and be safe in Jamaica!

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