Is Jamaica safe? What’s the deal with crime in Jamaica

Is Jamaica safe? What’s the deal with crime in Jamaica? Updated 8/1/2023

Potential guests often ask about safety in Jamaica – Is it safe to go to Jamaica? Is Jamaica safe for tourists? Is Jamaica safe for families?

If you read one article about safety in Jamaica, this should be it.


Is Jamaica safe? Get some insight the media won't share.
Is Jamaica safe? Get some insight the media won’t share.


Table of Contents


When people think of the Caribbean, they imagine blue skies, warm waters, long sandy beaches, sunshine, and a happy-go-lucky attitude as though there isn’t a care in the world. 

All of those things are there, plus some unwelcome elements, like various forms of crime.

Thankfully, the millions of tourists who visit the region are, for the most part, blissfully unaware of those risks.

So when tourists hear that there is a travel advisory recommending that visitors reconsider travel, or that there is a state of emergency in Jamaica, or that “Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world”, they are understandably concerned. 

Some even question their judgment and wonder why in the world they would want to go to a place where they have to worry about their personal safety.


Hold on.


Before you give up the chance to cross a wonderful place off your bucket list, please take the time to think about what you are hearing and reading, assess the facts yourself, and make informed decisions.


Full disclosure:


We own and operate a villa in Jamaica since 2000. We visit the island multiple times per year ourselves with our son.

We pride ourselves on being honest and forthcoming with our guests because it is in both our guests’ and our own best interest for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable time in Jamaica.

Our ultimate goal is for guests to have a fantastic time in Jamaica, regardless of whether they stay with us. The care and concern we have for our guests is evident in the string of 5-star reviews that we have on Google, AirBnB , VRBO, TripAdvisor, and even Facebook.

YS Waterfall - a day trip from Discovery Bay Jamaica

Is Jamaica really that popular as a tourist destination? 


Yes, it is! Let’s give credit where credit is due.

An amazing 4.23 million people visited Jamaica in 2019. Like everywhere else in the world, Jamaica suffered during the pandemic but still hosted about 1.4 million tourists in 2020 and 2021.

 For 2022, Jamaica had 3.3 million visitors, a 117% increase over 2021. Summer 2023 is projected to be record-breaking.

At the 2022 World Travel Awards, Jamaica captured 26 of the 52 awards. Of particular note, the country won the titles of Caribbean’s Leading Destination  2022 and Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination, both for the 16th straight year, as well as Caribbean’s Leading Nature Destination 2022.

Jamaica has the largest number of Airbnbs in the Caribbean and the market continues to grow. With more people avoiding hotels since the COVID pandemic, the villa and vacation rental market in Jamaica has been booming.

When you think of how much the tourism industry continues to grow, it should be evident that there must be something magical about Jamaica that keeps visitors coming, with many coming back year after year.


Is Jamaica Safe: What You Need to Know Before You Decide if Jamaica is Safe to Visit

Is it really fair to label the whole island of Jamaica as unsafe?

Not in our opinion.

Lonely Planet says it best …

“Jamaica is probably more plagued by bad media about safety than it is by actual violent crime that affects tourists. Many travelers fear the worst and avoid the country; those who do make it here are far more likely to come away with positive impressions than horror stories.”

When you ask, "Is Jamaica safe", remember, Jamaica is a large island.
When you ask, “Is Jamaica safe”, remember, Jamaica is a large island.

For some reason, perhaps because Jamaica is an island, people tend to think it is a small island that you could get to almost any area of the island within a few minutes.

Not so. Jamaica is the 160th largest country in the world. It is a large island country of 4411 square miles – about the size of the state of Connecticut.

Think about it. No one would boycott a whole state if there were a few areas where there were problems.

It’s the same way the whole island of Jamaica should not be painted with one brush.

Is Jamaica safe to travel? What Does the US Travel Advisory Really Say?


The US Travel Advisory was updated on May 10, 2023 to Level 3 – reconsider travel. This caused a flurry of concern among travelers but the season remains busier than ever, indicating that Jamaica must be doing something right to keep visitors coming!


Explanation of the US Travel Advisory Levels. Credit - US State Dept.
Explanation of the US Travel Advisory Levels. Credit – US State Dept.

At initial glance, at Level 3, it would seem that no one should visit Jamaica due to the risk of violent crime. However, if you read the advisory, you will note that it lists specific areas of concern – all of which are quite a distance from our villa, Mais Oui.

Additionally, it would be the unusual tourist who would venture to or otherwise end up in those areas without a great deal of effort. Most Jamaicans avoid these areas themselves unless of course they live there or have relatives in the area. 

The point … read the entire travel advisory, not just the score. Not all advisories are created equal!

Places to Avoid in Jamaica

Like anywhere else, crime is directly related to population density.

Jamaica’s population is estimated at 2.9 million people.
1,376,000 of those live in one of 4 major cities or towns in Jamaica

Kingston (Kingston Parish): 937,000
Portmore (Saint Catherine): 182,000
Spanish Town (Saint Catherine): 147,000
Montego Bay (Saint James): 110,000

Almost 50% of the population lives in these four cities or towns on the island. Given the high population density in those towns, it is not surprising that all of those areas house some of the areas of concern in the travel advisories.

Here are the specific areas to avoid based on the US Travel Advisory:

St. Ann’s Parish—Do Not Travel – Steer Town and the Buckfield neighborhood near Ocho Rios (over an hour from Mais Oui Villa)

St. Catherine’s Parish—Do Not Travel (about 2 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

  • Spanish Town
  • Central Village
  • Areas within Portmore, including Naggo Head, New Land, Old Braeton, Portmore Lane, Gregory Park, and Waterford

All of Clarendon Parish—Do Not Travel (at least an hour away from Mais Oui Villa)

All of Clarendon Parish, except passing through Clarendon Parish using the T1 and A2 highways.

St Elizabeth’s Parish—Do Not Travel (3 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

Vineyard neighborhood near Alligator Pond

Hanover Parish—Do Not Travel  (2.5 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

Logwood and Orange Bay

St. James Parish/Montego Bay—Do Not Travel ( an hour from Mais Oui Villa)

All of Montego Bay on the inland side of the A1 highway and The Queen’s Drive from San San to Harmony Beach Park

Kingston and St. Andrew Parish—Do Not Travel (2-2.5 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

  • Cassava Piece
  • Downtown Kingston, defined as between Mountain View Avenue and Hagley Park Road, and south of Half Way Tree and Old Hope Roads. Downtown Kingston includes Arnett Gardens, Cockburn Gardens, Denham Town, Olympic Gardens, Seaview Gardens, Trench Town, and Tivoli Gardens.
  • Duhaney Park
  • Grants Pen
  • Standpipe
  • Swallowfield
  • Elleston Flats
  • August Town

Manchester Parish—Do Not Travel ( 2.5 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

Green Vale, Gray Ground, Red Ground, and Vineyard neighborhoods of Mandeville

St. Thomas Parish—Do Not Travel ( 3.5 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

  • Black Lane neighborhood in Seaforth
  • Grands Penn
  • Church Corner neighborhood near Yallahs
  • Town of Yallahs, except when driving through on the main highway

Trelawny Parish—Do Not Travel ( 45 minutes from Mais Oui Villa)

Clarks Town

Westmoreland Parish—Do Not Travel  (2.5-3 hours from Mais Oui Villa)

  • Russia community in Savanna-la-Mar (The Southeastern quadrant of Savannah la Mar east of Darling Street and south of the A2 highway/Barracks Road)
  • Morgan Bay
  • Kings Valley
  • The Whitehall, Bethel Town, and Red Ground neighborhoods of Negril


Is Discovery Bay Jamaica safe?

Discovery Bay has generally been considered a safe location. It is a small town where tourism in more in the form of villas and vacation rentals. As a result, it has managed to avoid some of the unwanted elements that come with large cities. Additionally, it is a distance from the areas to avoid in the travel advisory.

Read this post if you would like to learn more about Discovery Bay Jamaica and get answers to the top questions we get asked daily.


Is Jamaica safe: What about the risk of terrorism?

The threat of terrorist attacks is a concern all over the world.

Who could have predicted the terror attacks in London, Paris, Barcelona, Playa del Carmen in Mexico, and even here in the USA – New York, Boston, Las Vegas, and Austin.

Fortunately, Jamaica and the Caribbean region are considered low risk for terrorist attacks.


Is Jamaica safe? How does crime in Jamaica compare to other places?

50 most dangerous cities in the world (per 100,000 population).


Would it surprise you to know that Los Cabos, Mexico is the #1 most violent city in the world? Caracas, Venezuela is #2. Acapulco is #3. Yes, Kingston is on the list at #16. Twelve cities in Mexico made the list. Four cities in the USA made the list – St Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit.

Murder rates in the entire US may be less than 10 per 100,000; but, what do you see when you look at some major popular cities.

Baltimore is on the list of top 50 most dangerous cities in the world, yet, Washington DC, which is about an hour’s drive away, gets millions of tourists each year.

Kingston, is also on that list, unfortunately, but yet, its presence on the list seems to be a cry for all to boycott Jamaica.

Is that really rational? No, it isn’t. I already showed you the population density of Kingston relative to the whole island. And, there are very specific areas that are of concern.

The travel advisory for Mexico is even worse than Jamaica’s; but, Mexico is one of the top vacation spots among North Americans.

Is Jamaica safe to visit? Is it safe to go to Jamaica?

That’s kind of like asking if America is safe. It’s a loaded question. And the answer is “It’s relative.”

Does violent crime occur in Jamaica? Yes, it does.

Like anywhere else, there are the occasional random events that shock everyone but for the most part, the violence is in certain hot spots.

Most of the violent crimes in Jamaica among locals relate to either crimes of passion or to some sort of illegal activity such as drug trafficking, lottery scamming, extortion, and the associated supporting gang activity and issues related to the sharing of ill-gotten gains. There are also incidents of home invasions and sexual assaults.

Not that it is any less concerning, but it is important to point out that the incidents that you hear about are in the local communities – Jamaican on Jamaican crimes or foreigners living or staying, usually with relatives, in local communities.

It is very uncommon to hear about these types of incidents among people staying at established tourist establishments such as hotels, resorts, villas, and AirBnBs.

Is Jamaica safe for tourists? What types of crimes should tourists be aware of in Jamaica?

Of the millions of tourists who visit Jamaica each year, an unfortunate few do have mishaps.

That said, violent crimes against tourists are uncommon. Property crimes, such as purse snatchings, theft of cell phones, cameras, or other crimes of opportunity certainly happen.

Use the same precautions that you would use in any new place.

Is Jamaica safe for travel? Is the best advice truly to stay behind the walls of all-inclusive hotels? 


“Is there a safe alternative to going all-inclusive as they all look huge and impersonal and we prefer to holiday at B and Bs and eat out at different places? Are there safe areas of Jamaica where it is safe as a tourist to do so?” – Question from TripAdvisor Jamaica Forum

My, we have so much work to do!

Hard as we try we just can’t get rid of the negative stereotypes that plague this beautiful island.

Answer: No, you do not need to go to an all-inclusive.

Yes, there are safe, very safe, areas in Jamaica, for both Jamaicans and tourists. Just look at all the Airbnb, VBRO, and Google listings with great reviews!

For many reasons, including fear of possible liability, the all-inclusives would love for you to believe that they are the only safe option. After all, they “provide everything that you would possibly want on a vacation” – except the opportunity to actually visit the country you are in.

Many of the enclaves are so designed that other than the stamp in your passport, you would not even know you were in Jamaica.

It is not uncommon for staff at many all-inclusives to give the impression that Jamaica is dangerous as a means to discourage guests from leaving the grounds, unless they are going on tours that the all-inclusives arrange for them. 

Someone who recently stayed at an all-inclusive hotel gave me a report that a staff member not only “insisted on going with her to a nearby pharmacy but even went inside with her to make sure the workers did not cheat her.”

Come on. The items are on the shelf with the prices displayed. The tax rate on most items in Jamaica is 15%. The total is simple Mathematics.

Yet, this employee made this woman feel so “safe” and “cared for” and of course got a hefty “undeserved” tip!

Dunns-River-Falls-Climb. Is Jamaica safe

Is it safe to leave the resort in Jamaica?

There is no need to stay holed up in your resort, afraid to venture off-property. Jamaica has wonderful attractions and local restaurants to visit. That said, be sure to use recommended transportation and not hail cabs on the street. See below for 20 tips to stay safe in Jamaica.

Is Jamaica safe? Will a state of emergency ruin my vacation?


From time to time, the government of Jamaica has called for states of emergency as part of its crime-fighting tactics.

The first one in recent years was in St. James in 2018 and was sort of a catch-22 situation that caused a PR nightmare, which still plagues us.

The Jamaican government wanted tourists, and locals, to feel safe. The Jamaican government also wanted the locals and the US government to know that they were trying to catch the scammers, which is a source of a lot of the publicized violence.

To do so, the military assisted the police, which to most foreigners conjured up the impression of martial law, which was a gross exaggeration but nevertheless created a lot of fear.

What many journalists and visitors did not appreciate is that by Jamaican law, the military cannot be deployed without a “state of emergency” being declared.

In the US, for example, there are several layers of law enforcement  – local police, state police, and the national guard.

Not so in Jamaica. There are the police and then there are the military forces.

For tourists, there was the occasional inconvenience of having to pass through security checkpoints on the way to and from the airport or tours.

Locals were largely impacted with an increased chance of being stopped and having their documents checked and vehicles searched.


Has there been States of Emergency in Jamaica since the 2018 Incident?

Yes. The government, from time to time, has used states of emergency as part of its crime-fighting tactics.

This effort is usually related to curbing gang-related activities in certain areas. These are very unlikely to affect tourists.


20 Tips to Stay Safe in Jamaica (or anywhere else for that matter)

  • Do not buy drugs. Stay away from people selling or offering drugs of any kind. Associating yourself with any criminal element is likely to increase your chance for trouble.


  • Unless you have family living in known “hot spot” areas, do not visit those areas.


  • Avoid excessive jewelry. Leave the fancy jewelry at home. Don’t count or otherwise display cash in public. Avoid the image of the “rich” tourist. Why tempt fate or attract unwanted attention?


  • Remember that locks on windows and doors are there for a reason. Use them.


  • Use the safe in your room or hotel for any valuables with which you have to travel.


  • Do not bring strangers back to your hotel. Please do not befriend locals on the beach, bars, or elsewhere and bring them back “home” with you. Keep your friendly conversation to the beach or to public places and daylight hours


  • Remember, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” was a movie. Be wary of new love interests, especially those who seem to be looking for love and you are now their “soulmate”. You may have been targeted to be the next sugar daddy or sugar mamma.


  • Be wary of new friends who have all the time in the world to hang out with you. That means they have no jobs! You are likely their next meal ticket.


  • Do not agree to carry anything back to the US for anyone. If the package happens to contain drugs, and you get caught, you will be the one doing the time.


  • Don’t walk around alone at night. This includes the beach!


  • Always let someone know where you are or where you are going.


  • Have a charged cell phone with you.


  • Have a trusted local with you, if possible. For example, our staff usually go with our guests on their nature walks, not because it is unsafe, but we feel it is just good practice having a local along. The hustlers tend to leave you alone or back off when they see that you are in the company of another Jamaican. They know they are possibly dealing with one of two situations. Either you are with another hustler and they better not try to interfere. Or, they figure the local will spot the hustle and ask them to move along. In either case, you are then too much hassle. It is easier for them to bother an unaccompanied tourist.


  • As much as we support locals, we, personally, do not hail taxis on the street, or take public local buses or taxis. Some tourists do this and think it is a great experience especially since it is so much more economical. We don’t because the taxis and buses are usually overcrowded. The drivers often drive at speeds that make us uncomfortable. Pickpocketing or petty theft is fairly common. At any rate, only use taxis and buses with red PP license plates. Vehicles without those plates are not approved to provide transportation for paying customers. While it does cost more, we either hire a private taxi, one that is recommended to us by a local we know, or we hire a car or van and driver service to take us around. The car or van and driver approach may seem expensive but it is generally more cost-effective as you do get what you pay for – more comfort, flexibility, security and personalized experience. And, not having to haggle with the taxis over price is wonderful.


  • Don’t take valuables with you to the beach or on excursions. It is too much of a hassle trying to keep them safe. You certainly can’t leave them on the beach while you go off for a swim. They are likely to be stolen. Now you know this could happen anywhere!


  • Enjoy yourself but go easy on the alcohol. The liquor and the heat are not necessarily a good combination. Some of those drinks are more potent than you realize. Alcohol can cloud your judgment. The last thing you want is to have someone, anyone – could be a local, a staff member, or even another guest, take advantage of you.


  • Dress modestly so as not to attract unwanted attention, especially catcalls.


  • Walk with confidence. Don’t act like you are afraid that someone is going to “do something to you”. People can generally sense when others are uncomfortable. And, that’s true whether you are at home or abroad.


  • Avoid eye contact with anyone selling you anything you don’t want. A pleasant “No thank you” is usually adequate. Some vendors can be persistent. Don’t let that faze you. Read the article “How to Survive a Visit to the Craft Market” for more insight in this area.


  • How to stay safe in Jamaica …. We saved the number 1 rule for last. Pack a heaping dose of common sense with you and use it liberally while you are there. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.

So go on to Jamaica and have a great time.

And, if you know anyone who would ask, “Is Jamaica safe to travel to?”, please share this article with them so that they too can get a different perspective.

For those who want an experience that marries privacy, luxury, high-touch personalized service, unparalleled amenities, and sustainability, look no further than our 8-bedroom staffed villa, Mais Oui, the perfect choice for family vacations and celebrations.

If you love our house and want to stay with us, here is the link to our own website to book directly with us:

If for whatever reason you wish to book through an online agency, here are the links to our listings. We prefer for you to book through them than to not book at all.




We look forward to hosting your group soon!


‘Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian

Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals.

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this post! I’m in Jamaica right now staying with my fiancé at his house in Hanover! It’s all common sense! Trying to explain all this to family and friends back in Canada sometimes feels like I’m beating my head against a brick wall!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting.

      I really felt the article was necessary. I’ve realized that mainstream media isn’t going to take the time to present balanced information and they are very effective at conveying information that is less than accurate. And, it’s almost as though they have already decided Jamaica is not safe and will stick to that assumption no matter what. (This is not to say that the government and the people of Jamaica don’t have a lot of work to do.)

      Here is some other interesting data that I came across as I was researching this article:

      Between 2009-2016, there were 16 Americans kills in Belize out of 1,563,400 tourists for a ratio of 1.2.
      For Mexico, 598 Americans were killed out of 71,608,500 tourists for a ratio of 0.84
      For Jamaica, 39 out of 10,606,600 for a ratio of 0.37
      For Costa Rica, 27 out of 8,137,400 for a ratio of 0.33
      For Barbados, 4 out of 1,468,600 for a ratio of 0.27

      The article only says “Americans” so some of those could have been people who moved there. I would wager that for the people who died in Jamaica, they were most likely outside of the resort areas. The article also does not say how they died, which would be interesting information.

      Granted, even one is too many; however, with these numbers over an 8 year period, it is unfair to label Jamaica as such a dangerous place for tourists.

      I am still not letting the government off the hook though. More needs to be done for the locals. They are just as important as the tourists. I do give them credit for having the courage to have the state of emergency knowing full well that there would be negative press.

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Related Posts

About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!