Jamaican Travel Warning

 

     Due to the issues of safety for all visitors (not just Americans), we will not, under any circumstance,

issue any travel documents to any Jamaican location.

 

(Addendum as of the 8th of June, 2010 .... We've been having a tremendous number of calls about Jamaica in the last sixty days.

About half of the calls are asking about our warning (eg. dates, sources, etc.) and the other half are telling us that they wish

that they had read this before they went to Jamaica. If Jamaica is in consideration for a vacation, please "Google or Bing"

words such as "Jamaica, tourist crime, murders, etc." and draw your own conclusion of Jamaica, and should it be

your best/safest choice for you and your family. We are currently waiting for a new first-hand review from a gentleman headed

to Jamaica and will post it here upon receiving it. )

 

Here is the link to a current report on Jamaica about the U.S. warning:  U.S. Warning

 

     Virtually all of the popular resorts are now completely surrounded by some type of security fence topped with either

razor wire or barbed wired. While each of the resorts now has a private security force that can provide a certain level

of security while close to the center of the resort, guests are warned not to approach the fencing or the areas around

the fencing near the beach areas, particularly at night. The manager of one the largest properties we visited went into

great detail about the extreme dangers of leaving the property. After a ten minute dissertation of why you don't

leave the hotel property, we began to wonder why anyone would build a resort here.

       

     Although there are cruises that we book for our clients that may have a Jamaican port-of-call,

we do NOT recommend leaving the ship. There are travelers to Jamaica who did not follow some of the

past State Department warnings and have never been found. Previously "safe" areas such as the Dunn's River Fall's

have now fallen victim to the criminal element. Entire groups of people climbing the falls have been robbed.

The capital of Kingston is officially under the control of the drug lords and the government of Jamaica is powerless.

The highland areas are immune to police intervention and even the Jamaican military will no longer venture into these areas.

 

     Golfers are being advised that if they see something "suspicious", to immediately leave the area.

Most of the courses have remote sections which leave the golfers susceptible to attacks and armed robberies.

The rash of attacks on golfers continues unabated due to these reasons:  lack of security on such a large property area,

and the numerous jungle areas adjacent to the course for criminals to hide in before their attack ..... golfers who

travel to foreign countries to enjoy the game are usually more "well off" and older and that makes them the perfect victim.

Please note: there is no safety in numbers, even on the links, where "foursomes" are the norm. Attackers are almost

always armed with either knives/machetes or firearms.

 

     At local airstrips, tourists aren't safe even from the security guards who work there. They frequently demand

payment before allowing you to board your aircraft. This payment isn't an option .... either you give them a bribe or

you don't fly .... period! We were informed by a plain-clothes policeman that we needed to pay him to get out of the airport.

After a ten dollar bribe, he walked us straight past customs and to our bus. (for our safety he told us)

The customs line at that point was choked with hundreds of people trying to bring cereal, toilet paper and other essentials

that can be nonexistent on the island for the locals. (After a little thought, we decided the bribe was actually a good deal as

we could have been there for several hours in the sweltering heat.)

 

     If you are offered drugs (and it's highly probable you will be), just saying "no" may not be an option as the dealers can get

very aggressive and demanding. Since there is virtually no police protection, violence towards the tourist becomes

more attractive to the dealer than accepting a polite "no". In the first 26 days of January 2007, there were 27 murders in

Montego Bay alone (the most heavily visited tourist area in Jamaica). Stabbings, shooting and beheadings are now

common as the drug gangs are daily expanding their reach into the more profitable tourist areas.  According to the

Jamaican newspaper "The Jamaica Observer", the government has asked Scotland Yard to help them establish a

specialized anti-kidnapping unit due to gang activity.  According to the 2008 "JAMAICA CONSTABULARY FORCE

CRIME REVIEW"  two percent of all murders in Jamaica are categorized as "domestic, gang or drug related" ... an

astounding 83% of all murders in September of 2008 investigated by police, can not even be categorized ... this demonstrates

how ineffective the law enforcement is. It's interesting to note that the police feels that murder by machete is common enough

that it has its own special listing in "Implements used in murder". The only other weapons that they feel deserve this special

distinction are guns, knives and ice picks!   Overall major crime in Jamaica, (using September 2008 vs. 2007 as just one example)

in the last year has increased an average of 55%.  This is of course only the number actually reported to the Jamaican Police

and posted on their website.  Given fear of retribution to whoever would report crime to the police, it could far higher.

It has been speculated (and we personally believe) that the police deliberately under report tourist crime due to the

negative impact to tourism. 

 

     Due to the attack and robbery of 14 German tourists on a tour bus near Montego Bay, and the attack and robbery on a tour bus

carrying 18 tourists near Port Maria, soldiers are to be deployed to reduce violent crime and the harassment of visitors.

The Tourism minister, Francis Tulloch, said the move had been recommended by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.

He said: "In the past the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association has expressed reservations on the use of the military.

However they have now made this recommendation and we will be acting upon it immediately."

Once again, there is no safety in numbers.  Some tour buses when stopped by criminals are lucky and only robbed ....

some are not ..... rapes and beatings are a very real possibility.

 

     There are shortages of even basic items for the locals and there can be spontaneous riots and protests.

For example: A price increase in breakfast cereal literally brought the country to a standstill. Major highways were blocked

by burning tires/cars and rioting was widespread. Major hotels evacuated their clientele and were told only to leave

the absolute minimum number of staff on premise to provide security. They were also advised to evacuate their family.

Since many of the roads to the airport were blocked, we are told small boats and helicopters had to be used for some properties.

(Note that the last major riot in Jamaica was April 6, 2008 - according to the N.Y. Times)

 

     We are always amazed that the news of such ongoing events in Jamaica are ignored or withheld from the general public.

Our two previous evaluation visits there were truly, absolutely frightening. It was so bad on our first trip that we tried

(with no success) to leave the country early. This was the only occasion in almost twenty years of being a travel agent,

traveling throughout the world, that I sincerely thought my wife and I were probably going to be killed. The sheer amount

of unmitigated hate that many locals have for tourists is astounding. We were spit at and cursed ... on a river ride we were

physically assaulted when I refused to give a twenty dollar tip to one of the "helpers" on shore.

I had already tipped the "captain" ten dollars. The "helper" only held your hand as you stepped off the boat onto the shore

and in no way participated in the ride. Twenty dollars for literally two seconds of "hand-holding" seemed a little steep.

However, had I known that I was about to have four deep purple bruises on my arm and shoulder,

it would have seemed a good deal. No one ... not the tour guide, the boat captain or his fellow workers stopped him.

 

     Currently, the State Department has rescinded it's warning, but the crime issues clearly have gotten worse.

On each of our two recent evaluation visits to Jamaica, we have experienced open hostility from the local populace.

Any excursion taken into a larger town or remote area is not recommended as the tour guides can not provide protection.

Even crowds of fifty or more people is no longer safe as we personally witnessed.  Claudia Kirschhoch, an editor for "Frommer's

Travel Guide" discovered how bad the crime was the hard way. Despite the widespread reports of trouble in Jamaica,

she went to the "Beaches" resort in Negril ... she disappeared from the property and has never been seen since. She was 29. 

This is just another example of how dangerous even the once "safe" areas have become.  While one may read positive posts

about Jamaica, it only takes one time of you being a victim to ruin a vacation.  Use the search engine "Google" and review

the horror stories that are posted in newspapers and blogs. I found this post on another website after a quick search

and it pretty much sums up crime in general in Jamaica:

 

Theft: In Jamaica, if it is not locked-up, or nailed-down, it is liable to be stolen. This does not just apply to tourists and their touristy things,

but to farmers, shop-keepers, and environmental NGO's. It is a rare person, whether tourist or resident, who has not had something stolen in Jamaica

(having your car broken into is a given, unless you, or an employee, keep a close eye on it). You must always be on guard for this.

Even if you are very careful, the thieves will get to you eventually. When it does happen, don't blame yourself for having slipped-up - consider it as inevitable.

 

     The crime problems continue unabated and there is a very real potential of anyone who visits the island becoming a victim.

We would not send our loved ones there ...... there are just too many other places that offer equal or better resorts, and they do

that without the constant fear that comes with Jamaica today.  While there are people who travel to Jamaica and are not

accosted, why take a chance with the lives of loved ones? ... When you go on a vacation, you shouldn't have to be betting

on your safety or to be held "prisoner" within your resort for the same reason.

 

     As a travel agent, I have always considered my clients safety as my highest priority ... period.

I would never, under any circumstances, knowingly allow them to travel to a place that has such risks.

If any other travel agent recommends Jamaica, do your research and draw your own conclusion.

But as for me, just one client being robbed, physically hurt or mistreated is one too many.

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