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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Jamaica

Jamaica - Consular Information Sheet
September 10, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Jamaica is a developing nation of approximately 2.5 million people. Facilities for tourists are widely available. International airports are located in Kingston and Montego Bay.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens traveling as tourists can enter Jamaica with a U.S. passport or a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate and current state photo identification. They must also have a return ticket and sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or for extended stays are required to have a current passport and must obtain a visa before arriving. A departure tax is collected when leaving the country. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of Jamaica at 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202)452-0660, the Jamaican Consulate in Miami or New York, or one of Jamaica's honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles. Travelers may also contact Jamaican representative in the United States through the Internet at http://www.emjam@sysnet.net or at http://www.emjam@emjam-usa.org.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Gang violence and shootings frequently affect Kingston's inner city areas, and briefly flared up into broader violence and fatalities within Kingston in July, 2001. Some inner-city neighborhoods are occasionally subject to curfews and police searches. Incidents of violence, including reprisal attacks, have been reported in inner-city areas of Montego Bay as well.

Organized as well as impromptu political demonstrations sometimes occur, during which demonstrators may construct roadblocks. The roads leading to Norman Manley International Airport can be vulnerable to such stoppages. Americans should take common-sense precautions, monitor news reports, and avoid large gatherings and demonstrations. The majority of American tourists visiting the north coast of Jamaica use Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Demonstrations and roadblocks usually do not affect tourist areas, but travelers can check with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy for details.

CRIME: Crime is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston. In several cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent after the victim resisted handing over valuables. The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to exercise caution when traveling to and from Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport via Mountain View and Windward Roads, especially after dark, because of the crime threat in the neighborhoods they traverse. The U.S. Embassy also advises its staff not to use public buses, which are often overcrowded and have proved to be a frequent venue for crime. Visitors should not walk outside after dark and should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates. Be aware of your surroundings and take the same precautions as in any large city in the United States.

Drug use is prevalent in some tourist areas. American citizens should avoid buying, selling or taking illegal drugs under any circumstances. There is anecdotal evidence that use of so-called "date rape" drugs has become more common at clubs and private parties. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal narcotics are especially potent in Jamaica, and their use can lead to severe or even disastrous health consequences.

To enhance security in the major resort areas on the north coast, the Government of Jamaica has taken a number of steps, including assignment of special tourist security personnel. Particular care is called for at isolated villas and smaller establishments that may have fewer security arrangements. Travelers should be more cautious in unfamiliar surroundings than they are at home. In particular, valuables should not be left unattended anywhere, including the beach.

Relatives of U.S. citizens visiting Jamaica and U.S. citizens who are prisoners in Jamaica have received telephone calls from people alleging that they are Jamaican police officers or other public officials. The callers state that the visitor or prisoner has had trouble and needs financial help. The caller states that money should be sent to the caller who will assist the visitor or prisoner. Money is sent but fails to reach the U.S. citizen in need. U.S. citizens who receive calls such as these should contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the Embassy's Consular Section for assistance in confirming the validity of the call.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported to local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to The Caribbean for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. These pamphlets are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is limited compared to the United States. While public hospitals are located in each parish, comprehensive emergency medical services are available only in Kingston and Montego Bay. Emergency medical and ambulance services are not as widely available in outlying parishes, and ambulance service is limited both in the quality of emergency care and in the availability of vehicles in remote parts of the country.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, autofax: 1-202-647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Jamaica is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Driving in Jamaica is on the left-hand side of the road. Drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts, and motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets. A number of U.S. citizens who have rented motorbikes have been seriously injured, often because the riders were not wearing helmets. Extreme caution should be used when driving motorbikes on unfamiliar roads. Signage is often poorly placed or missing. Driving at night is especially dangerous in Jamaica. Several fatal accidents involving Americans have occurred after dark. It is easy to become lost while driving in Jamaica and help may not be readily available. Travelers taking taxicabs should use only licensed taxicabs with red-and-white "PP" license plates.

The A1, A2, and A3 highways are the primary links between most important cities and tourist destinations on the island. These roads are not comparable to American highways, and conditions can be quite hazardous due to large potholes in the road and wandering livestock. The "B" highways should be avoided altogether, as several have been damaged by torrential rains and are now impassable.

Roadblocks used by residents to draw attention to particular issues and street dances that draw large crowds can block traffic without warning, and require extreme caution by drivers.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Jamaican driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Embassy of Jamaica's website or the Jamaica Tourist Board at 1-800-JAMAICA (1-800-526-2422).

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Jamaica's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Jamaica's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Jamaican customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Jamaica of items such as firearms, produce, and pets. Entering Jamaica with a firearm or ammunition is a serious crime. Fresh fruits, vegetables and uncooked meats are not permitted to be brought into or out of the country. Pets may not be brought into Jamaica, except for dogs from the United Kingdom that have not been vaccinated for rabies, and only after six months quarantine. Travelers should contact the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington or one of the Jamaican consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Jamaican laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, fined or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Jamaica are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION FACILITIES: In recent years there has been a growth of facilities around the world for the treatment of minors with drug/alcohol and discipline problems. These overseas treatment centers are known at "Behavior Modification Facilities." Parents enroll their children in these facilities in the hope of improving their behavior. The Department of State is aware of facilities in Jamaica, Mexico, and Samoa. There may be facilities in other countries that have not come to the attention of the U.S. Government.

Parents considering enrolling their children in overseas Behavior Modification Facilities may find it prudent to visit the site and review the host countries rules governing the facility and its employees. Parents should contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the host country to inquire about the facility, or speak to the country officer in the Office of American Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs at 1 202 647-5662. When aware of the existence of such facilities, U.S. consular officials conduct periodic site visits, sometimes accompanied by host country officials, to monitor the general well being of the U.S. citizen enrollees and to specifically check on individuals who have been the subject of welfare and whereabouts inquires.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Jamaica, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from approximately June 1 - November 30 each year. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has put measures in place in the event of an emergency or disaster. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston. The Consular Section is located on the first floor of the Life of Jamaica Building, 16 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, telephone 1-876-935-6044. Office hours are 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with window services available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For after-hours emergencies involving American citizens, a duty officer can be contacted at 1-876-926-6440. The Chancery is located three blocks away at the Mutual Life Building, 3rd floor, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, telephone 1-876-929-4850 through -4859.

There is a Consular Agency in Montego Bay at St. James Place, 2nd floor, Gloucester Avenue, telephone 1-876-952-0160, fax 1-876-952-5050. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday.

The U.S. Embassy also has consular responsibility for the Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory. Please refer to the British West Indies Consular Information Sheet for information about the Cayman Islands. There is a Consular Agency located in the office of Adventure Travel, Seven-Mile Beach, George Town, Grand Cayman, telephone 1-345-946-1611, fax 1-345-945-1811. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday.


This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September 14, 1999, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Customs Regulations, Special Circumstances and Registration/Embassy and Consulate Location, and to delete Y2K Information.

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