Is it safe to travel to Jamaica and the Bahamas? Latest UK advice

Is it safe to travel to Jamaica and the Bahamas? Latest UK advice

The US has issued travel warnings for two Caribbean countries, potentially sparking concern among British tourists.

Jamaica has been given a Level 3 travel advisory by the US State Department. This suggests American citizens should reconsider travel to the island due to an increase in crime and on account of unreliable medical services.

The US Embassy in Jamaica has said that violent crimes are common in the country and that “sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts”.

However, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) does not warn against travel to the Jamaica. Its advice highlights crime risks in the country and advises vigilance.

The US has also updated its advice for travel to the Bahamas. The US embassy has raised its security risk assessment for the country from Level 1 to Level 2.

The UK has no warning against travel to the Bahamas. Its guidance refers to violent crime, including in tourist areas, with advice on staying safe while in the country.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest network of independent travel agents, told i: “The Government of the Bahamas is working on ensuring that the Bahamas remains a safe and welcoming destination.

She added: “The UK Foreign Office has always advised UK travellers to Jamaica to protect themselves and their belongings. Similar advice has now been extended to the Bahamas.”

What is the UK government advice for travel to Jamaica?

The UK Foreign Office does not warn against travel to Jamaica. It says of safety and security in Jamaica: “Crime rates are high in and around Kingston and Montego Bay.

“Gang violence and shootings are common in inner city areas.”

It advises caution when travelling to, or within, certain areas. See the full advice on the FCDO advice page for Jamaica.

The FCDO guidance adds that the motive for most attacks on tourists in Jamaica is robbery. It tells travellers to be aware of their surroundings, not to walk in isolated areas or on deserted beaches, to be careful when withdrawing money from cash points and to avoid using buses at night.

It continues: “Most hotels and resorts are well guarded, but burglaries can occur. Follow hotel security instructions, use hotel safes and lock windows and doors.

“In residential accommodation ensure that proper locks and window grilles are fitted.”

The advice also explains that tourists and visitors to Jamaica have been victims of rape and sexual assault. It urges caution when using dating apps in Jamaica.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Jamaica and the UK Foreign Office advice adds that “the attitude of many Jamaicans towards same-sex relationships is hostile”.

Among its warnings about roads and driving in Jamaica, it says that British nationals have been targeted when travelling from Norman Manley International Airport to their accommodation.

What is the UK advice for travel to the Bahamas?

The UK Foreign Office does not warn against travel to the Bahamas. It says that there have been violent crimes and armed robberies in residential and tourist areas of New Providence and Grand Bahama.

Visitors are advised not to walk outside the main tourist areas on beaches, to avoid unlit areas, to travel in groups after dusk and to take care if travelling on local bus services at night, away from the main tourist areas.

The advice also highlights an uptick in reported break-ins and thefts. There are risks of sexual assault, petty theft and pickpocketing during regattas and festivals.

See the full advice on the FCDO travel advice page for the Bahamas.

Why has the US updated its travel warning for Jamaica and the Bahamas?

The US has given Jamaica a Level 3 warning (urging Americans to reconsider or avoid travel) due to an increase in crime in the country and its “unreliable medical services.”

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Jamaica has reported that “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common” even at all-inclusive resorts.

The US has also changed its travel warning for the Bahamas to Level 2. This means that American visitors have been advised to exercise increased caution. The change in advice followed several gang-related murders, some of which were carried out in daylight.

How do the US and UK approaches to travel advisories differ?

In the US, countries are given a travel advisory level between 1 (exercise normal precautions) and 4 (do not travel).

UK government advisories against travel either warn against all but essential travel or all travel. These can apply to a whole country or parts of a country. Examples of places to which the UK Foreign Office advises against all travel include Russia, Syria and Haiti.

There are also specific areas of some countries that are popular with UK tourists to which the UK Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel, or all travel. In Turkey, for example, it advises against all travel to within 10km of the border with Syria.