Caribbean islands are usually destinations where people kick up their feet, relax and sip a drink. But, the United States Department of State recently issued a travel advisory for travelers considering trips to the islands of Bahamas and Jamaica. There have been increasing concerns regarding safety and crime, particularly in seaside areas.

The Department of State classifies countries on a scale ranging from “Level 1: exercise normal precautions” to “Level 4: do not travel.”

Tourist Safety in The Bahamas

Currently, the Bahamas travel advisory entered “Level 2” status. The Department of State advises American travelers to exercise heightened caution during their visits. New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport) island are said to be where the majority of crime occurs. Specifically, 18 murders were reported by the US Embassy in the Bahamas since the beginning of the year in the eastern region of New Providence Island (Nassau). Travelers are urged not to resist if faced with robbery attempts.

The Department’s advisory particularly draws attention to gang-related violence and high homicide rates. Both tourist and non-tourist areas are said to be affected by crimes such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults. Additionally, the advisory suggests travelers to be vigilant, especially when staying at vacation rentals that might lack private security.

The Bahamas Defends Itself 

Photo Credit: Stephen Frink

The Bahamian government reassured United States tourists about the safety of the island despite recent travel warnings issued.

In a statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister in the Bahamas, the government emphasized its commitment to vigilance and proactive measures to maintain the Bahamas as a secure and premiere destination.

“The rating of the Bahamas has not changed; we remain a level 2 alongside most tourism destinations. The incidents described in the January 2024 U.S. Embassy crime alert do not reflect general safety in The Bahamas…” said the Office of the Prime Minister. 

“The Government of The Bahamas is implementing a robust and innovative crime reduction and prevention strategy. This comprehensive approach is informed by the latest research and successful international models, focusing on five key pillars: prevention, detection, prosecution, punishment, and rehabilitation,” they stated.

Tourist Safety in Jamaica

Additionally, the Department of State issued a Level 3 travel advisory for Jamaica. While it does not advise Americans to steer clear of the country entirely, it identifies specific high risk areas and urges travelers to reconsider plans to visit Jamaica due to crime and healthcare service concerns. The advisory warns against frequent occurrences of armed robberies, homicides, and sexual assaults, particularly at all-inclusive resorts.

Certain areas of Jamaica are considered high-risk. These regions include Montego Bay, downtown Kingston, parts of St. Ann’s Parish near Ocho Rios, and specific neighborhoods in Negril.

How to Travel to The Bahamas and Jamaica

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Buena Vista Images/ Getty Images

If you’re planning a trip to Jamaica or the Bahamas, it’s essential to prioritize your safety. Here are some tips from the Department of State to keep in mind:

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Try to keep a low profile and avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • Consider alternative transportation options instead of public buses, especially after dark.
  • Try to avoid walking or driving around at night, especially in unfamiliar areas.
  •  Stay away from secluded spots
  • Do not resist if confronted with a robbery

In addition to these precautions, the advisory recommends enrolling in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program offered by the State Department. This service helps keep you informed and connected in case of emergencies while abroad. It’s also wise to have a contingency plan in place.

Another essential aspect of traveling abroad is having the right insurance coverage. Before your trip, consider getting traveler’s insurance, including medical evacuation coverage. This is crucial because many healthcare providers overseas may not accept U.S. insurance, and benefits from Medicare or Medicaid won’t apply abroad.

So, as you plan your next island adventure, remember to stay safe and informed. Despite these warnings, the Bahamas and Jamaica remain popular travel destinations. These islands present the opportunity to enjoy stunning beaches, observe wildlife, and participate in vibrant caribbean cultures and festivals.