Jamaica travel guide
The famous birthplace of Bob Marley, reggae and the Rastafari movement, Jamaica’s cultural offering to the world is far greater than its size might suggest. With varying degrees of success, beach resorts around the world have attempted to emulate the Jamaican seaside vibe, but once you’ve felt the sand between your toes on this Caribbean island, you’ll accept no substitutes.
But it’s so much more than a beach destination. Beyond the swaying palms and white sands lie misty coffee plantations, the epic Blue Mountains, raging rivers prime for rafting and forests alive with exotic species. It’s not all wild. Manicured parks and gardens are a Jamaican speciality, and you can spot exuberant clusters of tropical blooms on any street corner of this fertile island.
At the heart of it all, though, is music. From bass-heavy beats pumping out of Kingston’s frenetic nightclubs to harmonious choirs singing in village churches, it is in the air wherever you go. If song satisfies Jamaica’s sensual needs, food and drink tend to its soul. Culinary delights range from gourmet seafood in award-winning restaurants to street-side jerk chicken washed down with a chilled can of Red Stripe. You can taste some of the world’s best rum and coffee here, not to mention a sumptuous range of tropical fruits.
Negril and Montego Bay are Jamaica’s two main coastal resorts, with exquisite sands, lively clubs, fine restaurants and world-class golf. And then there’s Kingston, the island’s spirited capital and home of the island’s music scene, where grand Georgian plazas and elegant mansions are serenaded by soca rhythms and the pulsating buzz of the city. Sleepy fishing villages offer a glimpse of Jamaica’s quieter side, but ultimately, whether it’s high-octane adventure or slow travel you’re looking for, you’ll soon be seduced by the rhythm of life on this irresistible island.
10,992 sq km (4,244 sq miles).
2,881,000 (World Bank estimate 2016).
266 sq km.
HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Governor-General Sir Patrick Linton Allen since 2009.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness since 2016.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and see support for British nationals abroad for information about specific travel topics.
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Jamaica set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Jamaican High Commission in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Jamaica.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Jamaica, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. You must have 2 blank pages for entry and exit stamps.
You do not need a visa to visit Jamaica. You will usually be granted entry for up to 90 days. The date you must leave Jamaica is stamped on your passport.
If you want to extend your stay, apply to the Jamaican Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency. If you overstay without authority, you could be fined or arrested.
Arrival and departure taxes are usually included in the cost of your ticket. If unsure check with your carrier who will be able to advise you.
You must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.
For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Jamaica guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Jamaica. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
You must make a customs declaration before entering Jamaica. You should complete the Immigration and Custom Form C5 online where possible before you arrive.
Taking food into Jamaica
It is illegal to bring meat and dairy products into Jamaica. Customs officials may search your baggage and will destroy banned foodstuffs.
Taking money into Jamaica
Declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 10,000 US dollars or more. You must declare this on your C5 form. You will also have to complete the Financial Investigation Division Cross Border Form which will be provided by a customs officer. You will need to provide:
- proof of the source of money
- the intended use of the funds
If you do not declare money as required, it is a breach of the Jamaican Customs Act. Your money could be seized and you could get a fine.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Jamaica
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Jamaica, attacks cannot be ruled out.
The government can put enhanced security measures in place in response to outbursts of violence and shootings. These can include curfews imposed with little notice, or the military working alongside or in place of police. Check locally whether any security measures or curfews apply and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Crowds and demonstrations
Protests and demonstrations occur across Jamaica and can cause significant disruption to traffic and public transportation. Any event with large crowds has the potential to turn violent, including large celebratory gatherings. They can also be used by criminals as cover for robbery and theft.
Crime rates are high in and around Kingston and Montego Bay. Gang violence and shootings are common in inner city areas. Be cautious when travelling to or within:
- West Kingston
- Grants Pen
- August Town
- Harbour View
- Spanish Town
- parts of Montego Bay, including Flankers, Barrett Town, Norwood, Glendevon, Rose Heights and Mount Salem
Protecting yourself and your belongings
The motive for most attacks on tourists is robbery. Be aware of your surroundings and:
- do not walk in isolated areas or deserted beaches even during the day
- be careful when withdrawing money from ATMs
- avoid using buses at night
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.
Rape and sexual assault
There have been incidents where tourists and visitors have been targets for rape and sexual assault. Take care when using dating apps in Jamaica, especially those used by the LGBT+ community. Criminals have used apps to lure victims to meet in a public place but later assault and rob them.
Read more advice for women travelling abroad.
Laws and cultural differences
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
It’s illegal to smoke marijuana (ganja) in Jamaica. There are penalties for all drug offences including those involving marijuana. For possession of amounts of up to 2 ounces you will get a fine of 500 Jamaican dollars, to be paid within 30 days. Severe penalties apply for all other drug related offences, including attempting to export narcotics.
All prison sentences are served in full in Jamaica. Prison conditions are harsh. Always pack your own luggage and do not carry anything through customs for someone else.
Male same-sex sexual activity is illegal, but the law is not always strictly enforced. The attitude of many Jamaicans towards same-sex relationships is hostile. Be mindful of local attitudes and be aware that showing affection in public may receive unwanted attention.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Travel to and from Norman Manley International Airport
There’s been sporadic violence in recent years in the Mountain View area – one of 2 routes between Kingston and Norman Manley International Airport. Most people take the Humming Bird route via South Camp Road to reduce the risk of being robbed on route.
British nationals have been tracked and robbed when travelling from the airport to their private accommodation. Be cautious when driving and getting out of the car.
If you are planning to drive, see information on driving abroad.
You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Jamaica. If you still have a paper driving licence, you need to update it to a photocard licence. Your UK driving licence can be used to drive in Jamaica for up to 6 months.
If you are unfamiliar with Kingston, do not drive in the city. If you get lost, you and your passengers may be at risk.
Drink-driving is a serious offence in Jamaica. If convicted, you may get a fine and possible imprisonment.
Many roads are badly maintained with poor signage. Road accidents and fatalities are common. Roads in rural areas are often narrow and winding and poorly lit at night. Speeding and drink-driving is common.
Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear a seatbelt at all times. However, hire cars and minibuses do not always have rear seatbelts.
Motorbike riders must wear a helmet.
Use Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) approved taxis and minibuses for excursions, airport transfers and sightseeing. Most hotels and resorts have assigned JTB drivers who carry photo ID and display a blue JTB sticker on the front windscreen.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Hurricane season is normally from June to November. We are seeing more uncharacteristic weather in Jamaica and the region is increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Hurricanes can cause fallen trees, damaged or blocked roads and flooding. Check your route in advance. Exercise caution in areas close to swamps, rivers, gullies and mangroves.
Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Association weather reports for Jamaica.
See Extreme weather and natural hazards for advice about how to prepare effectively and what to do if you’re likely to be affected by a hurricane.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 110 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccination recommendations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Jamaica guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Jamaica
The standard of medical facilities – both private and government-operated – varies and may not meet UK standards.
Treatment can be expensive with doctors and hospitals expecting immediate cash payment for health services.
FCDO has a list of medical facilities in Jamaica.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Jamaica.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Jamaica
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding lawyers and funeral directors in Jamaica.
- dealing with a death in Jamaica
- being arrested or imprisoned in Jamaica
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Jamaica and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Kingston.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.