Safety in Kingston
Kingston is unfortunately, not considered a very safe place for tourists. The crime rate and especially the violent crime rate, is very high. However, with some basic precautions travellers to Kingston should experience little to no problems. Here are some things to watch out:
- At Night - There is a general rule of the thumb in Kingston: DON'T walk around at night aimlessly. This is true for every part of the city and not even locals risk going out at night. If you intend to commute after dark always use taxis and go out in groups. Buses are can also become quite unsafe during the night hours. If you intend to go in a nightclub (Kingston isn't famed for its nightlife) don't leave your drink unattended, don't accept drinks from "friendly" strangers and NEVER get drunk.
- Pickpockets - Kingston has a problem with pickpockets (just like any other big city in the world) but it's not as widespread as in other towns in Jamaica like Negril, Ochos Rios or Montego Bay due to the fact that Kingston is not very frequented by tourists. Still, you should always watch your belongings in crowded areas, have both straps of your bag tied on to you and avoid wearing expensive jewelerry. Don't put all your money in one place, don't show off your camera and keep your phone usage in public to the BARE MINIMUM.
- Credit Cards and ATMs - Credit-card skimming is an ongoing problem in Jamaica. Some scammers will make a copy of your credit card information when you give your card to a restaurant server or shopkeeper ATMs also may be rigged to steal your card information, or individuals may observe you at the ATM and try to steal your password. Avoid using credit cards if possible (if you do always watch the hands of the person handling the credit card) and only use ATMs inside your hotel.
- Hotel Safety - Keep in mind that just because you are inside your hotel room doesn't mean you're completely safe. Tourists have been robbed while sleeping inside their hotel rooms. Always keep you windows and doors closed and don't open to anyone that seems suspicious.
- LGBT travellers - Jamaica is unfortunately considered one of the most homophobic countries in the Caribbean. Mobs have attacked homosexual men and women (tourists included). In addition, you should little to no protection from the police and the goverment which have been mistreating homosexuals for decades. Refrain from showing any affection in public. There are however some gay-friendly resorts so do some research.
- Police - The police force in Jamaica is unfortunately quite understaffed. Locals generally have little trust in the police, and while visitors are unlikely to be mistreated, the Jamaican Constabulary Force is widely viewed as corrupt and inefficient and you shouldn't really expect a lot of help by the police. Another problem is that Kingston usually receives less attention by the police force than areas like Montego Bay and Negril. If you're stopped by the police be alert but also be polite - not everyone is corrupt and some policemen/-women are nice and honest.
If you are mugged NEVER RESIST. Foreigners have been killed in Kingston while trying to resist to their muggers. Always give the muggers what they want (however frustrating it might be) and don't make a scene. It's not worth risking your life for something that's ultimately material.
Kingston is divided mainly in two areas: the Uptown and the Downtown. The Uptown is where tourists stay mostly and it's fairly safe during the day. At night though you should avoid walking alone. The Downtown and south Kingston are dangerous. Don't go into these areas alone even during the day and only with a local or a tour group. West Kingston also has a bad reputation. There are two small towns just a few kilometres away from the city: the Spanish Town and Harbor View. DON'T go into these areas; they are impoverished and crime ridden and Spanish Town has a particularly confusing layout.