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Country Guides for Caribbean

Jamaica

Jamaica

Jamaica is a land of lush, green countryside, coral reefs in clear, warm water, glorious beaches, waterfalls and glowing sunsets, set to reggae and calypso beats. In the upscale resort town of Montego Bay, water enthusiasts can enjoy 10 square miles of protected coral reef, shoppers can stock up at the Harbour Street Crafts Market, and history buffs can visit beautifully restored plantation Great Houses. To the north, the natural beauty of Ocho Rios can be explored at famous Dunn's River Falls with its spectacular 600-foot drop and multi-tiered rock formations, and the regional flora can be enjoyed on a walk or drive through verdant Fern Gully. For a more laid-back experience, Negril offers white-sand beaches, great swimming and snorkeling, clothing-optional sunbathing and lively nightlife.

Language: English, patois English

Major International Airports:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
KingstonNorman Manley Int'lKIN11 miles SE
Montego BaySangster Int'lMBJ3 miles N

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in the Caribbean depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. You should observe the precautions listed in this document in most areas of this region.

Food and Waterborne Diseases

Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the Caribbean and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage ( hepatitis). Illness caused by a parasitic worm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) can occur in this region. People can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that are infected with the parasite.

Diseases found in the Caribbean (risk can vary by country and region within a country; quality of in-country surveillance also varies)

There is no risk for malaria in: Anguilla (U.K.), Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda (U.K.), Cayman Islands (U.K.), Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique (France), Montserrat (U.K.), Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico (U.S.), St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos (U.K.), Virgin Islands (U.K., U.S.).

Yellow Fever
Yellow fever is present only in Trinidad & Tobago in this region. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain countries in the region if you have visited Trinidad & Tobago or an endemic area in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Other Disease Risks
Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites (see below) will help to prevent this disease.

Cutaneous larval migrans is a risk for travelers with exposures on beaches and leptospirosis is present. Eosinophilic meningitis caused by Angiostongylus cantonensis occurred in travelers to Jamaica. Anthrax occurs in Haiti. Other infections that tend to occur more often in longer-term travelers (or immigrants from this region) include lymphatic filariasis (Dominican Republic and Haiti), cutaneous leishmaniais (Dominican Republic), tuberculosis (Haiti), HIV (Haiti), and hepatitis B (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There remains very limited risk of schistosomiasis in few areas. Other hazards for travelers include toxic fish poisoning.

Other Health Risks

Injuries
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from motor vehicle injuries: avoid drinking and driving; wear your safety belt and place children in age-appropriate restraints in the back seat; follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed; obey the rules of the road; and use helmets on bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes. Avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus. Where possible, hire a local driver.

Routine Vaccinations

Check with your healthcare provider: you and your family may need routine as well as recommended vaccinations.

Before travel, be sure you and your children are up to date on all routine immunizations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP). See the schedule for adults and the schedule for infants and children. Some schedules can be accelerated for travel.

See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Recommended Vaccinations

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to The Caribbean. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region. typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • Yellow Fever, for travelers to Trinidad and Tobago
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.

Required Vaccinations

  • None.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid children's eyes and mouth and use it sparingly around their ears.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
  • In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito and insect bites.
  • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
  • Do not drink beverages with ice.
  • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
  • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
  • Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.

After You Return Home

If you have visited a malaria-risk area in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.



Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Those traveling to Jamaica are at risk from dengue fever transmitted by mosquito bites. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

With the exception of resort hotels and restaurants, the water supply in Jamaica is contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

Gang violence and shootings occur regularly in inner-city areas of Kingston. Some inner-city neighborhoods are occasionally subject to curfews and police searches. Impromptu demonstrations sometimes occur, during which demonstrators often construct roadblocks or otherwise block the streets. These events usually do not affect tourist areas, but travelers to Kingston should check with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy for current information prior to their trip.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Crime, including violent crime, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston. While the vast majority of crimes occur in impoverished areas, the violence is not confined. The primary criminal concern of a tourist is being a victim of theft. In several cases, armed robberies of Americans have turned violent when the victims resisted handing over valuables. Crime is exacerbated by the fact that police are understaffed and ineffective. Therefore, tourists should take their own precautions and always pay extra attention to their surroundings when traveling, exercise care when walking outside after dark, and should always avoid areas known for high crime rates. As a general rule, valuables should not be left unattended, including in hotel rooms and on the beach. Care should be taken when carrying high value items such as cameras, or when wearing expensive jewelry on the street. Women's handbags should be zipped and held close to the body. Men should carry wallets in their front pants pocket. Large amounts of cash should always be handled discreetly.

The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to avoid inner-city areas of Kingston and other urban centers whenever possible. Particular caution is advised after dark in downtown Kingston. The U.S. Embassy also cautions its staff not to use public buses, which are often overcrowded and are a frequent venue for crime.

To enhance security in the principal resort areas, the Government of Jamaica has taken a number of steps, including assignment of special police foot and bicycle patrols. Particular care is still called for, however, when staying at isolated villas and smaller establishments that may have fewer security arrangements. Some street vendors and taxi drivers in tourist areas are known to confront and harass tourists to buy their wares or employ their services. If a firm "No, thank you" does not solve the problem, visitors may wish to seek the assistance of a tourist police officer.

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

Relatives of U.S. citizens visiting Jamaica and U.S. citizens who are prisoners in Jamaica have received telephone calls from people claiming to be Jamaican police officers, other public officials, or medical professionals. The callers usually state that the visitor or prisoner has had trouble and needs financial help. In almost every case these claims are untrue. The caller insists that money should be sent to either themselves or a third party who will assist the visitor or prisoner, but when money is sent, it fails to reach the U.S. citizens in alleged need. U.S. citizens who receive calls such as these should never send money. They should contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the Embassy's Consular Section at telephone (876) 935-6044 for assistance in confirming the validity of the call.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The climate of Jamaica is tropical, with hot, humid conditions throughout the year. The heaviest rainfall is experienced from May through October, and at the higher elevations, although precipitation can be expected year round. The tropical storm/hurricane season is from May through October.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Kingston9332"
Montego Bay11344"

Jamaica's electrical current is 110/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

U.S. citizens traveling as tourists may enter Jamaica with a U.S. passport or a certified U.S. birth certificate and current, government issued photo identification. Persons traveling with U.S. passports tend to encounter fewer difficulties upon departure than those who choose to use other documents. Visitors must have a return ticket and be able to show sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or extended stays are required to have a current U.S. passport and visa issued by the Jamaican Embassy or a Jamaican Consulate. Travelers must pay a departure tax when leaving the country.

For further information, travelers may contact the Embassy of Jamaica at 1520 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 452-0660; the Jamaican Consulate in Miami or New York; honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles. Visit the Embassy of Jamaica's web site at http://www.congenjamaica-ny.org for the most current visa information.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Jamaica is -5 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Jamaica would be 12:00 pm

The unit of currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar (JMD).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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