Jamaica Country Report
Although transport and telecommunications infrastructure has improved in recent years, obstacles for private-sector activities include the high level of violent crime, which increases the cost of doing business due to the need to divert expenditure towards security. Despite policies aimed at improving education, efforts to strengthen human capital have suffered because of negative net migration rates. Red tape and comparatively high corruption are further operational obstacles. The onset of the hurricane season (July–October) can have a significant negative effect on business operations.
There are no politically motivated and organised armed terrorist groups in Jamaica. Nonetheless, given the ease of access to firearms, and the significant number of potential ‘soft targets’ offered by Jamaica’s huge tourism sector, which caters heavily to US visitors, there is a risk of incidents.
Jamaica has a high level of homicides, at around 47.4 per 100,000 in 2019. Although the rate reduced from 56 in 2017, gangs are heavily involved in gun-related crime, especially in West Kingston and St James parish, where the tourist hotspot of Montego Bay is located. Gang activity is largely related to drug trafficking, extortion of businesses, financial crime, and armed robbery. The government has implemented an anti-crime strategy since 2017 involving the deployment of armed forces and police with enhanced powers to designated zones, which has contributed to reduced crime levels. However, corruption and a lack of judicial and police capacity are significant obstacles.
War risks in Jamaica are low as the country has traditionally resolved international disputes diplomatically, and as there are no long-standing bilateral disputes involving Jamaica. Although illegal fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone is an ongoing issue, the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard remains under-resourced and prioritises anti-drug-smuggling activities. Small boats and fishing vessels navigating in Jamaican waters are at risk of being seized by the coastguard if they are suspected of carrying illegal drugs.
Vaccines required to enter the country
Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Jamaica. However, the government requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.
Vaccines recommended for all travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).
Vaccines recommended for most travelers
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Vaccines recommended for some travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
Travelers should also be aware that hurricane season lasts from June through November, with the highest risk of storms in September. Storms often provoke landslides, power outages, and severe transport disruptions. Several recent hurricanes have been particularly devastating to the island, notably Tropical Storm Nicole in September 2010, which left some 20 people dead. It is advisable to stock up on essential goods (e.g. food, water, medications, etc.) in anticipation of possible business closures during or after a hurricane or tropical storm. Note that acts of looting are common after storms.
Jamaica is within an active seismic zone and, consequently, is susceptible to earthquakes.
Driving conditions can be dangerous in Jamaica, including on many highways, due to poorly maintained roads, lack of signage, and unsafe driving habits. Driving at night should be avoided as it is particularly hazardous. Note that Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road in this former British colony.
Due to crime concerns, it is advisable to drive with windows closed and doors locked; all personal possessions should be stored out of sight. Avoid parking on the street and use garages or attended parking lots whenever possible. Due to the risk of carjacking, always be aware of your surroundings and leave room to maneuver between your car and the car ahead.
Public transportation should be avoided, as buses are often overcrowded and passengers are easy targets for opportunistic petty criminals. Taxis associated with hotels are considered relatively safe.
Jamaica has a tropical maritime climate with steady temperatures all year long. The rainy season lasts from May until December. The northern coast receives more rain than the southern coast. Hurricanes sometimes strike the island between June and November.
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