Following the British and Canadian government’s warning for citizens to “limit movements” within Jamaica, the small tropical island in the Caribbean has issued a state of emergency in response to an uprise of violent crimes. Tourists visiting Montego Bay in St. James Parish, a popular destination best known for its beaches, culture and all-inclusive resorts, are advised to stay on their resort properties and avoid any unnecessary expeditions.
For many on vacation, or even planning a trip in the near future, safety is a big concern, and while it’s important to note locals governments are quick to respond to criminal activities by dispatching military forces to the area, initiating martial law and placing checkpoints throughout the region, there are several steps that tourists can take to stay safe during a state of emergency.
What to Do if a State of Emergency is Issued During Your Vacation
A state of emergency gives police and the government additional authority, including the ability to search and detain without a warrant and shut down a business. For travelers in a destination at the time a state of emergency is issued, pay attention to the media and local response, follow instructions, cooperate with law enforcement and be aware of your surroundings. This is a scary time, and often your first instinct is to leave the destination – but in most scenarios, this is the worst option. Rest assured that the police and government are doing everything possible to contain the situation.
#Jamaica a state of emergency is in effect for St James Parish, which includes #MontegoBay as a result of a significant increase in violent crime. Military forces have been deployed to the area. https://t.co/jiGojvTy9V 1/2
— travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) January 19, 2018
Tune into local and international news sources via broadcast and social media for updates and follow official advice. In many cases, tourists at popular destinations will be alerted to stay in their resorts as they are often secure and guarded. Travel outside of the resort should be limited until the state of emergency is lifted.
In-Destination Travel During State of Emergency
The British Foreign Office advises tourists in Jamaica that “…travel to and from the airport or for excursions should be undertaken with organized tour operators, and transport should be arranged or provided by the resort hotels.” Contact your resort for escorted travel to and from the airport, as well as any other unavoidable travel.
Exercise Caution Always
It is important to note that while the issuance of a state of emergency is rare and demands attention, you should always exercise caution when traveling. Other steps you can take during travel include keeping your valuables on you during transit, scan a copy of your travel documents, be aware of your drinking and be weary of strangers. According to the U.S. Department of State as of January 10, Jamaica remains at a Level Two threat – meaning travelers should exercise increased caution. If you live in the US, you can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – a free service provided by the government that delivers frequent travel and security updates, and can also be used to stay in contact with family during an emergency.
What to Do if You’re Planning a Trip During a State of Emergency
For those planning a trip to Montego Bay, this doesn’t mean you should immediately cancel your vacation. Exercise your best judgment and understand your safety expectations – for some visiting the destination, this could have minimal impact on their experience. If you plan to cancel your trip, expect penalties. Unless the Foreign Office warns against travel, most companies will likely deny the request to cancel or redirect travel plans without penalty. Check with your hotel or resort to understand their policies.
If you do travel to the destination during a state of emergency, be prepared to abide by the law, expect an increase in police and military presence, arrange travel to and from the airport before arrival and limit activity to your resort property.
Stay connected with your family and friends using social media. This will likely ease any concerns at home, but is also a good way to give updates on current situations abroad. Before you go, print out your country’s embassy or consulate information, including contact information, address and location.
Remember to have fun
While outside crime may seem like a complete wash for your vacation, remember that tourism is often one of the largest economies for these destinations, and governments value visitors. Security is high in popular tourism areas, and so you can rest at ease knowing your property is guarded and safe.