Officials Issue New Warning for Popular Caribbean Destinations: "Reconsider Travel"
These spots have been experiencing a high volume of crime in recent weeks.
As we prepare for yet another cold front, many of us are beginning to yearn for warmer, sunnier weather. Luckily, there are countless tropical destinations that are a quick flight away from the continental U.S.—and a long weekend getaway to the Caribbean is music to our frozen ears this time of year. Between the glistening, sandy beaches, favorable temperatures, and fun water activities, places like the Bahamas and Jamaica are a traveler's paradise. At least, they should be.
As it turns out, it may be best to postpone a trip to these tropical destinations this winter: In the last week, the U.S. State Department has issued travel advisories for both Jamaica and the Bahamas due to an uptick in crime, gang violence, and sexual assault.
On Jan. 23, officials requested that Americans "reconsider travel" to Jamaica because of recent violent attacks and the lack of medical help—noting that U.S. government personnel are "prohibited from traveling to many areas due to increased risk."
"Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts," the statement reads.
"Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted to a conclusive sentence," the statement continues. "Families of U.S. citizens killed in accidents or homicides frequently wait a year or more for final death certificates to be issued by Jamaican authorities."
Because violence and shootings are a regular occurrence, travelers are advised to stay away from public buses and secluded areas, and to refrain from going out at night—including traveling via car. A full list of travel dos and dont's can be found online.
The State Department also noted it is not responsible for medical bills, and said Americans traveling to Jamaica are highly encouraged to get traveler's insurance as well as medical evacuation insurance.
In a separate advisory, the department warned Americans traveling to the Bahamas to "exercise increased caution" when navigating tourist and non-tourist areas—especially if your lodging accommodations don't provide private security.
"Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas. Be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence," the warning reads.
Though the country's capital is typically considered a hot spot among tourists, the travel agency cited Nassau as well as Freeport as areas where crime is most prevalent. Additionally, officials are asking travelers to practice "increased vigilance in the 'Over the Hill' area (south of Shirley Street) where gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate primarily affecting the local population."
The U.S. Embassy in Nassau also put out a message, alerting American travelers that the city is experiencing an alarming volume of violence, specifically murder.
"The U.S. Embassy in Nassau advises U.S. citizens to be aware that 18 murders have occurred in Nassau since the beginning of 2024. Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets. Retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders," the advisory reads.
Those currently in the Bahamas or Jamaica, or who have plans to visit soon, are advised to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security alerts and get in contact with U.S. consulate in case of an emergency.
Additionally, travelers should refrain from answering their door to strangers or unidentified personnel, keep a low profile, develop a plan in case of an emergency or medical situation, and practice extra caution at night, per officials.
Should you get caught in a robbery attempt, officials strongly advise you to "not physically resist," as that can provoke the other individual.
The U.S. State Department rates countries based on its four-level Travel Advisory protocol. Things like crime, terrorism, kidnapping, civil unrest, natural disasters, health risks, and time-limited events help determine whether a country should be considered a Level 1 or Level 4. The Bahamas is now Level 2, while Jamaica is Level 3.
The agency updates its website frequently to keep U.S. citizens up to date on potential risks and advisories internationally, in conjunction with alerts from the U.S. Embassy.