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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Jamaica is a developing nation of over 2 million people. Facilities for tourists are widely available. International airports are located in Kingston and Montego Bay.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: U.S. citizens traveling as tourists can enter Jamaica with a U.S. passport or a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate and current state photo identification. They must also have a return ticket and sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or extended stays are required to have a current passport and a visa. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of Jamaica, 1520 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone (202) 452- 0660, or the Jamaican Consulate in Miami or New York, or honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles. An airport departure tax, $21 as of December 1998, is collected from each passenger.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is more limited than in the U.S. Comprehensive emergency medical services are located only in Kingston and Montego Bay. Ambulance service is limited both in the quality of emergency care, and in the availability of vehicles in remote parts of the country. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. In some cases, supplementary medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including medical evacuation insurance, has proved helpful. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov and autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or their autofax service at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Violent crime is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston. In several cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent after the victim resisted handing over valuables. Sporadic gang violence and shootings are concentrated in certain neighborhoods, including West Kingston, Grant's Pen, August Town and Harbour View, but can occur in other areas. The U.S. Embassy advises its staff to exercise caution when traveling to and from Kingston Airport via Mountain View Avenue and Windward Road, especially after dark, because of the crime threat in the neighborhoods they traverse. These areas of Kingston occasionally have been subject to curfew. The areas affected by curfew are not tourist areas, but travelers should check with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy for details.

The U.S. Embassy also advises its staff not to use buses, which are often overcrowded and have proved to be a frequent venue for crime. Visitors should not walk outside after dark nor at any time in neighborhoods known for high crime rates.

The government of Jamaica has taken a number of steps, including assignment of special tourist security personnel, to enhance security in the major resort areas on the north coast. Particular care is called for at isolated villas and smaller establishments that may have fewer security arrangements. Travelers should be more cautious in unfamiliar surroundings than they are at home. In particular, valuables should not be left unattended anywhere, including at the beach.

Relatives of U.S. citizens visiting Jamaica and U.S. citizens who are prisoners in Jamaica have received telephone calls from people alleging that they are Jamaican police officers or other public officials. The callers state that the visitor or prisoner has had trouble and needs financial help. The caller states that money should be sent to the caller who will assist the visitor or prisoner. Money is often sent, but fails to reach U.S. citizens in need. U.S. citizens who receive calls such as these 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.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported to local police and the U.S. Embassy in Kingston or the Consular Agency in Montego Bay or George Town, Grand Cayman. A U.S. birth certificate and/or drivers license generally cannot be replaced outside the U.S. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad," which provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Both this pamphlet and "Tips for Travelers to The Caribbean" are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov, or at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.

DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Criminal penalties for possession, use and dealing in illegal drugs, including marijuana, are strict. Mandatory sentences of 12 to 18 months are common, and longer prison sentences, as well as substantial fines, are often levied. Departing visitors are thoroughly screened for drug possession. Upon departure from Jamaica, luggage and personal effects may be inspected by narcotics-detecting dogs.

TRAFFIC SAFETY/ROAD CONDITIONS: Traffic in Jamaica moves on the left side of the road. Roads are typically narrow and often have no shoulders. Defensive driving is advisable due to poor road conditions and heavy traffic in many areas. Hazards include potholes, mud slides following heavy rains, stray animals, narrow bridges, cars parked in driving lanes, and drivers who pass vehicles under dangerous circumstances. Inter-city driving at night is inadvisable. In case of an accident or in the event of a suspicious "bumping," the U.S. Embassy recommends that a driver consider proceeding to the nearest police station or populated area before getting out of the car.

Travelers who use taxicabs should take only licensed taxicabs having red-and-white "PP" license plates. A number of U.S. citizens who have rented motorbikes have been seriously injured, often because the rider was not wearing a helmet. Extreme caution should be used in driving motorbikes on unfamiliar roads.

Roadblocks used by residents to draw attention to particular issues, and street dances that effectively block traffic, require extreme caution by drivers.

AVIATION OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Jamaica's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Jamaica's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

OTHER INFORMATION: According to a 1996 report by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, after heavy rains, pollutant levels at Walter Fletcher Beach in Montego Bay and Turtle Beach and Sailors Hole Beach in Ocho Rios, can exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water quality standards.

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.

In cases of sudden or accidental death, Jamaican law requires that an autopsy be performed. The law does not provide for waiver of the autopsy requirement. This requirement can cause delays of five business days or longer before authorities release a body for burial.

EMBASSY LOCATION/REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston. The Consular Section is located on the first floor of the Life of Jamaica Building, 16 Oxford Road, tel. (876) 935-6044; fax 935-6018. Office hours are 7:15 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. with window services available Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. For after-hours emergencies involving American citizens, a duty officer can be contacted through the main switchboard, telephone (876) 929-4850 thru 59. The Chancery is located three blocks away in the Jamaica Mutual Life Center, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5.

The Consular Agency in Montego Bay is at St. James Place, 2nd Floor, Gloucester Avenue, tel. (876) 952-0160; fax 952-5050. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-12 noon.

The U.S. Embassy also has consular responsibility for the Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory (refer to the British West Indies Consular Information Sheet for additional information). A Consular Agency is located in the office of Adventure Travel, Seven Mile Beach, George Town, Grand Cayman; tel. (345) 946-1611; fax (345) 945-1811; Internet address: consulus@candw.ky. Office hours are 8 a.m-12 noon, Monday-Friday.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to obtain updated information from the U.S. Embassy on travel and security in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

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