The 9 Most Dangerous Places In Jamaica Even Locals Avoid

Crime scene tape on Montego Bay, one of the most dangerous places in Jamaica
Photo by Rico Fox from Flickr
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Jamaica is one of the most beautiful destinations in the Caribbean. Over 4 million tourists flock to this dream island each year, but it’s not all coconuts and sunsets. There are some insanely dangerous places in Jamaica that even the locals do their best to avoid!

Look past the dreamy tourist resorts and you’ll find a major crime problem in Jamaica, along with some pretty dangerous animals to think about as well. This is closely related to the serious poverty problem; the rich-poor divide is enormous. There is a severe lack of education and opportunities in some areas of Jamaica, and so with next to no support, criminal activity is a slippery slope many fall down.

But rest assured, we’ve done the research and compiled a list of the most dangerous places in Jamaica to avoid. As long as you stick to the populated tourist areas then you are sure to enjoy a safe trip on this fabulous island.

Tivoli Gardens, Kingston

Container apartments in a dangerous area of Kingston
Photo by James Willamor from WikiCommons

Tivoli Gardens is a district in West Kingston that has one of the worst reputations in Jamaica. Before the redevelopment efforts in the ’60s, Tivoli Gardens was the Rastafarian settlement, Back-O-Wall. Back in the 1950s, this area was notoriously the worst slum in the Caribbean.

By the end of the 20th century, Tivoli Gardens had become a center of drug trafficking activity and social unrest, naming it one of the most dangerous places in the world. There have been several confrontations between law enforcement and local gangs, most of which result in multiple deaths from both sides.

The most notable event in recent history is the 2010 Kingston unrest, dubbed locally the Tivoli Incursion. The conflict was between Jamaican military forces and police, and the Shower Posse drug cartel – one of Jamaica’s biggest gangs for drug trafficking and firearms smuggling. Results over the violent 24 hours were:

  • Over 700 people arrested
  • Christopher Coke arrested (the drug lord and leader of the Shower Posse)
  • 2 police stations burnt down
  • 85+ guns and over 14,000 rounds of ammunition seized
  • Hand grenades, dynamite, ballistic helmets, and protective vests were also recovered

Grants Pen, Kingston

Busy downtown Kingston market is risky for pickpocketing
Photo by Gzzz from WikiCommons

Grants Pen in Kingston is an absolute no-go when visiting Jamaica. Travel advisories and embassies recognize the danger and mark this as one of the areas of Kingston that must be avoided. In fact, U.S. government personnel who have to travel through Grants Pen in Kingston are prohibited from using public buses and even driving at night.

This destination used to have one of the highest crime rates in Jamaica but then was granted a relatively peaceful period. However, since 2017, crime has been on the rise again with murders, theft, and sexual assault.

There are holiday home rentals in the area but be warned you may be targeted for theft if you do not choose to stay in inclusive resorts with security.

Cassava Piece Road, St Andrew

Typical slum in the Caribbean
Photo by Rennett Stowe from WikiCommons

Cassava Piece, one of the many areas of Kingston, is one of the most dangerous places in Jamaica for several reasons. Along with violent crimes, the sidewalk is non-existent along the main highway, causing severe danger to pedestrians. Residents of the St Andrew neighborhood have been calling for government authorities to address these dangers.

Over recent years there has been an upsurge of deadly violence in Cassava Piece. One of the most publicized incidents was in 2017 when a gunman shot a prominent dancehall entertainer. This is not an isolated event as shootings and violent attacks are a common occurrence in Cassava Piece.

Extreme violence is the reason why tourists should avoid entering this neighborhood. The criminals in Cassava Piece don’t care if tourists or innocent residents get caught in the crossfire of disputes.

Rose Heights, Montego Bay

Crime scene in Rose Heights, Montego Bay Jamaica
Photo courtesy from Loop Jamaica News

Rose Heights is a suburb of Montego Bay on Jamaica’s north coast and is rife with violent crime. There are a lot of gangs in the neighborhood, most of which use guns in turf war conflicts and initiations. You really are risking your life walking the streets of Rose Heights, regardless of day or night.

The Mount Salem local police are constantly tracking individuals involved with gang violence and murders. Firearms are a common part of any crime scene in Rose Heights.

Much loved tourist resorts and beaches are only 4km away on the coast. So be aware of your surroundings when you travel to Jamaica, especially if you’re staying on a northern beach resort.

Norwood, Montego Bay

Viewpoint across the slums in Jamaica
Photo by Blake from Flickr

Just a simple Google search of Norwood Jamaica reveals the troubles of this area of Montego Bay. Curfews are often enforced by local police in an attempt to control the social unrest in this inner-city space.

Special operations law enforcement teams are currently undergoing a serious intervention attempt to curb the violence in Norwood. This includes seizing illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, making examples of those involved with sexual offenses, and attempting to stop lotto scamming.

Canterbury, Montego Bay

Photo by Julie from Flickr

Canterbury is a pedestrian-only district just 1km from Montego Bay’s town center. It’s often deemed unsafe for tourists, and locals know it as a haven for criminals. The village is plagued with a myriad of development challenges, including criminality, poor housing and sanitary convenience, as well as a high unemployment rate.

Gangs do still operate here, however, there hasn’t been a murder in Canterbury since 2014 and there seems to be an air of peace. Even though the turf war seems to be on pause, for now, locals around Canterbury are just waiting for the violence to return.

Flankers, Montego Bay

Burnt out fridges after a demonstration in Flankers, Montego Bay
Photo courtesy of IRIE FM News

Again, another Montego Bay district. Flankers is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Jamaica that is victim to gang-related high crime. It’s common to wake up in the morning to the sound of police sirens and gunfire.

Tourists are strongly advised to avoid walking through Flankers for their own safety. If you find yourself in the area, use private and registered taxis, not public transportation.

Salt Spring, Montego Bay

Photo courtesy from Loop Jamaica News

Salt Spring and Glendevon in Jamaica have an insane amount of murders. Innocent victims of crime are often shot dead in their homes, with no connection to gangs or crime. There has even been the devastating shooting at the Glendevon Primary School, where one pupil shot a younger pupil after class.

This murderous district of Jamaica must be avoided at all costs by those who visit Jamaica for a vacation. These gunmen do not care if you’re a tourist or a local.

Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Spanish Town deprived neighborhood
Photo by James Willamor from WikiCommons

The official U.S. State travel advice for Spanish Town is: “Do not travel to Spanish Town. Violence and shootings occur regularly in Spanish Town.” With a tagline like that, it’s safe to say that Spanish Town is one of the most dangerous places in Jamaica and should be avoided at all costs.

Also known as ‘the Valley of Death’, Spanish Town has a strong reputation for gun crime, gang turf wars, drug trafficking, sexual assault, and theft, among other violent crimes. There are also regular news headlines of missing teens, aggravated crimes, and unsolved incidents with deceased victims.

Spanish Town is the largest town of the St. Catherine province and is historically significant to Jamaica. Many noteworthy names have come out of here including Grace Jones and Andrew Holness, one of Jamaica’s prime ministers.

Wrap Up: Is Jamaica Safe?

Run down buildings in Falmouth, Jamaica
Photo by JR Harris on Unsplash

So, is Jamaica safe? The bottom line is, it depends where you go. Currently, travel advisories and embassies are advising against travel to certain districts of Jamaica, not the entire country. There are plenty of safe places to stay in Jamaica, most of which are all-inclusive resorts and hotels with hotel security in place.

Kingston at night, along with most parts of Montego Bay and Spanish Town, is a no-go. Despite Kingston being one of the most famous places in Jamaica, it is also one of the most dangerous.

You can still travel to Jamaica and soak up all the Rasta atmosphere, visit the famous sites, and bask in all the things that are iconic to Jamaica. You just need to exercise increased caution, be aware of your surroundings, and travel smart.

Crime Rates In Jamaica

Cars parked along a inner city road in Jamaica
Photo andrzj brown from Unsplash

The current US Department of State Travel Advisory is at Level 2 for Jamaica. This means travelers should exercise increased caution when visiting Jamaica due to the increasing crime rates. There are some districts in Jamaica that are strongly advised against entering, including but not limited to:

  • Spanish Town
  • Parts of Kingston
  • Parts of Montego Bay
Crime20182019%
Murders12871326+3.4%
Shootings11561246+7.8%
Aggravated Assaults 379361-4.7%
Rapes503484-3.8%
Robberies10881189+9.3%
Break-ins11741210+3.1%
Data sourced from OSAC’s Jamaica 2020 Crime & Safety Report

What areas of Jamaica are dangerous?

Areas of Kingston, Montego Bay, and Spanish Town are the three most dangerous neighborhoods in Jamaica. These places have a theme of violent crime, theft, sexual assault and rape, gun crime, and gang wars. Tourists are advised to not enter these districts by Jamaican police and travel advisory bodies.

What should I avoid in Jamaica?

Travelers should avoid walking alone at night, using public buses in dangerous districts, and driving through some neighborhoods. To ensure your safety while visiting Jamaica, check with your hotel if where you plan to visit is safe and stick with your friends. Make sure you don’t venture into the most dangerous places in Jamaica by accident – some of the neighborhoods are extremely close to popular tourist destinations.

Need some more tips to stay safe while visiting Jamaica? Avoid these things for a safe trip:

  • Avoid exploring the island by taxi
  • Don’t accept rides from strangers
  • Don’t lose sight of your belongings
  • Don’t underestimate the roadside jerk shacks
  • Avoid getting split up from your friends
  • Don’t backpack alone through Jamaica
  • Avoid walking around Kingston at night

Is Jamaica safe for tourists?

There are some current concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica, making it not a safe country to visit. Due to the pandemic, crime rates and theft have risen as locals attempt to maintain a source of income. Some places in Jamaica are too dangerous for tourists to visit and should be avoided by all means.

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Hi! I'm Abigail, a surfer, traveller, and nature lover. I'm from the UK but have been able to call Bali home for several years. I've backpacked across Australia on a shoestring budget, explored European coastlines, and taken in the sights across the pond and down into South America. My travel wishlist keeps growing the more I explore our perfect planet!