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Travel warning: Canadians advised of violent crime in 3 Caribbean countries

Here's what you need to consider before booking a ticket.
There are Canadian advisories for Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic due to crime.

Canadians who plan to travel to the Caribbean this summer may want to check on some updated travel advisories before booking a ticket. 

While many Caribbean Islands are safe to visit, some countries have seen a staggering uptick in crime. In some cases, robberies have turned violent. 

Three of the most popular destinations have some increased travel risks but the Canadian government has not advised against visiting them.

There are certain safety concerns for Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic so travellers should familiarize themselves with the current advice before planning a trip.

Travellers departing from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) should also check the advisory before they book and again on the day they are scheduled to depart. They should also check on delays at the airport due to strike action


The Canadian government advises that there is a high level of violent crime in Jamaica and local authorities periodically declare a state of emergency to fight against gang-related activity. 

Tourists are advised that "violent crime, including armed robbery and murder, is a problem in large cities and tourist areas, including parts of Kingston and Montego Bay, despite the presence of police to counter criminal activity."

There is a risk that travellers will also be caught in gang-related crossfires, as the risk of firearms is widespread in Jamaica. 

If you travel to Jamaica during a state of emergency, you may be subject to searches by security forces.

  • Always cooperate with military and police officers
  • Carry valid ID at all times and be prepared for various checkpoints
  • Allow extra time to reach your destination
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local news to stay informed on the current situation

If you are threatened by robbers, hand over any cash and valuables, as "resistance may provoke the use of violence." 

Women travelling alone are frequently harassed. Compounds are "gated and guarded" and therefore generally safer. However, there have also been reports of sexual assaults by resort staff and other tourists. 

  • Be wary of strangers who seem friendly
  • Refrain from excessive drinking, especially at all-inclusive resorts
  • Ensure that your hotel room doors and windows are locked

An April 24 update to the advisory states that pick-pocketing and bag-snatching are common in popular tourist areas and crowded places. Petty crime happens more often during major events and demonstrations. 

  • Ensure that your belongings and travel documents are secure at all times
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash
  • Don’t show signs of affluence
  • Use ATMs located in public areas or inside a bank or business
  • Protect your cell phone, which is a popular item for theft
  • Use the hotel safe to secure your valuables
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain view, even while you are in your hotel room
  • Enquire with reception upon check-in on security precautions related to theft from hotel rooms 

The Bahamas

There is also an increased risk to travellers visiting the Bahamas right now due to high rates of crime, especially in Freeport and Nassau. Visitors should exercise a high degree of caution in these areas.

While rates of violent crime have decreased, the Canadian government advises that "armed robberies, burglaries, purse snatchings, theft, fraud and sexual assaults" are the most common crimes.

Robberies are frequent at cruise ship terminals and popular resort areas, even during the daytime. Crime increases during the holidays. 

  • Avoid Nassau’s “over the hill” (south of Shirley Street) and Fish Fry (Arawak Cay) areas, especially at night
  • Stay alert to your surroundings at all times
  • Don’t walk alone, particularly after dark
  • Don’t carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewellery
  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Avoid deserted beaches
  • If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and don’t resist

Sexual assaults are on the rise in Nassau, including on Paradise Island, but they occur frequently throughout the country. In some cases, victims were drugged. Incidents were reported in hotel rooms, in casinos, on cruise ships and on the beach.

  • Be wary when embarking on jet-ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators, as several incidents of sexual assault have been reported
  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and avoid using drugs
  • Don't accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers

Dominican Republic 

Travellers to the Dominican Republic must also exercise a high degree of caution due to crime. Violent crime occurs, particularly in major cities, but the most significant threat to tourists is "opportunistic crime."

Tourists are common targets for theft, such as pick-pocketing and bag snatching, and crime rates rise during holiday periods.

Incidents occur:

  • at resorts
  • at beaches
  • at airports
  • at bus stations
  • on public transportation

Travellers staying at all-inclusive resorts may have belongings stolen from "hotel room safes, as well as from cars, particularly rentals."

Thieves also steal bags and other valuables by grabbing them as they drive by on motorcycles, scooters or bicycles. They may even reach into vehicles, including taxis, when they are stopped at red lights.

Checked baggage has also been stolen from airports, most often when travellers are departing. Items have also been stolen from carry-on bags as travellers pass through security. 

  • Be wary of individuals who ask for directions or who try to be too helpful
  • Watch out for hustlers selling various wares, particularly in Santo Domingo
  • Stay at hotels or resorts with good security
  • Be wary of anyone who tries to enter your room
  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Avoid carrying your bag slung over your shoulder
  • Carry only small amounts of money and avoid showing signs of affluence
  • Keep electronic devices like cellphones, tablets, laptops and cameras out of sight
  • Keep car doors locked, windows up and your belongings out of sight
  • Don’t pack valuables in your checked luggage
  • Verify that your luggage has not been tampered with before you check in at the airport

When it comes to purchasing travel insurance, Canadians should consider that most policies include a clause that outlines government travel advisories. You may not be entitled to reimbursement for trip cancellation if you purchase a holiday while a warning is in place, depending on the level of risk that has been assessed by the Canadian government.