In recent days the U.S. State Department has issued alarming travel warnings for Jamaica and the Bahamas, citing rising crime levels in both countries as reasons for tourists to beware.
On the State Department's 4-level travel advisory scale, Jamaica has been bumped up to level 3, which stands for "Reconsider Travel." According to the advisory, "Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts."
The Bahamas currently stands at level 2, "Exercise Increased Caution," under the system. That hasn't changed since 2022, but the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas did release a new security alert about a January crime wave that has sparked concern.
The alert warns that since the start of the year, 18 murders, most involving gang violence, have occurred in the country's capital city of Nassau.
The embassy notes that killings have taken place in broad daylight and advises visitors to be especially careful in the eastern part of New Providence Island, the isle where Nassau is located.
Government leaders from the Bahamas and tourism officials from Jamaica have argued that the majority of travelers remain safe on those islands, particularly in resort areas (though the Jamaica advisory does mention the incidence of sexual assault at Jamaica's all-inclusive resorts).
It's worth noting that Jamaica and the Bahamas aren't the only tourism heavy hitters in the region that the State Department hasn't given its lowest threat assessment score, level 1, indicating travelers should "Exercise Normal Precautions."
As for the the destinations at level 1, here are the safest countries in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic, according to the U.S. State Department:
• French West Indies: Guadeloupe, Martinique, French St. Martin, and St. Barthélemy
• St. Kitts and Nevis (capital city Basseterre is pictured at the top of this post)
Obviously, complete safety is never guaranteed when you travel overseas. Or, for that matter, when you stay at home.
If you're a U.S. tourist looking to reduce your chances of running into trouble while in another country there are several steps you can take: Stay informed about the destination you're visiting, read up on the State Department's general safety tips, consider buying travel insurance, and register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get up-to-the-minute safety alerts and help officials find you in the event of an emergency.