Jun 2, 2010 1:05:10 AM
Is travel to Jamaica OK?
Unrest in Kingston last week seems to be waning, but the Jamaican government’s declaration of a state of emergency for Kingston and neighboring St Andrew remains in place. Meanwhile, the US State Department has issued a travel alert warning against travel to Kingston, and the UK’s Foreign Office warns against visits, specifically of affected areas of central and western Kingston.
As news trickles out of the troubled capital, travelers with summer plans in Jamaica are wondering - should they cancel their trips?
Most visitors to Jamaica never visit the capital, sticking with beach resorts on the other side of the island, such as Negril or Montego Bay, a bumpy four-hour drive north. And by all indications, no violence has spread there.
Stanley Magnus of Montego Bay’s family-style Knightwick House (Corniche Rd), a cozy three-room hit with short-term visitors for 16 years, said ‘all is quiet and safe.’
‘Honestly, we take those troubles in Kingston with a grain of salt, more or less,’ Magnus told me by phone, a sentiment echoed by a couple other locals I spoke to. ‘I mean, I lived in Canada and the USA for 20 years, and there were places in Detroit or Washington, DC, I wouldn’t go… If you have some street smarts here, you’ll have no problems.’
Parts of Kingston itself are getting back to normal too, particularly in northern neighborhoods like New Kingston, a few kilometers north of downtown and Tivoli Gardens (where the bulk of unrest was centered last week).
Novelette Menzie of New Kingston’s Red Bones Blues Bar, about half a kilometer south from the popular Bob Marley Museum, told me by phone that the area feels like ‘nothing happened here.’ She added, ‘There’s such a big big difference between New Kingston and downtown. And every day we see more and more people coming out. It should be back to normal in a week or two.’ The bar was pretty quiet last week, but is again staging local bands.
The tense areas of downtown — and certainly the shantytowns of West Kingston (areas with a trouble relationship between police and druglord ‘dons’ per this New York Times story) — are less-often visited by travelers, even in calmer times. And Kingston locals I spoke to said it’s too soon to go back.