- The Dominican Republic is currently on a Level 2 travel advisory from the US State Department which means travellers should exercise increased caution while visiting the country.
- In 2019, four American tourists have died in their hotel rooms, two have died in a car crash, and several others claimed they were poisoned or assaulted while visiting the Dominican Republic within the last year.
- The tourism industry accounted for more than 17% of the Dominican Republic’s economy in 2017, and recent reports have caused concern among travellers.
- Here INSIDER outlines how tourists can stay safe during visits to the country.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
The news that six US tourists have died in the Dominican Republic since March has caused concern among travellers, but there are several ways visitors can stay safe on trips to the country.
The country is currently on a Level 2 travel advisory from the US State Department, which means travellers should exercise increased caution while visiting the country.
Just this year, four American tourists have died after collapsing in resort hotel rooms, two have died in a car crash, and several others claimed they were poisoned or assaulted while visiting the Dominican Republic within the last year.
Millions of people travel to the tourist hotspot for vacations every year -the tourism industry accounted for more than 17% of the Dominican Republic’s economy in 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
But according to a US State Department information page on the Dominican Republic, violent crime, including robbery, murder, and sexual assault, is common.
“The wide availability of weapons, the use and trade of illicit drugs, and a weak criminal justice system contribute to the high level of criminality,” the US State Department said.
Here’s how tourists can stay safe during visits to the country.
Tourist destinations are generally more heavily policed than other areas.
In its report on the Dominican Republic, the US State Department suggested that travellers stay in tourist areas because they are generally more policed and safer than other metropolitan areas.
Travellers should avoid wearing and carrying valuable personal items that could attract attention, be weary of strangers, especially people who approach them at night, and travel with at least one other person at all times.
If a traveller is robbed, the US State Department said they should hand over personal belongings to avoid risk of injury.
Don’t drink alcoholic beverages with strangers.
The US State Department said travellers should not drink alcoholic beverages alone or with new acquaintances.
It warned that tourists have “been assaulted while in isolated or compromising situations, sometimes by resort employees or other tourists.”
The Canadian government also warned tourists in a travel report that they should never leave drinks unattended, and to be wary of accepting snacks, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances.
Women travelling alone can be subjected to harassment and verbal abuse.
The Canadian government said women should exercise caution while speaking with strangers, be wary of accepting rides and other invitations, and avoid taking public transportation and walking alone at night.
Rape and sexual assault on American citizens has been reported throughout the Dominican Republic.
Rape and sexual assault has been reported in and outside of major resorts and hotels.
The US State Department said security outside of resorts and hotels can be unpredictable, and it’s in travellers’ best interests to contact police or hotel management if they experience unwanted attention.
It said that inside resorts, tourists should avoid secluded places and stay with someone they know at all times, including in the bathroom. Tourists should not leave the property with someone they have just met.
“Sexual assault victims in the Dominican Republic should not expect the totality of assistance routinely offered in the United States,” the State Department said. “Shortcomings exist in the collection of evidence. Rape kits are often not available until the following morning and must be administered by the Dominican authorities, not hotel medical personnel. Counseling is unlikely to be offered to victims.”
The State Department also said prosecution of rape cases moves slowly, and tourists may be asked to return to the country during the investigation if they leave.
Petty crime is a problem throughout the country.
Tourists are targets for petty crimes, including pick pocketing and bag snatching in the Dominican Republic.
Incidents occur at resorts, beaches, airports, bus stations, and public transportation, the Canadian government said.
Drive-by robberies, where thieves on motorcycles or scooters grab bags and items from tourists’ hands, are also frequent.
The Canadian government said tourists should be wary of individuals who ask for directions, hustlers, and anyone who tries to enter their room.
Tourists should stay in hotels with good security, ensure personal items are security, and avoid carrying bags over their shoulders.
Drink bottled water.
The local water filtration system in the Dominican Republic is not the same as the United States’ water system, according to the US News and World Report.
Tourists should opt for bottled water while in the country.
Visitors can also consult the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website for Zika concerns.
Be careful on the roads.
Roads in the Dominican Republic are notoriously dangerous, dark, and close to the sea.
The US State Department alerted drivers to be safe on Dominican Republic roads in its 2018 Crime and Safety Report.
“Travel at night on intercity highways and in rural areas can be highly dangerous and is not advised due to animals on the road, poor road conditions and vehicles being driven at either very slow or excessive speeds, often with malfunctioning headlights or taillights,” the report read.
Beaches have dangerous undertows.
Swimming areas can have dangerous undertows that may drag people out to sea.
“Many beaches lack lifeguards, warnings, or signs of unsafe conditions,” the US State Department said. “US citizens have died in the Dominican Republic due to these dangers.”
The State Department said travellers should never swim alone, especially on isolated beaches, and should check with hotel staff about current information on swimming and surf conditions.
If you are a victim of crime, report the incident to local tourist police.
Tourists who fall victim to crime should report the incidences to the local tourist police (CESTUR) at 911 or 809-200-3500 and contact the U.S. Embassy at 809-567-7775.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
- Read more:
- The Red Sox flew David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz to Boston to get treatment for his gunshot wound, and fans held a touching moment of silence at Fenway
- An Instagram influencer says she regrets not being honest about her Dominican Republic travels as the country faces scrutiny over recent tourist deaths
- The Dominican Republic resort where tourists have been dying has a long history of vacationers contracting serious illnesses
- The CDC and international health authorities are conducting tests at Dominican Republic resorts where tourists are falling ill and dying
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