A travel analyst explains the risks of visiting the Dominican Republic, and what to watch out for if you do

  • Despite reports that at least seven American tourists have died while visiting the Dominican Republic, an expert says visitors to the most-travelled Caribbean destination can still stay safe.
  • While crime is “a moderate threat,” the murder rate in the country is lower than many US cities and has been on the decline for years.
  • Intelligence analyst Anthony Tipping shared tips with INSIDER on how tourists can stay safe in the DR.
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Caribbean.

Over 6 million tourists visit the white sand beaches, tropical rainforests, and all-inclusive resorts every year. But in the past several months, at least seven Americans have been reported dead at all-inclusive resorts, with several others claiming they were poisoned or attacked on the island.

A few of these have been high-profile celebrity incidents, including former MLB star David Ortiz being shot at a bar in Santo Domingo and “Shark Tank” judge Barbara Corcoran’s brother being found dead in a hotel room. The deaths and suspicious illnesses have brought enough negative media attention to the country that the government has hired “crisis management specialists.”

Read more:
13 suspicious cases of tourists getting sick, assaulted, and dying in the Dominican Republic in the last year

Anthony Tipping, a regional intelligence analyst for global travel risk management firm WorldAware, told INSIDER he has heard reports that tourists are reconsidering vacation plans to visit the Dominican Republic, but he doesn’t think there is a “heightened threat” to travellers.

“These recent incidences, particularly those at the end of May, are likely isolated events and still not the product of violent crime,” Tipping said. “I think it’s important to note that it isn’t a crisis yet.”

Punta cana dominican republicPreto Perola/ShutterstockIt pays to be prepared in paradise.

Precautions travellers to the Dominican Republic can take to stay safe

The US State Department classifies the Dominican Republic as a Level 2 in its travel advisories, suggesting that American tourists “exercise increased caution” when visiting the country.

State Department advisories are ranked between Levels 1 and 4, with Level 1 suggesting normal precautions and Level 4 advising that tourists should avoid travelling to a location altogether.

Specifically, the State Department advises that violent crime “including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault is a concern” in the Dominican Republic. But a concentration of resources like police specifically for tourists in resort areas make them more safe than urban areas like Santo Domingo, where Ortiz was shot.

Tipping recommends that travellers stay in locations near resorts and in areas populated heavily by other tourists, including the island’s most famous destination, Punta Cana.

He said the greatest threats to tourists overall are non-violent in nature, with petty crimes like thievery targeting purses and expensive electronics to be most common.

Over the past several years, the national murder rate in the Dominican Republic, which Tipping said is a good indicator of violent crime, has declined from 22.1 homicides per every 100,000 people in 2012 to 10.4 in 2018.

Tipping noted that the rate remains high in provinces like Bahoruco in the southwest region of the country, another reason for tourists, especially women, to stay close to resorts and walking with other people at night and in “lower-income neighbourhoods.”

“I would point to the Dominican Republic posing a moderate threat, maybe slightly higher than other Caribbean nations, but not tremendously so,” Tipping said. “Many cities in the United States have much higher crime rates, much higher rates of violent crime.”

Other precautions Tipping recommends are not openly carrying expensive items and stowing them away when travelling from one location to another, maintaining situational awareness at all times, keeping a relatively low profile, securing doors to rooms and residences when leaving, and leaving cars in a gated and guarded parking lot when possible.

If a tourist in the Dominican Republic did find themself in a violent situation like a robbery, Tipping said to avoid resisting since “the likelihood of injury or even death if a victim resists increases substantially.”

He said victims should also seek shelter in upscale hotels or large public buildings like museums and hospitals, and that any crimes should be reported to local authorities like the tourist police corps as well as the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic.

“It is important to be aware of the security environment of the locations you’re visiting,” Tipping said. “There are risks and everyone needs to take precautions.”

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