As one of the many Caribbean islands, visiting the Dominican Republic can be very tempting. Surrounded by the beautiful ocean, taking in the fantastic breezes, and enjoying the incredible sunshine sounds like time spent in paradise.
However, before stepping foot on the island, you need to ask — is the Dominican Republic safe? As is the case with any vacation destination, all travelers must take proper research and precautions into consideration.
When traveling to the Dominican Republic specifically, there are a few extra elements that you want to keep in mind.
Continue reading below to check out our top travel tips for your time on the island and what safety concerns you should be aware of during your stay.
Is the Dominican Republic Safe to Visit in 2022?
Traveling to the Dominican Republic is generally safe for tourists. Some of the country’s resort areas are the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over six million travelers exploring the island yearly.
While the majority of visitors experience a vacation without any issues arising, some fall victim to various levels of crime.
The United States has issued a Level Two advisory for the Dominican Republic, citing a boost in criminal offenses. As a result, the recommendation is to travel with an increased level of caution.
Like all countries, a common occurrence in the Dominican Republic is petty theft. These crimes include pickpocketing and bag snatching. However, one of the more severe crimes you should be aware of during your time in the Dominican Republic is armed robbery.
In addition, the homicide rate is on the rise on the island. Another concerning factor is the number of sexual assaults that have occurred in urban areas. Both of these issues have grown substantially in recent years.
Furthermore, the country has experienced an uptick in illegal drug and human trafficking due to its geographic location. Lastly, the presence of many violent gangs is common throughout the country, but most notably in urban areas.
Crime in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic sits at the position of being the third highest country in the Caribbean for crime issues. Globally, the island is ranked 80th for the amount of crime experienced in its country.
One of the most common crimes people experience during their time on the island is armed robbery. Because of the island’s geography, many guns are illegally brought into the country by boat and used criminally.
Unfortunately, many of these instances lead to homicides, which have seen tremendous growth in recent years. One of the best ways to avoid being the target of such situations is to travel in groups and only during the day.
Steering clear of dangerous areas throughout the island is something that should be a top consideration as well.
If you’re exploring on your own, be sure to be conscious of what is taking place around you and to keep all personal items close to your body. You can easily accomplish this by using a fanny pack or an under-clothing belt.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
As mentioned above, avoiding bad neighborhoods should be a standard practice when traveling to any destination. However, this is especially so when in the Dominican Republic.
Right off the bat, you should be aware that staying on resort property for the duration of your stay is the safest situation. In addition to having security on-site, only guests staying at the property are typically admitted entrance, which lends to its safety.
When you travel to the city centers, you’ll be confronted with a higher likelihood of crime or assault. Walking through urban areas as a tourist will paint you as a target due to you standing out from the crowd.
If you decide to explore the area around the resort, be sure to check in with the front desk staff. Not only is it beneficial to have someone aware of your plans, but they can also direct you to the best places to visit and which ones to avoid.
One thing to remember during your stay on the island is that no one place is 100% safe. With that in mind, it’s critical to remain diligent at all times. This mentality is vital even within your resort, while on the beach, or when riding in a taxi.
Illegal Drug and Human Trafficking
One of the most concerning elements of travel to the Dominican Republic is the surge in illegal drug activity and human trafficking. Similar to the situation with unlawful gun imports due to the island’s geographic location, the easy access to the country makes it a haven for drugs and trafficking.
With human trafficking also comes sex trafficking, which you’ll frequently see on the streets of the most populated cities on the island.
Many non-profit organizations and government entities are coming together in a solid attempt to remedy the situation and return the victims to their proper homes or safe place. Visitors need to be aware of this when venturing throughout the island.
While many of the victims come from different countries and arrive in the Dominican Republic, tourists can be kidnapped as well. Even if slight, the likelihood of this happening is another reason for individuals to travel in groups instead of individually.
Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic is a hub for gang activity as well. Some of the gangs that have a presence on the island actually come from other areas of the country and world, including Los Trinitarios, which originated in New York state.
The mentality behind many of the gangs on the island is “do or die.” This sentiment means that the members often have the mindset that they will fight tooth and nail for their group, even if it means that their own death comes as a result of their actions.
To add to this issue, the amount of guns and drugs that enter the Dominican Republic is astounding. These elements can increase the violence that is associated with gang activity.
Having many different rival groups in the country can also bring times of escalation when one is confronted by another. The Dominican Republic isn’t a large country.
In fact, the square mileage of the island is comparable to combining the American states of New Hampshire and Vermont. When you consider the amount of gang activity that takes place in such a small area, it’s easy to see why it’s such an overwhelming statistic.
Things to Consider
Planning a trip to the Dominican Republic comes with a lot of information to take in from all angles:
- Staying at a resort is the safest option when visiting the island. Be sure to select lodging that has additional security and adequate safety regulations for guests and visitors.
- Traveling within a group of two or more people allows for a higher level of safety.
- Take time to learn what areas are safest and which should be avoided. Tourists can obtain this information at the front desk at your hotel.
- Letting others know your plans when venturing outside of your hotel or resort allows for accountability when it comes to safety measures.
- No matter where you are, being aware of your surroundings is critical to your personal welfare. Even if you’re at a resort where you feel safe, be cognizant of the individuals around you, especially on the beach.
- Keep all personal items close to your body. Using a belt placed under your clothing or a fanny pack that remains tight to your waist is best. These items allow you to have essential items with you but in a secure location that is hard to access by others.
- Avoid traveling outside of your resort at night. If you need to venture outdoors, try to go with another person or stick to safe areas. Always travel with a fully charged cell phone that can make emergency calls.
- The Dominican Republic has a high rate of human trafficking. Therefore, it’s pertinent to consider all possible safety measures.
- Instances of sexual assault have occurred both on resort property and off, and tourists must take caution. When happening at resorts, assaults often take place on the beach.
- There is a high level of gang activity in the Dominican Republic. It’s crucial to avoid neighborhoods where such gangs reside and to be aware of these locations.
- It’s best to utilize cash whenever possible during your stay. There have been instances of fraud when using a credit card or ATM.
- Have a list of all emergency numbers you can call if an issue arises.
- Be aware that scams can take place on the island where individuals pose as police officers and threaten to arrest you unless you pay them a specific amount of money.
- Have a general idea of what costs are associated with different excursions, services, and goods. Another fraudulent activity that can happen is being unfairly charged for items due to being a tourist and not a local resident.
- Understand that the judicial system in the Dominican Republic is much different than in other countries. Therefore, you may not find justice for crimes committed against you even if you involve the appropriate authorities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traveling to a new vacation destination can bring about emotions of anxiety and nervousness. Some of the most commonly asked questions about the safety of the Dominican Republic are below to help alleviate the stress that comes with travel.
Is Punta Cana safe to visit?
Out of the major cities that comprise the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is the safest area to visit. The site has many highly rated resorts, and the presence of the Tourism Police is relatively high.
While there are still instances of crime, most of those reported are petty thefts. However, one should still be diligent in their efforts to be aware of all surroundings and stick to safe areas.
Is it safe to stay at a resort in the Dominican Republic?
When planning a vacation to the Dominican Republic, it’s essential to know that the safest place will be when you’re at a resort. Because of the private security employed by the resort and the tourism police that frequent the resorts, the chances of criminal activity or assault are much lower than in city centers and public attractions.
However, staying at a resort should not come with a false sense of security.
There aren’t any places in the world that are 100% safe. As an individual, you need to be aware of your surroundings constantly and have others that are knowledgeable of your whereabouts at all times.
What are the safest Caribbean islands?
While the listing may vary depending on the source and current events that are taking place in the country, many places conclude that the safest island in the Caribbean is Turks and Caicos.
Following that, you’ll often see St. Lucia listed and the United States Virgin Islands rounding out the top three. It’s worth noting that this listing will also vary based on what safety elements you are looking at in the ratings.
You may get one answer if you investigate which islands are safest based on robbery. However, another result may conclude if you’re inquiring about which island is safest in terms of assault.
Is there kidnapping in the Dominican Republic?
Yes, the level of human trafficking and kidnapping in the Dominican Republic is relatively high compared to other countries. Since the island is easily accessible to many countries, the Dominican Republic has a high level of illegal activity.
While you’ll see a great deal of sex trafficking on the island, this behavior often originates from kidnapping and human trafficking.
Many non-profit organizations and governmental bodies are working together to help resolve this issue. They hope they can stop the influx of individuals arriving and safely return the victims to their home country or safe space.
Is the Dominican Republic safe for a single woman?
Although it isn’t advisable for any individual, regardless of gender, to travel alone, the Dominican Republic can be a safe option as long as all safety considerations are adhered to during their stay. Among those, sticking to a well-known resort with ample security is essential.
Additionally, you should always be aware of your surroundings and avoid questionable neighborhoods. Another critical element is to keep others updated on your whereabouts.
Whether you do this by informing the front desk, telephoning a family member, or leaving a note in your room, having a way for others to know what your plans entailed if you were to become unreachable is highly necessary.
So, Is the Dominican Republic Safe to Visit?
The general consensus among several countries is that travel to the Dominican Republic is safe. However, this comes with the recommendation to exercise additional caution while on the island due to high crime levels. With that, enjoy your Caribbean adventure!