Opinion November 2, 2019 | 12:26 pm

Putting the “DR is a dangerous vacation destination” notion to rest

Renn Loren


With the results of the October 21st, 2019, findings of the FBI’s toxicology tests supporting the conclusions of the Dominican authorities, it’s time to put the DR is a Dangerous Vacation Destination for American Tourists falsehood finally to rest.

The first thing that I would like to offer here is sincere condolences to anyone who has ever lost a loved one in the DR due to whatever circumstances. Loss of life is a heartbreakingly sad tragedy outright and straightforward.

The results of the FBI’s toxicology tests support the determinations of the Dominican authorities that the deaths of American tourists showed no evidence of foul play. There was also no evidence or indication that any of the ten American tourist deaths that occurred from March to July 2019 were in any way, shape, or form, statistically out of the ordinary.

Granted, it was strange that two people—Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49— died at very nearly the same time in their room together. Still, even that highly unlikely and improbably-coincidental thing happens once every one or two million times. The bottom line here is that in the case of these deaths, there was no poisoning or anomalous reason or cause for their demise. A certain number of people will always die while on holiday anywhere. And with nearly three million people there will be an unavoidable corresponding number of deaths that will naturally occur.

Let’s take the US state of New Mexico as an example. New Mexico has a population of 2.1 million or 600,000 fewer people than the average number of American tourists who visit the DR every year. In 2017 alone; 3,895 people died just from heart attacks in New Mexico. 878 died from strokes, 338 died from flu or pneumonia, and 605 died from liver ailments. That is a total of 5,378 Americans from a population of 2.1 million who died from natural causes in one year. 338 died from a locally contracted illness.

Statistically-speaking, there has been a relatively low number of American tourist deaths so far in 2019 in the DR.

Insurers know the cold statistical truth that lurks in the reams of travel data they gather. Even for vacations to tropical paradises, a small subset of trips will be marred by serious health issues and other tragedies.

It is a matter of statistics that a certain number of travelers will suffer serious illnesses, accidents, and even death while traveling internationally. The death rate in the Dominican Republic is not any higher than the death rate in the States.

According to the US State Department, 17 Americans died while traveling to the Dominican Republic nation in 2017. In 2018, there were 13 deaths reported in the country. Between January to June of this year, ten Americans died.

Of course, there are dangers in the DR: everything from rip tides and treacherous ocean currents to absurd traffic conditions, illnesses, and the wrong sections of towns, but these hazards can be found nearly anywhere people go on holidays. These universal perils aside, the truth is that the DR is one of the safer tourist destinations for American tourists.

Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic


Little known fact: during the same time, ten American tourists had died in the DR: 28 Canadian tourists also perished in the country. 

28 Canadians died in the Dominican Republic this year amid concerns over American tourist deaths https://globalnews.ca/news/5480708/canadian-deaths-dominican-republic/

Another aspect conflated with these unfortunate deaths which caused maximum dramatic and fear-arousing effect was that of illnesses suffered by vacationers and visitors being portrayed as somehow responsible for or connected to some of the deaths.

While it is true that there are several diseases, pathogens, and associated illnesses (dengue and malaria among them) that travelers can contract in the DR, few of them are fatal. Most can be avoided with knowledge and precautions.

“Montezuma’s Revenge,” “Traveler’s Trot,” “Traveler’s Stomach,” or dysentery to the less euphemistically inclined, can be easily contracted in swimming pools or from eating improperly-cleaned or prepared food. The pathogens that cause these ailments are not exclusive to the DR and can be contracted anywhere. There are also parasitic amoebae that can be avoided by drinking only bottled water and being careful about ice cubes and salads. There is also a very effective medicine to treat it here should you become infected.

We know friends and friends of friends who have been stricken by “stomach bugs” every once in a while. But in over two years of experience in the DR, neither my girlfriend nor I have gotten sick from any food, swimming pools, or anything. We didn’t get sick in Mexico, either. And we regularly dine out frequently in a variety of venues, cafes, restaurants, bars, and street kitchens, in a variety of towns.

There is still the use of organophosphates in the DR, so it is essential to keep track of insecticides being used for mosquito abatement programs and pesticides used around hotels, condos, and other lodgings for pest control. The incidence of tourists poisoned by such compounds is exceedingly rare. Still, it is a remote possibility that can be avoided by being vigilant, informed, and aware. And again, it could happen just as readily in the US as evidenced by the Monsanto Roundup situation.

There are vast differences between contracting an illness, becoming ill from exposure to pesticides, or dying from natural causes.

Most tourists go on holiday and tend to do everything to excess—including physical activities they usually wouldn’t experience in their everyday lives back home. And this is especially the case in the all-inclusive sector because everything is “free.” Tourists on these packages tend to eat and drink excessively, and many have health issues for which they are taking precarious cocktails of medicines. And many of these medications don’t interact well with alcohol, certain types of foods, or even activities.

In some circumstances, enhancement drugs and even performance drinks can cause strokes or heart attacks. Combine these items with poor health and a blend of medications for heart conditions or hypertension, and the outcomes can be catastrophic.

Bottom line: all travel and vacationing involve a certain amount of risk. Is it any more dangerous to vacation in the Dominican Republic than it is in other tropical countries? No, it’s not. Despite what you may have read or heard via social networks or certain sectors of the news media, the DR is as safe as the majority of tropical vacation destinations. In many cases, it is even safer. 

After all everyone from Bill Clinton, Cardi B, Jay Z, Denzel Washington, Kelly Hu, Beyonce, Luis Miguel, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez to most recently Breaking Bad and El Camino stars Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, their friends, and families have vacationed here in the DR and only had the highest praises for the experience.


With some hotel prices at 50%–67% below regular rates: if you’ve ever wanted to visit or vacation in the DR, now is a great time to do so. Just take it easy and be sensible during your holiday, read up on the subject, be informed, and the rewards will be well worth the effort.


Renn Loren is not affiliated with any promotional or travel agencies, I have no financial investments or other proprietary interests in the Dominican Republic.

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