Tourism May 1, 2023 | 1:53 pm

Is The Dominican Republic Still Safe Amid New Travel Advisory?

The Dominican Republic (DR) is one of the most popular beach destinations for Americans going abroad, famous for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and luxurious resorts lining the coast, but it’s also notoriously made headlines for its political instability and higher crime rates.

Sadly, the situation outside development zones does not seem to be getting any better, as U.S. authorities have just issued a new advisory for Americans flocking into Punta Cana for their sunny getaways – yet again.

But just how serious is the update, and what safety measures are now necessary?

The Dominican Republic Is A Level 2 Country

Coconut Seller Walking The Beach In The Dominican Republic, Caribbean Sea

Last year, the State Department advised Americans on the dangers associated with venturing out of leisure complexes and resort zones in underdeveloped parts of the Dominican Republic, where gang activity is widespread, and rates of violent crime can be substantially higher.

Not much has changed since then: the country is still considered a Level 2, or ‘moderately risky’ destination, which means caution should be exercised when visiting, but a new travel advisory issued by the U.S. Embassy in the DR has given rise to further concern.

Osama Fortress In The Colonial Quarter Of Santo Domingo, Colonial City And Capital Of The Dominican Republic

As noted by the American embassy in the country, U.S. travelers may want to take ‘precautionary measures’ traveling in the Dominican Republic, especially when touring public areas, as they could be perceived as targets by pickpockets and criminals alike.

Essentially, you are now explicitly advised not to display ‘signs of affluence’, such as wearing expensive jewelry or watches, keeping your personal belongings on you at all times, and maintaining an elevated situational awareness.

Old Street Lined With Colonial Houses In The Dominican Republic

Due to the strength of the dollar and the higher standards of living the average U.S. citizen enjoys, at least compared to most Latin Americans, they are routinely preyed upon by scammers, criminals, and other ill-intentioned individuals.

Does this mean the Dominican Republic is unsafe for travelers, then? Well, not quite.

The DR Is Surprisingly Safe For Americans

Statue of Bartholomew Columbus on Calle el Conde street in the colonial city center of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

While crime is indeed an issue, and you probably wouldn’t want to explore suburban zones of Punta Cana or the sprawling urban mess that is Santo Domingo on your own, incidents involving tourists, particularly those coming from affluent countries, are rather infrequent.

More than 8.5 million tourists landed in the DR in 2022, making it the most visited Caribbean vacation spot behind Cancun, at a record 37% increase year-on-year. Despite its soaring popularity, crime rates in tourist zones have been kept to a minimum.

man on beach on vacation

In 2019, the reference pre-pandemic year when tourism was at its highest, ‘at least‘ seven U.S. citizens had lost their lives vacationing in the DR, a victim of either violence or fatal accidents.

Seeing that close to 8 million foreigners had flown over that year, that’s hardly a troubling figure.

One Of The Safest Caribbean Countries

As reported by InSight Crime, the DR has ‘much lower violence’ than many other countries in its league, and although it is the ‘main cocaine transit’ hub in the Caribbean, law enforcers have not been overwhelmed by violence spikes.

trees in dominican republic

The same cannot be said about the neighboring country of Haiti, which shares the same island as the Dominican Republic and is the only country that borders it by land.

Considered by some experts a failed state, Haiti has been facing a profound humanitarian crisis for years on end now.

In recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated quickly, with gangs taking over the streets and anarchy being installed. Fortunately for the DR, its western borders are well-secured, and the crime and disease that’s halted Haiti’s growth has not spilled over.

person on motorcycle dominican republic

InSight Crime experts believe the country’s success in keeping issues that led to the Haitian crisis from being imported and tourist destinations relatively safe is partly attributed to a ‘business-first attitude‘, which they suggest provides an explanation for the ‘relative’ state of peace.

Granted, the Dominican Republic is no Europe, but taking into account its geographical disadvantages and decades-long battle against corruption and organized crime, it’s done a pretty good job at lowering crime to manageable levels.

A woman looks out onto the beautiful waters of the Dominican Republic

The DR, on the other hand, is only at Level 2, and standard safety advice applies. U.S. authorities themselves have stated that the introduction of a professional tourist police corps and the availability of a 911 system, as well as the concentration of security efforts in resort strips, has improved safety levels.

SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC restaurant and outside dining

With that being said, the resorts are normally ‘better policed’ than urban centers like Santo Domingo, where weapons are widely available and the trade of illicit drugs is rampant. Traveling to the DR, Americans must ensure they:

  • Do not display signs of wealth
  • Never resist robbery attempts
  • Follow the advice of resorts and tour operators
  • Enroll in the STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) to receive up-to-date security alerts from U.S. authorities
  • Have a contingency plan in the event of an emergency
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Ramon Garcia
May 1, 2023 10:25 pm

US travel advisory has nothing to do with safety. They use that as a punishing tool. The question and the entire article is stupid. DR is safer than PR or any mayor liberal city.

My Name Is Not Important
May 2, 2023 7:31 am
Reply to  Ramon Garcia

Ok, then what the US is punishing the DR for?

May 10, 2023 11:22 pm
Reply to  Ramon Garcia

YUP soon we will turn to CHINA and we should…. just reading a article about a 71 year old french man with his family in NYC (on vacation) and was almost beaten to death after leaving a restaurant

May 12, 2023 8:50 am
Reply to  Ramon Garcia

You do know that conservative states have higher rates of violent crime than liberal cities, right?

May 2, 2023 1:08 am

mean while mass shooting in the US, some guy went into McDonald’s and killed a “girl” because he ordered a 20-piece chicken McNuggets which i guess only comes with two sauces, when ask for a third…he pulled out a gun killed her…keep in mind…… a extra sauce cost 25 cents

May 3, 2023 12:30 am

18 ppl killed in Chicago on Sunday…..a joke

May 3, 2023 6:41 am

The air pollution here is terrible, especially in the north, with constant burning of plastics and trash and land. Avoid and go to another (cleaner) country that cares for your health. This place apparently doesn’t

May 10, 2023 11:24 pm
Reply to  Italman

dude…the folks in the EU DUMP trash in the ocean,…. get yourself informed

Robert Grant Matthews
May 6, 2023 2:26 pm

Juan baron, there’s a Columbian running all sorts of rackets from the carnival areas threatening any of the food vendors.but he is amune to arrest,he pays off the cops,but even though he is illegal, because he is not black

May 10, 2023 11:25 pm

hmmmm… so because he is not black… I mean…. anything else beside a stupid comment

May 10, 2023 11:17 pm

what a joke….. Chicago, NYC, LA, TX……enough said

May 12, 2023 8:52 am
Reply to  there

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas… enough said

Deivy Campusano
June 5, 2023 4:57 pm

While Americans and foreigners SHOULD exercise caution when traveling to the DR, I feel that the safety advisory is rather exaggerated. Gang violence/activity in the DR is almost non-existent. Violent crimes overall are relatively low, especially when compared to other countries like Haiti, El Salvador, Jamaica, etc. The main safety concern in DR is theft, indeed, which can be mitigated by being a smart, cautious traveler (just like you should be anywhere else) and making sure you don’t flaunt or carry around high-priced valuable items or leave them unattended in a public setting..

Last edited 1 year ago by Deivy Campusano