Safety and security
The Dominican Republic is friendly and welcoming, but has a high crime rate, ranging from opportunistic crime like bag-snatching and pick-pocketing, to violent crime.
There have been a number of incidents in Santo Domingo where foreigners have been mugged at gunpoint during the daytime while walking in residential districts.
Take particular care in remote areas, especially at night. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry large amounts of cash or expensive items like smart phones or cameras on the street. Use a hotel safe whenever possible. Don’t leave your bags or other possessions on chairs or tables in restaurants or bars. If you’re attacked or mugged, don’t resist.
There have been incidents of passengers being stopped and robbed or assaulted when travelling from the ‘Las Americas’ airport in Santo Domingo early in the morning or late at night so be vigilant, especially after dark.
If you lose your passport or it is stolen, get a police report before contacting the British Embassy. The English speaking tourist police (CESTUR) can be contacted on +1-809-200-3500.
Lifeguards may not be present at swimming pools or on beaches and safety and rescue equipment may not be available.
The sea can be dangerous, especially during the hurricane season (June-November). Seek local advice about sea conditions and warning systems and follow instructions.
Don’t go into the water if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
Check safety standards and make sure you’re insured if you take part in activities like water sports, quad biking, horse riding etc. If in doubt seek advice from your tour operator.
Taxis are cheap but many are in a state of disrepair. There have been cases of theft from taxis, so keep valuables and cash secure and out of sight. Tourist taxis are safer and more reliable, but also more expensive. Public transport can be unsafe, but private companies operate good bus services between cities.
You can drive using a UK driving licence for visits not exceeding 3 months. For longer visits, you should apply for a local driving licence, for which you will need to present a certified copy of your valid UK licence.
To certify your driving licence, you will need to get a copy certified by a UK notary or lawyer. Once this is done, the Legalisation Office in the UK needs to attach an apostille and return to legalised driving licence to you. While some notaries may not be willing to carry out a notarial act without an individual being present, others are, and are also willing to forward applications to the Legalisation Office once they have completed their part. You can find a list of notaries currently authorised to practice on the website of the Faculty Office (the regulator of Notaries Public in England and Wales). You should contact notaries directly to check whether you would need to be present when they notarise your driving licence.
Although most major roads are reasonably good, general standards of driving are poor. Drivers weave from lane to lane and rarely signal. Many vehicles are in a state of disrepair and don’t have working headlights or mirrors. Drink driving is common. Where possible you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night. Road accidents are frequent, especially during holiday periods like Christmas and Easter.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 3,000 people are killed annually on the roads in the Dominican Republic - approximately 10 times the UK per capita rate. Of those killed, 63% were motorcyclists, 20% were pedestrians and 13% were in motor vehicles.
Take extra care on the road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There have been armed robberies in the Dominican Republic on roads close to the border with Haiti, including by criminals dressed as police officers.
If you’re crossing the border into Haiti by land, be prepared for long queues at the 4 crossing points. Make sure you have all the correct vehicle documentation and cash to pay exit and entry fees. Long stretches of the route are isolated, and without a mobile phone reception. Aim to complete your entire journey during daylight.
Military and police road blocks are common, especially in the areas near the Haitian border. The people manning the road blocks often appear very informal, although the soldiers do wear army uniform and carry weapons. Drivers are sometimes coerced into handing a small amount of money over before being allowed to continue their journey.
It’s easy to hire a car in the Dominican Republic, with many international car hire companies available in major cities and at airports.
If you’re involved in a road accident, you must file a report with the authorities. If the accident didn’t cause injuries and happened in Santo Domingo or Santiago, you should register it at La Casa del Conductor. This is a government dependency with English speaking agents, where there are representatives from all the relevant authorities including the police and insurance companies. If the accident occurs in any other part of the Dominican Republic, you should file a report at the nearest police station.
If you’re involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, Dominican law requires that the driver is taken into police custody until the circumstances of the accident have been investigated, even if the driver appears not to be at fault. You should call the police, and wait for them to arrive, at the scene of the accident. If you’re detained as a result of a road accident, ask the police to contact the British Embassy in Santo Domingo.
The telephone number for national roadside assistance is +1-829-689-1000.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
UK government officials are also advised not to use airlines registered in Haiti.
Political demonstrations sometimes occur, although not usually near tourist areas. Avoid getting caught up in demonstrations or large gatherings of people.