The Dominican Republic is friendly and welcoming, but suffers from 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. In January 2013 20 US visitors were mugged by armed attackers on the same street (Avenida Bolivar) in 2 related incidents. In an effort to address the crime problem in the capital, the Government has deployed troops on the streets to assist the police.
Take particular care in remote areas, especially at night. If you leave your hotel complex, don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry large amounts of cash or expensive items like cameras. Use a hotel safe whenever possible. Don’t leave your bags or other possessions on chairs or tables when sitting in outside restaurants or bars. If you’re attacked, don’t resist.
There have been several reports of passengers being stopped and robbed or assaulted when travelling from the airport ‘Las Americas’ in Santo Domingo early in the morning or late at night.
If you lose your passport or it is stolen, get a police report before contacting the British Embassy. The Tourist Police (POLITUR) can be contacted on the free telephone number 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 during the tropical storm season. 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.
According to the 2013 World Health Organisation report on road safety, 4,143 people were killed in the Dominican Republic (population 10m) in 2013 compared with 2,278 in UK (population 60m). 25% of those killed were pedestrians and 58% motorcyclists.
It is easy to hire a car in the Dominican Republic, with many international franchises available. You can drive using a UK driving licence for visits not exceeding 3 months.
Military and police road blocks are common, especially in the areas near the Haitian border. They often appear very informal though 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.
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. Unlit vehicles - especially motorbikes - are common. Where possible you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night. Road accidents are frequent, especially at holiday periods like Christmas when drink-driving related incidents are common.
If you are involved in an accident you may be detained by police until the circumstances of the accident have been investigated. If you are detained as a result of a road accident, contact the British Embassy in Santo Domingo or Honorary Consulate in Puerto Plata or Punta Cana.
Political demonstrations sometimes occur, although not usually near tourist areas. Avoid getting caught up in demonstrations or large gatherings of people.