Rainforests, incredible beaches, savanna, highlands, and the highest mountain in the Caribbean; there’s no shortage of things that make the Dominican Republic an awesome place to travel.
It’s the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, but at the same time, is rife with poverty. Unfortunately, this dynamic leads to increased levels of crime; sometimes it’s pickpocketing, sometimes it’s a mugging. So asking the question ‘is Dominican Republic safe‘ makes sense.
Regardless if you’re wondering whether the Dominican Republic is safe for families, or if you want to know some tips for solo travel in the Dominican Republic, we’ve got you covered. All this and more will be addressed–so let’s get into it.
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Dominican Republic Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Dominican Republic. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Dominican Republic.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
Updated February 2023
- Is the Dominican Republic Safe to Visit Right Now?
- Safest Places in Dominican Republic
- 26 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to the Dominican Republic
- Is the Dominican Republic safe to travel alone?
- Is the Dominican Republic safe for solo female travelers?
- Is the Dominican Republic Safe for Families?
- Getting Around Dominican Republic Safely
- Crime in Dominican Republic
- FAQ about Staying Safe in Dominican Republic
- So, is the Dominican Republic Safe?
Is the Dominican Republic Safe to Visit Right Now?
Traveling to the Dominican Republic is pretty safe for tourists.
The people of the Dominican Republic are friendly and welcoming. Despite the huge amount on offer for the casual, resort dwelling tourist, there’s plenty on offer for backpackers, too. There are sleepy villages, trekking opportunities, and some amazing beach communities, to give just a few examples.
As a backpacker traveling outside resorts, you’ll see some extremes, namely in terms of poverty. You’ll see poor living conditions, people openly carrying weapons, litter, and possible threats to your safety, not to mention sex workers. This is more a sign of the fact that the Dominican Republic is still very much a developing country.
Unfortunately, poverty is a still an issue here. 20% of the population struggles to get by on $2 a day. Around 1/5 of all Dominicans live in shacks. Tourism may bring a lot of money to the country, but there are a lot of negative impacts as not every tourist is respectful of the locals. It’s partly your responsibility to make sure those serving you are taken of care of and to support local communities.
The Dominican Republic is known internationally for its sex tourism. In a 2015 study, the International Justice Mission found that roughly a quarter of all sex workers were under 18. There’s also a high rate of HIV and AIDS in comparison to other Central American and Caribbean countries.
The USA gives it a level 2 travel advisory because of violent crime and assault. But the reality is that most tourists never see this side of the island from the safety of their resorts.
As we said before, it’s safe to visit the Dominican Republic right now. Go enjoy the beauty of it; just but be aware of abusive and unethical businesses.
Safest Places in Dominican Republic
When choosing where you’ll be staying in Dominican Republic, a bit of research and caution is essential. You don’t want to end up in a sketchy area and ruin your trip. These are some of the safest places in the DR:
- Punta Cana: The most famous place in the country, Punta Cana is filled with resorts for all budgets. It’s very much the tourist hub of the Dominican Republic, and absolutely the safest place to visit. Though if you’re looking for local life, keep in mind that Punta Cana is heavily commercialized.
- Puerto Plata: Puerto Plata is a charming destination on the North Coast of the island. Though definitely a city, the population is small enough to give it a laid-back vibe. It’s also known for its stunning beaches, many of which come with smaller crowds than those on the southern coast.
- Las Terrenas: Another northern destination, Las Terrenas is one of the safest cities in Dominican Republic offering huge beaches. It has low crime rates compared to other parts of the country and a thriving expat community.
- Santiago de los Caballeros: Known simply as Santiago to locals, this is the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. Despite the sizable population, it offers a more laid-back alternative than Santo Domingo. It’s also one of the safest destinations in the Dominican Republic.
Places to avoid in Dominican Republic
The answer to How safe is Dominican Republic? is heavily dependent on where you go. And these places lie firmly in the category of “avoid at all costs”:
- Sections of Santo Domingo – while much of the capital city can be pretty safe during the day, we’d recommend avoiding it completely at night, and avoiding these areas altogether: La Duarte, Arroyo Hondo, Naco, Gazcue, Cristo Rey, and Villa Agricola.
- Any beach that has its danger flags raised – it might seem like a beautiful day and the waves are calling you, but don’t underestimate the currents and riptides. if you see warning flags, stay away from the water! Staying on the beach will be fine though.
- Empty side streets – these are especially dodgy at night, no matter where you are. If it doesn’t seem like tourists belong there, stay far away from it!
It’s important to know that Dominican Republic is pretty safe overall, but a bit of caution and research before you start your travels will go a long way. If you want to increase your safety during your stay, refrain from leaving a resort.
Though it’s a super popular destination for tourists, but the Dominican Republic isn’t without its problems. Violent crime against tourists, mainly in the form of robberies, definitely still occurs. By keeping your wits about you and making sure you travel safe and smart, you’ll likely avoid any trouble. To help you even more, here are some handy travel tips to safely travel in the Dominican Republic.
- Don’t walk by yourself at night time – Crime is more active after dark, beaches ESPECIALLY. Get a cab home.
- Don’t even TRAVEL at night – same.
- Flashing your cash in ANY way is a no-no – SLRs, phones, jewels, actually displaying large sums of money. These things make you look rich and therefore a target.
- Change your money at banks or official money exchange places – anything else is not recommended at all.
- Learn some of the local lingo – it’s not necessary, but if you plan on going off the beaten track, knowing some (Dominican) Spanish is a good idea.
- Get the relevant vaccinations before you head off – read up on what you’ll need and GET ‘EM.
- Keep your belongings close – pickpocketing happens in tourist areas, so be careful. Try investing in a money belt, and know how to safeguard your cash while travelling.
- Stay in gated communities – If you’re planning to stay in one of the best villas in the Dominican Republic, choose one in a gated community for added secirity.
- Prepare for hurricanes! – the season is between June and November and you should know how to deal with them. Listen to local advice and keep up to date with the weather…
- Protect against mosquitoes – mosquitoes carry dengue fever and chikungunyi, both of which are just nasty. Cover up and apply repellent.
- Avoid stray animals – rabies is a thing here so it’s best to not pet stray dogs and cats.
- Be aware of your surroundings at ATMs – people may try to look at your pin and then steal your card. Seems simple but it happens
- Stay safe in the sun! – it’s a hot place in the Caribbean. Sunscreen, shade, and hydration, people.
- And stay safe in the water – beaches often don’t have lifeguards. Currents and waves in hurricane season can be dangerous. Swimming drunk, for that matter, will put you in an even more disorienting situation.
- Take care on the roads – seriously: many people die on the roads in the Dominican Republic. The rate is 10 times that of the UK.
- Be careful around the Haitian border – especially if you intend to cross it. Research what you need to do when crossing so you don’t have to linger.
- DON’T talk about Haiti either – it’s a complex situation.
- Don’t take drugs – you don’t know WHAT it is, WHAT it funds, PLUS it’s illegal with hefty prison sentences to punish offenders.
- Practise safe sex – AIDS/HIV is a problem here. Always wrap up.
- Don’t pay for sex – you don’t know the situation, who’s getting the money, anything. Child prostitution is also a big problem.
- Get a room – public displays of affection are uncommon. Best not.
- Don’t resist if you get robbed/carjacked – this can unfortunately happen. If it DOES happen, hand over the goods. Your life is worth more than a rental car.
- Keep your wits about you in remote/residential areas – even in daylight hours. Muggings aren’t uncommon.
- Walk confidently – anything you can do to look less like a tourist is going to lessen the risk to your safety.
- Know what to do in an earthquake – they happen here. Take shelter, and if you’re near the beach, go to higher ground – a tsunami could arrive in minutes
- Use your room safe or locker – things can get snatched from your room. Best to keep it out of sight.
- Lock the doors and windows of your room – just in case.
So whilst there is a lot to keep in mind when you travel to the Dominican Republic, most visits to here are trouble-free. Plenty of backpackers love it for good reasons – it’s relatively calm in terms of the backpacking scene, there’s loads to do, and locals are mostly friendly.
Follow your gut and avoid getting into bad situations. Knowing what to do in a natural disaster will help, too. Do these and you will have a great time without worrying!
Backpacking is becoming more popular here and it’s easy to see why: humpback whales, colonial architecture, adventurous landscapes, and those beaches… Wowsers. That being said, solo travel in the Dominican Republic is as safe as one would expect.
Solo travelers are always a little more vulnerable so it’s important to be careful when you’re traveling around the Dominican Republic alone. It may be safe on the whole, but crimes against tourists aren’t uncommon and you’re more likely to be targeted when by yourself. Obviously, it pays to know HOW to travel solo in the Dominican Republic.
- It’s a good idea to hop on a tour to discover places easily and safely. Whether that tour may be a long or short one makes no difference – this is a great way to get acquainted with the island.
- Obviously, it’s down to how you want to travel. Resorts are safe, but you’ll be less likely to meet other backpackers. Punta Cana is good for nightlife, whilst Cabarete attracts a mix of travelers.
- Meeting other backpackers is a good idea. This will help you to keep sane and happy by talking to other like-minded people, plus you can share travel tips for the Dominican Republic – and/or further afield, too. Win-win.
- Going around by yourself at night time isn’t a very smart move. This is a good time for a robbery, though in some areas it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. The general rule of thumb here is to avoid walking through quiet/sketchy areas by yourself. Case closed.
- You might also want to get yourself a local guide. Not only will you be able to safely explore different areas of the Dominican Republic with someone who knows the local scene, but you’ll also get to learn A LOT more. Fumbling through your guidebook as you squint at bilingual signs is a both annoying and sometimes precarious.
- Be positive and friendly! Especially if you’re moving through more ‘local’ areas. Say ¡Hola! with a smile on your face and the country will open itself up to you, to an extent. Obviously, greeting some gang members chilling out at a mall in Santo Domingo isn’t smart, so use your common sense.
- If you’re a male traveling alone you may be approached by prostitutes. Be aware of this and say a firm “no” before moving on. Sex tourism has created this state of affairs, so don’t contribute any further.
- When you’re out at night, getting crazy drunk isn’t a good idea. You’ll lose your senses and be a lot more vulnerable to robbery or anything else unsafe.
- Tell someone at your guesthouse, or keep in touch with people at home, if you’re going out to explore more remote places. Someone knowing where you are is better than no one knowing where you are.
Though there are risks involved with traveling by yourself anywhere, the Dominican Republic is safe for solo travelers. Keeping your wits about you, meeting other people and even getting a local guide will really help you explore this country to the fullest. In the end, it’s an easygoing place that you’re going to love, and you’ll love it more if you stay safe!
Is the Dominican Republic safe for solo female travelers?
Whilst the Dominican Republican is used to solo female travelers, as many do visit here, there are some cultural dynamics to be aware of.
Local women struggle in the Dominican Republic due to a hyper-masculine society. In fact, many have emigrated to the US to escape this oppression. For female tourists, some could become the object of the same attention (and belittlement) as well.
To avoid becoming a victim of chauvinism or worse, it definitely helps to know how to stay safe as a female traveler. Here are a few tips on how to travel as a female in the Dominican Republic:
- Many people are friendly and speak English. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think something dodgy is going on around you, you’re lost, feel like you’re being followed – anything. People will be happy to help you.
- Walking around at night is not a good idea; don’t do it. Get a taxi or walk with people, but whatever you do, don’t wander around by yourself after dark.
- Dressing appropriately for the situation is a good idea; wandering around town in a bikini top and shorts is not, so we’d recommend against that. To avoid receiving to the wrong kind of attention, try blending in with the local women.
- Don’t take drinks from strangers. Drink spiking happens, so be careful.
- Men can be pushy in the Dominican Republic. In fact, they can be quite aggressive in their pick-up technique. This happens mainly in local bars and clubs. Our advice would be to dress conservatively and be firm in turning men down. At the same time, heading out to a local bar or club alone isn’t wise. Find some travel buddies to go with.
At the end of the day, backpacking as a solo female traveler ANYWHERE is “risky.” Being aware of your surroundings, making sure you don’t wander alone at night, and generally being smart with how you travel is going to make your trip safer.
It may have a macho society, but the Dominican Republic is safe for solo female travelers. You’ll be able to explore this amazing country safely, so get ready for some amazing times ahead!
Is the Dominican Republic Safe for Families?
Completely! The Dominican Republic is very safe to travel for families. Parents and their children have been hitting up this popular destination for years – and continue to do so.
If you’re planning on staying in a resort area, and the only time you’ll be leaving is on a tour, then you won’t need to worry about anything except natural disasters. Not staying in the sun too long, being careful in the sea, not petting stray animals, protecting against mosquitoes, being careful around pool areas are easy to do to ensure that everyone stays happy.
Just remember a few extra things to make sure your family holiday in the Dominican Republic is safe.
- The Dominican Republic is small so getting around is pretty easy.
- Cities aren’t very fun with children. They are hot and a hassle. However, there are many destinations in the Dominican Republic that are great for families.
- When it comes to child safety, there won’t be things like car seats for children.
- Breastfeeding is ok in public. Discretely, in a quiet spot, but not in a restaurant for example. Again if you’re in a resort, everywhere is ok.
Getting Around Dominican Republic Safely
One of the biggest dangers in the Dominican Republic is its roads. Well, the roads themselves are good, but the drivers are terrible.
Aggressive driving and a lack of road signs and traffic laws being enforced don’t help matters. Around 3,000 people are killed on the road per year according to WHO.
The taxis are surprisingly safe in the Dominican Republic.
Drivers don’t cruise around looking for riders though – instead, you’ll find them at designated ranks near bus terminals, hotels, tourist areas, parks, and any other sort of big, official-looking place.
Public transport in the Dominican Republic is cheap, extensive, and highly varied. First off are the publicos. They don’t particularly have any signage designating them as publicos but you’ll know them when you see ’em. Safety isn’t the highest concern; they squeeze people on and drive erratically.
Buses in the bigger cities are pretty normal. However, overcrowding is common.
Then there’s the metro, which you’ll find in the capital, Santo Domingo. It doesn’t have to contend with traffic obviously, so it’s fast and safe. It’s clean, modern, comprehensive, and is expanding every year. This is by far Dominican Republic’s safest mode of public transport.
If you book a tour through a resort, most likely the transport you’ll encounter will be more luxury, and A LOT less crowded, than actual public options.
Crime in Dominican Republic
While the DR is far from being the most dangerous country in the world, crime is still a big issue. Armed robbery is the most common form of lawlessness, and it’s very important to be aware of valuables at all time.
Out of 197 countries, Dominican Republic is ranked 80th in terms of criminality, meaning there are a lot more dangerous nations out there. Even so, it’s ranked the 3rd most crime-ridden country in the Carribean, meaning you need to take more precautions than you would elsewhere.
In 2020, the DR had 9 homicides per 100,000 people, meanwhile the US had 7. So all in all, it’s really not as dangerous as the media may lead you to believe. Still, it’s important to avoid dangerous areas and walking around after dark.
Laws in Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a Christian country with predominantly Catholic and Evangelical communities. As such, attitudes toward LGBT communities are not the best, though relations are not illegal.
It’s also important to note that the Dominican Republic has strict laws regarding drugs–everything including weed is illegal. You can find weed and other goodies easily, though be extremely careful as this will likely involve dealing with shady characters.
Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting Dominican Republic
ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.
They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.
SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!
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FAQ about Staying Safe in Dominican Republic
Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in Dominican Republic.
So, is the Dominican Republic Safe?
The Dominican Republic is the star player of Caribbean tourism and CAN be safe – if you use your common sense and do a bit of research.
It’s well established as a tourist destination, people are very, very used to foreigners, and a lot of locals speak English. All-in-all, the Dominican Republic is a pretty safe place to travel to. But poverty, combined with an influx of relatively rich tourists, has meant that robberies committed against visitors aren’t all that rare.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how you travel, and we’d recommend you do so SMARTLY. That means not being flashy or cocky. Showing any money, a wallet, wearing expensive jewelry, carrying designer bags, shouting around in English, looking lost; all of these are to be avoided.
Millions of people travel to the Dominican Republic each year. Away from the tourist areas, the crazy scenery opens itself up as a haven for backpackers looking for an adventure in the backyard of an otherwise well-trodden, cruise-ship-visited destination. Our insider guide is full of tips of how to go about keeping safe in the Dominican Republic, so you’ll get to explore with peace of mind.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!