On YouTube videos, people continually ask me about safety. One of the most common concerns – Is the Dominican Republic safe? Travelers to the stunningly beautiful, but fairly impoverished Caribbean nation want to know what to look out for.
The problem is I enjoy places that are a little rougher around the edges. Thoughts of safety rarely cross my mind when choosing exotic locales to travel to. After all, I stepped foot into the raging drug war zone of San Salvador, El Salvador. Not my brightest move.
Before I booked my first flight to the DR, I never once thought about how safe is the Dominican Republic. It didn’t even cross my mind. I just hopped on a plane and ask a buddy if the taxi would rip me off at the airport. Then I took off to the land of stunning beaches, bachata, and wild adventures.
Luckily, I learned a thing or two from my travels. So here are some thoughts and statistics on safety in the Dominican Republic.
My Experiences & Crime in the Dominican Republic
I’ve spent nearly six months in the DR and not one time did I personally have an issue with crime or violence. And I’ve been all around the country, including:
However, I’ve experienced issues, seen things and heard stories. For example:
My friends and I were staying in a lovely apartment in stunning Las Terrenas, DR. There was a groundsman at night that was supposed to keep all uninvited guests off the premises. Instead, someone was knocking on our door late a night. We opened to find some random woman on our front steps saying she had seen us at the parade earlier and followed us home. WTF?! And then the doorman let her in and pointed her to our place. That’s not safe! And this was our first night in the place.
My friend brought his new Samsung Galaxy phone to the basketball court. He placed it inside his backpack next to the court. Then proceed to play hoops for a few hours. When he went to pick up his backpack, the phone was long gone and there was nothing he could do about it. $600 basically flushed down the toilet. You can leave valuables unattended in the country.
A buddy had rented a hotel room for a few weeks in a decent hotel. Around $50 a night. He was Dominican from New York and waiting for the apartment he purchased to finish construction. While working in the lobby of the hotel from his MacBook, the hotel clerk saw the $2,000 laptop. He called his buddies and arranged a room for them next to my friend’s room. One night he heard a knock on the door and there was someone in a hotel staff uniform. He opened the door to have a gun put to his head. They robbed him of all electronics, cash, and some designer clothes. Around $6,000 in total.
…And these are just stories I’ve heard or things that I’ve witnessed. There certainly not the worst things that happen in the country!
Is the Dominican Republic Safe?
Overall, I haven’t had much of an issue in the DR. Most travelers simply don’t have a problem with danger in the Dominican Republic. Why?
Well, Dominican people may be the friendliest I’ve ever met. People are happy. They smile. The joke and talk shit. They openly flirt. They enjoy the laid-back Caribbean vibes, the ocean, and the warm weather just as much as the travelers.
But, there’s only one issue – the Dominican Republic is a fairly impoverished nation. There’s a huge income disparity between the wealthy and the poor. There’s less of a middle class in the DR than in the United States.
Dominican Living 101. Somos Tigres.
This creates “Haves” and “Have Nots” in the country. Some people are rich, while others are quite poor.
So…is the Dominican Republic safe? Not completely. There’s a lot of robbery and theft in the country. But violent crimes and murders are not that common. So there’s a bit of a trade-off.
What the Stats Say in 2017/18?
Let’s not just take my word for it though. Let’s dive into the statistics and see if the Dominican Republic is safe or not.
First and foremost, the Dominican Republic does not a single city on the “Most Dangerous Cities in the World” list (Source).
What does this mean? Well, not a ton. Basically, you’re more likely to get murdered in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador.
However, apart from violent crime and murders, there’s theft, pickpocketing, and general safety. And there’s a lot of robbery in the Dominican Republic.
In fact, nearly one out of every four homicides in the Dominican Republic occurs during an armed robbery. In the United States, only 5% of murders stem from a robbery (Source).
The key is to not resist. If you simply give the criminals what they want from you, it’s highly unlikely they’ll do you further harm.
Now, there’s another major factor to consider when thinking about if the Dominican Republic is safe. Drivers!
Is the Dominican Republic safe for motorcycles and foreign drivers? Hell NO! More people die in car and motorcycle accidents in the DR than they do from violent crime. Nearly 3,000 people each year die on the roads in the Dominican Republic (Source).
Zona Colonial is safe.
What the U.S. Department of State Says?
Well, the U.S. Government isn’t known for issuing accurate travel warnings. In fact, they’re a bunch of fear-mongers in my humble opinion. But they know the stats and only want to keep travelers safe.
So here is the U.S. Department of State’s thoughts on crime in the Dominican Republic:
“Significant crime exists throughout the Dominican Republic. Take precautions to avoid becoming a target. If confronted by a thief demanding money or personal items, comply with their demands. Criminals often have weapons and are likely to use them if they meet resistance. Avoid wearing items of value or carrying an item that could make you an attractive target. Be wary of strangers, especially those who approach you at celebrations or nightspots. Travel with a partner or in a group if possible (Source).”
While that doesn’t sound that wonderful, let’s look at what our government has to say about a truly dangerous place, Venezuela:
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Venezuela due to violent crime, social unrest, and pervasive food and medicine shortages. All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy that limits their travel within Caracas and other parts of the country. These security measures may restrict the services the Embassy can provide. Country-wide shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity, and other basic goods have led to social unrest, including violence and looting. Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime (Source).”
So, maybe the DR isn’t all that bad. Personally, I feel fairly safe in the Dominican Republic and I’m sure you will too.
How to Stay Safe in the DR
While petty crime can be common in the DR, you’ll be able to stay fairly safe with just a few precautions in the country. Here are a few tips to ensure your safety in the Dominican Republic:
Stay in Safe Areas
The most important part about staying safe in the Dominican Republic is where you lodge. If you stay in well-run hotels or Airbnb listing in the cities, you shouldn’t have any safety concerns.
Leave your valuables in the room and use common sense. For example, in Santo Domingo, you’d want to stay in these neighborhoods, as they tend to have lower crime rates:
Get a Doorman
You’ll also want to rent an apartment that has a doorman. Now, this can be tricky because the doorman is your only line of defense in some cases and there are stories of them being bribed. But it’s still better to have a doorman than to not have one.
Just treat the doorman right. Buy him a few beers, offer a slice a pizza, or throw a small tip his way every now and then. You’ll gain his loyalty and have nothing to worry about.
Speaking a little Spanish can go a long way towards keeping you out of trouble in the Dominican Republic. As a Spanish speaking country, you’ll be rewarded for speaking Spanish well. The majority of people you meet won’t speak any English, especially in the big cities. So you’ll need some Spanish to communicate.
Many people come to the Dominican Republic in search of prostitution and to a lesser extent, drugs. If you’re engaging in these type of acts, you’ll find a great chance of danger in the country.
If you’re concerned about safety in the DR avoid prostitutes, chapiadoras, and drugs. You’ll nearly eliminate the chance of bad things happening to you by doing so.
Don’t Flash Wealth
This may be th most important safety tip I can give you. Don’t flash wealth in the DR. If you roll around with gold chains, expensive watches, and fancy designer clothing – there’s a good chance someone will try to rob you.
If you walk around talking on your iPhone 7 Plus all day, there’s a good chance someone will try to snatch it from you. With poverty all around, you’ll find petty crime around every corner.
In the DR, I try to stay low-key. I typically roll around in an outfit like this when I go out:
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.