Is the Dominican Republic Safe? | Gringo’s Travel Guide
I get a lot of questions about Dominican Republic travel. 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. Whether they'll be safe while on vacation.
I get it, but…
I'm often not the best guy to ask. 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 asked 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 in the country. Including a number of Dominican Republic safety tips and tricks.
The good news?
It's pretty easy to stay safe in the Dominican Republic if you follow a few tips and tricks, like the ones found below.
So in this guide, I'll break things down for you…including:
Table of Contents
My Experiences with Crime in the Dominican Republic
I've spent nearly six months in the DR over multiple trips and not one time did I personally have an issue with crime or violence.
I've been all around the country, including:
- Santo Domingo
- Boca Chica
- Punta Cana
- Las Terrenas
Is the Dominican Republic safe? Well, I'd say it's safe ‘enough' for the time being.
However, I've experienced minor issues, seen things and heard stories.
- 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. You'll find many a tale on message boards and forums about the country.
Tales of murder and armed robbery run amuck online when talking about Dominican Republic safety and security.
However, many of these situations are easily avoidable in my opinion.
Is the Dominican Republic Safe? | My Honest Opinion
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.
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. Over 20% of people live in EXTREME poverty in the Dominican Republic (Source).
This means 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.
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. Petty theft and all that jazz. But violent crimes and murders are not that common.
On top of that, the Dominican Republic is a tourist destination. The country receives over 6 MILLION tourists every single year (Source). And a lot of these tourists aren't used to taking precautions that are required in Latin America. As such, the criminals sometimes see an opportunity.
So there's a bit of a trade-off.
By staying in nicer neighborhoods, not flashing wealth, and learning to speak some Spanish…you can eliminate the vast majority of issues.
You'll find more Dominican safety tips below…
Dominican Republic Crime Rates | Updated 2022
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 have a single city on the “Most Dangerous Cities in the World” list as of writing this article.
What does this mean? Well, not a ton to be honest. That just takes into account murder rates…not Dominican Republic crime rates overall.
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.
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). If you want to stay safe in the Dominican Republic, never get on the back of a motorcycle. Seriously. This is my best tip.
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).”
Those are almost kind words when the United States Government is talking about a foreigner country, especially one in Latin America.
As a Level 2 threat according to Uncle Sam, you'll want to exercise caution when traveling to the Dominican Republic.
However, the spot isn't regarded as a war zone like many other countries in the region.
Tips to Stay Safe in the Dominican Republic
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.
If you follow these guidelines, you're sure to have a damn good time in one of the funnest countries on God's green earth…without worry about your safety.
So 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:
- Zona Colonial
- Bella Vista
Or if you're in Santiago, you'd want to stay in somewhere like:
- Los Jardines
- La Trinitaria
All of the neighborhoods above offer police presence at all times of the day and night, along with a middle to upper-class populace.
Get a Doorman
This is HUGE in the Dominican Republic!
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. He'll even go out of his way to keep you safe if any sh*t does ever pop off.
Ya tu sabes.
Speak a Little Spanish
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.
Don't discount this step if Dominican Republic safety is always on your mind.
Avoid Trouble Yourself
Many people come to the Dominican Republic in search of prostitution and to a lesser extent, drugs. That's just the reality of the situation. The Dominican Republic can be shady at times.
If you're engaging in these type of acts, you'll find a greater chance of danger in the country. That's a fact of life.
If you're concerned about safety in the DR avoid prostitutes, chapiadoras, and drugs. It's really that simple, y'all.
By doing so, you'll nearly eliminate the likelihood of bad things happening to you.
Don't Flash Wealth
This may be the 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 brand new iPhone out in the open 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. That's a fact of life — no matter what country you're living in.
In the DR, I try to stay low-key. I typically roll around in an outfit like this when I go out:
- A nice pair of jeans like these.
- A dress shirt or two.
- Some nice shoes.
- A decent, but inexpensive watch.
While there’s nothing too fancy about my attire, these type outfits look good and will help you avoid any trouble while traveling around the Dominican Republic and going out at night.
Lastly, just take an Uber everywhere you go – especially at night. Taxis will always try to rip off foreigners in the DR. That's just the way things go.
In Santo Domingo, Santiago, and Puerto Plata…you have the option to take an Uber. Just do it. Sadly, you don't in Punta Cana.
The price is about 1/4th of what you'd pay in the United States and sometimes cheaper.
Walking around at night is not advisable in the Dominican Republic for tourists — unless you know your surroundings well or are in a tourist area, like Zona Colonial.
Dominican Republic Resort Deaths?
During 2018/2019, there was a spate of tourists deaths in Dominican Republic resorts — specifically around luxe resorts in Punta Cana, including the Hard Rock Hotel.
In fact, over the course of those two years, 36 Americans have died while on the resorts in the Dominican Republic (Source).
Initially, many assumed foul play. That these deaths were connected in some way, shape, or foam. Potentially from resorts using cheap, bootleg booze to try and boost profits.
I also assumed something odd was going on here, and still do to a certain extent.
However, recent toxicology reports reveal that none of the recent deaths occurred due to foul play. The FBI rereleased a statement recently saying:
“The results of the toxicology testing to date have been “consistent with the findings of local authorities,” who have said there was no indication of foul play or physical violence (Source).”
This means these tourists deaths look to be caused by natural causes — not due to violent or malicious crimes. A bit of a surprise.
This is good news, though.
Furthermore, I haven't seen many, if any, tourists deaths during the second half of 2019 and into 2020. It seems as if Dominican Republic resort deaths have tapered off completely.
As such, I believe it is once again safe to head to the Dominican Republic and experience some of the best beaches in the world. Te lo juro.
Safety in the Dominican Republic | Overall?
Is the Dominican Republic safe?
In my opinion, it is. 100% safe if you follow some of the tips above.
You just need to use common sense and pay for proper lodging. Don't flash wealth and keep your guard up until you're familiar with a certain area.
The DR shouldn't be concerned too dangerous. Just keep your wits about you and be smart. By avoiding prostitution and drugs, you should be fairly safe.
If you've got any question…
Sound off in the comments and all do my best to answer!
Que te vaya bien,