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:

Pues…
¡Vámonos!

Is the Dominican republic safe


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
  • Santiago
  • Bonao
  • Las Terrenas
  • Cabarete

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

Click here if you don’t believe me.

What does this mean? Well, not a ton to be honest. That just takes into account murder rates…not Dominican Republic crime rates overall.

But basically, you’re more likely to get murdered in Mexico. Or Venezuela. Or Colombia.

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). 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).”

Honestly…

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:

  • Naco
  • Piantini
  • 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.

This is my favorite hotel in Santo Domingo. 110% SAFE!

Las Terrenas, DR.


  • 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.

Click here to get $40 off Airbnb listings in the Dominican Republic.

  • 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.

Here's the best place to learn.

  • 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:

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.


  • Uber Everywhere

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,

Jake



3.4/5 (14 Reviews)
Jake Nomada

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.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Jay Brezzy - August 12, 2017

Interesting. My wife and I are considering the DR…

Reply
    NomadicJake - August 12, 2017

    I highly recommend the place, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into.

    Reply
      Jay Brezzy - August 12, 2017

      Yeah, we are in the research phase right now. My thing is crime/economy. We looked at Belize as well..

      Reply
        NomadicJake - August 12, 2017

        Yeah, crime and the economy can be an issue in the DR. But there’s ways to get around that. Age, energy levels, and size of people play a role in this IMO.

        What cities are you considering? I’ve heard expats living peaceful lives around Cabrera. Monte Cristi looks decent to me, too.

        Not sure what factors made you consider the DR, but you may want to look at Nicaragua, too. Less crime, slow pace of living, and amazing nature at rock bottom prices.

        Reply
Is South America Dangerous For Gringos? - 2017/18 Edition - Nomadic Hustle - August 31, 2017

[…] Is the Dominican Republic Safe? – 2017 Edition […]

Reply
Is Mazatlan Safe? A Gringo's Go-To Guide - Nomadic Hustle - June 26, 2018

[…] This isn’t Colombia. Hell, it’s not even the Dominican Republic. […]

Reply
Jose Bobadilla - June 3, 2019

You’re right on something… Driving in Dominican Republic is the most easy way to get hurt, nonetheless walking/hanging around alone without some locals is just same as dangerous

Reply
    Jake Nomada - June 3, 2019

    Haha I dunno about all that…but yeah, driving in the DR is taking a major risk, especially on a bike

    Reply
Kelly - June 6, 2019

Leaving for Punta Cana in a couple of weeks. Lately in the news there has been a lot of tourist beatings and deaths. What is your thoughts on what’s been happening recently?

Reply
    Jake Nomada - June 6, 2019

    Something fishy is definitely going on at that one specific resort.

    Could be happening at others, as well.

    I honestly couldn’t tell you.

    What I do know is that low-end “resorts” in Mexico and now DR have been having issues with these type things for years now.

    Cheap booze, low quality staff, cutting corners on everything, etc.

    You won’t have any issue if you’re staying at a large, international chain type of resort…but the low-end, cheaper ones may be cause for concern.

    Reply
      Kelly - June 10, 2019

      Thanks! We are not staying at a low end Resort. Fingers crossed 🙂

      Reply
        Jake Nomada - June 11, 2019

        Stay safe! Take normal precaution and enjoy yourself. With all the bad press the country is getting right now, I have a feeling people will be on their best behavior.

        Reply
Ariana M. - September 17, 2019

I’m concerned with being extorted by police, locals and their justice system on a larger scale. My husband (US citizen born in Haiti) has personally been harassed by police and had given them money and once a local tried to blatantly steal money from him while on vacation and he felt like he had no right. If we moved there, we’d most likely own property and a car. What’s your thoughts on expats being extorted? And, Would you even recommend a Haitian-american to move to DR?

Reply
    Jake Nomada - September 19, 2019

    The DR is the wild, wild west imo. Police are not to be trusted unless you personally know them, especially when they find out you’re a foreigner. I’ve had multiple police try to search me for no apparent reason — just because I’m a gringo and they want to catch me with drugs.

    So there is that…

    However, if you’re integrated into the local community, I’m confident you can find ways around this and it will become less of an issue the longer you’re in the country.

    Reply
Dwane Farr - October 22, 2019

Jake D

Planning to move to Las Terrenas in a year or so have been there for a few weeks. Asked expats how crime is there and was told it wasn’t a big problem just keep your wits about you. But did have an incident with the police not sure with what branch. They flagged us down to stop then asked my agent if we were tourist he pulled out his license said a few things then the officer flagged us on. I have police in my family and I know a shake down when I see it. Is this a common thing? Love the City just want to know the game.

Reply
    Jake Nomada - October 23, 2019

    Sounds like a shakedown to me.

    I love the DR, but it’s a hustlers paradise. I’ve been stopped by police multiple times for walking while gringo in Zona Colonial. Just trying to see if I had anything on me that would ensure they could get a bribe.

    The better Spanish you speak, the more you’ll be able to finagle your way out of these type situations. But I’d say they’ll be a pretty common part of life when living in Las Terrenas.

    Reply
DF - October 25, 2019

Jake D,

Question I’m a gym rat but have not been able to fine a gym of any sort in Las Terrenas .I’ve been gone on the web but I cant find nada. Could you help a fellow out?

Reply
    Jake Nomada - October 25, 2019

    Hey mate, there was 100% a decent — albeit ghetto gym — in Las Terrenas when I was there a few years back. Did you Google “Gimnasio en Las Terrenas” or in English?

    Either way, I’m 99% you’ll find the gym I went to or another somewhere near the main drag in town.

    If for some reason there’s not, get on Booking and search hotels with gyms — then bribe somebody to use the best one you find 😉

    Reply
Kaitlyn - January 24, 2020

We are looking at traveling to the DR (Punta Cana) staying at a higher end resort. We are worried with all the deaths that happened last summer. We will be bringing our little kids. Do you recommend this? We normally travel to Jamaica and love it with no issues but wanted to try something different.

Reply
    Jake Nomada - January 24, 2020

    If you’re staying at a higher-end resort, you won’t have much to worry about.

    Punta Cana is pretty safe overall, and the rash of tourists death from last year seems to have completely died down.

    Overall, I wouldn’t be too concerned, especially if you’re already comfortable with Jamaica. DR is just as safe, if not safer than Jamaica.

    Reply
Leave a Reply: