Stay Safe in Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is generally a safe country. Although the major cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago have seen the rise of an affluent middle class and a building boom, and have achieved a high level of cosmopolitanism, the Dominican Republic is still a third world country and poverty is still endemic, so you should take common sense precautions:
- Try to avoid travelling alone in cities as muggings are quite common.
- Very few streets are lit after dark, even in the capital Santo Domingo. Those that are lit are subject to regular power outages.
- Feral dogs are common throughout the country but largely ignore humans (it is not recommended to feed these dogs as this can cause aggressive behaviour).
- Western travellers should dress casually and take off rings and other jewellery when outside tourist destinations, but the usual tourist destinations, especially the more expensive and luxurious hotels and areas, are very safe.
- Since sex tourism is very common in the province of Puerto Plata, you risk being harassed by young men or women who will try to offer you “services”. A firm “no” is sufficient. The age of consent is 18 and tourists who have sex with minors can also be prosecuted by their country of origin.
- There is no law that prescribes the maximum amount of alcohol that may be consumed before driving. However, there is a limit of 0.05% for professional drivers. Be careful with vehicles, especially late at night when it is much more likely that the driver is intoxicated. It is illegal for tourists and visitors to drive under the influence of alcohol, and apart from being a bad idea, you can be fined for it.
The level of professionalism of the national police is somewhat questionable. In order to protect tourism revenues, the government has created the Politur or “Tourist Police” to ensure the safety of foreign tourists. Travellers should contact this agency if they have any problems, as the response will be much more positive than with the national police.
Stay Healthy in Dominican Republic
Malaria can be a rare problem near tropical forests if travellers do not take protective measures such as mosquito bite repellent. No cases have been reported in tourist areas in the last 8 years. Be sure to consult a doctor before departure.
There is a risk of dengue fever and chikungunya fever, which are transmitted by mosquitoes that bite during the day and at certain times of the year. A vaccine is not available, so it is advisable to use a mosquito repellent.
Most local foods, including meat, fruit and vegetables, are safe to eat.
However, visitors should not drink the local water and stick to bottled water or other drinks. It is important that visitors stay hydrated in the hot, humid climate.
Sunburn and sun poisoning are a big risk. The sun is very bright here. Use at least a sunscreen with SPF 30. Limit exposure to the sun.
HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults in the country is 2.0%, or 1 in 50 adults, almost three times that of the United States. Practice safe sex.