Safety and security – Dominican Republic travel advice


The Dominican Republic is friendly and welcoming and the vast majority of visits to the country are trouble-free. However, there is a high crime rate, ranging from opportunistic crime like bag snatching and pickpocketing to violent crime.

Petty crime, including pickpocketing and robbery takes place across the country. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry large amounts of cash or valuable items like smart phones or cameras on the street. Keep electronic devices out of sight and use a hotel safe whenever possible. Don’t leave your bags or other possessions on chairs or tables in restaurants or bars.

Drive-by robberies can occur, where thieves on motorcycles snatch bags and valuables from pedestrians and sometimes reach through the windows of cars at red lights to steal belongings. Victims are sometimes hurt in the process. Keep valuables out of sight, and if you have a bag with you, carry it on the side away from the street. If travelling in a car, drive with doors locked and windows closed.

Violent crime and armed robberies against foreigners do sometimes take place, particularly in large cities. There have been a number of incidents in Santo Domingo where foreigners have been mugged at gunpoint or knifepoint during the daytime while walking in residential districts.

Take particular care at night and in remote areas. If you’re robbed, don’t resist, as this increases the risk of being hurt. Be aware that your attacker may be armed, even if you cannot see a weapon. Don’t use unregistered taxis, or hail a taxi on the street: use an authorised airport or hotel taxi service, or book a taxi from a reliable provider.

Incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners have occurred, including at beach resorts. In some cases, hotel employees or fellow guests have been implicated. Be cautious when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, be wary of rides or other invitations, avoid walking alone at night and don’t leave drinks unattended.

If you’re a victim of a sexual assault or other crime, you should report it immediately to the British Embassy. Consular staff can help you to report the incident with local authorities if you wish to do so, explaining the process and assisting with the language barrier if required. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Dominican authorities before departing the country.

If you lose your passport or it is stolen, a police report should be obtained before contacting the British Embassy. The English speaking tourist police (CESTUR) can be contacted on +1-809-200-3500.

Water safety and sports

Lifeguards may not be present at swimming pools or on beaches and safety and rescue equipment may not be available.

The sea can be dangerous, especially during the hurricane season (June-November). Seek local advice about sea conditions and warning systems and follow instructions.

Don’t go into the water if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Providers of recreational and adventure tourism may not meet UK safety standards.
Check safety standards and make sure you’re insured if you take part in activities like water sports, quad biking, horse riding etc. If in doubt seek advice from your tour operator.

Local travel

Taxis are cheap but many are in a state of disrepair. There have been cases of theft from taxis, so keep valuables and cash secure and out of sight. Tourist taxis are safer and more reliable, but also more expensive. Ride-hailing apps, such as Uber, are available and widely used.

Don’t use motorbike taxis (“motoconchos”) or motorbike ride-hailing apps: the quality of driving is poor and passengers are often not provided with a helmet.

A range of transport is available, including the newly-expanded metro system in Santo Domingo. Avoid public buses and “carros publicos” (shared cars which run on certain routes, picking up passengers) for safety and security reasons. However, private companies do operate good bus services between cities.

Pedestrians should take extra care when crossing roads. Drivers will not always signal when they intend to turn and motorbikes in particular will sometimes disregard red traffic lights.

Road travel

It’s easy to hire a car in the Dominican Republic, with many international car hire companies available in major cities and at airports.

You can drive using a UK driving licence for visits not exceeding 3 months. For longer visits, you should apply for a local driving licence, for which you will need to present a certified copy of your valid UK licence.

To certify your driving licence, you will need to get a copy certified by a UK notary or lawyer in the UK. Once this is done, the Legalisation Office in the UK needs to attach an apostille and return the legalised driving licence to you. While some notaries may not be willing to carry out a notarial act without an individual being present, others are, and are also willing to forward applications to the Legalisation Office once they have completed their part. You can find a list of notaries currently authorised to practice on the website of the Faculty Office (the regulator of Notaries Public in England and Wales). You should contact notaries directly to check whether you would need to be present when they notarise your driving licence.

The Dominican Republic has one of the highest death rates in the world for road traffic accidents. Road accidents are frequent, especially during holiday periods like Christmas and Easter. Drivers often do not respect traffic laws, weave from lane to lane and rarely signal. Many vehicles are in a state of disrepair and don’t have working headlights or mirrors. Drink driving is common. The quality of roads vary, although the motorways connecting cities and tourist areas are good.

Where possible you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night, as there may be poor lighting, animals or pedestrians on the road and other cars driving without headlights. If police stop you for a traffic violation, you are entitled to request a traffic ticket and to ask to see the officer’s identification.

Take particular care if travelling on motorbikes or scooters. According to the WHO, 63% of the road deaths in the Dominican Republic were people on motorcycles or scooters.

Take extra care on the road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There have been armed robberies in the Dominican Republic on roads close to the border with Haiti, including by criminals dressed as police officers.

If you’re crossing the border into Haiti by land, be prepared for long queues at the 4 crossing points. Make sure you have all the correct vehicle documentation and cash to pay exit and entry fees. Long stretches of the route are isolated, and without a mobile phone reception. Aim to complete your entire journey during daylight.

Military and police road blocks are common, especially in the areas near the Haitian border. The people manning the road blocks often appear very informal, although the soldiers do wear army uniform and carry weapons.

Road accidents

If you’re involved in a road accident, you must file a report with the authorities. If the accident didn’t cause injuries and happened in Santo Domingo or Santiago, you should register it at La Casa del Conductor. This is a government dependency with English speaking agents, where there are representatives from all the relevant authorities including the police and insurance companies. If the accident occurs in any other part of the Dominican Republic, you should file a report at the nearest police station.

If you’re involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, Dominican law requires that the driver is taken into police custody until the circumstances of the accident have been investigated, even if the driver appears not to be at fault. You should call the police, and wait for them to arrive, at the scene of the accident. If you’re detained as a result of a road accident, ask the police to contact the British Embassy in Santo Domingo.

The telephone number for national roadside assistance is +1-829-689-1000.

Political situation

Political demonstrations sometimes occur, although not usually near tourist areas. Avoid getting caught up in demonstrations or large gatherings of people and follow the instructions of local authorities.

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