Millions of Americans visit the Dominican Republic each year without problems, but crime nonetheless is a serious problem in this Caribbean nation. Violent crime only rarely touches visitors, but property crimes are more common and sometimes tourists are specifically targeted. Credit-card fraud is a particular concern.
The overall threat of crime in the Dominican Republic is high, and although security tends to be better in tourist areas, no place in the country is immune from crime, violent or otherwise. For example, the top five most violent cities in the D.R. include Samana, while the rate of assaults was highest in La Romana.
Credit-card thieves may attempt to steal your password when you are using an ATM. Some gangs have been known to kidnap people briefly and force them to drive to an ATM and drain their accounts of cash. Try to avoid using public ATMs as much as possible, and use credit cards rather than debit cards.
Drive-by robberies remain the most commonly reported crime, with robbers on motorcycles or scooters snatching valuables and riding off. Visitors are advised to keep their valuables close and out of sight to avoid such thefts. Thieves also operate in hotel restaurants and other public areas, looking to steal purses or briefcases. Pools and beaches also are prime locations for such crimes; never leave valuables unguarded. In fact, always leave valuables at home, and carry as little cash as possible.
Prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic, but some prostitutes act as lures to facilitate property crimes, either from customers themselves or from their hotel rooms.
Avoid walking in public parks or areas that are isolated at night, such as Parque Mirador del Sur, and areas that surround Santo Domingo's National District, such as Santo Domingo Oeste, Este, and Norte. Also be cautious in certain areas within the National District, including East of Avenue Maximo Gomez, Simon Bolivar, Luperon, Espaillat, and Capotillo; South of Parque Mirador del Sur, West of Avenue Luperon, Avenue George Washington, Paseo Presidente Billini, and Avenue del Puerto.
If confronted by a criminal with a weapon, hand over your valuables. Resistance can lead to violence.
Police response to crime may be slow, and official misconduct remains a problem within the National Police force. Soliciting and accepting bribes, such as for traffic stops, is not unheard of.
The highway network in the Dominican Republic is generally good, but driving conditions can be dangerous in urban areas and even on highways. Traffic controls and enforcement can be lax, and drivers are often aggressive. Visitors are advised to avoid public transportation in favor of hotel-dispatched taxis or, for intercity travel, reputable tour bus companies. Travel at night should be avoided, even on major highways. Consider hiring a local driver.
Hurricanes and earthquakes are facts of life in this part of the Caribbean.
Most medical care in Santo Domingo is adequate for the majority of health problems. For more details, see the Dominican Republic Crime and Safety Report published annually by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.