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Country Reports

Dominican Republic Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Dominican Republic (population 10.7 million), which shares the island of Hispaniola with neighboring Haiti, is a popular tourist destination. However, travelers should be aware of several potential issues related to crime, natural disasters, subpar health conditions, and other risks present in the country.

CRIME

Rates of violent crime are a concern - including in areas popular with tourists - due in part to the presence of drug traffickers and organized crime groups. While not at catastrophic levels, violent crime, including incidents of attacks and sexual assault of which foreigners are sometimes the victims, is regularly reported, including in resort areas. Drive-by robberies in which assailants grab valuables (cell phones, purses, necklaces) within arm's reach are also common. While most criminal acts are nonviolent, assailants are often armed and may not hesitate to use force if the victim offers resistance. Always carry a small amount of cash to be able to appease a thief and avoid an escalation of the situation.

Crime levels tend to rise during the holiday (November-January) and Carnival (February) seasons.

Levels of insecurity are typically high along the border with neighboring Haiti.

While relatively rare, express kidnappings, in which victims are robbed and/or forced to withdraw cash from ATM machines, do occasionally occur.

NATURAL RISKS

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 and heavy rains from tropical storms often cause floods and landslides. Hurricane Isaac left five dead in August 2012; in August 2011, Hurricane Irene triggered the evacuation of 32,000 people and resulted in at least four deaths. Hurricanes Irma and Maria both passed near the island in September 2017, but neither caused significant damages.

Up-to-date information and weather warnings are available at the website of the Dominican Republic's Center of Emergency Operations.  

The Dominican Republic is within an active seismic zone and, consequently, is susceptible to earthquakes.

SOCIAL UNREST

Social unrest (e.g. strikes, demonstrations) is not uncommon in the Dominican Republic. In mid-2017, numerous protests led by the Marcha Verde (Green March) movement took place to denounce government corruption - an endemic issue  revelations of a massive bribery scandal involving the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.

The frequency and size of protests tend to increase during electoral periods. National elections - marred by acts of political violence - took place in May 2016 and resulted in the reelection of President Danilo Medina. The next presidential and legislative elections are set to take place in 2020.

Even seemingly peaceful protests can rapidly turn violent and, as such, all should be avoided as a precaution. Roadblocks erected by protesters can result in significant traffic disruptions.

TRANSPORTATION

It should be noted that the Dominican Republic has the highest per capita rate of fatal traffic accidents in Latin America, amounting to nearly 30 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants on a yearly basis. This is due in large part to erratic driving habits, the nonenforcement of traffic laws, and poorly maintained roads. It is advisable to avoid driving oneself when possible, particularly at night.

For similar safety reasons, it also advised to refrain from using public transportation; travel by licensed taxis or chauffeured cars is best.

Airlines serving the Dominican Republic generally meet international safety and security standards, except for Insel Air.

Note that police checkpoints are common. Always drive with proper identification documentation (e.g. passport and visa, if relevant) and car registration information.

HEALTH

Travelers should note that while high-quality medical care and facilities are generally available in tourist areas, this is often not the case in less-visited regions of the Dominican Republic.

Water- and food-borne diseases are present, including occasional outbreaks of cholera. To minimize the risk of contracting such an illness, do not drink tap water or beverages with ice. Avoid any undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.). Wash hands thoroughly before meals.

Several mosquito-borne diseases are also present:

  • There is a low risk of malaria year round. The disease is not present in the cities of Santo Domingo or Santiago.
  • Nearly 7000 cases of dengue fever (including 39 deaths) were reported in 2016; however, case rates have fallen sharply in 2017.
  • There is a high risk of contracting the Zika virus throughout the country. While the virus is usually relatively benign, links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects, as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), have been established.
  • Chikungunya has been circulating in the country since February 2014, although transmission rates are relatively low as of mid-late 2017.

Rabies is also present; keep your distance from stray animals (particularly street dogs) and seek immediate medical attention if bitten or scratched.

LEGAL

The government takes drug trafficking very seriously, and individuals caught with drugs may be held for long periods of time without trial and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years; take care to never let baggage out of sight when traveling.

Climate

The climate in the Dominican Republic is tropical with easterly winds passing over the island nation throughout the year. The rainy season lasts from May until November in the south and from December until April in the north. Hurricanes can strike between June and November with the risk particularly high in early September.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +849 Police: 911 Fire Dept.: 911 Ambulance: 911

Electricity

Voltage: 110 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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