Dominican Republic travel guide
About Dominican Republic
Recent years have been kind to the Dominican Republic, which is now ensconced as the Caribbean’s most visited destination. It’s not hard to see why. A seemingly endless spread of white-sandy beaches and palm trees play host to a similarly sizable range of holiday resorts (some of them ultra-exclusive, some of them less so) and the country has developed a reputation for a good-quality break at a reasonable price. The region around Punta Cana on the east coast is particularly popular, offering golf courses, all-inclusives and the usual fun-in-the-sun trappings.
To see the country purely as a beach destination, however, would be to undersell it. Making up one half of the island of Hispaniola – which it shares with Haiti in the west – it’s one of the most geographically diverse parts of the Caribbean, showcasing everything from tropical rainforests and alpine ranges to mangrove swamps and semi-desert. Mountain-bikers, windsurfers, hikers, climbers and even whale-watchers are well catered for.
No less notably, however, the Dominican Republic is also somewhere heaving with life, blending the heady rhythms of merengue and bachata music with a fondness for rum and religion and a near-unrivalled passion for baseball.
The country has a long history. It was the first part of the region to be discovered by Christopher Columbus, and a visit to capital city Santo Domingo still makes the most natural starting point for cultural visitors (particularly those who like their music loud). Colonial-era churches and fortress still stand proud, and the city as a whole is a thrusting, energetic destination full of speaker-blaring corner stores and dance-til-you-drop nightclubs.
While it’s a large country by Caribbean standards, it remains relatively easy to combine different elements of the destination on one itinerary. And whether you’re here for the beaches, the music, the countryside or the culture, the DR in full swing is a force to be reckoned with.
48,670 sq km (18,792 sq miles).
10,648,613 (UN estimate 2016).
215.3 per sq km.
President Danilo Medina since 2012.
President Danilo Medina since 2012.
110 volts AC, 60Hz. North American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without round grounding pin) are in use; some sockets may require an adaptor if you have a three-pin plug.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Dominican Republic is friendly and welcoming, but suffers from a high crime rate, ranging from opportunistic crime like bag-snatching and pick-pocketing, to violent crime.
There have been a number of incidents in Santo Domingo where foreigners have been mugged at gunpoint during the daytime while walking in residential districts.
Take particular care in remote areas, especially at night. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry large amounts of cash or expensive items like smart phones or cameras on the street. Use a hotel safe whenever possible. Don’t leave your bags or other possessions on chairs or tables in restaurants or bars. If you’re attacked or mugged, don’t resist.
There have been incidents of passengers being stopped and robbed or assaulted when travelling from the airport ‘Las Americas’ in Santo Domingo early in the morning or late at night so be vigilant, especially after dark.
If you lose your passport or it is stolen, get a police report before contacting the British Embassy. The Tourist Police (CESTUR) can be contacted on the free telephone number 1-809-200-3500.
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 tropical storm 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.
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.
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. Public transport can be unsafe, but private companies operate good bus services between cities.
Although most major roads are reasonably good, general standards of driving are poor. Drivers weave from lane to lane and rarely signal. Many vehicles are in a state of disrepair. Unlit vehicles – especially motorbikes – are common. Where possible you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night. Road accidents are frequent, especially during holiday periods like Christmas when drink-driving related incidents are common.
According to the 2015 World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Road Safety, an estimated 3,052 people were killed in the Dominican Republic – approximately 10 times more than the UK per capita rate. 20% of those killed in the Dominican Republic were pedestrians and 63% motorcyclists.
Take extra care on the road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There have been incidents of armed robberies of foreign nationals in 2016 on the Dominican side of the border by criminals dressed as police officers. If you’re crossing the border by land, be prepared for long queues at the 4 crossing points. Make sure you have all the correct vehicle documentation. Long stretches of the route are isolated, and without a mobile phone reception. Aim to complete your entire journey during daylight.
It is easy to hire a car in the Dominican Republic, with many international franchises available. You can drive using a UK driving licence for visits not exceeding 3 months.
Military and police road blocks are common, especially in the areas near the Haitian border. They often appear very informal though the soldiers do wear army uniform and carry weapons. Drivers are sometimes coerced into handing a small amount of money over before being allowed to continue their journey.
If you are involved in an accident you may be detained by police until the circumstances of the accident have been investigated. If you are detained as a result of a road accident, contact the British Embassy in Santo Domingo or Honorary Consulate in Puerto Plata or Punta Cana.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
Political demonstrations sometimes occur, although not usually near tourist areas. Avoid getting caught up in demonstrations or large gatherings of people.