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 high-mountain 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, not to mention 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. The oldest fortress in the New World and colonial-era churches still stand proud, while the city as a whole is a thrusting, energetic destination full of speaker-blaring corner stores and dance-till-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.
Last updated: 22 April 2018
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.
Hurricane Irma passed the north coast of the Dominican Republic on 8 September and was followed by Hurricane Maria on 21 September 2017. There was some local flooding and minor damage to buildings in the north and east.
The hurricane season usually runs from June to November. You can monitor approaching storms on the website of the US National Hurricane Centre. You should follow the advice of local authorities in the event of any storms.
For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
165,000 British nationals visited the Dominican Republic in 2016. Most visits are trouble-free, but there are incidents of crime and violence.
Take extra care if you’re travelling between Haiti and the Dominican Republic by road. There have been armed robberies in the Dominican Republic on roads close to the border with Haiti.
Don’t become involved with illegal drugs of any kind. There are severe penalties for all drug offences. A number of British nationals are serving prison sentences for attempting to traffic drugs.
Credit card cloning and fraud are common. It’s generally safer to use cash.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Dominican Republic, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The number for the English speaking tourist police (CESTUR) is +1-809-200-3500. In Santo Domingo, Santiago and the north coast (including Puerto Plata) the number for all emergency services is 911. In Punta Cana-Bavaro, the number for emergency fire and ambulance services is +1-809-455-1551 and in Samana, the number for emergency fire and ambulance services is +1-809-538-3763.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.
Safety and security
The Dominican Republic is friendly and welcoming, but has 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 English speaking tourist police (CESTUR) can be contacted on +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 and don’t have working headlights or mirrors. Drink driving is common. Where possible you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night. Road accidents are frequent, especially during holiday periods like Christmas and Easter.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 3,000 people are killed annually on the roads in the Dominican Republic - approximately 10 times the UK per capita rate. Of those killed, 63% were motorcyclists, 20% were pedestrians and 13% were in motor vehicles.
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. Drivers are sometimes coerced into handing a small amount of money over before being allowed to continue their journey.
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.
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.
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.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Dominican Republic, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Don’t become involved with illegal drugs of any kind. There are severe penalties for all drug offences. Possession of even small quantities can lead to a long prison sentence and a hefty fine. All sentences are served in the Dominican Republic.
Pack your own luggage and don’t carry anything through customs for anyone else.
Seizures at ports and airports around the Dominican Republic have increased.
Local attitudes towards the LGBT community are mostly conservative throughout the Caribbean. Although same-sex sexual relations are legal in the Dominican Republic, same-sex marriages are not legally recognised. LGBT travellers should be mindful of local attitudes and be aware that public displays of affection may attract unwanted and negative attention. Public displays of affection (such as hand-holding or kissing) between opposite or same-sex couples are uncommon. Nearly all Dominican hotels welcome LGBT clients, although confirmation with booking agents is advised. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
All visitors need a tourist card to enter the Dominican Republic. You can get a tourist card before travel from the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in London, or on arrival at the airport at a cost of US$10 or equivalent. The Dominican Republic Embassy website has more information.
Tourist cards are initially valid for a 30-day stay but can be extended by paying for an extension when you leave the country. If you overstay this initial 30-day period, you’ll have to pay a surcharge when you leave the country. If you’re planning to stay for longer than 30 days, seek advice from a local lawyer or contact the local Immigration authorities.
There have been reports in February 2017 of immigration authorities making random checks on foreign visitors to establish the validity of their stay in the country. The Dominican Republic immigration rules haven’t changed, all tourists should have a valid tourist card for a 30 day stay or pay for an extension on departure if staying beyond 30 days. Make sure you’re able to provide a photocopy of your identification (such as a passport), and proof of onward or return travel if you’re asked to do so by the authorities.
Proof of onward or return travel
You may be refused entry if you don’t have proof of onward or return travel.
If you’re entering as a tourist your passport must be valid up to at least the date of your proposed departure from the Dominican Republic. If you’re entering the Dominican Republic for any other purpose your passport should have at least six months’ validity.
Departure tax is US$20. Scheduled airlines sometimes include this charge in the price of the ticket. Check with your tour operator or travel provider.
Travelling with children
According to the Dominican Republic authorities, visitors under 18 travelling to the Dominican Republic don’t need written authorisation from their parents as long as they enter and leave with the same person or people. If visitors between the ages of 13 and 18 are travelling alone, or in a group with no one over 18, then parental authorisation is not required as long as the group remains the same on entry and exit.
Otherwise, a visitor under the age of 18 must carry a sworn affidavit drawn up by a solicitor and signed by the child’s parents or legal guardian(s) authorising their travel. The affidavit will need to be legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Dominican Republic Embassy
UK Emergency travel documents
UK Emergency travel documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from the Dominican Republic.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
UK health authorities have classified Dominican Republic as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
There are a small number of cases of cholera in the Dominican Republic, mainly in urban slums and poor rural areas.
Public medical facilities in Dominican Republic are generally limited. Private hospitals offer good standards of care, although reports indicate that some establishments may overcharge. Dentistry is adequate. A good range of medicines is available, including some normally only available on prescription in the UK.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance in Santo Domingo dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. Outside Santo Domingo (e.g. Punta Cana, Puerto Plata) contact the tourist police (1-809-200-3500). If you’re travelling with a tour operator, also contact your representative and/or hotel. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. In the Caribbean this frequently coincides with heavy rains, which may cause flash floods and landslides.You should monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator.
See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice on what to do if you are caught up in a storm.
There are occasional earthquakes in the Dominican Republic. To protect yourself during an earthquake, you should drop to the ground, take cover and hold on until the shaking stops. If you’re inside a building don’t exit until it’s safe to do so. If you’re outside, move away from buildings, streetlights and electricity wires. After the earthquake don’t run as there may be aftershocks or debris in your path. If you become trapped, tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you. Only shout as a last resort as this may cause you to inhale dust. In the event of an earthquake, the Dominican Government authorities, fire-fighters and police will provide help to foreigners.
If a major earthquake occurs close to shore, you should follow the instructions of the local authorities, bearing in mind that a tsunami could arrive within minutes.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before during and after an earthquake and tsunami
The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso. US dollars and travellers’ cheques are easily exchanged. Only exchange money at banks or official exchange offices (casas de cambio). UK credit cards and debit cards will usually work in ATMs. Take great care when withdrawing cash at an ATM. Credit card cloning and identity theft are common. It’s generally much safer to use cash.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.