Dominican Republic travel guide
About Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic is 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 sizeable range of holiday resorts. The country has developed a reputation for a good-quality break at a reasonable price, for what it’s worth.
With its 32km (20 miles) stretch of beaches and clear blue sea, the region around Punta Cana on the east coast is particularly popular, offering golf courses, all-inclusive holidays and the usual fun-in-the-sun trappings.
Dominican Republic makes up one half of the island of Hispaniola – which it shares with Haiti in the west. The country is one of the most geographically diverse parts of the Caribbean, showcasing everything from tropical rainforests and high-mountain ranges to mangrove swamps and semi-deserts. Mountain-bikers, windsurfers, hikers, climbers and even whale-watchers are well catered for.
No less notably, however, the Dominican Republic is 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 in 1492. A visit to capital city Santo Domingo still makes the most natural starting point for cultural visitors. The oldest fortress Fortaleza Ozama (built in 1502) 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 in 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.
48,442 sq. km (18,792 sq. miles).
10,776,988 (UN estimate 2016).
233 per sq. km (86.1 sq. miles).
President Danilo Medina since 2012.
President Danilo Medina since 2012.
Last updated: 26 November 2019
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 hurricane season normally runs from June to November. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. Spanish language alerts are available from the Dominican Emergency Management Centre (COE) via their mobile app ‘AlertaCOE’, or on their Twitter account.
179,000 British nationals visited the Dominican Republic in 2017. 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 in the Dominican Republic for attempting to traffic drugs.
For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
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 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 pick-pocketing 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.
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.
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.
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.
UK government officials are advised not to use airlines registered in Haiti.
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.
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.
Local laws and customs
Don’t become involved with illegal drugs of any kind. There are severe penalties for all drug offences. Cases can take several years to go through the judicial process, during which the accused person is likely to be held in detention. Possession of even small quantities can lead to a long prison sentence and a hefty fine. All sentences are served in the Dominican Republic.
Seizures at ports and airports around the Dominican Republic have increased. Pack your own luggage and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else.
The Dominican Republic is a Christian country with prominent Catholic and evangelical communities.
Public displays of affection (such as hand-holding or kissing) between opposite or same-sex couples are uncommon.
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. 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.
Visas and proof of onward or return travel
British Citizens travelling to the Dominican Republic for tourism don’t need a visa.
As of April 2018, the tourism entry tax (previously known as a tourist card) is no longer collected upon arrival and should be included in your air fare. Contact your airline or tour operator if you’re unsure whether you have already paid this fee. The Dominican Republic Embassy website has more information.
On arrival you will normally be granted a 30-day stay. This can be extended to 60 days by paying for an extension when you leave the country. If you’re planning to stay for longer, seek advice from a local lawyer or contact the local Immigration authorities.
As a foreign national you will be required to give your fingerprints and have a photograph taken in order to enter the Dominican Republic.
You must carry a photocopy of your identification (such as a passport), a copy of your entry stamp and proof of onward or return travel at all times, so that you can produce them if you’re asked to do so by the authorities.
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 often 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.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
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 they can be expensive. 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. In some cases, if visitors are not able to pay their hospital bills, they have been prevented from leaving the country until the debt is settled.
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.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused some local flooding and minor damage to buildings in the north and east of the country in September 2017.
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 and where possible withdraw money inside a bank branch, shopping centre or supermarket, rather than an ATM on the street.
Credit card cloning and identity theft are a risk in the Dominican Republic. You should avoid letting your payment card out of your sight when paying, or pay in cash instead.
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.
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