Dominican Republic

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 25 July 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary, under Health (chikungunya virus update) and under Where to get help (information on the Australian Consulate in Santo Domingo). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in the Dominican Republic because of the risk of serious criminal activity.

Dominican Republic overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Dominican Republic because of the risk of serious criminal activity.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Political demonstrations can occur across the country. You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • Confirmed cholera cases continue to be reported in the Dominican Republic.
  • The hurricane season is from June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See the Natural Disasters section for detailed advice.
  • The Australian Consulate in Santo Domingo provides limited consular assistance to Australians in the Dominican Republic. The Consulate does not issue Australian passports. The Australian Embassy in Mexico is able to provide full consular assistance..
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy of the Dominican Republic for the most up-to-date information.

Tourists entering the Dominican Republic must purchase a tourist card, costing USD10, which is valid for 30 days. Tourists wishing to stay longer need to pay an additional fee at the airport on departure or through the Department of Immigration.

A departure tax of USD20 is payable for visits of up to two weeks and may be included in the price of the airline ticket. Travellers should confirm if this is the case with their travel agent or airline. If tourists stay for a longer period the departure tax increases.

If you are travelling to the United States of America (USA), or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other USA points of entry, you are required to meet USA entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest US Embassy or Consulate your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Political demonstrations can occur across the country, but are most common in and around the cities of Santiago, Salcedo, Bonao, and Santo Domingo. Demonstrations have affected traffic and essential services in the past. You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime

The crime rate in the Dominican Republic is high.

Violent crime has occurred in popular tourist areas. Female travellers are particularly at risk. To minimise risks, you should remain vigilant in public areas and avoid public transport or walking or jogging alone, especially after dark. Victims have been injured when resisting perpetrators. Where possible, you should travel with other people. Using a reputable tour company or tour organiser may reduce risks associated with travel in remote areas.

Women, especially if travelling alone, should exercise caution when dealing with strangers or new acquaintances (including hotel employees). You should not accept invitations or lifts due to the incidence of aggressive sexual behaviour and assault, including rape, towards foreign women.

Petty crime including pickpocketing and bag-snatching is common in major cities and tourist areas, including airports and bus terminals. Tourists are often targeted. Thefts have occurred in resorts, on beaches, in hotel rooms and from hotel room safes. You should be vigilant at all times and be cautious of strangers offering unsolicited services or unusual requests. If you do become a victim of crime, you should get a police report for insurance purposes.

Avoid displaying valuable items such as cameras and mobile phones. Laptops and tablets are frequently targeted, so carry them inconspicuously in a backpack or other carry-on luggage.

Tourist police (POLITUR) provide assistance to tourists and regularly patrol tourist areas. They can be contacted on a 24 hour telephone number +1 809 754 3000.

Criminals have targeted tourists arriving at the international airport, stealing items from checked baggage and carry-on luggage. You should carefully monitor your luggage at all times at airports in the Dominican Republic.

There have been incidents of roadside armed robberies involving foreigners travelling to and from the Las Americas International Airport. These robberies have targeted travellers in taxis and private vehicles, particularly at night. You should exercise particular caution when leaving the airport, use authorised airport taxis and avoid travel to and from the airport at night.

Incidents of drink spiking at bars and other entertainment venues have occurred, often resulting in theft and assault. Do not leave your drink unattended.

Using ATMs on the street puts you at high risk of robbery. Changing money at hotels or using ATMs inside banks, shopping centres or department stores may reduce this risk. Do not withdraw too much money at any one time, avoid making withdrawals at night and be aware of your surroundings.

As the risk of HIV infection in the Dominican Republic is considered to be much higher than for Australia, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, traveller’s cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso. Australian dollars may not be easily converted into Dominican pesos. United States dollars and traveller’s cheques are readily exchanged at banks or official exchange offices.

Credit card and ATM fraud are common. Use credit cards with caution, particularly in Santo Domingo and the resort areas. Keep your credit card in sight when using it.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and traveller’s cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Travel by road may be dangerous due to aggressive driving practices and poorly maintained vehicles and roads. Traffic laws are routinely ignored. Rural roads lack adequate signage and lighting and are often shared with pedestrians, bicycles and farm animals. Avoid driving at night. Ensure your vehicle doors are locked and windows closed at all times. Traffic accidents are commonplace and if you are involved in an accident you should remain at the scene and wait until the police authorise you to leave. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Travellers have been robbed and assaulted when using unofficial taxis. The use of radio-dispatched taxis or those from hotels may reduce risks. We recommend you do not use the route taxis, also known as ‘carros publicos’, as there is an increased risk of passengers being robbed.

Mudslides and road collapses caused by heavy rains are common and roads may be closed at short notice, especially during the hurricane seasons (See Additional information: Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate).

Only use recommended tour operators and ensure they have proper safety equipment (such as helmets and life jackets) before participating in extreme or eco-tourist activities.

Due to strong undertows in some areas of the Dominican Republic, you should check conditions with your hotel or other authorities before entering the water. Lifeguards are not readily available at some hotels and beach resorts.

Australians travelling to neighbouring Haiti are advised to read the travel advice for Haiti.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in the Dominican Republic, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local prisons where conditions are harsh. As part of standard local procedure, you may be subjected to drug screening measures by authorities upon departure from the country.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are arrested and may be detained.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

Homosexual activity is not illegal in the Dominican Republic, however LGBTI travellers should be aware of local sensitivities, particularly in rural communities. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Information for dual nationals

The Dominican Republic recognises dual nationality, however if you are an Australian/Dominican citizen and are charged with a crime, it is unlikely that the authorities will advise the Australian Government. Our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Dominican dual nationals who are detained or arrested may be limited. We strongly recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in the major cities of the Dominican Republic offer reasonable primary care, however the facilities outside of these centres are of a low standard with little English spoken by hospital staff. Blood supplies are often limited.

Medical expenses can be high and evidence of medical insurance, up-front payment or a guarantee of payment may be required before a patient is treated. Medical care can be very expensive in the Dominican Republic if you do not carry travel insurance.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Dominican Republic is high compared to rates in Australia, but globally is considered low to moderate. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. For further information see the WHO’s websites http://www.who.int/hiv/en/ and http://www.who.int/topics/hiv_aids/en/.

Confirmed cholera cases continue to be reported in the Dominican Republic. Cholera causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can be fatal if left untreated. Correct food hygiene and preparation are essential to minimise the risk of contracting cholera. We advise you to drink only bottled or boiled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek immediate medical advice if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Mosquito-borne illnesses are common in the Dominican Republic, especially during the hot months (May to November). Seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache as they are symptoms of both dengue fever and the more recently emerging chikungunya virus. We recommend that you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
For further information see the World Health Organization's factsheets on dengue fever and chikungunya.

Transmission of malaria in the Dominican Republic is limited, with the highest risk in the western area (bordering Haiti). Malaria has been reported in some of the beach resort locations and areas where adventure sport activities are undertaken. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria.

There is a high risk of rabies in the Dominican Republic and visitors are strongly advised to avoid direct contact with dogs, cats, mongooses (small cat-like animals) and other animals. If bitten or scratched, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, filariasis, and leptospirosis) are prevalent with the risk of more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

You should also be aware that illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera, as well as scombroid (histamine fish poisoning) and toxins in shellfish can be a hazard (for more information see Queensland Health’s fact sheet). Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning. Outbreaks of ciguatera poisoning have occurred on many Caribbean islands.

Where to get help

The Australian Consulate in Santo Domingo, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in the Dominican Republic. The Consulate does not issue Australian passports. Contact details are:

Australian Consulate, Santo Domingo

Avenida Los Próceres, Esq. Euclides Morillo
Diamond Plaza, Local 29-A
Arroyo Hondo, Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
Telephone: (809) 541 4446 / 540 5563
E-mail: suite600@claro.net.do

You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico. Contact details are:

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario #55
Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico DF Mexico
Telephone: (52 55) 1101 2200
Facsimile: (52 55) 1101 2201
E-mail: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.mexico.embassy.gov.au

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

If you are travelling to the Dominican Republic, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The hurricane season is from June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. Roads and bridges may collapse and power and communication systems could be affected in some areas. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should follow the instructions of the local authorities. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who choose to or remain in the Dominican Republic. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

The wet season is from May to November. Heavy rainfalls can cause landslides and mudslides, often with devastating effect on people, property, local infrastructure and essential services. Information on severe weather conditions can be obtained from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

The Dominican Republic is subject to earthquakes. The major earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 was felt throughout the Dominican Republic, and areas near the border with Haiti were affected. Seismic activity can occur at any time. Australians are advised to remain alert to local media and, in the event of an earthquake to follow the instructions of local authorities. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel’s procedures in case of an earthquake.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure for more information on tsunamis.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.