The Dominican Republic is making news over violent sexual assaults and suspicious deaths of patrons at elite hotels. In the past year, nine US American citizens have died:

Joseph Allen, 55
Lela Cox, 3
Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41
John Corcoran
Robert Wallace, 67
David Harrison, 45
Yvette Monique Sport

State Department Warnings

On the State Department country specific alerts and warnings page, the Dominican Republic has a Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution alert.  Testimonies from travel agents, travel insurance, and travel evacuation pros like to compare the Dominican Republic Level 2 warning with Great Britain and major cities in the USA – but this creates a false sense of security because people don’t know how to use the State Department website: Travel.State.Gov to decipher why the two very disparate countries have a Level 2 Warning.  Let’s dive in.

The US Department of State Dominican Republic Level 2 Alert

The State Department Warns:

“Sexual Assault: Rape and sexual assault of American citizens has been reported throughout the Dominican Republic, including at major resorts and hotels.

Beaches and Resorts: Do not consume alcoholic beverages alone or with new acquaintances you may meet while in the Dominican Republic. Do not leave drinks unattended. This can put you at risk for date rape drugs and sexual assault. Victims have been assaulted while in isolated or compromising situations, sometimes by resort employees or other tourists. Call 911 and/or report any unwanted attention to hotel management. Insist that hotel management take immediate action to involve appropriate authorities such as contacting the police. In more remote areas of the country where 911 is not yet functional, see above for more detailed local emergency contact information.”

A note or caution here: State Department advises: Report crimes to the local tourist police (CESTUR) at 911 or 809-200-3500 and contact the U.S. Embassy at 809-567-7775. However, the Overseas Security Advisory Council Dominican Republic Safety 2019 reports: 

“Police Response

Corruption and official misconduct remains a serious concern. Police Internal Affairs works to prevent, investigate, monitor, control, and recommend corrective actions for any improper conduct. Although Internal Affairs investigations result in the termination of hundreds of police officers per year, these investigations are regularly under-resourced and unable to make a significant dent in the level of police corruption.”

The US Department of State United Kingdom Level 2 Alert

The US State Department warns:

“Exercise increased caution in the United Kingdom due to terrorism.” “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible near-term attacks in Europe. The UK Security Service publishes specific reasons for any changes in the threat level and recommended actions for the public via its UK threat levels website.” And, the State Department issues a warning that, “There is the potential for isolated violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland assesses there is a continued threat of violence from dissident groups in Northern Ireland, focused primarily on police and military targets, and may involve the use of firearms and explosives

Comparing State Department Level 2 Warnings for Great Britain and Dominican Republic

Great Britain has a Level 2 warning because of the risk of terrorism. Specifically, they bring the reader’s attention to the potential for political violence in Northen Ireland. The Dominican Republic has a USDOS Level 2 warning because of crime and violence including rape and sexual assaults of American citizens at major resorts! By comparison, USDOS states the Dominican Republic police force suffers corruption and that official misconduct remains a serious concern. However, no concerns on trustworthiness of Great Britain’s police response is cited.

Comparing Homicide Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, & Major Cities in the USA Homicide rates:

The Business Insider reported, “The nonprofit Transparency International ranked the Dominican Republic as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.” The 2019 Dominican Republic OSAC Crime Report says, “The murder rate remains approximately 12.5/100,000, which places it among the most murderous 10-15% of countries in the world.” For this report we quote CNN on How London’s homicide rate compares to US Major Cities, because industry travel experts have stated the Dominican Republic is comparable to major cities in the US. There are US Cities with worse homicde rates, according to CNN.

Dominican Republic = 12.5/100K Homicides

HOWEVER – Not ALL is as it seems:

Here is a Mapfight picture of the relative size of the Dominican Republic as compared to Illinois and Great Britain at 3-4X it’s size.


You are much, much closer to risk in the Dominican Republic as you would be in Great Britain, an island, or to Illinois – obviously not an island.

Is The Dominican Republic Safe

All adventures come with risks.  This article should help you identify and mitigate those risks. Depart Smart created Travel HEROES Safety Preparedness so that you could travel with super skills to identify and avoid those risks with trusted resources and tools to get help and home safely.  You need to know how to be your own HERO abroad, especially when the police force is deemed less than trustworthy. Earn your travel safety certification NOW. 

Students Are A Vulnerable Population

As our young generation of world leaders are enticed into countries where safety is a concern, they especially need to Depart Smart with Super Skills.  Make Travel HEROES a part of your standardized travel safety preparedness for study abroad.  Get a Quote.

24 Classic Travel Scams, and How to Avoid Them

Nora Dunn is a professional writer for the blog The Professional Hobo. Last March she pitched this story on Help A Reporter Out – HARO.  The story published, and has been updated as of June, 2019.  June is a paradox for me.  It is both the anniversary of the very exciting birth of my first born son. I became ‘Momsy’ on June 6, 1991.  I also became a bereaved Mother on June 29, 2007.

How people honor their loved ones and soothe their souls after a traumatic death is a very personal journey.  Nora included a very precious memory in her article, “24 Classic Travel Scams, and How to Avoid Them.” Here it is:

The Clothes/Shoes Donation

This is a sad travel scam indeed, especially when told this way by Sheryl Hill, who was traveling through the Dominican Republic many years ago with her little boy, Tyler.

“We took a private tour. Local children would run barefoot after the Jeep calling out – candy, candy!Ty asked why they didn’t have shoes. The guide said they are poor. They probably only use them for school. Ty teared up.

The guide showed us a photo of his two boys and said they also only have school shoes. His photo was of two boys exactly my boys’ ages. (Hmm) Ty told the tour guide he could have his and his little brother’s shoes and clothes for his sons. Ty went through his suitcase only keeping one pair of swimming trunks, one change of clothes, and one set of PJ’s, and then he asked his four year old brother to do the same.

I was supportive. We walked plastic bags out to the guide. He was waiting on a rickety motorcycle. Security started coming towards us. He sped off leaving one of the bags. The security guy said, ‘You know he just scammed you.’

As we left for the airport, we saw the tour guide selling the clothes on a street corner. I put my arm around Tyler, and said, ‘I’m sorry son.’ He said, ‘It’s alright Mommy, he probably needs food more than clothes.’

This story is even more tragic in that Sheryl shared with me that Tyler died approximately 10 years later while traveling with a bogus student ambassador’s group study abroad program. As a result, Sheryl founded for business and vacation travel safety, and for youth and student travel safety.

How to Avoid the Donation Scam: Hard as it may be, resist the temptation to “fix” other people’s problems while traveling by making donations. Otherwise, don’t be upset if your donation is re-purposed or sold.

Our family honors and remembers Tyler in how we choose to live our lives.  We advocate for global travel safety standards so that someone you love doesn’t become the news, instead – they return home safely to the people and places they love.

Is The Dominican Republic Safe?

The Dominican Republic is not safe.  But you can mitigate risks.  We checked the safety record of the hotel when we traveled there many years ago.  Even so, we almost got in a situation when we ventured out to eat dinner and may have been in a sketchy part of town.