Travel Warning Issued For Dominican Republic, But Should You Be Worried?

Travel Warning Issued For Dominican Republic, But Should You Be Worried?

The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic recently released a warning for Americans traveling to the popular Caribbean destination. As has been the case in many destinations this year, the country has been setting tourism records, further solidifying its place in Americans’ hearts as a favored sunny destination.

Punta Cana is the country’s premier destination and is expected to be one of this winter’s top destinations, with record numbers of visitors expected. With all the hype heading into high season, travelers may wonder if the latest warning from the U.S. Embassy is cause for concern.

Travel Warning For Dominican Republic Issued

Throughout the pandemic, it was typical to get a new round of travel warnings seemingly every other day. However, as the pandemic continues to fade into the past, travel warnings have become less frequent. Consequently, The CDC even ended its Covid Travel Advisories, signaling the end of the pandemic in the U.S.

The latest travel warning is not Covid related. Still, it has many travelers wondering if they need to change their plans for their winter vacations. Here is what the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic had this to say:

People walking along a footpath in santo domingo, dominican republic

“This message is to advise U.S. citizens that in recent months travelers to the Dominican Republic have reported being delayed, detained, or subject to heightened questioning at ports of entry and in other encounters with immigration officials based on their skin color. Reports of disparate treatment of U.S. citizens by Dominican authorities are a matter of ongoing concern to the U.S. Embassy.”

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What’s Going On In The Dominican Republic?

The Dominican Republic has been detaining people that they believe are undocumented migrants, especially those they believe are Haitian. This year’s rapid pace of deportations has led many to accuse the Dominican Republic of human rights offenses and racial profiling.

Indeed, the U.S. Embassy’s warning states, “these actions may lead to increased interaction with Dominican authorities, especially for darker-skinned U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens of African descent.”

CESFRONT patrol officer talking to haitians at the border of haiti and the dominican republic

According to records from a Haitian aid organization, October saw 14,801 people deported from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, or about 477 people per day. According to Aljazeera, the majority of the  Dominican Republic population is mixed-race, while Haiti is comprised of a primarily black population.

This led to many of the accusations facing the Dominican Republic regarding racial profiling and xenophobia, and is why the U.S. Embassy’s warning states explicitly that the situation in the country may lead to more interactions with Dominican authorities, “, especially for darker skinned U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens of African descent.”

Dominican Republic navy officer riding an atv on a sandy trail

Should You Be Worried About Traveling To The Dominican Republic?

Most travelers heading to the Dominican Republic fly into Punta Cana to take a taxi straight to an all-inclusive resort for a week or two. In doing so, they limit their interactions to airport staff, hotel staff, transportation staff, and other travelers. Typically, visitors stick to their resorts or excursions booked through local tour operators. It is less common to venture out into the public arena, but those who do should take extra precautions.

However, this is not to say that travelers should not exercise increased caution. Since this warning specifically states that U.S. citizens have reported increased questioning at ports of entry, it is important to be cautious during all parts of a journey to the Dominican Republic, especially when interacting with immigration officers and local authorities.

view of punta cana from above at sunset

In response to the warning from the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Dominican Republic said, “The Dominican government never could have imagined there would be such a harsh insinuation made about our country, much less from an ally that has been subject to accusations of xenophobic and racist treatment of migrants, including in parts of its own population.”

Further touting the country’s safety, Asonahores, a tourism organization, contradicted the claims of racial profiling that many have cast on the country. They stated, “The Dominican Republic’s popularity stems from the warmth and professionalism shown by the Dominican people to all visitors on our territory.”

Aerial-drone-view-of-Caribbean-resort-Bavaro-Punta-Cana-Dominican-Republic

Staying Safe

Ultimately, the choice to visit is left to each individual traveler. Advice from the U.S. Embassy should be considered, but in many cases, travel can occur without issue.

Below are some tips to ensure your trip to the Dominican Republic goes smoothly and safely. Tips in bold are specifically from the U.S. Embassy and regard the current warning in place.

  • “Carry your passport with you.”
  • “Carry a charged cell phone and notify the Embassy immediately if you need assistance.”
  • Given the current situation, it may be best to stick to resort areas. If venturing off the resort, stick to reputable tour operators and licensed taxis.
  • Dengue Fever is a concern in many tropical areas, including the Dominican Republic. Be sure to pack bug spray and wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
  • Avoid drug use. The Dominican Republic is very strict on drug offenses, and the penalties can be severe.
Aerial Drone Shot Of Beach Huts In Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Caribbean Sea

Important Numbers & Information

  • Police, Fire, or Ambulance Number: 911
  • Tourism Police (CESTUR) Number: 809-200-3500
  • U.S. Embassy Emergency Number: 809-567-7775

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