June 12, 2020 - Beckah Ripley
Last Updated: 9/10/2020
All this time in quarantine and you can’t stop dreaming about your family’s next resort vacation to sunny Punta Cana or Puerto Plata. You may be hesitating to travel to the Dominican Republic due to the coronavirus pandemic and safety concerns. With all of this in mind, don’t be so quick to write off this beautiful island as your next destination. Here’s what you need to know:
On July 1, the Dominican Republic reopened to travelers. The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism has released new safety protocols for all tourism operators, hotels and restaurants to ensure the health and safety of local residents and tourists. The Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García stated “All safety measures conform to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and aim to ensure the safety of all those who participate in tourism, from service providers to visitors. Our guiding principle is to generate a framework and tools to offer unforgettable tourist experiences in accordance with the most rigorous standards in the industry.”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases have increased since the reopening and have forced the Dominican Republic President to decree a national State of Emergency. This decree was signed on July 20th and is scheduled to last 45 days. The following restrictions apply to both tourists and locals:
Across the country, a new curfew will be enforced until September 27th. The curfew will begin at 7:00pm Monday-Friday, 5:00pm Saturday-Sunday and will lift at 5:00am each morning. If your international flight arrival or departure falls within the curfew hours and you’re forced to travel during that time period, be sure to have your passport and travel information handy if stopped by authorities while traveling to or from the airport.
Other new safety protocols include:
Airport Temperature Checks: All travelers arriving from outside the country will have their temperature checked after landing. If someone has a temperature above 100.6 °F degrees (38 °C) or appears to be suffering from any other symptoms, a rapid COVID-19 test will be provided.
Traveler’s Health Affidavit: As you go through customs, you will now be required to complete a Traveler’s Health Affidavit declaring you have not felt any COVID-19 symptoms in the past 24 hours and provide contact information for the next 30 days. Until September 14th, showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required.
Social Distancing & Masks Enforced: Hotels, bars, restaurants and tour operators in the country will also be requiring masks, enforcing new social distancing standards and opting for temperature checks of their own.
On April 15th, 2019, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory to the Dominican Republic. This advisory was put into effect due to a rise of crime in the country and means to “exercise increased caution” when traveling to the Dominican Republic. However, since August 21, 2020, the U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory, meaning “do not travel”. Does this advisory mean you should avoid planning that future beach vacation? Not at all! Other countries that currently have a Level 2 Travel Advisory are the United Kingdom, France, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and countless other popular tourist destinations. If you take normal precautions and understand what the risks are, it’s likely you will enjoy your travels incident-free. A little common sense goes a long way.
Here’s a few travel safety measures you can take to avoid unsafe situations during your trip.
Register for STEP: The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service for US citizens traveling abroad. The program allows you to register and connect your travels to the nearest U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic.
Dress Simply: The most popular crime in the country is a drive-by robbery. The robber usually quickly approaches you on a motorcycle or bicycle, grabs your purse or jewelry you may be wearing, and zooms away, all within a couple of seconds. To avoid this, dress simply, wear limited jewelry and leave the designer purse at home.
Plan Day Activities: A majority of crimes occur during the evening hours so if you’ll be planning on going on an excursion or tour, plan to arrive back at your resort or hotel by dusk.
If you’re worried about planning a vacation to the Dominican Republic due to crime, travel insurance can provide some extra peace of mind. If there is a travel or medical emergency during your trip, travel insurance provides 24/7 emergency assistance to ensure you and your loved ones are taken care of as soon as possible. Policies also include protection for your belongings should they become lost or stolen during your trip. Since the price of travel insurance is determined by a number of factors, it’s best to compare your options to find a policy that provides the coverage you’re looking for at the most affordable price!
While some cities might be safer than others in the Dominican Republic, it’s imperative to follow the safety precautions above wherever you plan to travel. The most popular destinations in the Dominican Republic are Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata.
Punta Cana is located in La Altagracia, the Dominican Republic’s eastern most province. Despite the deaths that made media headlines in 2019, the city is one of the safest in the country. Punta Cana’s main resort area is patrolled by CESTUR, a police force dedicated to keeping foreigners, resorts and popular tourist areas safe.
Puerto Plata is situated on the northern coast and is well-known for its colonial architecture and the unbelievable sea views from the cable car going up to Mount Isabel de Torres. Similar to Punta Plata, since this city is a well-known tourist destination, crime is low but thefts are common so leave valuables at home or in the hotel safe when taking a day excursion to the fascinating Jewish-influenced city of Sosua.
The capital Santo Domingo located on the southern coast is the largest city in the Dominican Republic and is most susceptible to petty crime. It’s not uncommon for muggings to occur in the daytime and scams, especially for unmarked taxis or false police officers.
Hurricane season in the North Atlantic usually occurs June – November with the month of September usually being the peak month for storms. Yet, in the past 100 years, there have been less than 15 hurricanes that have hit the Dominican Republic. You should still plan that tropical summer vacation but make sure you’re well-prepared for hurricane season travel by staying on top of the weather, buying travel insurance as soon as you make a deposit or payment towards your trip, bringing an emergency kit and remaining flexible.
As previously mentioned, the Dominican Republic has reopened their borders to tourists. According to the local news station Dominican Today, 11 of the 15 provinces have managed to flatten the COVID curve and there shouldn’t be any reason to close the country again. Here’s some safe, “socially distant” and family-friendly activities not to miss during your trip!
Adventure Enthusiasts: Love adding a bit of adrenaline to your trip? Book a 3-hour white water raft tour down the Yaque del Norte River, the largest river in the Caribbean. Rancho Jarabacoa provides an experience to see the Dominican Republic countryside from the water with a professional guide. Guests must be at least 12 years old.
Learn a New Skill: You’re excited to spend your days relaxing at the beach — rightfully so! Why not combine beach time with learning a new skill like surfing? Macao Surf Camp in Punta Cana offers private or group surf lessons for travelers at all levels.
Lagoon Hop: Explore Punta Cana’s Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve and its 12 freshwater lagoons, 5 of which are swimmable. The extremely clear, deep turquoise waters are a perfect photo opportunity for that family Christmas card.
The Dominican Republic has opened it’s borders to international visitors on and will not require a 14-day quarantine after arrival. Almost 50% of hotels and resorts will be opening this month with the remaining hospitality providers opening by November. Airlines are scheduled to resume flights to all major airports in the country. It’s still unknown when cruises will be able to resume their Caribbean routes so it may be wise to postpone the family cruise to 2021 and book a resort vacation this summer or fall instead. The time to start planning is now!
With the start of hurricane season and the ever changing state of the coronavirus pandemic, be sure to protect your nonrefundable trip expenses with travel insurance as soon as your first deposit or payment is made. If you’re confused as to what coverage you need or what insurance company to trust, talk to a friendly travel insurance expert who can walk you through your concerns and provide a quote for your next trip.