Safety and Security
Foreign tourists are often considered attractive targets for criminal activity and you should maintain a low profile to avoid becoming a victim of violence or crime. In dealing with local police, you should be aware that the standard of professionalism might vary. Police attempts to solicit bribes have been reported, as have incidents of police using excessive force.
Protests, demonstrations, and general strikes occur periodically. Previous political demonstrations have sometimes turned violent, with participants rioting and erecting roadblocks, and police sometimes using deadly force in response. Political demonstrations do not generally occur in areas frequented by tourists and are generally not targeted at foreigners. However, it is advisable to exercise caution when traveling throughout the country. Street crowds should be avoided. In urban areas, travel should be conducted on main routes whenever possible. Power outages occur frequently throughout the Dominican Republic, and travelers should remain alert during blackout periods, as crime rates often increase during these outages.
If you are considering overland travel between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, you should first consult the Country Specific Information page, the Travel Warning for Haiti, and the Messages for U.S. citizens page on the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince's website for information about travel conditions in Haiti. While Santo Domingo and the majority of the tourist destinations within the Dominican Republic are located several hours from the Haitian border, the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti has contributed to increased congestion in the area between Barahona, Dominican Republic, and the Haitian border along route 44. There were two incidents involving attacks against U.S. citizen relief workers as they traveled from Haiti to Santo Domingo. In both cases, the U.S. citizens observed common safety practices such as traveling in a large group and in conjunction with other vehicles. Despite the extra precautions, the groups were attacked. In one incident, armed men blocked the highway with burning tires and opened fire on a passing bus. The armed men also shattered a bus window with a rock and the bus driver was forced to ram the burning blockade in order to escape to safety. In another incident, armed gunmen and men with machetes detained a group of U.S. citizen relief workers for several hours.
The U.S. Embassy cautions its staff to use extreme caution while in Haiti. Other than official business, travel to Haiti for U.S. Embassy personnel is discouraged. The Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Haiti. U.S. citizens who travel to Haiti despite this Warning, especially in the area along route 44 near the border of Haiti, should travel in groups during daylight hours and use caution. Drivers who encounter illegal roadblocks should stop a significant distance away, drive in reverse or turn around, and drive to the nearest town to report the blockade to local authorities. Drivers should do their best to leave the danger zone and get to safety.