How safe is Punta Cana? Intending travelers planning to visit Punta Cana always ask this question.
Right at the junction between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea lies Punta Cana, just at the Eastern Shore of the Dominican Republic.
Punta Cana is obviously a famous resort area; one of the most visited and popular resort places in the world with statistics of international visitors of about 3.45 million people in 2016, 3.64 million people in 2017 and 4.35 million people in 2018.
You may be wondering, what could have been so attractive and unique about this place to have drawn such a great mass of people.
Well, Punta Cana happens to be a place of extreme happenings and a good site for vacation or even tourism.
The unbounded beaches, the touchy-feely palm trees, chilly breezes, fine waters, hotels and romantic resort sites are all part of the Punts Cana marvel.
However, as a traveler and especially one who intends to visit Punta Cana there are things you need to know.
Amidst all the wonders and excitement you can get from a place like Punta Cana, there are questions to be asked and answered not just to Punta Cana alone but every city you intend visiting.
In this post, we will be focusing on Punta Cana alone.
The big questions: Where is Punta Cana, and How safe is Punta Cana?
Punta Cana is a resort area on the Eastern-most part of the Dominican Republic, in the province of La Altagracia, located on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola.
This Dominican Republic shares an island with Haiti, a nation with a reputation for crime and danger.
There have been numerous records of deaths, drug trafficking, kidnapping, rape, disease attack, duping, etc, all in Punta Cana.
And to that very effect, the U.S Department Of State has declared the Dominican Republic a threat-level 2 destination which tells citizens and visitors to maintain high-level caution.
Some other countries like France, China, UK, and South Africa have also, a threat-level 2 declaration by the U.S Department of State.
The question “How safe is Punta Cana?” is no more a code to crack. It’s an obvious fact how unsafe and unlawful Punta Cana can be and as a traveler who intends to visit there, that’s too much of a risk to take.
However, “don’t run away just yet”, wait to get a clearer image of the whole situation in Punta Cana.
You probably might have stumbled upon this article because you’re planning on a trip or you’ve already booked a flight ticket to Punta Cana and you’re already startled by some other headlines about the location.
Eventually, I’ll be giving you tips as a traveler on how to deal safely in Punta Cana including places in Punta Cana to go and not to go, mode of transport to use, types of people to associate with, just to name a few.
Follow these tips strictly and your next trip to Punta Cana will be an awesome one with zero worries.
The Reality Of Punta Cana
11 American tourists have been reported dead in 2019 while traveling in the Dominican Republic.
While these very happenings occurred in the whole country at large, only a handful of it occurred while vacationing in Punta Cana.
Furthermore, amidst all these 11 deaths, only 2 have resulted from unnatural causes, all others are natural causes.
The reason for the panic all this while was the back-to-back format of the occurrence of these deaths. And with regards to that, the media have been attributing all sorts of claims as to the cause of these deaths.
Claims like bad alcohol, infected food, etc, but I’ll tell you now that all claims from the media were all founded on the basis of assumption.
The public, unfortunately, was disturbed by this and began pondering on how safe is Punta Cana–if it’s safe to travel to Punta Cana or not safe at all.
At this point, it’s crystal clear that the death of the American tourists was not as a result of violence or crime and definitely not a mysterious one either.
According to the New York Times, two tourists died in June and July 2018, also in April 2019, 67-year-old Robert Wallace fell sick and died at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, a 41-year-old lady, died of a heart attack in May 2019, at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville.
A few days later, a 63 and 49 years old Nathaniel Edward Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day respectively, discovered dead in their room at the Grand Bahia La Romana.
About three autopsy reports of these tourists proved that they died from pulmonary edema and respiratory failure. Some family members of two different tourists said they became ill after they had some drink from their minibar.
Following all these deaths, a former MLB star David Ortiz was shot dead in a club at Santo Domingo, his hometown.
Reports following the event indicated a sort of robbery attack but the video from the event proves otherwise; no form of attempted robbery and thereafter, a man has been arrested, charged as an accomplice in the attempted murder of David Ortiz
Statement From The Ministry Of Tourism So Far
The Dominican Republic’s Ministry Of Tourism, so far with regards to the recent deaths has expressed their sincere condolences and apologies to the bereaved families, adding how closely and well they are working with the appropriate authorities to solve the situation as soon as possible.
Francisco Javier Garcia, the Minister of Tourism in one of his official releases has clearly stated: “all visitors are very important to us. The ministry’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that the highest industry standards are met so that all tourists are safe when visiting. At the same time, it must also work to provide a definitive answer to the affected families.”
The United States Embassy at Santo Domingo has also added that they are “actively working in collaboration with Dominican authorities and the private sector to ensure that all U.S citizens are and feel safe while in the country.”
Furthermore, there has been confirmation by the embassy that the FBI is handling a toxicology analysis, results might be taking up to a month to complete and to that effect, they are asking for patience from the general public.
Still on the reality of situations on Punta Cana, as the death reports keep creating tantrum in the media and public, it doesn’t mean the paradise–Punta Cana is free from other crises.
Further risks to know about Punta Cana as a traveler includes:
Violence: Violence in Punta Cana is too much to be left by the wayside. Although it’s a common practice in most countries which simply implies that anything of this sort can easily happen anywhere.
But as a visitor to the Dominican Republic, maximum caution should be observed especially in Punta Cana.
Natural Disaster: Punta Cana, unfortunately, is a victim of natural disasters. Hurricanes seem to be the most common happening within the range of July and November.
Earthquakes are not so common in the Dominican Republic, yet they are well equipped to handle it. On this note, it’s my personal idea and advice that you stay away from Punta Cana during the period of earthquake occurrence.
Diseases: There have been records of disease outbreak in Punta Cana which has claimed several lives. Disease like Zika Virus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day.
Though, as of recent, there hasn’t been any form of disease outbreak-traveler not even on the part of the Zika virus. Nevertheless, a mosquito repellant should be always available for the sake of prevention.
Scams: it’s no new thing and just like every tourism center, Punta Cana attracts scammers.
The best way to go about situations like this is to ask potential tourists who might have encountered them on one or two occasions, on their mode of operation so you can get familiarized with their style.
Once armed with this knowledge, you can always outsmart them in the first instance.
Feminine Assaults: Punta Cana is a dangerous place to be visited alone by women.
There is a high risk of assaults from a dangerous neighborhood that needs to be avoided. Women should always be on the resort areas or at the hotels which are always properly guarded by security agencies, where such a threat is very minimal and almost impossible to occur.
Pickpocket Risk: In the resort areas, you can feel safe but on the public areas within the city, all your focus should be fixed on your belongings, as it only takes a slight distraction to lose your belongings to those hoodlums.
So far, these are the possible, obvious threats in Punta Cana to be aware of. At this point, I believe it’s easy to spot the reason for all these threats: being the fact that Punta Cana is a resort center.
Just like every other resort center, crimes like this do happen but on a different level, that is to say, it might be a higher or lower rate than that of Punta Cana.
I can tell you at this point exactly how safe is Punta Cana.
Well, Punta Cana is safer than the Dominican Republic at large because there are more security protocols to be observed with regards to her being a resort center, but outside the resort area, the situation is unpredictable.
Stay careful. Regardless, don’t go to Punta Cana feeling relaxed for any reason; you don’t know what’s coming for you and to that effect, always be prepared for whatever comes next.
Now, that you’ve known the reality of situations over there in Punta Cana, I’ll be providing you with safety tips in readiness for your next trip to Punta Cana. These tips will be some sort of shield for you against all crimes, responsible for your safety, good health and otherwise.
Provided these tips are strictly adhered to, you will suffer zero loss and worries.
How to Stay Safe in Punta Cana – Safety Tips
Before we get right into the safety tips, I’ll be providing you with couples of pre-travel tips that will potentially help you to safely plan your next trip to Punta Cana.
Also Read: Holiday Packing List: What Should I Have in My List for Holiday?
Travel Insurance: Ensure you are fully insured as a traveler when next you are planning a trip not just to Punta Cana to every other trip.
Passport: Your passport should be valid and has enough pages to cover all the stamps needed for your whole trip, that is, to and fro.
Health Checkup: See your doctor before embarking on any trip at all. You might be subtly sick and you’ll never know until you’ve taken off. Such a situation can spell disaster, from your end.
Vaccination: Do yourself a favor by being vaccinated properly, with respect to the destination you are traveling to. If you are traveling to Punta Cana, your doctor should know the best vaccination to give.
Currency: The official currency of Punta Cana is Dominican Peso(DOP).
However, as a result of the hot spot nature of Punta Cana for international tourism, other currencies like the U.S Dollars(USD) and Euros are now acceptable especially to hotels, shops, restaurants et cetera.
So, ensure you change your currency to one of the acceptable variations.
Language: Just to show respect for the locals, it is ideal you do some bit of learning their language. In this case, the official language is Spanish.
As an international resort center, the English language is very common, so you can actually do without the Spanish, but for the sake of a better experience, a bit of Spanish would be nice.
Trip Registration: Another smart move to make before making a trip to a place like Punta Cana is to register your trip (If you are American) with the U.S Department Of State here.
These are all that is needed for a pre-travel preparation.
Now here are the vital safety tips that will ensure you stay safe in Punta Cana.
On no account should you consider their tap water for drinking. Some unconfirmed reports have it that their water is the cause of certain ailments and infections. The right water to deal with is bottled water or trustworthy filtered water.
2. Drinks Spiking
Some people have been victims of spiked drinks that are being drugged without their notice. Do not for even the slightest split of a second, leave your drink unattended.
Nice and assorted foods are sold there at the resorts with strict quality control procedures no doubt.
However, just as hygiene demands always wash your hand properly before eating. Watch out for not-properly-cooked meat and stay clear immediately as that has been the cause of so many parasitic health issues in humans.
One more thing, never buy food from street vendors.
If you are the type who likes alcohol, always deal with a brand that has a good reputation and also famous. Never taste something new, you might be bargaining with your life by acting as a test subject to that very product.
If you see a new brand of alcohol that looks enticing, resist it. When you get back to your home country, you can make some research and inquiries about the drink and know what’s up.
Study and know the environment properly, where to go and where not to go. Most of the resort areas in Punta Cana are safe and well patrolled by security agencies but beyond those places are unimaginable crises.
However never let your guard down in Punta Cana, even in the resort areas, be vigilant as those hoodlums can be sometimes unpredictable.
Do not go where you’re not familiar with and always watch out for scammers and thieves who might even pretend to be tourists there in the resort centers.
Do not drive in Punta Cana if possible. The road and traffic pattern is dangerously unusual and unpredictable specifically, for those who are already acquainted with the navigation system of the United States.
The best play here is to hire a tour driver from a well reputable company.
7. Drug and Prostitution
Stay away from all forms of drug dealers and prostitutes. Just so you know, even your local cab driver or a beach vendor might offer you drugs in exchange for money but never be a victim by accepting the offer.
In Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic at large, drug possession is a serious offense with a punishment of one-year imprisonment even before trial. And to the best of my knowledge, I sincerely doubt you are ready for such treatment.
Prostitution is also not out of the question just so you know. However, prostitution is a legal affair there in Punta Cana but stay clear from them for some reason.
Some are carriers of one terminal infection or the other, some are thieves and some are being used as bait by kidnappers or thieves to lure out their target.
Lastly, if you must deal with a prostitute, always have your condom with you to protect your health.
Are you planning on having a swim on the beach? Some of the beaches have dangerous and unexpected undertows and as regards that, always check for beach markers or take a swim only when the lifeguards are present.
If you can’t find any of the options I just mentioned, make inquiries from the resort manager on the current status of local conditions.
9. No Show-Offs
If you have some flashy gadgets or expensive pieces of jewelry keep them to yourself, do not show it off as this is an act of open announcement and invitation to the thieves around to mark you as their target, and you definitely know what follows when that happens. Stay humble.
Only use cabs from properly reputable companies. Order them yourself or you can also ask the hotel to do that for you.
Be wise, be smart. Just like every other place where you’re not familiar with, always make use of your common sense and also listen to your instincts.
If it seems weird and dangerous, then it’s probably true, disengage with immediate effect and save yourself the stress and issue of any expected or unexpected regrets.
These are all that is needed for your safe trip, your safe stay and your safe return from a place like Punta Cana. If you can only go on board with all of these tips we’ve just provided, there is nothing to fret about.
Is It Safe To Travel To Punta Cana?
You should be aware of the answer at this point but just in case I haven’t been very direct to the point or probably you need more assurance, then I can tell you, yes! Punta Cana is a safe place to go.
All you have to do is be on your best coordination, be ready for anything unusual and lastly follow the tips I gave you.
Just in case of any suspected threat, you can reach the Punta Cana’s police on 911 just like the United States, to contact the CESTUR, the Dominican Republic police in charge of the safety of travelers resorts, tourists and attractions, dial (809) 552-1060.
CESTUR is an acronym for Cuerpo Especializado de Seguridad Turistica.
I’ve searched the internet for comments from past travelers who have gone to Punta Cana and came back safely. Below are some of the comments I found:
“We never felt unsafe at the resort. We ate at all of the restaurants and never got sick. My parents even have some food issues and they were fine.” –Kimberley Terre, South Carolina
“Our experience was great. It’s a beautiful island. Just err on the side of caution. Just don’t do anything you don’t want to do, anything that doesn’t feel safe. Always have a cautious mind.
I would certainly go back to Punta Cana and I would stay at the same resort again.” –Joshua Rodriguez, New York City.
I also found some opinions from travel advisors regarding Punta Cana.
These advisors are people who have been grounded on the knowledge about Punta Cana, and they have also earned themselves reputable names for their creditable effort in providing travel advice regarding Punta Cana and other crime-threatening countries.
Even the minister of tourism of Punta Cana has said a few things regarding the Punta Cana issue making it, therefore, a fact.
Take a look at what they have said so far.
“I talked to guests at the hotel and everyone was having an amazing time. I ate and drank from the mini-bar and had no issues. The people in the D.R. were so welcoming.
I really hope the media stops. They are really hurting the economy of this beautiful country.” –Susan Collins-Peavy, Travel Advisor
“It’s not an overly dangerous place. I would still consider the Dominican Republic a safe place to go.
I don’t think people should distrust Dominican officials; they’re working with what they have. Like they said, 2 million Americans visit DR (Dominican Republic) every year and only a handful have died.
These incidents, while recent, in my mind, don’t indicate the Dominican Republic is any less safe than it was before, I would tell people to continue with trips.” –Matthew Bradley, former CIA agent and current Regional Security Director of International SOS
“[The country has] undertaken the necessary actions to counteract the recent events. We will always work towards continuing to improve and especially prevent these situations from ever taking place again.” –Francisco Xavier Garcia, Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism
“We have always worked hard to create a safe environment and will continue to be vigilant with comprehensive programs and amplified standards that bolster the well-being of the six million tourists that visit the Dominican Republic each year.” –Francisco Xavier Garcia, Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism
“[The Dominican Republic is a] tranquil, peaceful destination and the safest in the region.” –Francisco Xavier García, Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism
“The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is actively working with the Government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic.” –US Embassy, Santo Domingo
“[The news reports on the deaths were an] unfounded negative campaign. I implore you, the responsible journalists, to tell the truth about these issues.
(My family), we have been traveling all around the Dominican Republic and I can tell you that never was there a point that I thought my life was unsafe.” –Robin Bernstein, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
Finally, you have a decision to make having read all the details of this post. Also, the tips I listed are all you need to be on your way to Punta Cana. Trust me; you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Travel safe and enjoy the Caribbean.