Is It Safe to Travel to the Dominican Republic?3 min read
The reports coming from the Dominican Republic about a rash of deaths among American tourists this year are admittedly upsetting and worrisome. If you have a trip planned to the beautiful island nation this summer, you’re probably wondering if you should cancel to protect the health and wellbeing of you and your travel companions.
But should you? Canceling a trip is at the very least extremely disappointing. It can also be very costly.
The good news is that U.S. officials are aware of the situation and investigating, which means that the mystery surrounding these deaths is on its way to being solved. The bad news is that a 10th U.S. tourist recently died in the Dominican Republic, which has sparked another round of media hype around the problem. Here’s what you can do if you’re planning a trip or have one already booked.
Media Hype is Real
We live in an era of 24-hour news, which means that media outlets are always looking for a good story—and the mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic are certainly good fodder for the news cycle. You’ll hear about it a lot, which can heighten your fear.
In some ways, while you should pay attention to these deaths and take precautions, the facts don’t lie. Every year, more than 6.1 million people visit the Dominican Republic, and over 2 million of those tourists are from the United States. Statistically, your chances of dying on U.S. soil are much higher than dying in the Dominican Republic.
Alcohol May Be the Culprit, but the FBI Is Still Investigating
There’s some speculation that bootleg alcohol may be to blame for the deaths, but there isn’t any conclusive evidence. The theory is that illegally produced alcohol was placed in minibars in hotels (probably to cut down on costs). This alcohol could have been accidentally contaminated with methanol, which can cause painful and fatal symptoms some of these tourists experienced.
The FBI has not yet found a link between the deaths and is currently testing samples from the autopsies of the tourists who died to see if there is a connection and if contaminated alcohol is to blame. It’s important to note that there are no official travel advisories related to this issue.
Hotels are Making Changes
Hotels are making changes, like removing alcohol dispensers from guest rooms and ensuring that only brand-name alcohol sourced from the United States are served. If you’re planning to drink while you’re on vacation in the Dominican Republic, make sure you know what type of alcohol you’re drinking and only purchase it from a reputable source, like the hotel bar. In an overabundance of caution, you may want to avoid the minibar while the FBI is investigating the source of the problem.
Trip and Travel Health Insurance are Always a Good Idea
If you’re debating paying the extra fee for trip insurance to the Dominican Republic, it may be worth it simply for your own peace of mind. It’s especially a good idea if you’re traveling with a big group and can’t afford to lose your entire vacation investment should you decide to change your plans.
It’s also always important to have travel health insurance any time you travel internationally, to ensure that you have quick access to medical care and someone to help you navigate foreign health systems you while you’re overseas. As they say in the Dominican Republic, curarse en salud—take precautions now while you’re healthy to avoid problems in the future.