Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic’s vibrant capital and was the first city founded in the Americas back in 1496. Defined by its Spanish, African and Asian influences, today it’s something of a backpacker haven — but what’s the safety in Santo Domingo like? Well, the city is well-known for its rich historic centre (Zona Colonial) that contains over 300 museums and historical monuments, as well as countless bars and clubs. But of course if you’re new to the area you should exercise a little caution whilst travelling around.
With a wealth of experience accumulated from running Island Life for the past few years, our tips below will help you enjoy Santo Domingo in safety.
1. Walking Around
Like many other cities where a large sector of the population lives in poverty, Santo Domingo has areas in which tourists should exercise additional caution if visiting. Walking around with phones and cameras on display outside Zona Colonial isn’t common. And although the historic area is pretty much safe to explore and violent crime is rare, thefts and muggings still occur. You should also be cautious about walking home very late at night — with the same rule applying in nearby Chinatown. When it comes to the east side of Santo Domingo, travelling to and from Faro Colon and Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos on-foot isn’t recommended and you should take taxis if possible.
An average taxi ride in Zona Colonial will cost you 150 pesos and you should get a hotel or hostel to call one for you instead of hailing a street car. If you call your own taxi, always ask for the colour of the car, number plate and estimated time of arrival. Often when taxi drivers see you standing in the street they’ll try and convince you that their waiting car is the taxi you’re after, so having this information can rule out the fakes.
You should exercise extra safety in Santo Domingo when crossing roads and hailing cabs; the traffic can get pretty crazy! Also look out for pot-holes and gaps in the pavement when walking around.
If you’re wondering about the drinking water safety in Santo Domingo, know that drinking water is avoided by locals and tourists alike, so it’s bottled all the way. When it comes to mosquitos, the city isn’t too mosquito-dense and the ones here don’t carry malaria.
Public buses are cheap, only (slightly) unreliable and can be taken by tourists to many of the city’s big attractions. Be wary of pickpockets, however and always keep your valuables hidden and within sight.