The U.S. State Department Issues Travel Advisory For This Popular Caribbean Destination

The U.S. State Department is warning travelers to exercise increased caution when heading to the Dominican Republic, one of this summer's most popular travel destinations. The agency issued a Level 2 travel alert this week due to an uptick in crime in the Caribbean country.

"Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic," the advisory states. "The development of a professional tourist police corps, institution of a 911 system in many parts of the country, and a concentration of resources in resort areas means these tend to be better policed than urban areas like Santo Domingo."

The agency attributes the high levels of crime to "a wide availability of weapons, the use and trade of illicit drugs, and a weak criminal justice system."

However, the general country information page notes that even travelers heading to resort areas in the Dominican Republic should also exercise extra caution, as rape and sexual assault has been reported at major resorts and hotels. There have also been several reports of U.S. citizens being robbed by people they met up with through dating apps, and it's advised that anyone meeting up with strangers should strongly consider public places.

"Sexual assault victims in the Dominican Republic should not expect the totality of assistance offered in the United States," the advisory warns. "Rape kits are often not available until the following morning and must be administered by Dominican authorities." It also notes that the prosecution of rape cases in the the Dominican Republic move very slowly, and may require the victim to return to the country at some stages of the judicial process.

To exercise upmost caution while traveling to the Dominican Republic, the agency offers some safety tips.

First and foremost, travelers should be aware of their surroundings, avoid wearing expensive watches or jewelry, and not resist any robbery attempts. In addition to avoiding secluded places, always be accompanied by someone you know, even when going to the restroom, and do not leave drinks unattended or consume alcoholic beverages alone or with new acquaintances.

Likewise, any victims of crime, sexual assault, or other assault should report to hotel management and insist that local police and the U.S. Embassy are contacted.