Is It Safe to Travel to the Dominican Republic Amid the Crisis in Haiti?

As Haiti endures severe unrest and political upheaval, travelers may be wondering what the situation on the ground is like in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

A small stretch of beach in the Dominican Republic, viewed from turquoise water, with sand, palm trees, and a few beach houses

Travelers flock to the Dominican Republic for its beauty, beaches, culture, and cuisine.

Courtesy of Jean Estrella/Unsplash

A new wave of gang violence is wreaking havoc on the streets of Haiti. Thousands of residents have been forced to flee Port-au-Prince, police stations have been set ablaze, and there is widespread call for the resignation of de facto leader Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Haiti is in the midst of one of its worst crises to date, and travelers may be wondering whether or not it’s safe to visit both Haiti and its Caribbean neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

For the past two years, Haiti has been suffering from widespread gang violence, which escalated in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. Most recently, the head of the G9 Haitian gang alliance, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, made a statement in early March that if Prime Minister Henry does not resign, civil war and genocide could be on the horizon.

The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory for the country last July and that remains firmly in place. Level 4 is the highest advisory level, urging U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the country altogether due to the possibility of kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and because of the country’s poor healthcare infrastructure.

While State Department travel advisories are often not the clearest indicators of whether or not a destination is safe, this time it would appear that travelers ought to proceed with extreme caution or, even better, heed the advice to the letter.

“I’d say that now is not the time to be visiting Haiti,” says Stephen Bennett, a Caribbean destination expert and cofounder of Uncommon Caribbean, an online resource for Caribbean travel. “The primary airports in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and Cap-Haitien, more than 120 miles to the north, remain closed, so flying there isn’t an option at present.”

However, Bennett confirmed that he feels it is completely safe to visit the Dominican Republic at this time and does recommend travelers keep their travel plans there. The Dominican Republic shares its western border with Haiti, although the border between the two countries remains closed with heightened security and border patrols.

The U.S. State Department last updated its travel advisory to the Dominican Republic on June 6, 2023. Since then, it remains at a Level 2, which encourages visitors to exercise increased caution. Many other popular tourist destinations have also been ranked at a Level 2 advisory, including Denmark, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos, France, Germany, Italy, and others.

Mark Chesnut, a travel writer who specializes in the Caribbean, just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic, including to Santo Domingo, which is the largest city closest to the Haitian border.

“I have visited Santo Domingo and the [Dominican Republic] many times over the past 30 years and during my most recent visits to both Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, I didn’t feel any different about my sense of security,” he says. “On the Dominican Republic television, there is tons of news about the border, so I was more aware of the situation because of the news, but I didn’t have a sense of a different level of danger in the DR. The crisis was a topic of conversation among locals and hotel staff, but none of them warned about increased security measures. I didn’t feel any difference in safety related to that situation.”

Labadee, a cruise port in Haiti, with coastline full of green flora and clear blue waters

Prior to the current escalation in violence, Labadee was a popular cruise port in Haiti.

Courtesy of Patrice S. Dorsainville/Unsplash

Amid Haiti travel advisory, how cruise lines and airlines are responding

Haiti, however, is a different situation.

At present, JetBlue, American Airlines, and Spirit have canceled their flights into Haiti. Sunrise Airways announced on Instagram that it will operate special flights between Cap-Haitien and Miami beginning again on March 25.

Up until last week, Royal Caribbean still had calls to Labadee on the northern coast of Haiti scheduled into its upcoming itineraries. However, the cruise line has suspended upcoming calls to the port as of March 14.

“Due to the evolving situation in Haiti, and in an abundance of caution, we’re temporarily suspending our visits to Labadee for our entire fleet,” Royal’s assistant vice president Aurora Yera-Rodriguez said in a statement. “We continue to monitor and assess the situation with our global security and intelligence team.”

Royal Caribbean Group owns Celebrity Cruises and Silversea. The port of call in Labadee is a private port accessible only to cruise passengers and employees. It features a day-use resort with multiple beaches, a zip line, and other facilities.

Bennett says that officials at Sunrise Airways, which operates regularly scheduled flights throughout the country, have expressed hope that airports will reopen soon. Once that happens, Cap-Haitien, which Sunrise serves nonstop from Miami, will begin operations for visits to Haiti in the short term.

“The city’s proximity to several of Haiti’s top visitor attractions, combined with its extended stance from the crux of the tumult in Port-au-Prince should make it a viable option more quickly,” he said. He noted that the distance between Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince is further than the distance from New York City to Philadelphia, for a bit of perspective.

Still, an immediate solution feels far away. According to Human Rights Watch, the country is on the brink of “total collapse.” Criminal groups hold power in the country now and have killed more than 1,100 people since the beginning of 2024, reports the United Nations. Between January 2022 and early March 2024, 13,000 people have been killed, injured, or kidnapped. Thousands of women and children have been the victims of sexual violence, and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.

According to Reuters, the U.S. and Canadian embassies have reduced their staff, leaving only essential employees in the country, and the embassies are temporarily closed to the public. For now, travelers are forced to alter their plans to visit Haiti because getting there is impossible. In the near future, should that change, deciding whether or not it is safe to visit will depend on how the situation evolves in the coming months.

Meagan Drillinger is a travel writer and Mexico expert who lives on the road full-time.
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