Get the right travel insurance for your trip to the Caribbean getaway of the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the Caribbean's most popular tourist destination, attracting more than 5 million visitors in 2014. Visitors flock each year to take in the country's natural beauty and vibrant culture. The Dominican Republic has the highest peak, lowest elevation and largest lake in the region, the first cathedral, castle, fortress and monastery in the Americas, as well a bustling ecotourism scene.
There’s a lot to love about the Dominican Republic, and having the right travel insurance can help you get the most out of it. This guide will help you find suitable cover for your trip.
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- Top 5 travel concerns in the Dominican Republic
- How much does travel insurance to the Dominican Republic cost?
- What happens if I have a medical emergency in the Dominican Republic?
- Who do I contact in an emergency?
Try to find a travel insurance policy that covers the main hazards you may encounter in the Dominican Republic.
- Hurricane season and weather events. Hurricane season is from June to November. This is when storm surges, heavy rain and resulting flooding and mudslides are most likely to occur, but you should remain aware of these potential hazards all year round. Make sure you have a clear understanding of how your travel insurance covers natural disasters.
- Crime. Crime rates in the Dominican Republic are higher than in Australia and visitors should exercise appropriate caution. To minimise risks, avoid public transport and do not travel on foot alone, especially after dark. Be wary of accepting invitations, lifts or unsolicited requests. Theft can also be an issue, so try to leave your valuables at home if possible and consider extra travel insurance cover for what you take with you.
- Tourist hotspots are often targeted by pickpockets and bag snatchers, so be aware of this when visiting areas like Santo Dominigo and museums, cultural or historical sites.
- Remember that the nightlife in Punta Cana and Santo Dominigo can be spectacular, but also potentially hazardous, so stay responsible and in control.
- Disease. Take the right travel insurance precautions to protect yourself from illness in the Dominican Republic. Zika, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses are at their peak from May to November, while rabies through wild dogs, mongooses and other animals are a potential threat all year. Avoid contact with wild animals and seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten or scratched. Waterborne, foodborne and infectious diseases are a general issue so take all appropriate precautions.
- Monkey and other wildlife parks are popular attractions, but remain alert to the risks associated with bites or scratches.
- Naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera may be found in some of the region’s shellfish and fish, and outbreaks have been reported. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect poisoning.
- You are advised to make sure you have all relevant immunisations before visiting the Dominican Republic.
- Road travel. Road rules in the Dominican Republic are routinely ignored by local drivers while aggressive driving, poorly maintained and lit roads, crime and shared passage of farm equipment, animals and bicycles also contribute to the risk. Avoid driving at night if possible, keep your doors locked and windows closed and contact police in the event of an accident. Consider travel insurance with rental car excess and personal liability cover if you intend to drive.
- Taxis can be an effective way of getting around without driving yourself, but unlicensed taxis can pose a risk. It is recommended that you avoid route taxis, known as “carros publicos”, and stick to radio-dispatched vehicles or those booked through your hotel.
- There is an increased possibility of road collapse or blockages from mudslides following heavy rain, and roads may be closed at short notice any time of year but especially in the wet season.
- Swimming hazards. The oceans of the Dominican Republic are inviting, but just like in Australia, they’re more dangerous for those unfamiliar with local conditions. Strong undertows may be present on beaches and you cannot assume there will be any lifeguards around, so check conditions with your hotel or other authorities before going in the water. Avoid watersport rental companies that don’t provide the necessary gear or instruction and find a travel insurance policy that covers your planned water activities.
- The region is at risk of earthquakes, and resulting tsunamis. The 2010 Haiti earthquake and tsunami were also felt in the Dominican Republic, so take a few minutes to understand your hotel’s evacuation procedures and know what tsunami signs to look for when near the water.
The following table shows the average prices of basic and comprehensive travel insurance policies, by age, for a month of single trip cover to the Dominican Republic.
|Basic travel insurance||$65.60||$120||$140||$240||$645|
|Comprehensive travel insurance||$115.95||$333||$369||$561||$1217|
NOTE: These prices are accurate as of October 2016.
To access health care in the Dominican Republic you will usually need to pay up-front for treatments. Finding GPs and specialists can also be difficult and may involve additional travel and expenses. This means that in the event of a medical emergency you should plan on either paying out of pocket and then claiming costs later, or having a travel insurance policy that pays for medical emergencies up-front. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the three different types of hospitals in the Dominican Republic:
- Most reasonably sized towns have at least one standard public hospital. Medical care is free for eligible residents, but “extras” like stitches, x-rays, bedding, food and similar are expected to be provided by the patient. It is likely that the majority of staff will not speak English.
- Combined public and private hospitals with advanced facilities and equipment can be found in the capital, Santo Dominigo, as well as in the second-largest city, Santiago. Health care is not free and costs typically run into thousands of dollars for broken bones, surgery and similarly intensive procedures. These hospitals accept payments via travel insurance and will generally be able to provide any required procedure.
- Local clinics can be found in almost all towns. These are smaller than the above hospitals, and the quality of treatment may vary. Tourist areas often boast high-quality clinics with English-speaking staff, but the local clinics in more isolated locations will typically charge slightly more than public hospitals.
- The Australian consulate. Contact the consulate for help with passports and travel documentation, legal difficulties while travelling or if you don’t know where else to turn. Your nearest Australian embassy is in Mexico, and can be reached on on +52 55 1101 2200.
- Your travel insurance provider. Always keep your travel insurance information on hand. In the event of a medical emergency you should contact them as soon as you are safely able to if you need to make a claim. Ensure your provider has a 24-hour claims contact number f and keep this handy too.
To enter the Dominican Republic as an Australian you do not need a visa. Instead you will need a tourist card, obtainable at the airport on arrival. It costs USD$10 for a 30-day entry card which can be renewed a single time, at the same cost, for an additional 30 days.
The Dominican Republic is warm all year round, so you can enjoy a tropical climate whenever you visit.
- The peak tourist seasons are July to August when it’s warmest, and December to February when it’s slightly cooler. Don’t underestimate potential crowds at popular attractions.
- Lower prices are best found outside these peak times.
- You may wish to avoid the wet season from May to November.
Depending on what you plan on doing, standard travel insurance policies may not offer complete cover for you in the Dominican Republic. Watch out for exclusions around:
- Activities. Certain sports and adventure holiday activities will often not be covered by your default travel insurance policy, but will be covered by others. Be on the lookout for activities that are specifically excluded, or simply not covered, by certain policies.
- Failure to obey signs and warnings. Natural hazards are not always signposted, but when they are you are required to obey any signs and warnings. Failure to do so typically means you are not covered for resulting loss or misadventure.
- Improperly secured possessions. If you have not taken all reasonable steps to secure your belongings then you cannot usually claim losses for theft or damage. Reasonable steps include utilising hotel safes, keeping valuables out of sight, not leaving belongings unattended and locking your rooms and vehicles.
- Scuba diving. The unique risks associated with scuba diving mean many travel insurance policies will specifically exclude it. If you plan on taking advantage of the Dominican Republic’s renown as a world-class diving spot, then it is advisable to make sure you have the right travel insurance cover.