Special Travel Circumstances in Dominican Republic

It is legal to exchange currency at commercial banks, exchange booths in hotels and exchange houses. The exchange rate is set by the Central Bank, based on prevailing market conditions. The market determines the exchange rate. No more than USD $10,000 or its equivalent in another currency, including Dominican pesos, may be taken out of the Dominican Republic at the time of departure without declaring it.

Real Estate: Real estate investments in the Dominican Republic require a high level of caution, as property rights are irregularly enforced and investors often encounter problems in receiving clear title to land. Title searches in the Dominican Republic may not undergo the same rigorous examination as in the United States. We recommend consultation with a reputable attorney before signing documents or closing on any real estate transactions. Real estate investments by U.S. citizens have been the subject of both legal and physical takeover attempts. Absentee landlords and absentee owners of undeveloped land are particularly vulnerable. Investors should seek solid property title and not just a “carta de constancia,” which is often confused by foreigners with a title. An official land registry measurement (also known as ‘deslinde’ or ‘mensura catastral’) is also desirable for the cautious overseas investor. Investors should also consider purchasing title insurance. Squatters, sometimes supported by governmental or non-governmental organizations, have invaded properties belonging to U.S. citizens, threatening violence and blocking the owners from entering their property. In at least one instance, a U.S. citizen landowner was physically assaulted by squatters. Several U.S. citizens with long-standing expropriation disputes with the Dominican government are still without compensation. On several occasions, U.S. citizens have faced lawsuits founded on false documentation that result in costly, protracted court proceedings. Litigation can last for years, preventing any productive use of the property. Eviction of squatters can also take years. The U.S. Embassy does not generally attend property dispute hearings on behalf of U.S. citizens and encourages you to take the necessary steps to safeguard your investment by researching the situation thoroughly beforehand. The Embassy maintains a list of attorneys on its website that can be consulted should legal representation be necessary.

Gambling: Many U.S. citizens have reported losing large amounts of money at Dominican casinos by playing a game (or variations thereof) known as “Super Keno,” “Caribbean Keno,” “Progressive Keno,” or “Progressive Roulette.” Players have complained that the game’s rules are unclear and/or misleading. Casinos have also been associated with cases involving credit card fraud. Any complaints arising from a casino should be directed to the Office of Casinos at the Secretary of Finance. To register a complaint with this office, call 809-687-5131, ext. 2120.

Divorce: In recent years, there have been a number of businesses, primarily on the Internet, which advertise “quickie Dominican divorces.” The services of these businesses should be used with caution, as they may misrepresent the process of obtaining a divorce in the Dominican Republic. While it is relatively simple for foreigners to obtain a divorce in the Dominican Republic, such divorces are only valid if specific steps are taken. Those seeking information regarding divorce should first consult with an attorney in their home state. Additional information on divorce is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website.

Alien Smuggling: Dominican authorities may prosecute anyone arrested for organizing the smuggling of aliens into or out of the Dominican Republic. This is in addition to any charges individuals may face in the other country involved, including the United States.

Hurricanes: The Dominican Republic is situated in an area of the Caribbean prone to hurricanes. In the event of a hurricane alert, a notice will be posted on U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo’s website. Further information can be obtained from the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center. General information about natural disaster preparation is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Travelers are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the U.S. Embassy.

Carnival Celebrations: Visitors attending Carnival celebrations throughout the Dominican Republic should be aware that participants will frequently use sticks, whips, or rubber bags filled with bits of tire and rocks to physically strike spectators on their backsides. Such attacks can catch spectators off guard and produce serious injuries. Spectators are encouraged to safeguard themselves against such attacks by taking appropriate precautions. Visitors are also advised that Carnival celebrations tend to attract pickpockets and other violent criminals who prey on spectators.

Water Sports: Visitors to the Dominican Republic, including to local resort areas, should carefully assess the potential risk of recreational activities. Some of the swimming areas at popular beaches around the Dominican Republic are subject to dangerous undertows. Many beaches lack life guards and/or warnings of unsafe conditions. Resort managers usually offer current information on local swimming & surf conditions. You should not swim alone, particularly at isolated beaches. You are further cautioned to weigh carefully the risks inherent in sports such as white water rafting or activities involving jumping from or swimming near waterfalls, particularly following heavy rains when swollen rivers and streams increase the potential for dangerous flash floods. In flash flood conditions, helmets and life vests may not provide adequate protection. U.S. citizens have perished during flash floods that followed rains, even though they were wearing helmets and life jackets. Participants in eco-tourism adventures should carefully assess the risks of any activity, as safety standards and first response assistance are often not comparable to those found in the United States. Exercise caution while visiting isolated beaches during severe weather conditions. Areas of dangerous surf and undertow are often unmarked.

Scams: Be alert to a scam which targets elderly citizens in the United States. The perpetrator contacts a grandparent on the telephone pretending to be a law enforcement official, an attorney, or a U.S. Embassy official and informs them that a loved one has been arrested overseas. The caller instructs the victim to wire cash through a money transfer service to pay fines or secure bail. In some instances, impersonators are used to portray the role of the scared grandchild, effectively perpetuating the fraud. Local law enforcement in the Dominican Republic follows a protocol to allow U.S. citizens that have been arrested to contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. When in doubt, please contact the American Citizens Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy to confirm the welfare of a family member in the Dominican Republic.

Agricultural Products: Visitors to the Dominican Republic are reminded to reviewthe information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before attempting to import or export food or agricultural products. Severe penalties apply for violations.

Stay informed at the Dominican Watchdog……

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