FOX43 Finds Out: Is it safe to travel to the Dominican Republic this summer?

"Everyone was really excited when we told them we canceled our trip," said Caila Ness.

Ness and Daniel Hawks of York County were excited to spend 5 days in the Dominican Republic with their significant others this summer.

However, that excitement faded when reports of US citizens dying in the nation continued to make headlines.

"Someone was getting sick, someone was passing away, people we being found the next day in their hotel rooms dead and people couldn`t state what happened and it seemed like so many of these cases were happening that it made us feel a little uncomfortable about it," said Daniel Hawks.

Not knowing why people were dying made the group from York County feel uneasy.

Hawks said, "We had to made a tough decision on canceling something that we were all very excited about."

The group was able to get most of their money back from the resort because they purchased trip insurance.

"Had we not had that I don`t think we would have gotten much back at all," said Hawks.

AAA of Southern Pennsylvania highly recommends people buy travel insurance for any trip.

That club is seeing a lot of people switch their itineraries.

Rebecca Lowthert, the marketing manager AAA southern Pennsylvania said, "We`ve seen about half of them want to change their plans. So about half of them have kept their planned trips to the Dominican Republic and some half changed to a different destination like Mexico or Jamaica. We`ve only had one client cancel completely."

Currently, the US Department of State has issued a level 2 Travel advisory for US Citizens traveling to the Dominican Republic.

Level two means to exercise increase caution because of recent crimes like armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault.

The department issued the level 2 advisory back in April.

It hasn't changed since the reports surfaced of deaths in the Dominican over the past year.

The US Embassy in the Dominican Republic issued a statement back on June 11th on safety and security of US citizens that reads in part:
"Dominican authorities have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana cases and our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days. We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course."

Not knowing the exact cause of death yet for the 10 people who have reportedly died in their hotel rooms since June of 2018, is one of the big reasons that group from York County has decided to cancel their trip.

Hawks said, "Even if something doesn`t happen, you`re there the whole entire time looking over your shoulder and wondering what you`re eating or drinking. Is it safe? Am I going to be ok? And you just don`t want that over your head the entire time."

AAA has a message for people who decide to travel to the Dominican this summer.

"Travel is a personal decision and it`s up to the individual to really make their own informed decisions on travel, however regardless of where you`re traveling, no matter the destination, we recommend that travelers always still vigilant and informed of what`s happening around them and in the area that they`re traveling too," said Lowthert.

US officials say they have not seen an uptick deaths in the Dominican Republic, despite recent reports.

We also wanted to know how dangerous is it to travel to the DR or other popular summer spots.

FOX43 Finds Out looked at numbers provided by the us department of state of deaths of US citizens.

The most recent data is from December of 2018, so that would not include a lot of deaths reported lately - however here are some of the numbers:

Here are the number of deaths of US citizens in the Dominican Republic dating back 5 years:

2014: 19 total deaths, 5 homicides (top cause of death: vehicle accident)

2015: 30 total deaths, 4 homicides (top cause of death: drowning)

2016: 18 total deaths, 4 homicides (top cause of death: vehicle accident)

2017: 17 total deaths, 4 homicides (top cause of death: vehicle accident)

2018: 13 total deaths, 3 homicides (top cause of death: vehicle accident or drowning)

Here are the number of US citizen deaths in other popular tourist destinations in 2018:

Mexico: 196 deaths, 66 homicides

Jamaica: 17 deaths, 4 homicides

The Bahamas: 9 deaths, 2 homicides

Costa Rica: 24 deaths, 1 homicide

Bermuda: 4 deaths, 1 homicide

For people who do plan on traveling outside of the country, you can sign up the US Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

That way, you can get updated safety alerts from local embassy where you're traveling and also register with that embassy in case of emergency.

Also, people who have planned flights to places like Punta Cana and want to cancel are able to do so, in some cases. 

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out.

Send Jackie a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.

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