Punta Cana attracts at least 800,000 visitors to its beaches every year. While the area is a popular destination for travelers, it is important to remain vigilant when traveling in the Dominican Republic as health and safety issues would likely ruin long-awaited vacation plans.
EAT SMART, DRINK SMART
Eating in Punta Cana
Tourists should be aware that there is a risk of contracting sicknesses from unsanitary food. The best way to ensure a great vacation is not to overindulge. Wash your hands before eating and avoid food from street vendors and dairy products that have not been pasteurized. Watch always the salads that you eat, as they may be wilted from being in the sun too long. As a rule, avoid all rare or raw protein products, like eggs and shellfish, and if any fish or meat looks suspicious, avoid it since there will surely be something else for you to select. Cooked food should always be safe, but must be well cooked. Be aware that all food at the resorts is safe to eat, (even the lettuce, raw fruit, and salads). Most hotels have strict quality control procedures in place regarding food, drink and the cleanliness of the resort.
Drinking in Punta Cana
Be advised that the hotels use only purified water for cooking and making ice as well as the making of coffee and washing of vegetables – if they don’t they will tell you otherwise. Be careful not to get water in your mouth when you shower, and make sure to brush your teeth and rinse your toothbrush with bottled water. If you travel outside the resort, drink only bottled water and drinks with no ice in them and travel with an anti-diarrhea medication in case of illness. Bottled water is widely available throughout the country and it is recommended that vacationers drink at least 10 glasses or about 2 litres a day to avoid dehydration. Be sure to keep track of your consumption of Pineapple and Coconut drinks as they can become natural laxatives to your system.
The bottom line here is if you are not sure of something just do not eat or drink it!!
Excess sun and alcohol can lead to illness. People who are not used to being in the sun all day can develop a rash – a type of allergy to the sun. Get in the shade for awhile and wear lots of sunscreen and it should go away. If the rash persists for more than a day or so you should see the doctor at the resort.
The number one Punta Cana health concern is definitely traveler’s diarrhea. This common vacation health problem has less to do with Punta Cana than it does with over-indulging at all-inclusive resorts. Usually this common ailment can be cured with a couple days of taking it easy and drinking lots of water. If you do get sick, Immodium, Alka-Seltzer/Pepto-Bismal/Tums, and Tylenol will take care of most problems. Don’t forget to take them with you – it will be expensive to purchase them there! If it does persist, see the doctor at the resort.
The risk of malaria in the Dominican Republic is low with the highest risk areas being along the border with Haiti. The risk of contracting malaria in Punta Cana has always been extremely low and the sporadic cases have probably been due to migrant workers coming from other parts of the country.
If you can, you should check with your GP or Travel Clinic before the journey. Currently the recommended preventative is chloroquine. Use mosquito repellent containing DEET, especially at dawn and dusk and whenever possible wear clothes covering all your body.
The following are the recommended vaccinations for the Dominican Republic.
Hepatitis A – vaccine is recommended for all travelers over one year of age. It should be given at least two weeks (preferably four weeks or more) before departure.
Typhoid – vaccine is recommended for travelers who may eat or drink away from the usual tourist destinations. It is generally given in an oral form (Vivotif Berna) consisting of four capsules taken on alternate days until completed.
Hepatitis B – vaccine is recommended for all travelers if not previously vaccinated.
Rabies – vaccine is recommended for travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, for travelers at high risk for animal bites, such as veterinarians and animal handlers, for long-term travelers and expatriates, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats.
Tetanus-diphtheria – vaccine is recommended for all travelers who have not received a tetanus-diphtheria immunization within the last 10 years.
Polio – vaccine is not recommended for any adult traveler who completed the recommended childhood immunizations. Polio has been eradicated from the Americas, except for a small outbreak of vaccine-related poliomyelitis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti in late 2000.
Cholera – there is always the threat of Cholera here in the DR and in fact recently there has been an increase in the number of cases. But no panic!! Almost all are confined to the far west of the country, specifically in the regions bordering Haiti. It is a Level 1 warning (check here). It all comes down to sanitary conditions. I doubt very much if you would have a chance of contracting it at any of the resorts here in Punta Cana. Once again wash your hands before and after meals, use the sanitizers that you will find all over the resort and ENJOY!
(More info here)
Visit your doctor before your trip and ensure that you are up to date on all of your vaccinations. If you pay attention to a few of the common Punta Cana health concerns, there is no reason to get sick on your vacation to Punta Cana! With a few common sense strategies you can avoid ruining your trip.
– Before traveling make sure you have medical insurance as local doctors and hospitals expect immediate payment.
– While the private health care is generally quite good, prescription drugs are EXTREMELY expensive. If there is any medicine that you take regularly, bring it with you.
– There is a 911 service in Punta Cana for medical emergencies, so if you’re in trouble pick up the phone.
– Most hotels have a doctor on call so you can enquire at the front desk about appointments or other Punta Cana health concerns.
– There is a hospital in Punta Cana that is about 20 minutes from most hotels.
All-inclusive hotels have small on-site clinics and medical staff, who can provide first aid and basic care. Head to one of several good private hospitals in the area for more serious issues.
– Centro Médico Caribe Bávaro (809-552-1415; www.caribeasistencia.com/cmcb; Plaza las Brisas, Bávaro; 8:30am-6pm) Open 24 hours for emergencies.
– Centro Médico Punta Cana (809-552-1506; btwn Plaza Bávaro & the bus terminal, Bávaro) The name notwithstanding, this is the main private hospital in Bávaro, with a multilingual staff, 24-hour emergency room and in-house pharmacy.
– Farmacia El Manglar (809-552-1533; Plaza Punta Cana, Bávaro; 8am-midnight) Offers free delivery service to local hotels (until 10pm).
– Farmacia Estrella (809-552-0344; Plaza Riviera/Estrella, Bávaro; 8am-10pm)
– Hospitén Bávaro (809-686-1414; email@example.com; btwn airport & turnoff to Bávaro) Best private hospital in Punta Cana, with English-, French- and German-speaking doctors and a 24-hour emergency room. The hospital is located on the road to Punta Cana, 500m from the turnoff to Bávaro.
– Pharma Cana (809-959-0025; Plaza Bolera, Punta Cana; 9am-10pm Mon-Sat, 8am-11pm Sun) Punta Cana’s main pharmacy.
Punta Cana is one of the safest vacation spots in the Caribbean, and tourists should feel comfortable traveling outside of the hotel zone. However, petty theft (especially of cell phones, according to some) does sometimes occur, so you should be careful when carrying valuables with you. Hotel security is good, and there’s even a special branch of the police department devoted to tourist safety, known as Politur. Police officers are often stationed in the hotel.