How to Avoid Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

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Here's how to avoid being hassled on your trip to the Dominican Republic, and what you need to know about the local community.


Streets of Dominican Republic at night Photo © iStock/Instants

Don't let sex tourism put you off experiencing the beautiful coast and mountainous landscapes of the Dominican Republic. The country is generally safe, with friendly, laid-back locals.

Here's how to avoid being harassed while traveling around this Caribbean nation.

Poverty and prostitution

The Dominican Republic ranks fourth in the world of countries exporting large numbers of sex workers. 

Travelers will see legal brothels, "massage parlors", and sex workers in many of the downtown areas, such as the Puerto Plata province and Santo Domingo.

The country has a high incidence of poverty, with a third of the population living below the breadline, forcing many women (and men) turn to sex work according to The World Bank. Unemployment, abuse, drugs, gang violence and lack of education opportunities also contribute to poverty. The age of consent for any sexual activities in the Dominican Republic is 18.

If you're traveling to the country around the Christmas holidays, you'll probably see an increase in the number of girls working. Male prostitutes are also common and contribute to the country's high rate of HIV and AIDS infection, with around 68,000 locals living with the disease in 2016.

The south coast's Boca Chica and the north coast's Sosua are the two big areas for prostitution. These locations look like your average tourist locales during the day, but at night, prostitutes are easy to find, with many sex workers mixing in bars and clubs, targeting relatively well-off travelers.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is a major contribution to sex tourism in the Dominican Republic as the country is considered by the United Nations and many human rights organisations as a destination and transit point.

Despite human trafficking being made illegal in 2003, women from neighboring Caribbean and Latin American nations such as Haiti and Venezuela are bought to the Dominican Republic and can end up trafficked even if they originally chose to willingly go to the country. 

Local women can also become trafficked, often sent to Western Europe e.g Spain and Switzerland, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama and North America. Once trafficked, women can end up in forced labor against their will including sexual enslavement.

Child sex tourism

There is an increase in the numbers of underage locals entering prostitution, due to poverty and/or escaping abusive home situations. Human rights organization International Justice Mission reported in 2015 that one in four sex workers in the Dominican Republic was underage.

Disturbingly, many foreign nationals who seek out this nefarious trade go unpunished as prostitution laws are rarely enforced. Despite many hotels signing a code of conduct to prevent the exploitation of minors in their properties, and actively advertising that it's illegal to bring minors to their property, the crime often occurs at private accommodations such as apartments and cabanas. With very little government regulation beyond commercial hotels, the exploitation of minors continues.

Having sex with a minor can be punished with up to 30 years in jail plus penalties in the visitor's home country.

Tender traps

Men can go to strip clubs and pay an 'exit fee' to the establishment to take a prostitute to their accommodation. But watch out, it's not uncommon for girls to rob their clients. Others may pickpocket men on the street.

Beware of sex workers who try to start up long-distance relationships with tourists after they return home, in the hope of continuing an income stream.

Avoid being hassled

If you're a man out without a woman, you'll get harassed by prostitutes in certain parts of town.

If you're a woman, be prepared to see hustlers haggling and prostitutes persuading.

While some travelers do go to the Dominican Republic to pay for sex, many prostitutes and hustlers figure any tourist can be easily convinced to do the same. Travelers who aren't interested in sex workers have reported being harassed (sometimes physically) constantly at night by hustlers and prostitutes. If you approached by a prostitute, saying "No" firmly and walking away should suffice.

Women travelers, particularly those traveling alone, should expect Dominican men to be aggressive in their pick-up approach. This type of behaviour occurs particularly in local bars and nightclubs outside the resort areas.

It's recommended that you act confidently and firmly rebuff the attention. Dressing conservatively may also help.

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  • Lex said

    There's a fine line between being firm and "acting tough". Third world countries aren't the West. If you act tough you may have to back it up.


  • Linda Stapleton said

    I have lived in the DR for 16 years, in the Sosua area, and can confirm that this is all very sound advice.


  • El Moreno USA said

    Five years ago, I moved from Washington DC to Santo Domingo and lived there until last year when I moved back to the USA. I can confirm that the information given here is exactly correct.

    There were times when I had to run from women attacking me and trying to get me to sleep with them for money.


  • Charles said

    That's the opinion I want, people that have lived there, or at least been there.


  • Trav said

    I was in santo domingo for 6 days i can confirm everything is here is not only true but i would say worse than said here! Very sad situation for woman there it is like 90% or more of the woman are prostitutes or want money for sex which is the same thing! Very sad culture there!


  • David said

    I am American and met my Dominican wife in the USA 20 years ago, that said we travel back and forth to the Dom Rep frequently for vacations and we tend to stay at non all inclusive hotels in different parts of the islands.

    Not once have we had a problem, but yes there is prostitution and if you don’t belong in a certain establishment or area then don’t go, if you go into a club expect to play the game, just like in the USA

    There are areas in the USA you don’t go to so you use your smarts as in don’t flash your money, credit cards, jewelry etc


  • Ric said

    Wow!..Really? Sex for money?'d never see that in say California or Florida or New York or Vegas......Well many a little. But most women in the US are not interested in what you do or how much you make before committing to a relationship......Right!......Women here don't care if your a janitor or a doctor....its about love...LOL...I love it. The fact is that generally, unless self sustaining, independent and educated, women are the same the DR 's credit, their women make it clear what they want and what they are willing to do for it. Here, does it cost you anything for sex? I've heard it a thousand times..."I would never pay for sex"...Well take an inventory my friend.....lets see.....a house for oh a bout $200K trips to places you would never go,,,,,hmmmm oh about $150K over a lifetime. Children she wanted...egags.....with lessons, sports, clothes, college etc....lets say two kids over 20 years for a total of about $500K....I think that comes out to ohhhh...lets call it an even Mill. Now, if your married for 25 years.....and had sex every night of every day.....that would be 9,125 times....lets say an even 10,000. So that is approx. $100 per its cheaper in DR


  • Deedee said

    Get tested when you come back HIV is alive and well out there


  • Sam said

    I would say it depends. I have lived in the DR for almost 8 yrs and have traveled across the country many time with or without my family. You can go to any city without being hassled by women,i.e. sex for money.

    But of course if you go to red light districts like Sosua, Boca Chica, Bavaro just to name a few, then it is a different story. It is no different than most countries where extreme poverty exist. In Toronto where I had lived for 20 years, there are many massage parlors where you can get a massage or "full works". So when you are in the DR it is up to you. My friends love to visit and look forward to "boys" night.


  • Benoit said

    deedee, HIV is all over the world.

    And thanks RIC, i was hoping to find someone with the same type of answer i have about it. Even onenight stand cost you drinks for her, and maybe a motel room...


  • CityMonger said

    Unless you are gay or shooting drugs up you veins, HIV from hetero sex is the least of your worries. Now every other common STD a Hooker is likely to have contracted? Yeah, you better get tested buddy.


  • Leelee said

    Where is AR in Dominican Republic.


  • Jamison said

    While this article focuses on avoiding sex tourism, it would be helpful in the interest of harm reduction to both the workers and their clients, to offer more tips for prospective sex tourists on how to be safe. Like for example, what to look for in a licensed brothel or escort service.


  • Edenfantasys said

    CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in the Dominican Republic, regardless of where you are eating or staying.


  • john kane said

    So many comments here say that this is good advice. While I mostly agree unfortunately it is written in the style of the abolitionist hysteria. Women are never said to be willing participants. In my several years as a home owner in Sosua I had many women friends who would be clear with me that they went to Europe in some cases and traveled around the DR of their own choosing and enjoyed their experience and met men who were kind and generous with them. There are two chapters in my book Lonely Sex Tourist (available on Amazon) about sex in DR. Sex workers are a tiny percentage of all women and any who are abused or forced to do anything are an even smaller number of sex workers.


  • Big Sam said

    I will be traveling to Sosua for the first time in January of 2022 with a group of guys, any advice on the best (safest) restaurants and places for good mixed drinks and nightlife? Thanks


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