Is it safe? Travel expert and police share tips for travelling abroad

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OKEMOS, MI (WILX) -- Several recent mysterious tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic have people on-edge about making a trip out of the United States.

Which begs the question: is it still safe?

At least six tourists have died on vacation in the Dominican Republic since last summer. In addition, Boston Red Sox Legend David Ortiz was just shot in a bar there. While Ortiz's suspected shooter has already been arrested, the other six tourists' deaths have raised eyebrows. Some were said to die of heart attacks, while others supposedly died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. But travel experts say these deaths are few and far between.

"I do think it's safe...using the proper precautions," Joy Thrun said.

Joy Thrun is the founder and CEO of Classic Travel in Okemos and has been to more than 30 countries including the Dominican Republic Several times. She said she understands the concern that people can have, but she says it's like any other place: be cautious and don't do anything you wouldn't do here in the US.

"If you use the same precaution that you would here, where you wouldn't walk alone at night in downtown Detroit after a Tigers game," she explained.

State Police agree. They said the biggest thing is to just be on alert.

"The same thing applies whether it is in-state or out of state or out of the country. All travelers should be aware of their surroundings--that's the number one thing. And also, before you even leave on a vacation destination, make sure to do some research," Trooper Marco Jones said.

And that research can help you vet out potentially unsafe places to stay when traveling outside of the US. State Police say to look at reviews, see what other people are saying, use maps to plan, and check government websites.

"It's just like anything else, you wouldn't buy a car without doing some research so just make sure you do some research on your destination," Trooper Jones added.

State Police also recommend you travel in groups, tell someone where you're going, and always keep an eye on your drink so someone doesn't spike it. In addition, keep your valuables locked in a safe in your room when you go out. Thrun says to avoid gimmicks like 'cheap hotels,' because they usually aren't legit. Another thing she says that might be helpful is traveler's insurance in case something happens in the country or to you while abroad.

"Travel insurance for cancellation is expensive, but the medical, medical evac and the connection to an information source are very inexpensive... I would encourage people to implore that," Thrun said.

Thrun says it's easy to get nervous when leaving for an unfamiliar country, but that shouldn't deter you from seeing the world outside of the US.

"The risk to reward of travel is so great that you shouldn't be apprehensive in terms of missing a life experience."

Thrun added that you shouldn't drink water that isn't out of a bottle when out of the country.

You can check the State Department's website to learn about your destination's crime, unsafe areas, and emergency numbers.

For more travel safety tips, click here.

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