There are pirates on Punta Cana beaches. That’s right pirates, although not the kind of pirate with an eye patch and a peg-leg. Illegal tour and transportation operators are called tour pirates by Dominicans. Tour pirates illegally set up shop on the beach or at the airport and attempt to sell unauthorized or fake tours and airport transportation to unknowing tourist. According to Bavaro News, tourist police have detained 30 tour pirates in the month of September alone.

What could be so bad about someone trying to make an extra buck showing tourists around? Illegal tour operators have succeeded in tricking many tourists into purchasing non-existent services, robbing them, or putting tourists in dangerous situations. According to the article in Bavaro News, a couple visiting Punta Cana was recently taken to Bayahibe by tour pirates for a supposed tour.

The couple was left in Bayahibe, and were left waiting for close to seven hours for a return ride to their hotel in Punta Cana. The couple had to approach local law enforcement and were eventually shuttled back to their Punta Cana hotel by the supervisor of the Bayahibe Tourism Police.

You can’t return a bad vacation folks, and it gets worse when there is no where you make claims of disappointment, except the local police. There is no customer service representative when you buy from these tour operators, and you can forget about insurance or quality standards. So many tour pirates take money for tours that never actually take place, or sell unofficial tours that are unreliable, unsafe, and illegal.Their business is off the books, which makes it often impossible to catch or report them to the police if you are cheated or something goes wrong.

The Tourist Police in Punta Cana and Bávaro have been working in collaboration with the Dominican Navy and the Ministry of Tourism to clean up the beaches in Punta Cana and Bavaro of these illegal tour operators. According to Ramón Jiménez Peña, the supervisor of the Bavaro Tourism Police, the clean-up operation has had some success, but there is still lots of work to be done.

The moral of this story is you want your vacation to be safe and enjoyable.On your vacation to Punta Cana you should be able to travel outside of your hotel and experience more of the island in a safe and pleasurable way, and you can. Here are some tips for making sure that you find the right tour operator.

Ask if they are registered with the Ministry of Tourism: legitimate tour operators need to first seek permission from the Ministry of Tourism, the government agency which ensures that tourism companies have the proper safety and technical experience – these companies must also have insurance

Consider booking your tours and excursions online: booking online increases the chances that you will find a credible tour operator, because you won’t become prey to the pirate vendors on the beach. Make sure that even when purchasing online you look for their credentials, like mention of registry with the Ministry of Tourism or a RNC, which is the equivalent to a tax ID number.

Do your homework: If you are planning your vacation and thinking about booking excursions or tours online, take the time to read some of their customer reviews on trusted sites like Tripadvisor