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Safety tips for nervous Americans in wake of mysterious tourist deaths

Safety tips for planning a trip abroad
Safety tips for planning a trip abroad 03:59

The mysterious deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic and the shooting of Red Sox legend David Ortiz are making some people reluctant to travel to the island.

Six Americans have died in the Dominican Republic in the last year, including a Maryland couple and a Pennsylvania woman who died within days of each other at the same resort. The FBI is helping local law enforcement with the investigation.

Mark Ellwood, a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler, joined "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday to offer safety tips for nervous Americans planning to travel abroad.

If you're considering a trip to the Dominican Republic:

  • Look at the State Department's travel advisory system. The Department offers a safety rating on a scale of 1-4
  • The Dominican Republic currently has a 2 – the second-best rating. "The government is not telling us not to go – it is saying 'go, just be cautious,'" Ellwood explained

If you're trying to choose a hotel:

  • Use Google Street View to check out a destination from your home
  • Use social media for a "live snapshot" of what people are saying on the ground

If you've already booked a trip, but want to cancel:

  • Due to the government's travel advisory, there's "no requirement" for companies to refund your money 
  • But "human beings are much more understanding than the small print might suggest," Ellwood said. He suggests calling hotels and airlines and explaining the situation

If you're on the trip and want to stay safe:

  • Download CloseCircle, an app that tracks your location, sends you alerts, and offers a SOS button, for "extra security"   
  • Use social media to get a sense of the locations you're visiting
  • Buy a local newspaper and tuck it under your arm, to make yourself look more like a local and less like a target
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