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Dominican Republic

Not to be confused with the Caribbean island country of Dominica.

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The western one-third of Hispaniola is occupied by the country of Haiti. To the north lies the North Atlantic Ocean, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south.

Understand

History

Explored and claimed by Columbus on his first voyage on December 5, 1492, the island of Ayití, named by Columbus as La Hispaniola, became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland.

The island was first inhabited by the Taínos and Caribes. The Caribes were an Arawakan-speaking people who had arrived around 10,000 BCE. Within a few short years following the arrival of European explorers, the population of Tainos had significantly been reduced by the Spanish conquerors. Based on Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Tratado de las Indias) between 1492 and 1498 the Spanish conquerors killed around 100,000 Taínos.

The first European settlement founded on the American continent was located on La Isabela, founded in 1493 using a XV century style located in La Isabela, Puerto Plata (19º53'15.08" N 71º04'48.41" W). The City of Santo Domingo was founded by Bartolomé Colón, on August 5, 1496 and was later moved by Frey Nicolás de Ovando to the west side of Ozama river in 1502.

In 1606 the Royal crown of Spain ordered the depopulation of the western end of the island due to high piracy and contraband. This led to the French invasion and the establishment of Haiti.

In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years; it finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.

A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule for much of its subsequent history was brought to an end in 1966 when Joaquín Balaguer was elected president for his second, non-consecutive term (he had first served from 1960-1962). He maintained a tight grip on power for most of the next 30 years, until international reaction to flawed elections forced him to curtail his last term, hold new elections in 1996, and give up power. Since then, regular competitive elections have been held every four years.

The Dominican economy has had one of the fastest growth rates in the hemisphere.

Climate

Tropical maritime with little seasonal temperature variation. There is a seasonal variation in rainfall. The island lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms from June to October. It experiences occasional flooding and periodic droughts.

Landscape

Rugged highlands and mountains with fertile valleys interspersed.

National parks

  • Los Haitises National Park
  • Jaragua National Park
  • National Park Isla Cabritos
  • Armando Bermudez National Park
  • Jose Del Carmen Ramirez National Park
  • Sierra del Bahoruco National Park
  • Parque Nacional del Este
  • Monte Cristi National Park
  • Parque Historico La Isabela

Regions

Cities

  • Santo Domingo - Capital.
  • Higüey
  • Juan Dolio
  • Puerto Plata
  • Punta Cana
  • San Pedro de Macoris
  • Santa Barbara De Samana
  • Santiago de los Caballeros
  • Sosua
  • Rio San Juan
  • La Romana - 3rd largest city
  • Hi Adrianna Island

Other destinations

  • Bayahibe
  • Bonao—secluded village
  • Cabarete
  • Constanza
  • Dominicus
  • Jarabacoa
  • Las Terrenas
  • Las Galeras
  • Miches
  • Bahia de las Aguilas
  • Playa Bonita—secluded beach strip popular with Europeans and Americans in the know

Get in

Citizens of most countries can purchase a tourist card on arrival. See Entry Requirements.

By plane

The main airports (in alphabetical order) are:

  • (AZS) Samana, also known as "El Catey", located between the towns of Nagua and Samana on the north coast.
  • (EPS) Samana, also known as "Aeropuerto Internacional Arroyo Barril" between Sanchez and Samaná
  • (JBQ) "La Isabela" airport in Santo Domingo, mainly for domestic flights but also receives some flights from other Caribbean islands
  • (LRM) La Romana on the south east coast
  • (POP) Puerto Plata, also known as "Gregorio Luperon" on the north coast
  • (PUJ) Punta Cana International Airport in the east, the busiest in the country
  • (SDQ) Santo Domingo, also known as "Las Americas" on the south coast close to the capital city Santo Domingo
  • (STI) Santiago also known as "Cibao International" in Santiago de los Caballeros (the country's 2nd largest city).
  • (COZ) Constanza, a domestic airport to all Dominican destinations.
  • (BRX) Barahona, also known as "Aeropuerto Internacional María Montez" this airpot was reopened during the earthquake in Haiti, in order to bring the primary aid to the Haitians.
  • (CBJ) Cabo Rojo, Pedernales, only for domestic use, located near Cabo Rojo port facility.

You can get flights from Europe via Madrid (MAD) or Paris (CDG). From the US, you can fly from New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Juan, Atlanta or Charlotte. Most European and Canadian cities have charter flight connections, which operate seasonally.

You will be charged $10 for a tourist card on arrival. This must be paid in US dollars or euros. Local currency, sterling, or other currencies will not be accepted. A departure tax of $20 cash is payable on most charter and some scheduled flights. If you are flying on a US carrier, the departure tax is always included in the taxes when you purchased your ticket, so you will not have to pay anything when leaving.

Taxi fares to nearby hotels are posted just outside the airports.

Taxi from Airport to Santo Domingo (Ciudad Colonial): it is about $40. There are no hotel "courtesy shuttles" at airports in the Dominican Republic.

By boat

There is a ferry that travels between Mayagüez in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The website says the journey takes 12 hours, leaves Puerto Rico on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8PM, and arrives in Dominican Republic at 8AM the next morning.

For prices and bookings, visit the Ferries Del Caribe English website.

Get around

Options for getting around the country include bus service, 'gua-guas' (pronounced "Gwa-Gwas": small battered vans or trucks that serve as a collective taxi running fixed routes that are very cheap but can also be very overloaded), domestic air flights and charter air service. There is a rail system operating only in the city of Santo Domingo. Most towns and cities have regularly scheduled bus service, if not by one of the big bus companies, then by gua-gua. The bus lines are most often simple, independently run operations, usually only connecting two cities within a region (Southwest, East, North) or between one city and the capital (with stops made for any towns on the route). Because of the geography of the country, to get from one region of the country to another you have to go through the capital. At horariodebuses.com you can check bus timetables between destinations in the country.

By car

Cars may be rented through Hertz, Avis, Prestige Car Rentals or other agencies in Santo Domingo and other major cities. Gasoline, however, is expensive often costing upward of US$5.75/gallon (as of March 2011). Some roads, especially in remote areas, are fairly dangerous (often without lane divisions) and many people tend not to respect oncoming traffic. However, road conditions on most major highways are roughly similar to road conditions in the United States and western Europe. However, potholes and rough spots are not rapidly repaired and drivers must be aware that there are a significant number of rough spots even on some major highways. However, there are a number of very good roads such as DR-1 which is a four lane highway connecting the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago and can be traveled with no trouble. Highway DR-7 is an excellent toll road opened in late 2008. It goes from just east of Santo Domingo north to near Sanchez. From there, you can go east to the Samana peninsula or west along the northern coast of the DR and costs about USD11.

Probably the biggest challenge that an international visitor to the Dominican Republic will face if he or she chooses to rent a car is not so much dealing with automobile traffic, but rather avoiding accidentally running over pedestrians who cross poorly-lit streets and highways in the evening and nighttime hours. Lack of head/taillights on cars and especially motorcycles is also not unusual and with motorcycles this makes them extremely hard to spot. The best recommendation is not to drive after dusk. Outside of Santo Domingo, the motorbike (motoconcho) is an extremely common form of travel. If lost, you can hail a motorbike driver (motochonchista) and ask for directions. You will be taken to your destination by following the bike. A tip is appropriate for such help. Remember that many of these motorbike drivers look upon road rules as only recommendations. However, driving in the Dominican Republic should not be particularly difficult for experienced drivers from North America or Europe.

Guaguas (local buses)

Guaguas are the traditional means of transport in the Dominican Republic. Guaguas will be filled to the brink with people and luggage; expect to squeeze to fit more people who will be picked up en route. If you prefer authentic experience over comfort, traveling by guagua is the right choice.

Guagua comfort can range from air conditioned with leather seats to a bit worn down with open window air breeze cooling. Traveling with guaguas is safe, and tourists are treated friendly and get helped out.

You can also hop on mid way if you know where to stand on the route and gesture the driver; tell the conductor your destination and he'll tell you where to get off and how to switch guaguas; sometimes you'll have to ride across town to another bus station.

Prices are modest: RD$100-150 for a 1-2 hour ride. Since most guaguas are minibusses, you might have to stow your luggage on a seat; in this case you might have to pay a fee for the occupied seat. Larger routes get serviced by normal sized buses with a separate storage compartment.

Be aware that guaguas stop operating at dusk. Plan your trip with enough slack that you will be able to catch your last guagua when the sun is still up.

The guagua network is organic and does not require you to go through the capital; you might have to change several times though, as guaguas usually only connect two major cities.

Long-haul buses

Caribe Tours, based out of the capital, is the biggest bus company, and has coverage in most regions that are not well-served by the other 'official' bus companies. Unlike taxis and gua-guas, Caribe Tour rates are fixed by destination and are extremely reasonable due to government subsidies. Expect to pay under RD$250 for even the longest trips. Caribe Tour buses typically run from 7AM to 4PM (with departures approx. every two hours) and cover most major cities. On longer trips, expect a short (10 minute) stop for coffee and lunch. Buses are fairly luxurious with movies playing for the entire trip and air conditioning (which can be extremely cold - bring a sweater). Another option is the slightly more expensive Metrobus bus company. Metrobus serves the northern and eastern part of the country. The 'unofficial' gua-gua system covers nearly every road on the island for some moderate savings (if you don't mind being packed in).

In short, bus services across the country are comfortable and a good value. The buses are clean, air conditioned (bring sweater), usually play a VHS movie, and are pretty inexpensive, costing no more than RD$300 one way cross-country (less than $10).

Taxi services are available but potentially dangerous when dealing with unlicensed drivers. In all cases, it's a good idea to go with a licensed driver and negotiate a price for your destination before you leave. Good drivers are often easy to identify by licenses worn around the neck, uniforms, and clean air conditioned vehicles. When calling a taxi company, you will be given a number to verify your driver. When being picked up, make sure your driver gives you the right number as 'false pickups' are often a prelude to robbery.

Another way to get out and about is to book an excursion with one of the many representatives at most local hotels and resorts.

Talk

The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. You will find some Spanish-English bilingual locals especially in Santo Domingo and tourist areas. If you speak some Spanish, most Dominicans will try hard to meet you half way and communicate. If you have a problem, you can probably find someone who speaks sufficient English (or probably French and possibly German, Italian or Russian) to help you out. Dominicans are quite friendly and will be quite helpful if you are polite and respectful. Haitians living in the DR may speak Haitian Creole and you may hear a few African and Arawakan words interspersed with the Spanish, especially in rural areas. Communication should not be a problem even for those who speak only a minimum of Spanish. If you are traveling to one of the large all-inclusive hotels, you will have no language problems.

See

There is just one UNESCO World Heritage Site; the old town of Santo Domingo which is the oldest European city in the Americas. In addition to that there are many national parks and beaches in the country.

Do

Climb/hike to the top of Pico Duarte. At 3,098m it's not only the highest mountain in the Dominican Republic but in the whole Caribbean.

Buy

Money

The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso denoted by the symbol "$" or "RD$" (ISO code: DOP). Wikivoyage uses "RD$" for clarity.

At airports and harbors you can change your US dollars and euros in Dominican pesos, though the rates there are not great. It makes sense to get only as many pesos as necessary there and change more later on at your destination or to just withdraw pesos from an ATM with your credit- or debit-card. Note that you may not be able to exchange back Dominican pesos to US dollars and Euros in most countries, so do it before leaving.

In most cities one can find a Banco Popular and Scotiabank - their ATMs allow withdrawals with Visa, Mastercard and Maestro. They usually impose a very low limit but allow several withdrawals at once. Even though it is possible to withdraw money in the bank directly, most will flatly refuse this and point one at their ATMs. Unless one is very proficient in Spanish and willing to fight this out with the staff one has to obey (and thus pay a fee for every withdrawal - between RD$100 and RD$200). Depending on the season the limits change - in high season the limits are higher, in low season they go lower. It always makes sense to try a value that ends in 900 if the 1000 don't work (e.g. if 4000 is over the limit, try 3900 first before trying 3000).

Shopping

One of the best spots in the Colonial District of Santo Domingo to shop is the several blocks long outdoor mall, El Conde Street. It offers everything from street vendors (it is not recommended to eat off these) to knock-off name brand clothing for extremely inexpensive prices. There are some very pleasant outdoor restaurants that serve as perfect spots to people watch and drink Presidente (their most popular beer).

During the day, there are also several touristy shops where you can buy cheap presents for the family back home including authentic paintings and beautiful jewelry. There is also a very nice cigar shop at the end of the mall across from the cathedral. Clothes, however, are generally very economical and often of good quality. Most prices can be negotiated. US dollars are accepted in most areas.

Drink

  • Beer: Presidente, Brahma, Bohemia
  • Rum: Brugal, Barcelo, Bermudez, Macorix, Siboney, Punta Cana.
  • Mama Juana: a mixture of bark and herbs left to soak in rum, red wine and honey.

Additionally, other imported drinks are available for purchase—at least in the towns and cities—they might not be as readily available out in the countryside.

Do not drink tap water! Locals, even in the most rural areas, will either boil their water or purchase bottled water. Eating salads or other food that may be washed in tap water is not advisable. Ice is a bad idea as well, except in luxury hotels and restaurants (which produce ice from bottled water). If you plan on cooking or washing dishes for longer stays, it is a good idea to rinse everything with bottled or boiled water before use.

Eat

Food in the Dominican Republic is typical Caribbean fare, with lots of tropical fruits, rice, beans, and seafood. Most restaurant meals will cost an additional 16% tax plus 10% service: for very good service, it is customary to leave an additional 10%.

Sleep

Lodging in the Dominican Republic is plentiful, with options ranging from huge, all-inclusive beach resorts to more personal options scattered along the coasts and in the cities. Hotels charge a 25% room tax, so inquire beforehand to determine if that tax is included (often the case) in the listed room price.

Learn

Many US universities offer study abroad options for the Dominican Republic. The two most common cities hosting exchange students are Santo Domingo and Santiago. Check with local universities for programs and prices. Spanish language schools are located in major cities and on the north coast as well.

Work

Most companies do not require anything more than a passport to work. There are a lot of US companies in the country, especially in Santo Domingo and DN (the National District). There are good opportunities for English speaking employees. The country has several free zones, lots of them in the call center area.

Volunteering

There are several volunteer opportunities in the Dominican Republic. Many worldwide organizations offer extended travel for anyone willing to volunteer their time to work with locals on projects such as community development, conservation, wildlife sanctuary maintenance & development, scientific research, and education programs.

  • Orphanage Outreach
  • Dominican Foundation
  • International Student Volunteers Dominican Republic
  • The DREAM Project
  • Peace Corps Dominican Republic
  • IDDI

Stay safe

The Dominican Republic is generally a safe country. Although the major cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago have experienced the growth of a thriving middle class, construction booms and reached a high level of cosmopolitanism, the Dominican Republic remains a third world country and poverty is still rampant so you need to take common sense precautions:

  • Try to avoid being alone in cities as muggings are fairly common.
  • Very few streets are lit after dark, even in the capital of Santo Domingo. Those that are lit are subject to routine power outages.
  • Wild dogs are common throughout the country but largely ignore people (feeding these dogs is not recommended as this may induce aggressive behavior).
  • Western travelers should dress casually and remove rings and other jewelry when away from tourist destinations, but common tourist destinations, particularly the more expensive and the luxury hotels and areas, are very safe.
  • Sex tourism is prevalent in the Puerto Plata province of the country, so you may be hassled by young men or women trying to offer you 'services'. A firm 'No' is good enough. The age of consent is 18, and tourists who have sex with minors may also be prosecuted by their home country.
  • There are no laws dictating the maximum amount of alcohol that can be drunk prior to driving. However, there is a 0.05% limit for professional drivers. Be wary of vehicles, especially during the late evening, as there is a much higher possibility at that time that the driver is intoxicated. It is illegal for tourists and visitors to drink and drive and besides it being a bad idea you may be penalized for doing so.
  • The level of professionalism of the National Police is somewhat debatable. To protect income from tourism, the government has established the Politur or "tourist police" for the safety of foreign tourists. Travelers should contact this agency if any problems are encountered as they will have a much more positive response than with the national police.

Stay healthy

Malaria can be a rare issue around rainforests if travelers don't take protective measures such as repellents against mosquito bites. No cases have been reported over the past 8 years within the tourist areas. Be sure to consult with a physician before departure.

There is a risk of dengue fever and chikungunya fever which is contracted through mosquitoes that bite during the day and during some seasons of the year. No vaccine is available, so again using mosquito repellent is advisable.

Many of the local foods are safe to eat including the meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Visitors, however, should not drink any of the local water and should stay with bottled water or other beverages. It is important for visitors to stay hydrated in the hot, humid climate.

Sunburn and sun poisoning are a great risk. The sun is very bright here. Use at least SPF30 sunblock. Limit sun exposure.

The country's adult HIV/AIDS prevalence is reaching 2.0% or 1 in 50 adults, which is almost 3 times higher than the USA. Practice safe sex.

Respect

Dominicans are kind and peaceful people. Attempts at speaking Spanish are a good sign of respect for the local people. Be polite, show respect, and do your best to speak the language, and you will be treated with kindness.

Avoid talking about Haiti. Although relations have improved, many Dominicans, particularly of the older generations, harbor resentment towards Haitians. Santo Domingo was invaded and occupied by Haiti for a good part of the 19th century, and the Dominican Republic actually fought its first war of independence against Haiti, not Spain, after which the Dominican Republic faced several other invasions from its neighbor.

Trujillo's dictatorship massacred tens of thousands of Haitians in the 1930s, which fueled the resentment between both nations. Nowadays, about a million Haitians (which is a lot considering the small populations of either country) live in the Dominican Republic, most of them illegally. Some Dominicans' opinions towards illegal immigrants from Haiti are similar to some Americans' attitudes towards Mexican illegal immigrants, with the major difference that, unlike the US, the Dominican Republic is a small and poor country by world standards, but still much much richer and more stable than Haiti. Gang wars can erupt along the border, so stay cautious and be sensitive.

Still, the issues remain very complex and Dominicans often find their position to be misunderstood by foreigners. For example, the Dominican Republic was the first country to come to Haiti's aid in the 2010 Haitian earthquake and has made impressive efforts to help its neighbor during this crisis. This shows that despite their historical, linguistic, religious, cultural and ethnic differences, Haitians and Dominicans still consider each other to be brotherly, yet proudly independent, nations.

When staying at the luxury resorts or really any place in the Dominican Republic, it is advisable to tip for most services. The Dominican Republic is still a fairly poor country and tipping the people who serve you helps them better their sometimes dire economic situation.

Connect

Lonely Planet Dominican Republic (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Dominican Republic is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Follow in the footsteps of conquistadors in Santo Domingo, claim a spot in the sand at Playa Rincon, or dance merengue till the wee hours at a Santiago bar; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of the Dominican Republic and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Dominican Republic Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including cuisine, history, art, architecture, music, dance, sport, politics, landscapes, wildlife Over 28 maps Covers Santo Domingo, Playa Rincon, La Vega, Damajagua,  CabaretePunta Cana, the Peninsula de Samana, Lago Enriquillo, Pico Duarte and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Dominican Republic , our most comprehensive guide to the Dominican Republic, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for more coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Caribbean Islands guide for a comprehensive look at what the whole region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Michael Grosberg and Kevin Raub.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

The Dominican Republic Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)

Eric Paul Roorda, Lauren H. Derby, Raymundo Gonzalez

Despite its significance in the history of Spanish colonialism, the Dominican Republic is familiar to most outsiders through only a few elements of its past and culture. Non-Dominicans may be aware that the country shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and that it is where Christopher Columbus chose to build a colony. Some may know that the country produces talented baseball players and musicians; others that it is a prime destination for beach vacations. Little else about the Dominican Republic is common knowledge outside its borders. This Reader seeks to change that. It provides an introduction to the history, politics, and culture of the country, from precolonial times into the early twenty-first century. Among the volume's 118 selections are essays, speeches, journalism, songs, poems, legal documents, testimonials, and short stories, as well as several interviews conducted especially for this Reader. Many of the selections have been translated into English for the first time. All of them are preceded by brief introductions written by the editors. The volume's eighty-five illustrations, ten of which appear in color, include maps, paintings, and photos of architecture, statues, famous figures, and Dominicans going about their everyday lives.

National Geographic Traveler: Dominican Republic, 3rd Edition

Christopher Baker

This guide covers all the main towns and cities of the Dominican Republic, helping travelers negotiate one of the region's lesser-known destinations. Travel information tips for Santo Domingo, La Península de Samaná, and Cordillera Central are all updated for this latest edition. The book also includes detailed city walks and regional drives, complete with maps, booking information, and features on colonial architecture, shipwrecks, reefs, whale-watching, cave art, and cigar making. The National Geographic Traveler guidebooks are in tune with the ever growing trend toward experiential travel, providing inspiring photography, insider tips, and expert advice for a more authentic, enriching experience of the destination. The guides provide information, historical context, and cultural interpretation not available online.

Moon Dominican Republic (Moon Travel Guides)

Lebawit Lily Girma

Frequent resident and world traveler Lebawit Lily Girma offers insider's tips along with a tourist perspective in Moon Dominican Republic. Girma covers the best of the Dominican Republic, including coverage of Puerto Plata, the Samaná Peninsula, Constanza, and Santo Domingo. Girma also offers intriguing sidebars about Dominicanisms, from colmados to traditional dances and syncretic beliefs. With unique and diverse travel strategies such as The Seven-Day Culture and Food Tour, finding the Best Beaches or adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures, Moon Dominican Republic gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience. 

Top 10 Dominican Republic (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide)

James Ferguson

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Dominican Republic is your pocket guide to the very best of Dominican Republic.

Spend your days lounging on the beautiful beaches, adventuring through the tropical rainforests and alpine wilderness, or riding the best windsurfing waves in the western hemisphere, and then dance the night away to the intoxicating rhythms of merengue and bachata with a dark rum in hand. The most visited tourist destination in the Caribbean truly offers a little bit of everything.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Dominican Republic.

True to its name, this Top 10 guidebook covers all major sights and attractions in easy-to-use "top 10" lists that help you plan the vacation that's right for you:

   • "Don't miss" destination highlights .    • Things to do and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Free, color pull-out map (print edition), plus maps and photographs throughout.    • Walking tours and day-trip itineraries.    • Traveler tips and recommendations.    • Local drink and dining specialties to try.    • Museums, festivals, outdoor activities.    • Creative and quirky best-of lists and more.

The perfect pocket-size travel companion: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Dominican Republic.

Recommend: For an in-depth guidebook to the Caribbean, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Caribbean, which offers a complete overview of the island destinations in the region; thousands of photographs, illustrations, and maps; and more.

Dominican Republic (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

With a diverse landscape of tropical rainforests, rugged mountains, fertile valleys, arid deserts-like expanses and white sand beaches, the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the Americas. Let the expertly researched National Geographic's Dominican Republic Adventure Map serve as your guide as you explore this Caribbean Island nation. The front side details, with maps, photos and descriptions, someone of the countries most visited areas, including Metropolitan and Colonial Santo DomingoSamana Peninsula, Del Este National Park, Lake Enriquillo and Pico Duarte. While the reverse side combines hundreds of points of interest, a detailed road network and topographic features, in one unparalleled map of the entire country, her islands and surrounding bodies of water.

A user-friendly index towns and protected areas, including forest reserves, national parks, natural monuments and wildlife refuges, will help you find your adventure site. Then plan your route with the mapped road network which includes primary and secondary roads, complete with distances, as well as tracks to help you travel off the beaten path. Additional transportation features mapped include airports, airstrips, ferry routes. sea ports and border crossings with Haiti. Mapped are cultural, historical, ecological and adventure points of interest, such as archeological sites and ruins, swamps, mangroves, coral reefs, shipwrecks, caves and areas for surfing, diving and fishing. Along with its abundance of travel tips and background information, the map is a complete travel guide to the country.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:450,000Sheet Size = 37.75" x 25.5"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic

Rough Guides

The new Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic is the ultimate travel guide to this fascinating island nation. Discover the country's highlights with stunning full-color photography, maps and more listings and information than ever before.

Inside The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic, you'll find detailed practical advice on what to see and do in the Dominican Republic — from paradise beaches to pulsating baseball games, mountain hikes to merengue, kiteboarding and Carnival — as well as up-to-date descriptions of the best hotels, bars, clubs, shops and restaurants for all budgets.

Whether you have time to browse detailed chapters full of off-the-beaten track destinations, or need fast-fix itineraries and author recommendations that pick out the highlights you won't want to miss, The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic is the one guidebook you need.

Make the Most of Your Time on Earth with The Rough Guide to the Dominican Republic.

About Rough Guides: For thirty years, adventurous travelers have turned to Rough Guides for up-to-date and intuitive information from expert authors. With opinionated and lively writing, honest reviews, and a strong cultural background, Rough Guides travel books bring more than two hundred destinations to life.

Dominican Republic - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Ginnie Bedggood

Occupying the eastern two-thirds of island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has something for almost everyone – except perhaps obsessive perfectionists. If you can relax and go with the flow you will experience a land of great environmental diversity with a rich and varied culture, a turbulent history, some infuriating idiosyncrasies, and a people whose friendliness is legendary. The Dominicans are flamboyant, irrepressible, generous, headstrong, and resilient. Their culture is a distinctive mix of an easygoing Caribbean nature coupled with Latino verve and showmanship. For those who choose to break out of the confines of all-inclusive tourist resorts, Culture Smart! Dominican Republic offers a tantalizing insight into this warm, vital, and intriguing people. It takes you on a journey from the unspoiled coastline to the agricultural interior, to the imposing mountains and to the hamlets where time appears to have stood still. It then catapults you into the twenty-first century, through poverty and opulence, to the hustle and bustle of the large cities and the lifestyles of the luxury coastal tourist resorts. It offers practical advice on what to expect and to how to behave in a Dominican home, or in social and work settings. The authors of this book, both long-term residents in the Dominican Republic, have provided a unique roadmap to the interesting and challenging experiences that await you in this beautiful, varied, and complex country.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Demonstrations

The security situation is stable. However, demonstrations and protests occasionally occur, particularly in the areas of Santiago, SalcedoBonao and Santo Domingo. Even though these demonstrations are not targeted at foreigners and do not happen near resorts, they have the potential to turn violent without notice and should be avoided. Exercise caution and monitor local news reports.

Crime

Violent crime (including assault) against foreigners occasionally occurs. Petty crime (including pickpocketing) is common in urban areas. Thefts have been reported in resorts, including in hotel rooms and hotel room safes. Exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark. Avoid showing signs of affluence and do not leave your personal belongings unattended on the beach. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Limit the valuable items you bring into the country.

Theft of items from checked baggage at airports has been reported. These thefts have taken place most frequently when travellers are departing. Money and personal items have also been stolen from carry-on luggage while travellers are going through security checks. Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage. Items most likely to disappear include electronics (especially digital cameras), jewellery and perfume. All bags are routinely X-rayed upon arrival and departure.

In the event that documents are lost or stolen, obtain a police report in order to receive a passport or an appropriate travel document from the Embassy of Canada in Santo Domingo, the Consulate of Canada in Puerto Plata or the Office of the Embassy of Canada in Punta Cana.

Unaccompanied female travellers should exercise caution in dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances, especially regarding the acceptance of rides or other invitations. Incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners have been reported, including at beach resorts. In some cases, hotel employees have been implicated.

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Anyone who is a victim of sexual assault or other crime should report the crime immediately. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to the Dominican authorities.

Road travel

The Dominican Republic has one of the highest road accident rates in the world. Driving is hazardous due to aggressive driving habits, a significant number of trucks and motorcycles, reckless passing, excessive speeds, poorly marked lanes, construction, vehicles travelling in the wrong direction on one-way streets, and poorly maintained roads and cars. Driving after dark is not recommended due to poor lighting.

Traffic laws are similar to those in Canada but are often not respected. Roadside assistance is not available. There have been reports of police officers, or criminals posing as police officers, demanding immediate payment of traffic fines. Drivers should insist on paying any traffic fine at the nearest police station. Pedestrians should take extra care.

Public transportation

Public transportation is not recommended. Private companies operate reliable buses between cities. Taxi-plane services are also available.

Taxis are fairly reliable. You should always negotiate the fare prior to departure. Avoid using or renting motorcycle taxis (motoconchos), as they are very dangerous. Route taxis (gua-guas/carros publicos) are not recommended as they may disregard traffic laws, often resulting in serious accidents involving injury and sometimes death. They may also be used by thieves to rob passengers.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Fraud

Credit card and debit card fraud occurs. Pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others during payment. Be cautious when using automated banking machines, and only do so to withdraw money during business hours inside a bank.

General security information

Water safety standards may not be comparable to Canadian safety standards. Hotels and resorts may not have lifeguards on beaches, and appropriate safety and rescue equipment may not be available. It is imperative that you keep informed of local water conditions and warning systems (including at your hotel) and follow instructions accordingly. Strong undertows could pose threats, especially in the Macao area. Swimmers who enter the water do so at their own risk. Remain in well-marked and supervised areas. Avoid walking on deserted or unsupervised beaches after dark.

It is also possible that aquatic equipment offered at the beach does not meet Canadian safety standards. Check that your travel insurance covers accidents related to recreational activities. Avoid participating in any water activities under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Avoid excursions that are not recommended by tour operators. Ensure that tour operators have taken proper safety measures, including the use of safety equipment such as helmets and life jackets, before undertaking extreme or eco-tourism types of activities.

A number of cases have been reported of Canadians losing large sums of money while playing progressive keno, super keno and other keno or progressive roulette games at casinos. These games operate on a progressive wagering basis, and large amounts of money can be lost rapidly. Exercise caution in hotel casinos where these games are offered, especially when requested to provide credit card information.

Emergency services

The tourist police (POLITUR), a cooperative effort between the national police, secretary of the armed forces and the secretary of tourism, provide a security presence in tourist areas and first response assistance to tourists. They can be reached toll-free at 1-809-200-3500 and can help get tourists to a police station to file a report and to seek further assistance.

Dial 911 for emergency services in Santo Domingo.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Good medical facilities exist in all tourist areas. Medical care is limited in remote areas. Medical expenses can be very high. It is normal for clinics to require patients to sign an undertaking to pay agreement and to take a credit card impression as guarantee of payment before providing medical care. Any incidents of sickness or injury requiring hospitalization should be reported to the Embassy of Canada in Santo Domingo.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page and our Overview of the criminal law system in the Dominican Republic for more information.

Illegal drugs

Persons convicted of buying, selling, carrying or using any type or quantity of drug are subject to strict penalties. Judicial processes may last several years (during which accused individuals are normally detained) and could lead to long prison sentences in harsh conditions.

Laws

Dominican law stipulates that victims of crime (including foreigners) are responsible for reporting incidents to police. Victims who wish to pursue prosecution or seek compensation must retain Dominican legal counsel to file a formal complaint to the police and to pursue the case through the justice system. The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. You should expect all documents to be in Spanish and not English or French.

An International Driving Permit is required.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is legally recognized. However, in the judicial system, citizens of Dominican origin are considered Dominican citizens. Therefore, Canadian consular officials may be limited in their ability to provide consular services.

Real estate

Many Canadians have reported financial problems and complications involving time-share arrangements and other property investment activities. Exercise caution whenever approached by time-share representatives as pressure sales techniques are used. Do not reveal personal information or provide your credit card unless you are certain you wish to make a purchase.

Before making any real estate or land investment, consult Dominican and Canadian lawyers with relevant experience, and exercise extreme caution. Land deeds should be carefully verified. Ensure that constant vigilance of land will take place, as there have been several instances of disputed land occupation in the absence of the alleged owner. The Embassy of Canada in Santo Domingo cannot intervene in legal matters, and cannot give legal advice regarding land purchases or disputes.

Marriage

Marriages legally performed in compliance with the laws of the Dominican Republic are recognized in Canada. For information on required documentation and procedures, contact the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Ottawa.

Money

Upon departure from the Dominican Republic, you cannot export more than US$10,000 or its equivalent in another currency.

The currency is the Dominican peso (DOP). U.S. dollars are widely accepted, but Canadian currency is not. Canadian currency and traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at most commercial banks and exchange booths or offices (casas de cambio) and in resort areas and major tourist hotels. Currency should be exchanged only at banks, official exchange booths and casas de cambio.

Climate

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

The Dominican Republic is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes can occur.