In early 2021 I spent 3 months in the Dominican Republic. I’m no resident but I do feel like 3 months is long enough to provide a bit of travel advice for anyone looking to visit the DR.
Tip #1 – Airport
Customs and immigration areas aren’t exactly playgrounds in any country. They are akin to purgatory. An area where everyone is in desperate need of a shower, feels dehydrated from their flight and often regret not changing into more suitable attire on the plane.
I flew into the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo. Unsurprisingly, their customs/immigration was no different. I was one of the first people to get to immigration from our plane and it still took me over 1.5 hours to get through. There were perhaps 200 people behind me who I would guess took closer to 3 hours to get through.
Maybe there was an influx of planes at that particular time. Whatever the case, the desks weren’t fully staffed and there were only two immigration officers processing what would have been hundreds of people.
There’s a limited amount that you can do to prevent the wait. What I would say is:
- Make sure you’ve gone to the toilet before the plane lands so you can avoid the hassle of trying to explain to people that you’re not skipping the queue when you return.
- You can’t just barge your way through the plane. There is an etiquette to getting off a plane, you let the people in the rows in front leave before you do. There aren’t any rules once you get off the place though. Do not dawdle. Walk fast. Overtake 20 people on the way to immigration and you might save yourself 45 minutes.
Once you get through customs, just be prepared for the chaos. Again, there may have been a particularly large amount of flights arriving when I did but it was the busiest arrivals area I’ve ever seen. It was hot and sticky. My bag was heavy. I just said yes to the first taxi driver that approached me. I didn’t even negotiate. I wanted out.
Tip #2 – Electronics & Tech
Oh the heartache this has caused me.
As per the video, I’m no tech expert or electrician so I can’t tell you if it’s amps, volts, current or some other terminology.
All I know if that some things charge and others do not. I’ve met a lot of other people that have had the same issue. Apparently the plugs are only 110 (amps? volts?) so you need a suitable charger. I have a UK plug adapter which works for my laptop and phone but doesn’t for my electric shaver or my portable speaker. It says it’s charging, but then they die within seconds.
Worse, my phone refused to charge for 2 months. As soon as I plugged in the charging cable it said it had moisture in the port. I wasn’t the only one, a few others had this issue.
My remedy was to buy a wireless charger. The problem was that I had to test out 3 different chargers for that thing before it worked properly! So that sort of went against my hypothesis that it was the UK chargers….
It’s reasonably humid but not so humid that I would expect that to happen and yes I tried leaving it in a bag of rice and also in the sun. Eventually it worked fine, but that was 2 months down the line.
Do I have the answer for you? No. Suffice to say that you should expect some technical hiccups with all of your various electronics in the DR!
Tip #3 – The Dominican Republic has mutant mosquitos
Mosquitos in a tropical country, que surprise!
I’m no stranger to the tropics and mosquitos but I swear the mosquitos in the Dominican Republic are next level beasts. They are absolutely relentless.
I made the terrible mistake of not using repellent for the first few days. What followed was 2 weeks where I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time. I would genuinely wake up scratching myself like a junky.
As far as I know they do have malaria in the DR, but they seem to be more wary of Dengue Fever. From all accounts Dengue is something you really want to avoid.
My mistake annoyed purely on the fact that it is so preventable. The main mosquito repellent brand in the DR is Off! and they also have a few brands of mosquito rings that you light and they smoke away for a few hours. I would highly recommend that you use both. When it rains here there are so many mosquitos that just one isn’t quite enough.
I would also bring some lightweight trousers and long sleeve tops. It may seem like overkill but it really was uncomfortable!
#Tip 4 – It’s not always sunny
Okay, so most of the time it is sunny. It’s the Caribbean after all.
When it rains though, it really does rain.
I brought a soft shell jacket that I use in London. It’s light and does the job when you’re caught in a quick shower. Sustained rain and it starts to fail.
Well……the ‘showers’ here are a little different to those in London. I got caught multiple times in these showers, often for less than 5 minutes, and I was soaked through.
I wish I had bought a good lightweight anorak and packed that instead. It’s the same amount of space, same weight, but much better performance. You might look like a bit of a nerd in one but it’s a raincoat. Any fool can get wet. I’m the fool.
Tip #5 – Transport Options
I approached the Dominican Republic in the same fashion as I would going to South East Asia. That was a mistake.
Private transport is no way near as cheap as it is in, say, Bali. Taxis are nearly European prices – I paid $150 dollars to get to the North coast from Santo Domingo but even to go 5 minutes down the road is likely to run you $7-$8.
The reason for the prices is because most people use the local buses/mini buses to get places. As an example, you can take a Caribe Tours bus from Santo Domingo to Sosua/Puerto Plata for $12. Or you can take a GuaGua (local minibus service) from Playa Encuentro to Cabarete for $0.50 (30 Dominican Pesos). The final option is a motoconcho which I did for the first few weeks. You essentially just jump on the back of a motorbike. Playa Encuentro to Cabarete would cost $3 (150 pesos) but after seeing a few accidents I decided that GuaGuas were by far the best option.
Hiring a car will cost you $40 minimum and that’s for a small car, I would take an SUV if you have the chance. A motorbike is usually $25 – $30 a day.
Of course you can get better deals for longer term hires but overall I found that unless you hired a car, getting around isn’t all that easy. In hindsight I should have bought a motorbike for $500 and sold it back but bear in mind that the roads are pretty darn dangerous, especially on the weekends with DUIs.