Exploring Santo Domingo

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

It’s only six hours difference between Belgium and the Dominican Republic. However, I still wake up at 6 AM this morning. The people of the hostel still are sleeping like roses, but I just can’t fall asleep again. Eventually, I just decide to wake up.

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Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Parque independencia or the independence park in Santo Domingo.

Parque independencia or the independence park in Santo Domingo.

A half hour later, I’m outside and get a warm welcome by the amazing temperatures this early in the day. The articles I read yesterday evening -about the safety of Santo Domingo- aren’t exactly helping, because I see gangsters everywhere. Or well, at least that’s what I think.

When the day passes by, I really don’t feel unsafe anymore…

My hostel is located very close to the Parque Independencia, the independence park. There don’t seem to be a lot of people outside, because my whole visit I only get company from two soldiers that are parading in the park.

The park self is quite beautiful and inside the pavilion there are three statues from the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic.

When I get out of the park, I see lots of taxi’s who would be called total loss cars where I come from. Here… They don’t even seem that bad. Because later I see other, worse, cars without lights, with loose hanging bumpers or without any windows.

It may sound weird, but this honestly does give a charming vibe to the city.

After walking a little further, I arrive at the Zona Colonial or the colonial zone. This part of the city is very little, but is the hotspot for tourists. This is the place to get to know the Dominican culture and see all of the historical buildings. One of them is the house of Christoffer Columbus.

Before the (giant) house, a big square is built with a big statue to commemorate him.

Since it still is quite early, I still don’t see that many people strolling around.

A little later in the day, I hear that today is holy friday (easter). All shops are closed. So that’s the reason why there’s so little people walking around.

Dominicans are very religious.

Columbus Square in Santo Domingo.

Columbus Square in Santo Domingo.

I walk a little further and see a lot more beautiful buildings in the colonial zone. Outside of the zone there also are nice spots.

The blue, angry sea crashes into the rocks that surround the island and splash metres high. A little further, suddenly I see hundreds of locals. At the beach, there is a volleybal competition and everywhere in this area I see tiny or huge swimming pools where kids are playing in.

I enjoy the great atmosphere and the uplifting Spanish music while the Dominicans sing, yell and laugh out loud.

When the jetlag kicks in once again, I decide to go back to the youth hostel and rest a little more. Time flies when you’re sleeping, because I only wake up again in the early evening. With a guy from the hostel we go out and explore the Colonial streets of Santo Domingo at night.

We both were very uneasy. I read that tourists need to watch out when walking on the streets at night.

There’s a lot less police on the streets and locals might become aggressive to steal your stuff.

With two it’s already a lot better than alone, especially since the guy speaks Spanish fluently.

Where I’m from, it’s normal to go out at night to have a drink in a bar or a cafe. Here… Not so much. Maybe it has something to do with holy friday?

Nope! We get to one of the little squares and suddenly we see hundreds of youngsters enjoying their drinks and snacks. Between the enjoying teens there are guys walking around with a wheelbarrow kind of thing, transporting lots of candy, drinks and cigarettes.

Even though I don’t understand a word what the Spanish say, I love the atmosphere!

We leave at 2 AM and walk back home.

I have to admit that I was a little scared once we were outside the colonial zone again.

The streets are pitch black and the creepy looking vans with loud music of course don’t lighten the mood either… If you then also need to walk home by passing a huge cemetery and meet quite some aggressive street dogs… Well!

Luckily, nothing happened. We both let out a sigh of relief when we arrived back in the youth hostel.

Sam in Santo Domingo.

Sam in Santo Domingo.

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