Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic travel guide

The Dominican Republic is known for its tropical beaches, heavenly nature and the amazing Caribbean parties. With this in mind I was a little shocked when I arrived in the DR. The real Dominican Republic is a lot les attractive at first sight. In many parts of the country there is a lot of poverty and pollution. Luckily, the most beautiful parts of the country are maintained well. For tourists, Punta Cana is probably the most popular spot, but regions or cities like Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Samana show the real life of the Dominican Republic. There you'll see a lot more of the Dominicans culture, history and their delicious food.

 Places in the Dominican Republic

Puerto PlataPunta CanaSanto Domingo

A less touristy part of the beach in Punta Cana.

A less touristy part of the beach in Punta Cana.

 Average costs

Stay – Accommodation in the Dominican Republic is different from area to area. In the more touristy zones you’ll find a little bit of everything. Hostels, budget hotels luxurious stays and ressorts.

Regions with less tourists (Samana, Puerto Plata, …) often have a few accommodations but often are a lot less luxurious. Nor will you find a lot of budget options there.

Punta Cana is most expensive of them all. For a hostel you will pay around $15 a night. In other regions only around $10 a night.
The same can be said for the ressorts. In Punta Cana you will mostly find luxurious hotels and ressorts that cost over $100. In Santo Domingo or Puerto Plata you’ll manage to find these kind of hotels for about $60.

Food – In general, food is very cheap in the Dominican Republic. The only place where you’ll pay a lot more (triple!) is Punta Cana.
In Punta Cana you can expect to pay around $10 a meal, when eating in a restaurant. In other Dominican cities you will only pay between $3 and $6 for a plate stuffed with Dominican delicacies.

Transport – Public transportation in the Dominican Republic doesn’t exist. Or well… It’s extremely hard to figure out.
The locals have their own form of public transport, but it’s not very accessible for tourists since you really have to speak the language to get somewhere. It’s not uncommon that the bus drivers cheat on the tourists and overcharge them. These so called guagua’s are small, very old busses which take as many passengers as possible. They are incredibly cheap, but if you value comfort (and safety?!) this might not be the best form of transportation.

Luckily there’s plenty of other transportation. Depending on where you are you’ll see hundreds of taxi’s or motorbikes passing by all the time. They aren’t very expensive and a lot more practical for people who don’t really know Spanish. Just make sure to always fix the price before you get in.

In Santo Domingo you can also make use of Uber. A smartphone app that lets you drive with locals against very cheap prices.
This was definitely my favorite option while in Santo Domingo.

If you want to travel from one city to another, you have two options. You can use the plane or you can use the many long-distance busses.
From Santo Domingo you an use the Caribe Tours or Metro Tours busses. From Punta Cana it is mostly Bavaro Express that brings you to other places on the island.

Los Tres Ojos national park, close to Santo Domingo.

Los Tres Ojos national park, close to Santo Domingo.

 Saving money

No organised tours – Almost all organised tours are incredibly expensive in comparison to the real cost of the trip. Most of the tours that are offered can easily be arranged yourself. I found out that most tours charge five to ten times as much as when you arrange them yourself.

Local food – The Dominican kitchen is delicious and dirt cheap. Pretty much everywhere you’ll also get a plate full of food, so starving in the DR is not an option. Throughout the Dominican you’ll find lots of buffet style restaurants. Dependant on what you take and how much you take the restaurant owner will quote you a price. Normally this should be between $3 and $6 a plate. Very often a drink is also included in this price.

Buy a local sim card– Smartphones are always fun when you’re baking on the beach. To fight the boredom you of course need data on your phone. In the Dominican Republic you can easily buy a data sim card and they are not at all expensive.
The most well known providers are Orange and Claro. The data cards can be found for one day, seven days or thirty days.

Haggle – Most Dominicans try to get a lot of money from the tourists. Always try to haggle when trying to buy something. Especially when taking a taxi or at the local markets. In restaurants or supermarkets you of course can’t haggle…

The old city in Santo Domingo. The capital of the DR.

The old city in Santo Domingo. The capital of the DR.


  Do’s

Santo Domingo – The capital of the Dominican Republic has a beautiful old, colonial city part. This is definitely the best thing to visit, but even outside there are a couple of interesting sights. Santo Domingo is easily seen in one day, but to get to know the local culture a little more I would make sure to stay a little longer.

Punta Cana – This is probably the most well-known place in the Dominican Republic. The local culture might not really exist here anymore, the gorgeous beaches are still recommended. This spot is perfect for people who want a carefree and relaxing vacation with lots of sun and sea.

Puerto Plata – An other place to visit for one or two days is Puerto Plata. Here you’ll find quite some colonial influences. The surrounding nature is also very impressive. Try to go to the waterfalls for a fun day out.

Samana – The Samana region is probably the best the Dominican Republic can offer for nature lovers. Everywhere you can find beautiful nature. This mountainous region is home to lots of waterfalls and during whale season (January – March) you can sea the humpbacks swimming by.

Try local food – Fried plantanes, bananas, rice, chicken and freshly squeezes juices. More fresh and delicious is almost impossible! The best part of it all is that this delicious food is super cheap!

National parks and islands – The Dominican Republic is very diverse. Besides the gorgeous cities you can also find a lot of different eco systems. Tropical rainforests, underground caves and rivers, heavenly islands with swaying palm trees and oceans filled with colorful corals en fishes. Be sure to take your camera with you to take pictures of all this gorgeousness!

Dancing merengue – Sway your hips to the uplifting merengue beats or just go crazy in a club or bar. Inhabitants of the Caribbean are party professionals! And to make you go completely wild; the cocktails often don’t cost a lot of money.

The beautiful Caribbean ocean near Saona Island.

The beautiful Caribbean ocean near Saona Island.

  Don’ts

Stress, stress, stress – In the Dominican Republic, everything goes at a very slow pace… There is absolutely no stress or hurrying. Try to not get annoyed at restaurants. It is not unusual that you have to wait longer than forty five minutes on your food and then another fifteen minutes to get the bill. You wouldn’t expect this to be the case in fastfood restaurants or organised trips, but believe me; relax and take it easy…

Go to far out of the tourist zones – I never had any problems, but it is wise to always be on guard when visiting the Dominican Republic. It’s not uncommon that tourists get robbed or ripped off (Punta Cana normally never has these kind of problems). As long as you stay in the tourist zones, you are safe. These zones are the most interesting part anyway, so you won’t really miss anything by strolling outside these areas.
Use your common sense and leave jewelry and expensive clothes at home.

Not have a basic knowledge of Spanish – I definitely noticed it myself. If your Spanish is very basic, it is quite hard to talk to locals or haggle with store owners. That takes away from the experience, so I recommend to have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish before you arrive in the Dominican Republic.
Translation apps can come in handy too! I really liked Google Translate and the Yandex Translate app. You can download a language offline for android phones with Google Translate. The same can be done for Iphone with the Yandex app. Always handy when you don’t have internet and still want to talk some Spanish!

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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