It was a Wednesday night in Santiago de Los Caballeros. I wasn’t expecting much. I’d experienced some fantastic Dominican Republic nightlife in Santo Domingo, but the best nights were almost always on the weekend.
Still, locals kept telling my buddy and me about Levels Club on ladies’ night. Every single person we spoke with recommended the spot. From the hotel staff to the waitress at the bar – Levels Club was the place to be on a Wednesday in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
We decided to check it out. Hell, we were easily convinced. Enjoying a little rumba was always on the agenda.
Around 10 pm, we walked down the street to the local colmado and grabbed two grandes and a few cups.
We sat outside downing the brews and chilling. Once the beers were finished, we hailed a cab off the street to Levels Club.
It was 11 pm when we arrived. A gaggle of sexy girls in high heels were waiting in line outside the club.
Reggaeton in Levels Club.
A big ass smile stretched across my face. My buddy had noticed the chicas, too. Maybe the hype was justified. Maybe Levels Club was the spot to be.
Now, I’m not going to get into the gritty details of my first night enjoying Dominican Republic nightlife in Santiago, but let me tell you…
The hype was more than justified. Imagine thumping reggaeton music, sexy girls in cocktail dresses and high heels, cheap ass drinks, and lots of perreando dancing.
But, that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how friendly all the people were. I made friends with the bouncers, some Dominican gym bros, chicas, and the mother of the DJ.
The people in Santiago de Los Caballeros were so damn friendly. My buddy and I felt like they’d never met gringos before. We were treated like royalty.
Understanding Nightlife in the Dominican Republic
Now, not every night partying in the Dominican Republic will be as memorable as my first night out in Santiago.
But, you’re sure as hell going to have some fun times enjoying the nightlife in the Dominican Republic. Here are just a few reasons why:
Dominican Nightlife Culture
Nightlife in the Dominican Republic is a little different than back home. The music is different, the people are friendlier, and you have to keep an eye out for chapiadoras from time to time.
Ya tu sabes.
Overall, it’s a hell of a time. It’s still a Latin, Spanish-speaking country, but people here are more open and willing to talk with others outside their groups. While it’s a bit weird to go out hoping to meet other people in Colombia, many a Dominican is up for mingling while partying.
Crazy Friendly People
While you won’t notice this much in the tourist areas or Santo Domingo, you definitely will in smaller cities and towns. I made more friends going out one night in Santiago de Los Caballeros than I did the whole time I was in Punta Cana.
If you’re a normal person, Dominicans are absolutely thrilled to share their country with you. They’ll be curious what you’re doing in the DR and how you made it off the resort in Punta Cana.
Be prepared to socialize, talk, drink, and dance with a lot of people on a night out in the DR. Nightlife in the Dominican Republic is pretty damn social. People still speak to each other using words – not Snapchat filters 24/7.
With the homies!
There’s not a lot of “gringo” music in the DR. Sure, some of the bigger clubs in Punta Cana play electronic and even hip-hop on occasion.
Once you get to Santo Domingo or Santiago, you can expect nothing but:
It’s Latin beats all day, every day. Reggaeton tends to be the most popular form of music in the discos, although dembow and bachata can be heard from certain clubs. Salsa isn’t nearly as popular here as it is in Colombia.
If you don’t know how to dance, the Dominican Republic nightlife might be rough for you. The good news? You’ll get a whole lot of leeway as a gringo.
If you’re a gringo and can dance a few steps of bachata without looking like a dipshit, people will fawn. If you can grind a little perrenado, they’ll think you’re a damn tiguere in your own right.
Personally, I absolutely loved the dancing in the DR. Grinding to reggaeton is like dancing to hip-hop back home. Plus, bachata is way easier to dance than salsa and the music is better, too.
Spanish is Essential
The Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking country. Once you get off the resort, English levels are not going to be great.
You’ll meet a few English speakers in Santo Domingo, and surprisingly, many people from Santiago speak decent English after visiting their cousins in New York every summer.
Outside of these few people, you’ll need to speak Spanish if you want to fully enjoy the country, especially when trying to talk while bachata blares in the background.
Alright, enough with the cultural insights and tall tales, let’s dive into Dominican Republic nightlife and talk about the absolute best places to party in the country.
Here are the top 10 places to party in the Dominican Republic:
Onno’s: This place is absolutely legendary. If you’re in Zona Colonial on a Thursday night, then head here. It might not look like much, but many of my best nights in Santo Domingo started at this little nightclub. Onno’s is great on Thursdays and good on Saturdays.
Mamma Club: If you like large clubs and high-end nightlife, then head here on a weekend night. Mamma Club is located in Naco, one of the nicest neighborhoods in all of the Dominican Republic. It’s big and you’ll definitely want to buy a bottle here. One of the best clubs in all of Santo Domingo.
Zambra: A tiny club in Piantini, you wouldn’t think Zambra would be great. You’d be wrong! There’s something about this small club that makes it a great place to get absolutely wasted and mingle. I’ve been here at least a dozen times during my time in Santo Domingo.
Santiago de Los Caballeros
Levels: The best ladies’ night in the Dominican Republic happens every Wednesday night at Levels Club in Santiago. I couldn’t recommend it enough. The crowd is friendly and the booze is cheap. Weekends tend to be pretty decent, too.
75 Grados: If you want to have a shitshow of a night, head to 75 Grados in Santiago de Los Caballeros on a Saturday. This tiny club plays dembow and reggaeton, but that’s not why I come here. I come for the blender drinks. You get a huge blender filled with vodka here for like $7 USD! They’ll get you drunk. If a Dominican comes to 75 Grados, they’re looking to party hard.
Partying at 75 Grados!
Imagine Club: This is by far my favorite mega-club in Punta Cana. The place offers an open bar and even plays hip-hop music on Sunday nights. Honestly, if you’re in Punta Cana and looking to party off the resort, this is the absolute first place you should go.
Drink Point: A great bar in Punta Cana where both locals and tourists congregate. The couple times I went the place was absolutely packed and the vibe was pretty damn fun. The music is Latin and the prices are way cheaper than the mega clubs in Punta Cana. If you’re looking to party without the “Vegas” club vibe while on vacation, check this place out.
Onno’s Cabarete: For a tourist hotspot, I found the nightlife in Cabarete a little lacking. The town is just so small that there’s really no one around except tourists and Dominicans working in tourism. Still, the one time I went to Onno’s Cabarete in high season, the place was absolutely smacking. If you’re looking to party in the beach town, this is the place to be!
Kviar Show Disco: Puerto Plata has a seedy reputation as a sex tourism hotspot, especially in Sosua. That being said – this good sized disco in Puerto Plata City was a damn good time. Here you’ll find more Dominicans than tourists, which is a great thing on the north coast. Kviar Show Disco may have been my favorite club on the whole north coast. Great music and a fun vibe.
San Fransisco de Marcois
Avalon Disco: I’ve never been here, but my Dominican buddy couldn’t stop raving about Avalon Disco in San Fransisco de Marcois. He claimed this was the best disco in one of the biggest Dominican cities no one has ever heard of. When I heard back to the DR, this is the first city I’m going to.
Dominican Republic Nightlife – Overall
If you don’t enjoy Dominican Republic nightlife, then it’s you. Because the clubs pop off here, the people are friendly, and the vibe is great. What’s not to love?
The further away from the tourist areas and the better you speak Spanish – the more fun you’ll have enjoying the nightlife in the Dominican Republic. This I promise you.
Sound off in the comments if I missed anything about Dominican Republic nightlife. I know y’all got some secret spots!
Don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish before hitting the DR!
I remember my first time experiencing the fantastic nightlife in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
It was my first night in the country. A gringo who didn’t speak any Spanish looking to experience a real Latin culture.
I hopped off the plane just a few hours early and grabbed a taxi to my Airbnb apartment in Zona Colonial. The sea breeze hit my face as I stepped out of the airport and tried to hail a cab without getting scammed.
The Caribbean views were stunning as we drove to the colonial city. I was mesmerized. Romeo Santos was blaring on the radio as the taxi driver gave me the low-down on the DR in broken English.
After arriving, I checked in and quickly passed out. Hours upon hours of travel will do that to a man. Then I woke up to find night had fallen and a little rumba was about to be enjoyed.
Acting mature while enjoying Zona Colonial nightlife.
I looked at my phone to see a girl I had “met” before arriving was in Zona Colonial with her amiga. She wanted me to join them.
Being in a new country and not knowing anyone whatsoever, I graciously accepted the invite and threw on my best button down. It was time to party.
And party we did! The night was absolutely legendary. I visited nearly every club in Zona Colonial with two stunning Dominican chicks on my arms.
People had told me the girls would try to scam me before I arrived, but they just kept buying me Presidentes. I was baffled. They weren’t scammers at all. Just genuinely friendly girls.
Now, I won’t go too far into the details of how that night turned out. But, I’ll say it was a great introduction to nightlife in Santo Domingo. I was hooked!
What’s So Great About Santo Domingo Nightlife?
Now, before we dive into the best spots and where to go on what nights, we need to discuss the “why” of la rumba in Santo Domingo.
Why should a gringo go party in Santo Domingo? Well, here’s a few reasons:
Dominicans Are Friendly
Dominicans are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Some say they have always have an angle to play, but for the most part, I found the people in the DR to be great.
Dominicans are always ready for a party and often willing to let you join their group. They’re outgoing and just love to have a good time. I’ve yet to find a more welcoming culture to party in, especially in Santo Domingo and Santiago.
It’s hot as hell in the DR. To me, that means people are full of energy and life – always willing to go out. There’s no winter in the Dominican Republic. The clubs pop off year around.
Plus, the Dominican girls love to wear skirts and high heels – and they can because the weather is so perfect. I certainly wasn’t complaining about this.
If you want to experience a true Latin culture with unique rhythms, then the Dominican Republic is for you.
Popular Santo Domingo nightlife spots often played a mix of reggaeton, bachata, and dembow. Shit pops off and people continually are dancing!
Tons of Spots
Santo Domingo is a huge city. As such, you’ll have a number of nightlife options in the capital. I’ve found there are three main zones in the city:
If you’re looking for a big night out in Santo Domingo, it’s likely you’ll end up in one of these three areas. While there’s a number of clubs and bars in each place, they are a bit far from each other.
Nightlife in Santo Domingo doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be downright cheap. A bottle of rum in the club might only cost your $20-30 USD with mixers. A beer at the club might only run you $2 USD.
You can even get drunk before you go out at a local convenience store, called a colmado, for under $10 USD.
Many times the colmado will be filled with people downing Presidentes on a weekend night. Bachata will be blaring and it’s usually a pretty fun time. I almost always pre-gamed at a colmado before partying in the Dominican Republic.
Zona Colonial is stunning!
English levels in the Dominican Republic aren’t that high. You’ll have a much better time if you can speak a little Spanish.
How do I know? Because my first trip I couldn’t speak anything, but my second time in the DR I could.
While I loved the first trip, there is no denying I had a better time once my Spanish improved. You’ll just get a better feeling of the culture when you understand what people are saying and can actually interact with them.
One of the best things about nightlife in Santo Domingo is how cheap it is. Sure, you can spend some money, but you don’t have to!
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much nightlife costs in the capital:
Cover charge: $0-8 USD
Beer in club or bar: $2-5 USD
Drinks in club or bar: $3-8 USD
Bottle of wine at bar: $18-50 USD
Bottle of booze at club: $20-150 USD
A Gringo’s Guide to Nightlife in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff. After spending countless nights out in Santo Domingo over the course of nearly six months and two extended trips in the country, I put together a list of my favorite spots. Many hangovers were had to bring you this information.
I spent most of my time in Zona Colonial and Piantini – so this list reflects that. Avenida Venezuela can be fun, but I prefer my Zona Colonial nightlife.
Here’s the best places to party for young gringos looking to have a good time in Santo Domingo:
Onno’s, Zona Colonial
If you’re staying in Zona Colonial, there’s a good chance you’ll end up here every time you go out. Onno’s is absolutely legendary. The place can be amazing – it just depends on the night.
I usually went to Onno’s every Thurday, as it gets packed due to ladies’ night. The small club is also fun on Saturdays, if you’re looking for a cheap night out. Overall, this is a staple of Zona Colonial nightlife.
Mamma Club, Naco/Piantini
A staple of the high-end nightlife scene in Santo Domingo, Mamma Club is where to go when you want a big night out.
The place isn’t cheap, but you’ll see some of the best looking people in the DR here every single weekend.
If you go to Mamma Club, you need to remember a few things. First, make sure you dress nice. That backpacker shit won’t fly here. Second, go with a few friends and buy a bottle. You’re wasting your time if you don’t.
VIP Room, Malecon
A buddy told me VIP Room is quickly becoming the “next” Mamma Club in Santo Domingo. The place is super high-end and some of the best looking Dominicans go here every single Saturday.
Like Mamma, you’ll need to dress well and open the wallet to make the most out of this club. I’m confident you’ll have a great night out in VIP Room if you can do those two things.
VIP Room in Santo Domingo.
I absolutely love Zambra. It might be the easiest place to meet sexy Dominican girls with jobs in the whole country. Plus, the music is fantastic and it was within walking distance of my apartment in Piantini.
Zambra isn’t a huge club. In fact, it’s downright tiny. But, the music is fantastic and the place gets packed on weekends. Plus, there’s a huge outdoor patio that’s perfect to chill out on.
Ibiza Club/Pool, Bella Vista
I believe this spot is located where the old Gold’s Dance Club used to be. Gold’s was known as the late night club in Santo Domingo. Ibiza replaced it and added a pool area, too.
A buddy said this spot could be fun, if the crowd is packed. However, I heard it’s still hit or miss at the moment. They throw pool parties, too – but I haven’t been to one yet. Worth checking out if your in Santo Domingo for more than a few weeks.
La Fabrica, Naco/Piantini
La Fabrica is an “underground” club in Santo Domingo. It’s located around Naco and Piantini, so it’s pretty damn upper-class. Actually, this is the only place in the DR where I’ve heard people got denied entry – even though they had on nice clothes.
Suffice to say, the place is classy. The one time I went it was a hell of a time, too. The music is great and the place just has a vibe to it. Would recommend if you can get in.
Parada 77, Zona Colonial
Another solid Zona Colonial nightlife spot here. While most places in the Dominican Republic play a lot of reggaeton, bachata, and merengue – Parada 77 in Zona Colonial also plays salsa.
If you’re looking to dance to Latin music all night long, then this is the ideal spot. They stick to salsa, merengue, and bachata pretty much the whole night. It’s great for a date, but I wasn’t a huge fan. Had free cover when I went.
75 Grados, Bella Vista
75 Grados is damn fun! If you’re looking for a rowdy night out and some rumba that’s 100% Dominican, then this is the spot. This places gets jammed packed and only plays dembow and reggaeton.
The dancing here is dirty and the only drinks you can get are sugar-packed frozen blenders filled with rum or vodka. Suffice to say, if you go to 75 Grados, it’s going to be a sloppy night.
Drinking blenders at 75 Grados.
Shots Bar, Naco/Piantini
Shots Bar is the only place I’ve been in the DR where I heard rock music and conversations in English. Lots of middle-class Dominicans who have spent time in New York like to come here.
If you’re tired of reggaeton music, Shots Bar may be a good place to check out. It’s not a club, but you’ll find people here Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Santo Domingo Nightlife 101
It’d be damn near impossible to cover all the nightlife spots in Santo Domingo. These are just what I know. If you’re in the capital of the Dominican Republic, use this list to start things off and then go from there.
The one thing I know? Dominicans love to party and you’re sure to find somewhere fun on the weekends in Santo Domingo.
If you have any questions about nightlife in Santo Domingo, feel free to shoot off a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.
Cities in the Dominican Republic: What Gringos Need to Know
If you’re looking for the perfect Dominican Republic city to visit or live, use the information below to guide you:
Population: About 3 million with metro population included.
What It’s Like: The capital and biggest city in the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo offers a love or hate relationship for most visitors. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, but has no beach. It’s huge, somewhat dirty, and can be chaotic. However, Santo Domingo is exciting. The city is filled with nightlife, tourism, and you’ll never, ever be bored here.
Pros: Big city living, good nightlife, cool things to do like visit Zona Colonial.
Cons: Horrible traffic, expensive by DR standards, dirty and ghetto in areas.
Best For: Travelers or digital nomads who like nightlife or need excitement. You’ll never be bored in Sant Domingo if you do it right.
What It’s Like: Santiago isn’t a city. It’s more of a big town. Even though Santiago de los Caballeros is the second biggest city in the Dominican Republic, you will start to see the same people over and over again after a week. Still, the city has its charms. People are friendly here. There are not many other foreigners. You can have some fun with the nightlife here. There are a few cool tourism activities, too – like the cigar factory tour.
Pros: Friendly people, smaller city, less traffic, decent nightlife.
Cons: If you’re not working online, you’ll run out of stuff to do quickly.
Best For: Digital nomads looking for a city with friendly people and little foreigners around.
What It’s Like: Puerto Plata, the city, is a decent sized city filled with beaches all around. The city is used to foreigners, and you’ll find enough amenities here to keep you happy. However, you’ll find this brings a lot of negative things, too. Overall, Puerta Plata may be ok for a short beach trip, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a digital nomad looking for a base.
Pros: Beach life, lower costs, modern amenities.
Cons: Lots of sex tourism, somewhat dangerous city.
Best For: A short beach vacation. I can’t recommend basing up here.
Population: 50,000 people live here, but there are always more due to tourism.
What It’s Like: Sosua is a small town on the north coast of the DR that offers a stunning beach and Caribbean vibes. However, if any of the cities in the Dominican Republic should be considered shady, it’s this one. Sosua is the sex tourism capital of the Caribbean. If you don’t like that scene, avoid this city like the plague.
Pros: Stunning beaches, great views, low prices.
Cons: Sex tourism all around.
Best For: Sex tourists looking for a relaxing vacation. I stayed here about 15 minutes before heading to Cabarete.
Population: 20,000 give or take.
What It’s Like: This is where all the gringos go in the Dominican Republic. Cabarete is the water sports capital of the country. Here you’ll find kite surfing, regular surfing, and so much more. The city is a tourism haven, and the beaches can be stunning. It’s also a small place, so it’s easy to get around.
Pros: Lots to do, great beaches, very easy for tourists to navigate.
Cons: Too many tourists, motorbike accidents often, some sex tourism.
Best For: Foreigners looking for an active vacation. You’ll never be bored here if you do it right. There’s always something going on.
What It’s Like: This mid-sized Dominican Republic city is not well known because there’s really nothing to do here – at all. There are only like ten rentals on Airbnb in the whole city. San Fransisco de Marcois is known for being dangerous and boring. I wouldn’t recommend a visit.
Pros: No other tourists, potentially cheap prices.
Cons: Nothing to do, little tourism infrastructure, potentially dangerous.
Best For: Not sure. If you like to get off the beaten path, then this could be the city for you.
Click here to learn more!
Population: 30,000 or so. Not exactly sure, as it’s a touristy spot.
What It’s Like: I’ve yet to come across better beaches than you’ll find in Las Terrenas. The place is truly stunning in every which way. Except for the fact that sex tourism is a huge driver of the local economy. You’ll see old French and Italian men all over the place in Las Terrenas. Still, the beaches definitely warrant a visit. The Italian food here is awesome, too.
Pros: Amazing beaches and scenery, good food, lots to do.
Cons: Too much sex tourism, locals look at you like dollar signs.
Best For: A week or two vacations. The place is pretty fun if you’re looking for some amazing tourism to enjoy.
What It’s Like: The beach in Boca Chica isn’t anything special. In fact, it’s one of the worst beaches I’ve ever been to. Still, there’s a lot of restaurants on the beach, and the city is only 20 miles from the capital, Santo Domingo. So you’ll find a lot of other tourists here and good infrastructure.
Pros: Close to Santo Domingo, has a beach, tourist infrastructure.
Cons: Horrible beach, lots of sex tourism.
Best For: A quick day trip from Santo Domingo. I wouldn’t recommend staying too long here.
Population: 5,000 give or take.
What It’s Like: A small beach town filled with high rise buildings, many speculated a decade ago that Juan Dolio would become the new Punta Cana. That didn’t happen. And now you’ll find a near ghost town here filled with high rise apartments. The beach here is pretty decent, and the views are great. It’s only 15 minutes past Boca Chica, so I prefer it for a day trip from the capital.
Pros: Solid beach, great views, close to the capital.
Cons: Not much else to do, pretty quiet.
Best For: Day trips from the capital or a quick overnight stay. This is a pretty enjoyable place for a day or two if you like beaches.
What It’s Like: A small mountain town in the middle of the Dominican Republic, this place has its charms. Here you can visit stunning rivers or go paragliding. There’s also some nightlife, and the people are friendly. Without online work, you’d get bored here within a couple of days.
Pros: Close to the capital, stunning mountain views, friendly people.
Cons: Not much to do, not great tourism infrastructure.
Best For: A few days trip. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Other Cities in the Dominican Republic
This is a list of the major cities in the DR, but I didn’t cover all of them. Here are a few other cities in the country that may peak your interest and I haven’t been to:
San Pedro de Marcois
Bahia de Aquilas
Cities in the Dominican Republic: A Gringo’s Go-To Guide
The Dominican Republic isn’t a huge country by any stretch, but there are a decent amount of small to mid-sized cities here. If you’re looking for big city living or stunning beaches, the country has you covered.
If you have any questions or comments about cities in the DR, post a comment. I’d love to hear others opinions on the country.
On YouTube videos, people continually ask me about safety. One of the most common concerns – Is the Dominican Republic safe? Travelers to the stunningly beautiful, but fairly impoverished Caribbean nation want to know what to look out for.
The problem is I enjoy places that are a little rougher around the edges. Thoughts of safety rarely cross my mind when choosing exotic locales to travel to. After all, I stepped foot into the raging drug war zone of San Salvador, El Salvador. Not my brightest move.
Before I booked my first flight to the DR, I never once thought about how safe is the Dominican Republic. It didn’t even cross my mind. I just hopped on a plane and ask a buddy if the taxi would rip me off at the airport. Then I took off to the land of stunning beaches, bachata, and wild adventures.
Luckily, I learned a thing or two from my travels. So here are some thoughts and statistics on safety in the Dominican Republic.
My Experiences & Crime in the Dominican Republic
I’ve spent nearly six months in the DR and not one time did I personally have an issue with crime or violence. And I’ve been all around the country, including:
However, I’ve experienced issues, seen things and heard stories. For example:
My friends and I were staying in a lovely apartment in stunning Las Terrenas, DR. There was a groundsman at night that was supposed to keep all uninvited guests off the premises. Instead, someone was knocking on our door late a night. We opened to find some random woman on our front steps saying she had seen us at the parade earlier and followed us home. WTF?! And then the doorman let her in and pointed her to our place. That’s not safe! And this was our first night in the place.
My friend brought his new Samsung Galaxy phone to the basketball court. He placed it inside his backpack next to the court. Then proceed to play hoops for a few hours. When he went to pick up his backpack, the phone was long gone and there was nothing he could do about it. $600 basically flushed down the toilet. You can leave valuables unattended in the country.
A buddy had rented a hotel room for a few weeks in a decent hotel. Around $50 a night. He was Dominican from New York and waiting for the apartment he purchased to finish construction. While working in the lobby of the hotel from his MacBook, the hotel clerk saw the $2,000 laptop. He called his buddies and arranged a room for them next to my friend’s room. One night he heard a knock on the door and there was someone in a hotel staff uniform. He opened the door to have a gun put to his head. They robbed him of all electronics, cash, and some designer clothes. Around $6,000 in total.
…And these are just stories I’ve heard or things that I’ve witnessed. There certainly not the worst things that happen in the country!
Is the Dominican Republic Safe?
Overall, I haven’t had much of an issue in the DR. Most travelers simply don’t have a problem with danger in the Dominican Republic. Why?
Well, Dominican people may be the friendliest I’ve ever met. People are happy. They smile. The joke and talk shit. They openly flirt. They enjoy the laid-back Caribbean vibes, the ocean, and the warm weather just as much as the travelers.
But, there’s only one issue – the Dominican Republic is a fairly impoverished nation. There’s a huge income disparity between the wealthy and the poor. There’s less of a middle class in the DR than in the United States.
Dominican Living 101. Somos Tigres.
This creates “Haves” and “Have Nots” in the country. Some people are rich, while others are quite poor.
So…is the Dominican Republic safe? Not completely. There’s a lot of robbery and theft in the country. But violent crimes and murders are not that common. So there’s a bit of a trade-off.
What the Stats Say in 2017/18?
Let’s not just take my word for it though. Let’s dive into the statistics and see if the Dominican Republic is safe or not.
First and foremost, the Dominican Republic does not a single city on the “Most Dangerous Cities in the World” list (Source).
What does this mean? Well, not a ton. Basically, you’re more likely to get murdered in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador.
However, apart from violent crime and murders, there’s theft, pickpocketing, and general safety. And there’s a lot of robbery in the Dominican Republic.
In fact, nearly one out of every four homicides in the Dominican Republic occurs during an armed robbery. In the United States, only 5% of murders stem from a robbery (Source).
The key is to not resist. If you simply give the criminals what they want from you, it’s highly unlikely they’ll do you further harm.
Now, there’s another major factor to consider when thinking about if the Dominican Republic is safe. Drivers!
Is the Dominican Republic safe for motorcycles and foreign drivers? Hell NO! More people die in car and motorcycle accidents in the DR than they do from violent crime. Nearly 3,000 people each year die on the roads in the Dominican Republic (Source).
Zona Colonial is safe.
What the U.S. Department of State Says?
Well, the U.S. Government isn’t known for issuing accurate travel warnings. In fact, they’re a bunch of fear-mongers in my humble opinion. But they know the stats and only want to keep travelers safe.
So here is the U.S. Department of State’s thoughts on crime in the Dominican Republic:
“Significant crime exists throughout the Dominican Republic. Take precautions to avoid becoming a target. If confronted by a thief demanding money or personal items, comply with their demands. Criminals often have weapons and are likely to use them if they meet resistance. Avoid wearing items of value or carrying an item that could make you an attractive target. Be wary of strangers, especially those who approach you at celebrations or nightspots. Travel with a partner or in a group if possible (Source).”
While that doesn’t sound that wonderful, let’s look at what our government has to say about a truly dangerous place, Venezuela:
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Venezuela due to violent crime, social unrest, and pervasive food and medicine shortages. All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy that limits their travel within Caracas and other parts of the country. These security measures may restrict the services the Embassy can provide. Country-wide shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity, and other basic goods have led to social unrest, including violence and looting. Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime (Source).”
So, maybe the DR isn’t all that bad. Personally, I feel fairly safe in the Dominican Republic and I’m sure you will too.
How to Stay Safe in the DR
While petty crime can be common in the DR, you’ll be able to stay fairly safe with just a few precautions in the country. Here are a few tips to ensure your safety in the Dominican Republic:
Stay in Safe Areas
The most important part about staying safe in the Dominican Republic is where you lodge. If you stay in well-run hotels or Airbnb listing in the cities, you shouldn’t have any safety concerns.
Leave your valuables in the room and use common sense. For example, in Santo Domingo, you’d want to stay in these neighborhoods, as they tend to have lower crime rates:
Get a Doorman
You’ll also want to rent an apartment that has a doorman. Now, this can be tricky because the doorman is your only line of defense in some cases and there are stories of them being bribed. But it’s still better to have a doorman than to not have one.
Just treat the doorman right. Buy him a few beers, offer a slice a pizza, or throw a small tip his way every now and then. You’ll gain his loyalty and have nothing to worry about.
Speaking a little Spanish can go a long way towards keeping you out of trouble in the Dominican Republic. As a Spanish speaking country, you’ll be rewarded for speaking Spanish well. The majority of people you meet won’t speak any English, especially in the big cities. So you’ll need some Spanish to communicate.
Many people come to the Dominican Republic in search of prostitution and to a lesser extent, drugs. If you’re engaging in these type of acts, you’ll find a great chance of danger in the country.
If you’re concerned about safety in the DR avoid prostitutes, chapiadoras, and drugs. You’ll nearly eliminate the chance of bad things happening to you by doing so.
Don’t Flash Wealth
This may be th most important safety tip I can give you. Don’t flash wealth in the DR. If you roll around with gold chains, expensive watches, and fancy designer clothing – there’s a good chance someone will try to rob you.
If you walk around talking on your iPhone 7 Plus all day, there’s a good chance someone will try to snatch it from you. With poverty all around, you’ll find petty crime around every corner.
In the DR, I try to stay low-key. I typically roll around in an outfit like this when I go out:
After spending nearly six months in this amazing country, I wanted to throw together some valuable Dominican Republic travel tips. See, traveling around this island is different than anywhere you’ve ever been.
Dominican people have a culture that is all their own. There are unique intricacies and issues you need to understand before you spend some time here.
If you go to the DR without a little local knowledge, you’re bound to end up with a few problems here and there.
21 Dynamite Dominican Republic Travel Tips to Know Before You Go
So I wanted to put together a list of things to know before you go. As such, below you’ll find 21 dynamite Dominican Republic travel tips:
Understanding Dominican Culture
Dominicans are an incredibly friendly people that love to have a good time. I found the people on the island to be some of the most welcoming and friendly people you’ll ever encounter. I made friends, played sports, partied and dated people in the DR – and no one ever questioned that I was an outsider. They don’t care.
But this isn’t the United States. There’s a lot of differences you need to be aware of. First and foremost, there’s a lot of poverty on the island. There’s not much you can do about that, but understand one thing…
People will work to get their hands on your money. The DR is an island of hustlers. There are millions of amazing people on the island. There are also a lot of hustlers looking to get that cash. Both men and women.
Once you understand this, you’ll start to see the island from a different perspective. It’s not a bad thing at all. It’s just the way things are. Dominican culture values money and status.
One of the things you’ll quickly realize while living in the Dominican Republic is that things just don’t work like they should.
The water may shut off for days on end. You’ll end up showering on the roof with the neighbors watching.
Your air conditioner might break down and leak weird smelling liquids all over your floor and clothing.
The electricity and the internet might go out for hours on end while you’re finishing up a project that has a nearing deadline.
Your bus driver might decide to go pick up his cousins four towns to the south while you’re on the way to the airport. Instead of being two hours early for your flight, you end up barely making it.
While the DR is an amazing country, things won’t work how you expect them to here. You’ll have to learn to go with the flow in the Dominican Republic.
Speaking of going with the flow, I found a solution to all the electricity and Wi-Fi issues found throughout the country.
People speak Spanish in the Dominican Republic. While education levels in Santo Domingo and Santiago are ok, you won’t find many people speaking English outside the big cities and the super touristy areas.
You need to learn some Spanish before you go. This is one of the most important Dominican Republic travel tips. Without Spanish, you’ll constantly be confused in the country. And you know what confusion means, the gringo ends up getting ripped off.
Click here to learn more!
Don’t Think About Driving
I’ve traveled throughout a lot of Latin America, a region not known for their driving prowess. I’ve never seen crazier drivers than in the Dominican Republic. The roads here are pure mayhem.
For a tourist, you should never consider driving in the country. It’s just way too chaotic for a person not born in the DR or NYC to comprehend. If you value your life in the DR, don’t get behind the wheel.
Don’t Drink the Water
You can NOT drink the water from the tap in the Dominican Republic. You will get sick. Really, really sick. Just don’t do it. Even local Dominicans don’t drink their own tap water.
Find a local colmado and order a big jug. They’ll deliver it straight to your door – no matter how many flights of stairs it takes. Then grab a pump like this, and you’ll be good to go.
Speaking of the colmado, you’ll want to check one of these Dominican mini-marts out. These small stores sell everything from toilet paper to fine Dominican rum to Doritos.
Grab a Presidente Grande and chill out one evening at the colmado. You’ll make some friends and have a truly Dominican experience while you’re at it. Just don’t be stingy. Make sure you share your beer with your newfound amigos.
Get Away From the Resort
The vast majority of tourist to the Dominican Republic hit up the resorts in Punta Cana. Then they don’t leave. They stay the whole week or two of vacation sitting by the beach and sipping drinks.
There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I enjoy relaxing at the beach, too. However, that’s not what traveling around the Dominican Republic is all about.
If you’re a young person traveling in the DR, make sure you get off the resort a little bit. Check out some of the beaches in small towns around the island. Head to Santo Domingo for a little partying. Just get away from the resort for a bit.
Dance a Little Bachata
Speaking of partying, the Dominicans like to do just that. It should come as no surprise that Dominican people enjoy their rumba here and there. And what type of music is crazy popular on the island?
Bachata! The King, Romeo Santos, is Dominican and you’ll hear his music blaring from colmados, bars, and nightclubs throughout the country.
So learn to dance a little bachata while you’re in the DR. The locals will be impressed, and you’re sure to have a lot more fun on a night out if you can dance a little bit.
Always Rent an Apartment
Unless you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, you’ll want to rent an apartment here. Decent hotels are overpriced, especially compared to the value you can get renting an apartment.
You’ll find a plethora of options online in all the tourist areas and big cities. In Santo Domingo, you’ll want to stay in Zona Colonial or Naco. In Santiago, I really loved the Los Jardines neighborhood.
We’ve already talked about how some Dominicans on the island see foreigners as dollar signs. The worst of this bunch is taxi drivers. These guys will try to rip you off the moment they realize you’re not born and raised on the island.
Instead, just use Uber. It’s safer and cheaper. Plus, if a driver tries to go around in circles to get more money from you, you can just get a refund after complaining to Uber. I did this a few times while in the DR and had no issue.
Uber works well in Santo Domingo and Santiago. The app doesn’t work in the tourist areas and small towns.
Sankie Pankie & Chapiadoras
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Well, the interesting, and probably – one of the most important Dominican Republic travel tips. In the DR, you have men called sankies and women called chapiadoras.
See, Dominicans are a good looking bunch of people. The African, Indian, and European blood found on the island mixed to form a bunch of exotic and attractive individuals.
Plus, these unique looking people live on an island. Skin is showing all the time. The beach is a big part of life in the DR. Abd of course – looking good naked is of utter importance.
You’re starting to see the issue here…
Sankies are Dominican guys that live near tourist areas. They feast on foreign girls, especially gringas, who come to the DR for vacation. Sankies seduce these women and hook up with them. Then they try to get money from the girls by playing to their empathetic side.
It often works, and these guys get to stay in all-inclusive resorts, eat for free, and occasionally, move to the United States. All on one of these girls dime.
Chapiadoras are Dominican girls that usually reside in Santo Domingo or Santiago. These chicks are on the hunt for rich guys, foreign or local. They expect to be taken to expensive dinners and the fanciest clubs in town.
They rarely are concerned with how a man looks or acts, and only care about what is in his wallet and bank account. Many a gringo has fallen for the stunning looks of a chapiadora only to find his bank account on life support after spending a little too much time with her.
Now, there are a ton of great Dominican people on the island that don’t engage in sankie and chapiadora activities. However, it’s something you need to be on the lookout for while in the DR – if you’re single.
Get to the Beach
The beaches in the Dominican Republic are truly world-class. We’re talking fine white sand, crystal clear blue water, smooth waves, and giant palm trees all around. Personally, I’ve yet to come across better beaches in all my travels.
My favorite beach area in the Dominican Republic is Las Terrenas. It’s truly paradise once you get passed all the sex tourism.
Most tourists only check out Punta Cana or somewhere around Puerto Plata, but there are so many better beaches in the DR. If you’re traveling around the island, make sure to check out these spots, too:
Bahia de las Aguilas
Always Pay in Pesos
This Dominican Republic travel tip is pretty self-explanatory. You should never pay in USD in the country. In the DR, the currency is the Dominican Pesos. People who try to charge you in USD are ripping you off.
While you may not be able to get away from paying in USD in Punta Cana, you should try. Any taxi driver or tour operator charging dollars is running a scam operation on tourist.
Communicate With What’s App
People in the Dominican Republic communicate with What’s App. People don’t really call or text on the regular phone. That’s just how it goes. If someone in the country can’t talk on What’s App, then they may not be someone you want to get involved with.
What’ App allows you to send texts, pictures, videos, and voice messages. You can also make calls and video chat with the app.
Not only will you be able to communicate with people in the DR on What’s App, but it’s great for keeping in touch with people back home. All my family and close friends now have the app. It’s how we communicate while I travel.
Time is Different Here
The Dominican Republic is a Latin country and culture. Plus, it’s an island. The combination of Latin time and island time isn’t exactly a great one for us gringos used to promptness.
Never expect Dominicans to be prompt. Never expect things to be on time in the country. At first, this bothered me, but I eventually got used to it. That’s just the way things go on an island in Latin America.
For example, I was playing on a basketball team in the DR. I was told practice would begin at 2:00 PM. I showed up at 1:45 to get warmed up. No one was there, and the gym was locked.
At 2:30, the coach showed up and unlocked the gym. At 3:00, a few of the players started to trickle in. Practice started around 3:45 after social hour finished up.
Tipping Isn’t Part of the Culture
While time isn’t ideal in the DR, it’s nice not having to tip, especially for average service. You won’t be expected to tip in the Dominican Republic at all. Now, you can if you feel the service has been great, but it’s not expected.
In a few high-end restaurants, tipping is mandatory by law and will be included in the check. You won’t have to worry about it in other places.
If anyone asks for a tip, you can rest assured they are trying to rip you off. This is especially true of taxi drivers.
Bring More Than Cargo Shorts
Don’t be that gringo that rolls around all day and all night in cargo shorts and flip-flops. Dominicans will look down on you, and you’ll give other gringos a bad name. Leave the shorts and flip-flops at the beach. Wear that attire at the beach.
Wear that attire at the beach, but once you head out to dinner or a club, you’ll want to wear something nice.
If you’re a dude and planning on partying, make sure you bring some jeans, dress shoes, and a button-down.
This is especially important in places like Santo Domingo and Santiago, where many of the locals dress quite stylishly.
Some a Cigar or Three
Cuban cigars are world famous. Dominican cigars should be. If you enjoy a “puro” or three, then make sure you grab a few La Aurora cigars while in the DR. They’re fantastic. Plus, it’s hard to beat smoking a cigar while watching the sunset at the beach.
Better yet, if you find yourself in Santiago, make sure you check out the La Aurora Cigar Factory Tour. It’s fantastic, and one of the best tourism activities I’ve ever done in my life.
Don’t Worry About the Visa
While most countries have strict rules about visas and immigration, the Dominican Republic doesn’t. Well, they do, but they don’t matter.
Technically, you can only spend a few months in the country each year as a tourist. Two stays of 30-days to be exact. However, there’s no real punishment for overstaying your visa here.
You can overstay the visa for years on end. Then when you leave your only issue will be a $200 USD or so fine.
Catch a Baseball Game
For a small island nation of around 11 million people, the Dominican Republic sure does produce a number of great baseball players. A number of MLB stars are from the island, including:
…And many more!
As such, the country’s winter baseball league is highly competitive and entertaining. If you’re in the country between October and January, it’s a must to go check out one of the games. Plus, there cheap to get into. Games are held in:
San Francisco de Marcois
Drink a Little Mamajuana
Mamajuana is a Dominican alcoholic drink that’s famous throughout the island. The drink is made of rum, red wine, honey, herbs, and spices. Many refer to the concoction as “Dominican Viagra” – and for good reason 😉
Just make sure you don’t drink the B.S. sold in the gift shops. Find a way to get your hands on some quality Mamajuana. I downed shot after shot of Mamajuana at a resort in Punta Cana, and it was some of the most delicious booze I ever tasted.
Dynamite Dominican Republic Travel Tips
I hope you enjoyed this list of Dominican Republic travel tips. If you’re heading to the country, the advice above is sure to keep you out of trouble and having a great time. The DR is one of my favorite places in the world. If you do it right, the country truly is paradise.
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