A Gringo’s Guide to Dominican Republic Travel
I'm of the unwavering opinion that every gringo needs a little Dominican Republic travel in their life.
Ya tu sabes.
There's something about the Caribbean island country that just brings out the primal nature in us.
Maybe it's the wild west feel of the place.
Maybe it's the stunning nature, beaches, and weather. The country is considered a tropical paradise for good reason.
Hell, maybe it's the locals and their fun loving personalities. Las mujeres certainly are an upside too.
Oh, and don't forget about the bachata music.
If you ain't falling in love when Romeo Santos comes on, the smooth Caribbean rum is flowing, and a cute Dominicana is laughing at your gringo dance moves while instructing you in her broken English accent…
Well, I'm really not sure what to tell you.
Life doesn't get much better than that, jefe.
But there's so much more to the DR than just that. There's a reason traveling to the Dominican Republic just keeps sucking me back in.
There's a reason why I could visit dozens of other countries around the globe, but my mind keeps going back to the Dominican Republic.
Many of em' in fact.
Mainly, Dominican Republic travel is just a damn good time if you have at least one adventurous bone in ya body.
If not, stick to somewhere else.
But for those looking for a true Caribbean adventure, the Dominican Republic is ready and willing.
Let's get things going. It's time to dive in head first, fam.
In this detailed guide, we'll take a look at just about everything you'd ever need to know before booking a trip to the Dominican Republic.
- Getting to the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Republic Visa
- Cities in the Dominican Republic
- Cost of Living in the Dominican Republic
- Language Barrier
- Infrastructure and Internet
- Is Dominican Food Good?
- Weather in the Dominican Republic
- Is the Dominican Republic Safe?
- Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
If you're looking for any specific information, just click the link above and you'll be sent to the specific section of this guide.
If you're simply looking for Dominican Republic travel information, then keep on reading.
Everything you need to know is below.
Getting to the Dominican Republic
The island offers direct flights to many cities in the US, especially on the East Coast.
Overall, it's not difficult to get to the island.
The two best airports to fly into are Punta Cana and Santo Domingo – if cheap and easy flights are what you're looking for.
You can also fly into Santiago de los Caballeros and Puerto Plata on occassion. But these flights tend to be harder to find and more expensive.
It only takes four hours in a car to go from one side of the island to another.
If you fly into Santo Domingo, you could be in Puerto Plata 4-5 hours upon landing. Just hop on a Caribe Tours bus and you're off.
Dominican Republic Visa
Te lo juro.
Because there's really no such thing as a “visa” in the Dominican Republic.
I mean there technically is, but it's pretty much irrelevant.
My buddy spent 26 consecutive months in the Dominican Republic. Just outside of Puerto Plata.
His “visa” had been expired for over two years before he decided to head back to the USA.
So he headed to the airport in Puerto Plata.
Upon exiting the Dominican Republic, the customs agent at the airport informed him that he would have to pay an exit fee for overstaying his visa for so long.
He knew this.
He was required to pay $5,000 Dominican Pesos in cash before exiting the country. Roughly $100 USD.
For overstaying his visa by two years!
That's why I say there's no need to worry about your visa in the Dominican Republic if you're coming from the west.
Dominicans are proud of their country and want you to visit. Hell, they'd love it if you'd stay.
So you'll only pay a minor fee for overstaying the visa.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg when talking about lax laws and regulations in the wild west known as the DR.
Cities in the Dominican Republic
With around 10 million people living here (Source), the country just isn't that populated either.
As such, there's just not that many cities in the Dominican Republic you need to worry about.
So I'm just going to cover the best ones here. I doubt many of you are interested in heading to San Fransisco de Macoris or Monte Cristi.
So here's a quick breakdown of the best cities in the Dominican Republic:
- Santo Domingo: If you're going to the Dominican Republic to party, mingle with locals, and enjoy a high standard of living – then Santo Domingo is truly your only option. The capital is the most developed city in the country, offers the best nightlife, and is the only city I'd be comfortable building an online business in. The Internet and electricity tends to work here.
- Punta Cana: This is the vacation destination in the Caribbean right now. Millions of westerners visit Punta Cana each and every year. The tropical beach paradise is a stunning place for sure, but it's touristy. If you're looking to unwind at the beach and enjoy a little rumba, the spot is fun. For living in the DR or getting to know the culture, I wouldn't recommend.
- Santiago de los Caballeros: The second largest city in the DR is Santiago. It's a mountainous city of a million people, but it feels smaller than that. Santiago is a campo in my mind. But the people are friendly and the nightlife jumps just enough to keep it interesting. You'd have to put some work in to make this city digital nomad friendly.
- Puerto Plata/Sosua/Cabarete: These three beach cities and/or towns are all within a 45 minute bus trip. Puerto Plata is 30 minutes from Sosua. Cabarete is 15 further down the highway from Sosua. Puerto Plata is a city. Sosua is a red-light district with a stunning beach, and Cabarete is a gringo water sports haven.
- Las Terrenas: If a relaxing island paradise is what you're searching for, then Las Terrenas is absolutely ideal. The place is truly stunning. Far prettier than Punta Cana in the opinion of your not so humble author. The issue? The place is ass backwards, way behind the times, and old Italian men roll around with preteen Haitian hookers far too often for my tastes.
For first timers to the Dominican Republic, I couldn't recommend Santo Domingo enough.
You'll find the highest quality of life in the DR here.
Punta Cana is just for a week or two of relaxing at the beach. Don't try to spend a month there.
If you're looking to see a lot of cities and places, then Santiago is close to Puerto Plata, Sosua, and Cabarete – along with La Vega.
You could cover a lot of ground with ease by basing up in Santiago de los Caballeros. Just expect a slower pace of life than in Santo Domingo.
Cost of Living in the Dominican Republic
The beach resorts and condos can be luxurious and lavish.
You could also stay in a humble furnished apartment in Santiago de los Caballeros for under $400 USD a month.
It all depends on how you want to live and where you're willing to stay. Cost range wildly in the DR, as the disparity of wealth is certainly evident here.
That being said…
The Dominican Republic isn't nearly as cheap as some think.
You cannot find a western standard of living in the country without paying a decent chunk of change.
If you want air conditioning, hot water, and decent Internet speeds in a relatively safe neighborhood – expect to pay for it.
To live a high quality of life in Santo Domingo, I wouldn't budget a penny under $2,000 USD per month.
$2,500 would be better.
The same goes for Punta Cana and Las Terrenas. The beach tourist areas are just not that cheap.
On the flip side, you could live for pennies on the dollar in places like Santiago, La Vega, or Puerto Plata.
Second tier cities in the Dominican Republic are cheap.
However, these places also lack some of the modern amenities you may be used to. So that's something to consider.
Let's just be honest here…
Dominican Spanish can be damn difficult to understand. The Caribbean accent and slang can be impossible to hear with gringo ears.
You'll meet some people who speak fluent English throughout the country, especially in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.
Many Dominicans have lived in New York for years and come back to the island for whatever reason. These individuals are fluent.
Many upper-class Dominicans also study English throughout university and have no issue speaking.
Some learn while working in tourism.
But most Dominicans do not speak much, if any, English.
You absolutely need to speak some of the language if you plan to get off the resort while in the country.
You'll simply struggle to get around without it.
Luckily, that's not too tough any longer. It's simple to start learning Spanish these days.
Once you've studied with BaseLang for a few months, take a trip to the DR and practice in person.
You'll find learning the love language becomes much easier when you combine studying with actually speaking with locals in-person.
Infrastructure and Internet
The infrastructure is not on par with first-world standards. It's not as bad as Cuba, but it's not great.
Outside of the resort areas in Punta Cana and the nicer neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, you won't find great infrastructure and Internet speeds.
That's not how it works here.
Sure, you can live a high-quality of life in Naco, Piantini, or Bella Vista.
You'll find malls, restaurants, gyms, yoga studios, coworking spaces, and more in these neighborhoods.
But once you head down to the Malecon area in Santo Domingo, you go from first-world living to the third-world.
The change happens in like 2-3 blocks. That's just the way it is.
If you're looking to live a high standard of life here, then you'll spend most of your time in a few small pockets of the cities.
Once you get outside these small pockets, the Internet speeds plummet and the reliability of the electricity fades away.
Is Dominican Food Good?
The food in the Dominican Republic isn't great. This isn't Mexico. Nor Peru either.
Hell, the food in Colombia is better than in the DR. And that's saying something.
Let's be real here…
Any cuisine that boosts Mondongo as one of their best dishes isn't going to be world-class.
I cook a lot of my meals while in the Dominican Republic. You probably will too – if you end up getting away from Punta Cana and spending time living in the country.
Still, you'll find some solid restaurants around the Naco and Piantini. There's a couple I really loved in Los Jardines in Santiago too.
And that Italian spot in Las Terrenas was to die for.
But overall, the food in the Dominican Republic isn't great – especially when compared to other Latin American cuisines.
Weather in the Dominican Republic
You won't be cold in the Dominican Republic.
Te lo juro.
Hell, I haven't even noticed a rainy season here.
It rains in the Dominican Republic. Don't get me wrong. But it's pretty sporadic. A downpour here and a little rain there. Maybe 5-7 days a month.
Plus, even when it rains here, you still get an average of 7-9+ hours of sunshine each day.
The Dominican Republic is tropical paradise. If you like hot weather and sunshine, you'll love it. If you don't, then this isn't the country for you.
Is the Dominican Republic Safe?
Some say the country is crime riddled and violent.
Others argue that the statistics simply don't add up. That the fear is simply hype from foreigners who haven't been in the country long enough.
You're more likely to get robbed in the Dominican Republic than you would be back home.
You're more likely to get in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic than you would in the western world.
But the murder rate in the DR simply isn't that high, especially when compared to other Latin American countries.
The murder rate in the Dominican Republic was 14.9 murders per 100,000 people in 2017 (Source).
For comparison sake, the United States had a murder rate of around 5.0 per 100,000 in the same year.
So things are certainly a bit more dangerous in the DR, but people aren't getting murder at the same rate as Brazil, Colombia, or Mexico.
Things to Do in the Dominican Republic
If you love the beach, then you'll never get bored here. If you're apathetic to beach living, then you will.
Still, there's enough to feed the needy when it comes to things to do in the Dominican Republic.
Here's a few of my favorites:
- Party in Santo Domingo
- Explore Zona Colonial
- Unwind at the beach in Punta Cana
- Learn to dance bachata
- Whale watching in Samana
- Go kite-surfing in Cabarete
- Check out 27 Waterfalls near Puerto Plata
- Drink Mamajuana on a date
- Rent ATVs on the beach in Las Terrenas
…And that's just a few ideas off the top of my head.
Aka just the tip of the iceberg when talking about things to do in the Dominican Republic.
If you like beach activities and exploring the great outdoors, then the DR is one hell of a good time.
If not, you won't find many things to do in terms of site-seeing and museums in the country.
A Gringo's Guide to Dominican Republic Travel
Oh and don't forget about my favorite thing to do in the Dominican Republic….
“Klk mami chula!?”
Just walk around the malls and yell that at any attractive woman you see. You're sure to win friends and influence people.
Don't say that. The “mami chula” part.
Feel free to use “klk” all the times. It means “que lo que” or what's happening in Dominican Spanish.
Essentially, it's how Dominicans say “Como estas” most of the time.
And with that, I'm out.
Damn near 2,500+ words off dirt dished on one of the funnest countries to visit in Latin America – the Dominican Republic.
If Dominican Republic travel is on your mind, use this in-depth guide to help you travel around the country and have one hell of a time.
For amazing tropical weather, unique culture, friendly people, and some of the best beaches on God's green earth..
La Republica Dominican es lo mejor.
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