My friend and I could hardly believe it when we found the first shop of "santeria". In case you didn't know, "Santeria" is like voodoo or spiritism. A Creole religion, widespread on Caribbean countries, Brazil, etc... that mixed Catholic saints with old African divinities venered by the slaves that were brought to these lands. This shop was tiny, next to Mercado Modelo. Please don't go there just for fun, it's a serious belief for many people. But very interesting experience if you go there with respect and open mind (and eyes!)
The owner patiently explained us what all these strange things were for. Interestingly, the most accessible items were the less "dangerous" things he did not mind to sell to anyone who wanted them, even if the purchase was just for fun/curiosity. He even said us that some of the items were just for fun, some without any real "power". You can find there sprays to get your car or house free of bad spirits. Soap or perfume to attract your love, to ear more money... or any purpose you can imagine.
However, things that were not convenient to be handled by inexpert hands were kept in closed cabinets. Quite mysterious.
What to buy: We left the place with a few small bottles of "love perfume" to bring as gift to our friends.... I would had buy the "bad-spirits cleaner for cars" if they had it in a smaller size!
Frio-Frio (that means Cold-Cold) is scratched ice with syrup. You'll see these vendors at the most popular streets. We were well advised not to try this typical treat (high risk of E.Coli in the water they use), but it's fun to see it anyway.
I found the "Mercado Modelo" in Calle Mella (Santo Domingo) really disappointing, a real tourist trap. You will find the same items elsewhere, without the hassle of the vendors and without so many pickpoketers around... BUT, the streets around were really interesting. Just a couple of blocks away and not a single tourist in sight, nobody bothers you, and plenty of "real life" small shops, street vendors, etc. I loved specially the colourful food stalls. No idea of what most of these fruits and spices are, but looked (and smelled) beautiful!
We found many second-hand street vendors in the streets close to Mercado Modelo. Everything you can imagine can be sold or repaired. A huge contrast with our "use and discard" societies.... something to think about.
Mangobajito.com is a young new business selling t-shirts with Dominican slogans. The shirts are made in DR and come in women's and men's sizes. The material of the shirts is of good quality.
Now, the slogans might be confusing for those who can't speak Spanish (and even for those who do) because they're very Dominican. Nevertheless, once you are explained what your design means, it guarantees at least a chuckle...or a good conversation starter. For example, I bought a t-shirt with "Low Romo" (see the picture). Romo is a Dominican slang for rum, and it means that I should replenish my rum consumption ;)
They deliver the shirts within Santo Domingo and some Dominican provinces. If you're not sure of the size, let them know so when you buy them and they'll send you a smaller and a bigger one so you can try them on and keep the one that fits you the best. If you choose this way of shopping, you pay in cash to the messenger who delivers you the shirts. You can, of course, visit them at their kiosks at Acrópolis Center mall and Megacentro mall.
What to buy: T-shirts.
What to pay: The prices are on their site, but I think you can haggle if you buy several.
I assume there should be some good record stores in SD, but we did not see any. However, music was everywhere, as well as CD street vendors (illegal copies of course, but nobody seemed to worry about).
You will be approached men and some women selling their wares,,,,necklaces,sarongs,handmade items,and cigars,,don't pay what their asking,,haggle a lot,,if not interested just say no gracias and ignore them,,,I would suggest shop around some if possible,,and see what the going prices are for said items of interest.
What to buy: about everywhere,,theres rum,coffee,cigars
What to pay: rum is about $8.00 a fifth,for the better stuff,,,coffee about $2.50 a pound(bean or ground)cigars really varys a lot,,,,,marlboro cigarettes $16.00 a carton,,,please check with customs on how many you may bring back.
The fruit stalls on the sides of main roads (Independencia, el Conde) are usually ok and the merchants won't cheat you. Perhaps its better not to buy around Parque Independencia, where many of the sellers carry shot guns.... not quite sure what else they're selling.
What to buy: If you're in the tropics, you might as well buy some tropical fruit. Eating anything with a peel is fine (don't eat the peel, obviously) and depending on the time of year you can get some incredible fruit in the DR. We were there at Christmas and bought avocados that were as large as melons, very ripe papayas and golden pineapples.
What to pay: Don't pay more than $1US for anything.
We saw so many shops and street vendors, with huge amounts of spices.... Nice to see and to smell. No idea about the use of 90% of these products indeed!
The main exports from the Dominican Republic include sugar, cocoa and tobacco. The cigars are among the best. You can find small and fine cigar shops on Mella Avenue, near the Modelo Market.
I stayed here on a recent business trip in the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. This 6 room hotel...more
My dear friend Erik said he got a glimpse of this huge hotel 30 years ago. Trujillo ordered its...more
The service was wonderful. I paid 76.50 for a standard room with a king-sze bed, a TV, refrigerator,...more