Favorite thing: All passengers, when leaving the Dominican Republic, must pay a Departure Tax of $US 20.
Prior to our trip, we had obtained $US 30 each in cash; $US 10 to pay for our Tourist Cards on arrival and $US 20 to pay for our Departure Tax when leaving the country. I would recommend this course of action to anybody from outside the USA who is visiting the Dominican Republic.
This is how the process worked when we departed from Puerto Plata airport at the end of our trip in November 2012:
We checked in for our flight as normal and received our boarding passes. The check in attendant told us that we should go to gate number 7 in the departure lounge and pay our Departure Tax before boarding our flight.
We passed through passport control (where we handed over our completed disembarkation cards) and security and found ourselves in the departure lounge/duty free area.
There were no staff on the counter at gate number 7, but a small queue had started to form so we joined the back of it. Within a few minutes, the staff had arrived and the queue had grown significantly (good timing!).
We paid our $US 20 notes over and our boarding passes were stamped with the words "Departure Tax Paid" to show that we had paid the necessary fee.
The Departure Tax can also be paid in Dominican Pesos, but at RD$ 850+ it would have been a little more expensive than paying in $US.
Favorite thing: Most visitors to the Dominican Republic require either a visa or a Tourist Card to enter the country.
Citizens of a handful of countries (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru, Japan, South Korea and Israel) are exempt from this requirement, but all other citizens must obtain the relevant documents.
For most European and North American visitors, only a Tourist Card is required, not a visa. I believe that Canadian tourists generally receive the Tourist Card as part of their package holiday.
In the case of UK citizens, the Tourist Card can either be obtained prior to leaving the UK or upon arrival in the Dominican Republic. I have to say that I would always opt for the latter. Not only is it cheaper ($US 10 upon arrival compared to £10 if obtained in the UK), but it is also very easy to obtain on arrival.
In our case, we obtained the Tourist Card upon arrival at Puerto Plata airport when visiting the country in November 2012. After alighting the plane and entering the airport there were two queues; one for Tourist Cards and a second one for passport control (i.e. for those who already possessed Tourist Cards).
The queue for Tourist Cards was a long one, but it was also very fast moving. There were two counters issuing the cards and the process was a simple one; hand over your $US 10 and receive a receipt (which acts as the Tourist Card). Each transaction took a matter of seconds.
Once furnished with our receipts, we joined the queue for passport control. At this point we needed to show our passports, our Tourist Card receipts and the embarkation cards that we had received and completed during the flight.
If you are visiting from the UK, it is well worth bringing $US 30 in cash with you; $US 10 for the Tourist Card and a further $US 20 for the departure tax that you will need to pay when leaving the country.
I saw a sign indicating that Tourist Cards could also be purchased for £10/€10, but the exchange rates at November 2012 meant that paying in $US was most cost effective.
Favorite thing: The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso, which is symbolised as RD$.
The Dominican Peso comes in the following denominations:
Coins: 1, 5, 10 and 25 RD$
Notes: 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000 RD$
At the time of our visit in November 2012, the inter-bank exchange rate was 62 RD$ per £1.
We obtained a few Dominican Pesos from our travel agent prior to leaving the UK. We purchased these at a rate of 52 RD$ per £1. In our hotel and in the local shopping mall, the Playa Dorada Plaza, we were able to purchase Pesos at a rate of between 55 RD$ and 58 RD$ per £1.
We often found that prices in shops around Puerto Plata were quoted in both RD$ and US$, although the rate for paying in US$ was unfavourable. If you're visiting from the USA it may be worth paying in US$; however if you are visiting from elsewhere you would be wiser to convert your currency into RD$ rather than US$.
Exchange bureaus displayed exchange rates for the following currencies:
On some occasions we were able to pay in British Pounds. For example, when we booked our excursions with "Tours by James" in the Playa Dorada Plaza he was happy for us to pay in Pounds. Similarly, when we were bargaining with the shopkeepers at the Orange Market on Playa Dorada beach they were happy for us to pay in whichever currency we wanted.
It is worth noting that you may find it convenient to purchase US$ for paying for your tourist card on arrival (US$10) and your departure tax on departure (US$20). We each took US$30 with us for this purpose.
Internet Cafe and Exchange
Favorite thing: Lupla Money Exchange has high-speed Internet and other cafe services like faxes or copies. If you buy a beer or soda you're free to use the wifi on the patio. On weekends they set out the tv & broadcast sports games. They're located at Playa Dorada en Plaza El Pueblito near the beach. Not sure of the hours but you can call them +1 809-320-9622
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Insider tips for Puerto Plata
Favorite thing: TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN
The U.S. Embassy recommends - but does not require - any child under 18 traveling without one or both parents, to have a notarized document from the non-traveling parent(s) stating the reason for travel. This notarized letter will be a good 'back up' upon leaving the island too. Minors under 18 years of age of any nationality, who are RESIDENTS of the Dominican Republic MUST present written authorization from a parent or legal guardian in Spanish notarized by a Dominican consulate in the U.S., or notarized & then certified at the at the Dominican Attorney General's office on-island (locally known as the Procuraduria de la Republica).
CURRENCY & MONEY EXCHANGE
A smile opens a lot of doors on the island. The Puerto Plata area has had a lot of experience welcoming Canadians, the British, and most recently Americans; therefore, English is generally understood and spoken in the tourist areas. For those who venture into less traveled areas, remember to smile and friendliness generally paves the way! Also, be careful how much money you choose to exchange into Dominican pesos while on the island. Travelers are only allowed to change back up to 30% of one's pesos for foreign currency upon departure. You will be given exchange receipts each time you change money during your stay, so keep them if you need to change back for dollars, pounds, etcetera! If you decide to gamble in the casinos on the island, some slot machines only take U.S. dollars. Also, some casinos and churches require pants and long sleeves for men, and long sleeves and "proper attire" for women.
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Favorite thing: If you need info there's guides from the Asociación de Guías de Puerto Plata (Puerto Plata Guide Association) positioned in strategic corners throughout the city. They can help you out finding sights, recommending places to eat and things to do. You'll recognize them by their light yellow shirt.
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Cute, cuddly company #2
Favorite thing: Pauline is a cat who lives at the hotel. If you see her, pet her or scratch her chin or behind her ears, because she likes it :D
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