Excess luggage charges
This is a warning based on our flight home from Puerto Plata airport in November 2012.
The staff at the check-in desk were being VERY strict with regards to passengers exceeding their baggage allowances.
Passengers were being charged even if their baggage was just 1kg over the allowance. Not only that, but the charge was a rather steep $US 25 per kilogram.
Thankfully, our baggage was within our allowance (just!), but we saw passengers handing over $US 150 for 6 excess kilograms of luggage!
Not only can this be costly for passengers who aren't aware how strict the rules are, but it also slows down the check-in process. We were stuck in a queue where several passengers had exceeded their weight allowance; some were disputing the charges, others were deciding whether to offload some items or pay the fee, and others were deciding how best to pay the charge. This obviously led to slow moving queues.
So, be prepared when you arrive at Puerto Plata airport for your flight. There were weighing scales outside the reception of our hotel (VH Gran Ventana), giving passengers the opportunity to weigh their luggage before travelling to the airport. I noticed scales outside other hotels in Playa Dorada too. Alternatively, take along a small set of handheld luggage scales as we did.
Remember, that $US 4 bottle of Brugal rum isn't such a bargain if it leads to a $US 25 excess baggage charge!
"Looky-looky men" on the beach
We stayed at the VH Gran Ventana hotel on Playa Dorada beach in November 2012.
Prior to our visit, I read lots of reviews on Tripadvisor. Many people were complaining about the presence of touts (or "looky-looky men") on the beach. It seemed that some holidaymakers were avoiding the beach completely after their sunbathing was being disturbed by persistent sellers.
So, how big an issue was it really?
It wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd been expecting. It's true that on the first day many of the sellers recognised us as "fresh meat" and made a beeline for us. As soon as we entered the beach a group of sellers (both male and female) tried to sell us excursions, jewellery and paintings. The ladies were offering hair braiding, nail painting, manicure and pedicure services. We brushed them off with a smile and a "no gracias" and made our way to a pair of sunloungers by the edge of the sea.
Would we be safer here?
Not really. Every passing seller stopped by to try and sell us cigars, rum, ornaments, clothing, mamajuana or souvenirs. It probably didn't help matters that Emma kept purchasing from them! (She was in heaven, being able to shop from the comfort of her sunlounger!). As the day went on, the disturbances became fewer and fewer. As the days went on, the sellers began to recognise us and either left us alone or smiled and gave us a "hola". Some would still try their luck: "maybe it's my turn to sell you something today?" they'd say with a grin.
All of the sellers are licensed. They all wear light blue t-shirts with numbers on them. We found them to be friendly on the whole and, although some were more persistent than others, they usually moved on after a polite "no gracias".
On one occasion we actively sought out the sellers. We'd seen a man walking along the beach with coconuts earlier in the day while we had been swimming in the sea. We were keen to track him down and purchase a couple of coconuts to drink. We made enquiries of various sellers and agreed a price that we were willing to pay. They pulled out all the stops, phone calls were made, sellers scuttled along the beach in search of the coconuts...and eventually we got what we wanted!
Please, don't be put off visiting Playa Dorada beach because of the presence of these sellers. They might disturb your sunbathing from time to time, but they're mainly good natured and friendly.