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Dominican rum (and tobacco) is considered to be one of the finest in the world. The most famous brands are the 3 B's: Brugal, Barcelo, and Bermudez. If you're in the area of Puerto Plata, you can visit the Brugal (bottling) Factory. Otherwise you can buy rum in any local grocery.
My favourites are from Brugal: Extra Viejo (on the rocks) and Añejo...
Updated Mar 3, 2013
The Dominican Republic is the largest producer of cigars, and the cigars are considered to be the best in the world. You can buy cigars in souvenir shops or - if you visit a cigar factory - buy them fresh rolled from the factory. Normally you're allowed to smoke a cigar as a test before you buy.
I don't smoke myself so I can't recommend a good brand, but there are many different brands of cigars, for example: Churchill, Doble Corona, Corona, Robusto, Panetela, Torpedo and many more...
Updated Mar 3, 2013
One of the most popular souvenirs of the Dominican Republic is the faceless ceramic doll. It is made of clay and dressed in the traditional clothes. The dolls depict Dominican country life with some dolls balancing baskets or pots on their heads, some milling coffee, and some holding bouquets (like the photo).
Some people says that the doll is faceless because nobody knows how a Dominican looks like (75% of the population is of mixed race).
Don't buy your souvenirs at the resort areas, it is much cheaper elsewhere...
Updated Mar 3, 2013
What to buy: Larimar Jewelry, all of them! This stone speaks about the beautiful Caribbean Sea and beaches, where you can see from deep blue to light blue and green blue waters, white sand and a blue sky with white and grey clouds. It speaks about DOMINICAN PEOPLE who are always smiling and happy ready for the best to come. Each piece of Larimar stone is different its pattern has an ample variety.
What to pay: It depends on the stone's quality, then deeper the blue than expensier. But it's always worth it!
Updated May 12, 2010
Address: Jose A. Castellanos No. 140, La Esperilla
Phone: 1 (809) 222-4332
La Marina, mentioned in a previous tip, is apparently part of the Casa de Campo resort and is quite a lovely section. The buildings and setting alone are worth riding the bus to get there. However, contrary to what we heard about great shopping, we found only a few shops open here. The ones we visited had very nice items such as upscale beach and resort casual clothing. There also was a very nice arts & crafts store as well but I'm not sure that the items here were actually made in the Dominican Republic, but maybe. As you might expect, these stores were pricey, but if you can afford to stay at this resort, you probably don't have to worry about that!
What to buy: I did not find anything particularly indigenous to this country while shopping here. I imagine that you would find more selection in Altos de Chavon and the capital city of Santo Domingo if you were looking for native arts & crafts.
What to pay: Expect bathsuits and the like to be in the $50 & up range. Tops and beach coverups $25 and up.
Updated Jun 7, 2009
Cigars are the the thing to take home or rum if you like these things. Otherwise the shops offer the same type of good everywhere you go. Nothing to get excited about. I noticed the shirts were made in Indonesia.
On the beach there are many pedlars and they all wear a uniform and they have numbers on their shirt. They carry quite a heavy box of wares on their shoulders and every 5 minutes one comes by to pedle their goods.
The most interesting pedlars are the women with their basket of fruits on their heads.
What to buy: There are paintings and craftworks but I have a feeling they come from Haiti.
If you like merengue then this is the place to buy the music. Just ask anyone which are the latest hits and they will tell you.
I bought two CDs but when I opened them I realized they were copies.
Homerun Bachatero 2009
Se Acabo Lo Bonito
Lo Nuevo Luis Migue Del Amargue
Written Dec 21, 2008
You can buy cigars, rum, coffee, Mamajuana and perhaps vanilla extract from tourist shops, but you will usually find the prices much more attractive in a regular grocery or small shop.
What to buy: Vanilla extract -- less than a dollar for 16 oz and very good.
Mamajuana -- A Dominican specialty of a mixture of wood chips and spices for flavoring wine and rum. You will see nicely labeled tourist bottles for sale, but the only question is whether you can get this through customs. It would be heavier to carry with the bottle full of alcohol but it might be more acceptable to the US customs/agriculture inspectors. What was surprising to me was that even in off the tourist path places these bottle of chips seemed kind of expensive ($10 US).
Written Jul 7, 2008
On my last visit to Santo Domingo I was directed to the Mercado Colonial by a tourism department official as an alternative to walking the 10 blocks to the Mercado Modelo. Apparently this is a new market (It is not mentioned in Lonely Planet.) made of stores with the same ownership as the stores in the Mercado Modelo. The official told me I could even get better prices at this more conveniently located market. (After having seen the market --It seems more upscale than Mercado Modelo--and glanced at the prices I doubt the veracity of this statement.)
The only tricky part to identifying this collection of stores called a market is that the entrance seems to be just the entrance to a typical shop. As you penetrate you see that store after store opens to the passage that extends for the full length of the large block.
What to buy: It seems to have just about everything offered in the Dominican Republic. The listed prices for paintings seemed very high, but I can not say what they would have reached after bargaining. The rum prices were 35% higher than in a nearby grocery store. I was not given the impression that a discount over 10% was likely on the rum. I was almost happy I did not seeing anything I really wanted because I did not have time for any protracted bargaining.
What to pay: This is only a quick impression, but I felt that if I found something I liked I was going to have a hard time getting the price down to reasonable.
Written Jun 13, 2007
The Mercado Modelo may have once been a central produce market but now it is almost full of tourist shops. Although there is some typical produce marketing and modest shops in streets behind the main building, this is not the place to go to get a traditional market experience. The special value of this market area is the competition of many shops with similar products. The asking prices will be higher than most, if not all, of the regular stores on the Paseo Colon, but bargaining is expected and one should be able to get to prices below those of stores. You will probably pay about 40% of the typical first asking price. Of course this will depend on how bloated the first price is and the energy you have to resist paying more that you have to.
As you might expect the shops that are somewhat out of the way like those selling paintings on the upper floor do seem be easier to bargain to lower prices. [They know you came through the other shops and have been shopping and so are not likely to be coming back to them if you do not buy during this visit.]
What to buy: There is just about everything you might be interested in buying from the Dominican Republic. There seems to be an extensive collection of wood carvings and paintings. Quality can be an issue so inspect manufactured or crafted items carefully. Unless you have some expertise purchasing unique items like jewels or amber bargaining successfully might be even more difficult, because a much lower price might just reflect a much lower quality.
What to pay: If you bargain well you should be able to save at least 10-20 percent from the final prices offered at the cheapest regular stores, but it will take an investment of time. [For a store on Paseo el Conde with remarkable fair pricing see a subsequent tip.] You should understand that the prices in many of the stores are still negiotable. I was offered 10-30% on lots of store items during my last brief visit to Santo Domingo.
Updated Jun 13, 2007
Address: Avenida Melia
Inspite of its name [importer] this is a large store with a wide selection of products of the Dominican Republic. It has the best prices I saw in a regular store. [Prices do decrease as one walks east to west on El Conde and this store is on the far west end of El Conde. ] On paintings, for example, the prices were only about 10 percent over the best price I could get in the market or on the street. I even was able to buy a mahogeny carving at a price below what I would have paid in the market, if I could have found one as nice, but this was a special situation.
What to buy: Buy what you want when it is unique enough that you won't likely find another in the market, or when the approximate 10 percent savings you can get with bargaining is not worth the time and effort.
What to pay: Pretty fair prices without the time bargaining. I briefly revisted this store again in 2007 and the prices still seemed to be reasonable. The first asking price in the Market Modelo and the Colonial Market stores seemed to have increased significantly.
Updated Jun 13, 2007
Address: El Conde 505, Santo Domingo
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