Avoid wearing your desiner clothes, jewelry or carrying your ipods or cellphones around when you're in some of the more rural areas of the Dominican Republic. (Santo Domingo and the resort areas should be more safe, but even then, try not to pac too many expensive belongings and clothes with you, especially when outside the hotel.) You will seen as a target for pickpockets and people who think they can take advantage of you or try to mug/rob you. Don't draw any more attention to yourself than you need to.
Also, if you are a girl, don't dress as "sexy" (for the lack of a better word) as you normally would when you go into nightclubs or bars. Male machoism is taken to a WHOLE new level here in the Dominican; and if they see you with a miniskirt they'll literally think that means you are looking to get picked up. They my even try to grope you without your permission. Man men will whistle at you and try to call you over in the streets as if you're an animal, and don't be suprised if you recieve marriage propsals and date offers from complete strangers of the street. And of course, the less touristy the area is, the worse it will be and the more of movie star/celebrity figure you will feel like.
Drinking local water in the Dominican Republic is a health hazard since it doesn't go through the same purification process as water from outside the country. Anyone from outside the area wouldn't be accumtomed to it, and the water can make you very sick. Although the Dominicans are generally able to drink the water without getting sick, it still leads to longterm health problems for them; the life expectancy for someone in the Dominican is only 50-60 years! I was told that the water problem was one of the many factors in their short average life span.
Even if you are staying in a resort, try to make a habit of brushing your teeth with bottled water (even if it is bought in the Dominican) and just be careful when you're showering and bathing that you don't accidently swallow any. Several people I know have come down here, and found themselves in bed for days because of stomach cramps and digestive problems because of drinking the water. Drinking water is an issue in Mexico, Haiti and several other countries of Central and South America.
There's been quite a bit of news lately about tourists going MISSING in some parts of the Caribbean. The most current and shocking story lately has been about the missing female, high school student in Aruba. However, linked to that story are others about young women whose drinks have been drugged by bartenders or others, leading to assaults and rapes, etc. Obviously this is the type of crime which governments like to keep under wraps lest the news about such crimes discourage tourists from bringing their coveted money to these countries. Often these types of crimes go unsolved for just that reason.
Whether male or female, young or old, it is advisable that when you are out on the town, do so in the COMPANY OF SEVERAL OR MANY WELL-KNOWN friends; NEVER leave a bar or restaurant with casual OR NEW acquaintances (you might be lucky, but you might not); watch while your drinks are being prepared if possible; open your own beer bottles or watch as your draft is being pulled; be aware of who is around you when returning to your accommodations. NEVER GET DRUNK AND BECOME VULNERABLE. Do not carry around large amounts of cash or be obvious with your money.
Throughout the Dominican Republic but especially in larger cities like Santo Domingo you will see streets crammed full of 'caritos publicos' (public cars / public taxis). These "route taxis" are so named because they only run up and down the main streets, no major turns and no door-to-door pick-ups or drop-offs.
Caritos publicos are very cheap, about 12 pesos per person regardless of the distance, because up to 6 passengers (2 in the front, 4 in the back) cram into small, often ill-maintained vehicles for the duration of the ride. Seat belts are obviously not an option and you will practically, if not literally, be sitting in the laps of strangers. Caritos publicos can be hailed by a set of handsignals which indicate a short ride or a long ride to the driver, and thinner individuals and women are more likely to be picked up.
This experience is NOT for the faint of heart, but it can also provide an exhilarating and authentic look at local culture and lifestyles. Caritos publicos are an efficient way to get around if you are traveling with a local, speak fluent Spanish, or are traveling with someone who knows the street system. If you do decide to take a ride on your first visit to the DR, avoid doing so alone or at night. And ALWAYS look for caritos publicos with identifiable signs / company logos to avoid being ripped off or potentially harmed. When in doubt, call an official taxi company to pick you up!
Despite all this advice, I still wouldn't recommend a ride in caritos publicos to inexperienced travelers, those with children, seniors, or single women.
I just have to address the fact that some people have said there is no venomous spiders in the Dominican. The Dominican has various venomous spiders including the black widow one of the most deadly spiders in the world. The country also has the highest mortality rate with people dieing from Contact with venomous spiders (per capita) (most recent) by country in THE WORLD, but i honestly would not worry because it works out that only 0.6 people to every 1 million that die. And for the record I hate spiders!
First of all, NONE of the employees I encountered spoke any English!
I had a reservation for my car when I arrived at the Santo Domingo Airport. I had to ask another rental car employee to call the Europcar employees so that they would come to the desk. I was the first one out to the rental car place (I was excited about seeing my Dominican boyfriend) and it took the employees so long that by the time they arrived, everyone else from my flight had passed me...even the ones renting cars.
They showed that I didn't have a reservation, so this of course took forever. And I got a car other than the one I reserved.
My car was great, but all banged up and I was a little worried because to show where there were scratches, they made little pen marks on a little 1 inch drawing of a car. So, the whole time I was worried they would say I scratched or dented the car when I did not.
Luckily that didn't happen. However, I brought my car back early. The employee working said he'd take the extra day off of it that I didn't use. He kept talking about me owing him $20 (the only thing he did ever say in English). I didn't understand what I had done wrong to owe $20. I called my Dominican boyfriend and had him talk to the guy just to find out that the guy was insisting on a tip, otherwise he wasn't going to close out my account and take the extra day off. I was pissed and left giving him no tip. This guy found me in the airport REPEATEDLY, showing me papers about how he had taken the extra day off and asking for $20. I gave him about $8 finally hoping it would get rid of him. That is all the money I had. Then he insisted on taking me to an ATM or a bank. I refused to go to one and acted like I didn't understand. As soon as I picked up the phone to call my boyfriend again, he said that amount of money was fine and he hurried off.
This is by far the dirtiest, nastiest city I have visited in the Dominican Republic. The water in the ocean is too polluted in this area to even get in. I stayed at the Howard Johnson, San Pedro de Macoris hotel and it wasn't bad if you're swimming in Juan Dolio and staying there. It cost only about $60 for the night (if you ask for it to be non-inclusive). The hotels in Juan Dolio will run you more around $200 a night. The water in the hotel was not what I would call swimmable though. And most of the other people staying in the hotel were Dominican. Trust me...the all inclusive plan is not worth it at this hotel.
"It's not safe to wander out of the resort" is something you'll hear at the resort and it can't be farther from the truth. I'm not going to lie and say that it doesn't happen because it does and it has BUT as long as you practice common sense you should be fine. That is, don't show off your money, don't walk around with a lot of bling bling, leave your valuables at the hotel and be aware of your surroundings because you'll most likely stick out.
Why do they do this, you wonder? My speculation is, because they want you to consume the products they sell at the hotel (the non-national alcoholic beverages and the restaurants that aren't included in your package, as well as the excursions from the tour reps).
Your resort will most likely have a tour rep with different tours to places close by and some far. IMO some of the tours are well designed and they have the advantage of including transport to and from the hotel, so if you think they're not to expensive then go ahead. If you're the adventurous type, you could take a public bus to the nearest city and explore it, or take a bus to a farther away city or must see. Where to go and how to get there will depend mostly on where your resort is located. IF you take a cab, negotiate a rate before getting in.
Another good idea might be to google where you're staying and looking into tour operators and what excursions they have, so that you can have something to compare to and haggle.
A sankie pankie is a man who shows tourist women (or men sometimes) a good time on the island, will take her to discotheques/bars/restaurants, will try to get into her pants and will most definitely make her fall in love....only so that she starts sending him money (mostly via Western Union). The goal for these people is to have the women to bring her to their home countries, where then they ditch them after getting the visa/residency. Some even go to the extreme of marrying the women, who unfortunately fall for their charm.
Sankies, as they're known in DR, can mostly be located in touristic areas and in almost all cases work on the animation teams at all-inclusive hotels. With that said, I by all means do NOT mean that all resort workers are sankies.
So how can you be sure that the guy is a sankie? I'd say that while they're *very* good at scamming tourists, the usual signs are (in no particular order):
- They say you're the most beautiful woman they've ever seen
- They can pay for the outings at the beginning, but normally it's the woman that ends up paying for everything
- They say "I love you" or "I want to marry you" quite quickly after meeting you. That is to say, they hop off the getting to know you stage of a (normal) relationship.
- If you, by any chance, give him your contact information, be prepared to hear him asking you for money because "my mom is sick and I can't afford to buy medication", "my brother is in jail and I can't pay the bail", " died".
A woman who "works" as a sankie pankie is called sankiette.
If you can get a good exchange rate in your home country, then bring some Dominican pesos with you. Then bring US dollars you can exchange as you need, or an ATM card you can use to withdraw money from (read my ATM machine tip).
The best place to exchange money would be the banks. They usually publish their rates on screens or white boards, visible to anyone who comes in, so browse, compare and sell your dollars to the bank that offers the most. Under no circumstances, do NOT exchange dollars at the black market (usually present where the tourists are) because they usually give BAD rates and who knows, maybe even fake money. Dollars and Euros are wide accepted in the touristic places and big cities but imo it's always cheaper to pay with the local currency.
Be careful what you do in Santo Domingo because there are a lot of people there that will try to steal your stuff. I fortunately only got about $100 worth of stuff stolen, however the girl standing next to me in a casino just got in from Canada and had everything stolen, including her passport!!! And many police do not speak English!
Do not trust the water drinking issues on this island......we have gotten sick here a few years and have started to only drink BOTTLED water, not even the water in the resorts is good sometimes. The ice in your drinks is made from their water, so beware!
Avoid being ripped off by shady cab drivers by calling one from one of the big cab companies, or if you happen to be in a touristic area with tourist taxis, agree on a price before getting in.
Serious taxi drivers will have a laminated "ficha" (their ID) with their name and photo hanging from the inner rear view mirror so that it's visible. When you call a taxi company, they'll tell you the taxi number that will pick you up at the specified address, and sometimes even the car color. If they don't give you this information ask for it.
Tap water is NOT drinkable in the whole DR. There are people selling water in "small plastic bags" (una fundita de agua) on busy streets, those are not to recommend either. Buy bottled water instead.
When we arrived, I went to an airport information booth and asked for a map, and they said they didn't have any information at all except a booklet in either German or French.
Coming from the airport in a taxi, our driver shoved his way into the line of cars waiting to leave the airport. No drivers wait their turn here - it is who backs down first that has to wait. I didn't think much about it at the time, because our daughter drives a little bit the same in Miami under the adage "if you snooze you loose", but this was even more aggressive than that.
After he paid to go out of the parking lot, he drove at great speed for some time. Then we turned unto an unpaved potholed road and after one block, there was the hotel.
The next day, after our tour of Santo Domingo, we went back to the hotel on an expressway which simultaneously went over two bridges (photo 4), one of which is under construction and has scaffolding all over it. In the middle of the highway is a concrete barrier about 4 feet high, and there was a woman walking along on top of it. The driver and Gloria both said she was crazy.
Bob said the experience reinforced the idea that he was not going to rent a car here. Some of the traffic lights don't work (photo 3), and the ones that do are apparently disregarded as often as not. Stop signs (Pare) are ignored half the time. The only real reason that people don't speed are the many fairly agressive speed bumps. We tried to get a map from the hotel (they have one displayed on the wall - photo 2), but they would not give us one.
We talked to some folks from New Mexico (who speak Spanish) who have rented a car and they said they bought a map from the hotel. And the hotel literature also says they have maps. So Bob went down on Saturday and asked them AGAIN about a map. This time he asked if he could BUY a map, and this time (although they had to consult with someone to see if it was OK to sell him one) we got a map. It even has the hotel on it. Of course we are leaving Monday.
Stayed here for annual holiday in October 2001. First time in carribean and definately not the last....more
Myself and my girlfriend spent 7 miserable days here. We pads for reserve rooms , top of the line...more
I stayed here on a recent business trip in the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. This 6 room hotel...more