The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Republic of Haiti. The country is the second largest in the Caribbean region, with a surface area of 18,704 square miles (48,442 square kilometers). Located in the heart of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and to the south by the Caribbean Sea.
The population of the Dominican Republic is 9,980,243 (2015 Census).
Local time is GMT -4. It is an hour ahead of Atlantic Standard Time in the United States in the winter. Unlike the United States and Europe, the Dominican Republic does not observe daylight saving time.
The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the New World. Greater Santo Domingo has a population of around three million people.
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy. There are three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Every four years the country elects its president, vice president, legislators and city government officials. President Danilo Medina and Vice President Margarita Cedeño were elected for a four-year term that began on 16 August 2012 and ends on 16 August 2016.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. However, you’ll be surprised how many hotel and tourist destination employees speak English, French, German and Italian. If you decide to venture out of the tourist areas, it is helpful to learn some basic phrases in Spanish.
Major credit cards are accepted at most tourist locations, but it is best to check in advance at small hotels, restaurants and shops.
ATMs are located in almost all of the Dominican Republic’s cities, as well as at most resorts. Large supermarkets have ATMs that are open until late.
The Dominican Republic enjoys a tropical climate all year round, with average temperatures ranging from 66° to 93° F (19° to 34° C). The coldest season is between November and April, and the hottest season is between May and October. August is the hottest month.
5,959,347 non-resident visitors flew to the Dominican Republic in 2016. Among these visitors, 825,237 non-resident Dominicans chose to visit the country in 2016.
Most air arrivals landed at the Punta Cana airport, 52.74% of all air traffic. Santo Domingo was the second destination of arrivals with 27.57%, followed by Santiago 10.26%, Puerto Plata 6.69%, La Romana 1.59% and Samaná 0.97%.
In 2016, most tourists visiting the country by air came from:
In 2016, seaport activity was 832,916 passengers:
The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism reports there are 737 hotels with a total of 75,030 hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic as of December 2016.
A valid passport is required. You may also need a tourist card (US$10 or €10) or a visa.
Citizens of countries who are legally able to enter the European Union, Great Britain, the United States of America or Canada may enter the Dominican Republic by presenting a Tourist Card.
The Tourist Card is valid for a year from the date of purchase and is valid for an up to 30-day visit for one person who will only be able to use it once. The Tourist Card can be acquired at point of sale locations in land, air or sea ports in the country. It is also sold at Dominican embassies and consulate offices overseas and by tour operating companies. It can be purchased online at www.dgii.gov.do/tarjetaTuristica/EN/about/Paginas/default.aspx
Tourists staying beyond the usual 30-day period need to pay a proportional fee depending on the extension, which can be paid at the Department of Migration or at the migration desk upon departure.
See a list of the consulates at the top right hand corner of this page of the Ministry of Foreign Relations website: www.consuladord.com
WHO IS EXEMPT FROM A TOURIST CARD OR VISA?
Residents and Dominican nationals.
Foreigners arriving from Argentina, Chile, South Korea, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Peru and Uruguay.
Diplomatic and consular staff with assigned missions in the country, while on duty.
Passengers using private, noncommercial aviation as long as the aircraft fulfills the following requirements: the trip must be for sport, leisure, business or tourism purposes, and the aircraft must not weigh more than thirty thousand pounds (30,000 lbs) and have a maximum capacity of 12 passengers.
Because it is located in the Caribbean, the weather in the Dominican Republic is excellent all year round. During the summer, the temperature can range from 90 F (32 C) at midday to 70 F (21 C) at dawn. Temperatures can drop to a low of 65 F (18 C) in the winter. In the high mountainous areas of Jarabacoa and Constanza, the weather is cooler. In these areas, temperatures of 50 F (10 C) in the city in the early morning and below zero higher up in the mountains are not unusual.
In the tropics, although rainstorms can happen at any time of the year, rains usually fall for just short periods in the afternoon and evening. The warmest months are June through September.
Holidays (Non Business Days) 2017
January 1: New Year’s Day
January 6: The Three Kings’ Day (religious) – Celebrated on Monday January 9th
January 21: Our Lady of Altagracia Day (religious)
January 26: Juan Pablo Duarte Day – Celebrated on Monday January 30th
February 27: Independence Day
March or April (varies) – Easter Friday (religious)
May 1: Labor Day (celebrated on the closest Monday)
June (varies) Corpus Christi Day (religious)
August 16: Restoration of Independence Day
September 24: Our Lady of Mercedes Day (religious)
November 6: Constitution Day (celebrated on the closest Monday)
December 25: Christmas Day (religious)
In the Dominican Republic, electric outlets are 110 volts, the same as in the United States and Canada. Because of this, visitors from other countries needing power adapters are advised to bring their own.
For a list of foreign embassies in the Dominican Republic, see:
Most businesses open at 8am or 9am until 5 or 6pm on business days and until 1pm on Saturdays. Large shopping centers in the cities usually close at 9pm and open on Sundays from 9am until 8pm. Restaurants usually remain open and serve food until midnight, Sunday to Thursday, and until 2am on Friday, Saturday and holidays. Inside the hotels, bars, discos and restaurants may remain open 24 hours a day.
The official language is Spanish. English is widely spoken, and many tourist sector employees will be fluent in Italian, French, German, Russian and other languages as needed.
The local currency is the Dominican peso (RD$). It comes in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 25 peso coins and in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 and 2,000 notes. Dollars and euros can be readily exchanged in banks and authorized exchange offices across the country.
There are restrictions on bringing more than US$10,000 in cash into the country and any sum over this value needs to be declared on the customs form. It is prohibited to leave the Dominican Republic with more than $10,000 US dollars or equivalent in cash. If you need large amounts of cash, it is more convenient to make a bank withdrawal when in the country. Banks are normally open from 8:30am to 4pm. In large shopping centers, some bank branches are open until 8pm.
Passports, Tourist Card & Visa
Citizens and residents of the United States, Canada and most European countries can enter the country with a 30-day tourist card, which can be bought when you enter the country for US$10 or €10. Anyone, regardless of nationality, may come into the Dominican Republic with a tourist card if they have any of the following valid visas in their passport: United States, Canada, United Kingdom or the European Union (Schengen). If you wish to extend your tourist card to 90 days, you will need to pay RD$2,500 to immigration when you leave the country. The exit tax is US$20.00, but this is usually included in the airline ticket.
To see a list of the countries that require a visa to enter the Dominican Republic, visit:
Restaurant bills already include a ten percent tip. It is customary to give an additional 10% for good service. Most people do not tip taxi drivers, however if you feel so inclined for good service, a tip will certainly be appreciated.
Smoking is not allowed in most restaurants, clubs and enclosed premises.
Dominicans like to dress elegantly; fashion, grooming and hygiene are very important. Depending on the occasion, Dominicans will dress either casually or formally. Around hotels and resorts, it is suitable to wear light clothing such as shirts, t-shirts, shorts, swimwear or dresses.
From December through February, when the nights are cooler, you may need a light jacket.
Do not assume that the weather will always be warm because even in a Caribbean island, warm clothes will be needed for traveling in the mountain areas, especially in the Central Mountain Range, where temperatures as low as 32 F (0 C) are regularly reported. In the mountain towns of Constanza and Jarabacoa the temperatures regularly will drop below 65C (18C) in the evenings.
For a more comfortable stay, even if the day is cloudy, use sunblock as the Caribbean sun is very strong. All-inclusive hotels encourage eating and drinking, but moderation is recommended to avoid stomach upsets. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water or natural liquids. Note that soft drinks do not count. If you feel unwell, visit a doctor. The tourist centers and all cities have health centers with modern medical services and most hotels have medical dispensaries with qualified personnel.
Traveling with Animals
Cats and dogs will need a health certificate from your country of origin, which is valid for at least 30 days. A rabies vaccination certificate is also required. Birds will need to be quarantined for ten days. For other animals, an import permit will be required from the National Department of Agriculture and Zoology. Always check with your accommodation provider regarding policies for pets.
Even though the Dominican Republic is one of the safest countries on the continent, you should still take the same precautions as when traveling to any new city:
Use the hotel safe to store your passport, money and other items of value.
Keep a photocopy of your passport with you when you travel. Only take what is necessary along with you.
When possible, take a credit card as well as cash.
Do not leave articles of value, bag or briefcases in full view in vehicles, even when there is a security guard nearby.
Avoid traveling at night, even on the main highways. If you are planning to go out at night, use the services of a taxi called from the hotel where you are staying.
Specialized Touristic Security Corp (Cestur)
With special training for assisting tourists, Cestur is a joint initiative under the Ministry of Defense working in collaboration with the National Police and the Ministry of Tourism. Cestur offices are located in most tourist destinations. If you are the victim of a crime, Cestur can help you get to a police station so that you may file a police report and seek further assistance. Cestur headquarters are at Av. Gustavo Mejía Ricart and Teodoro Chasseriaux, El Millón. Tel. 809 222-2123
The Dominican Republic uses the same call system as the United States. The main area code is 809, though there are also numbers that use 829 and 849 codes. You are required to dial ten digits for each call.
Because most people now have cell phones, public phones are almost non-existent. It is advisable to have a phone when traveling independently in the Dominican Republic. You can buy a prepaid cell phone in the Dominican Republic with a local number for about US$42. The telephone companies that provide cell phone services are: Claro, Orange, Tricom and Viva. These same companies will sell wireless Internet gadgets for your laptop. You can purchase a phone in less than an hour at any shopping center. You may also change your telephone’s SIM card for a local one and use it on your own phone. It is not difficult to find a WiFi hotspot to connect to the Internet.
There’s a large network of roads connecting towns and tourist destinations around the country. There is lovely lush green landscape along the Santo Domingo-Santiago-Puerto Plata highway. Check out the spectacular panoramic views of the sea and mountains along the route towards Barahona, or the interesting new route through the Los Haitises National Park hills leading to the Samaná Peninsula and the North Coast.
The following land and air transportation options can help you travel around the Dominican Republic:
One of the advantages of traveling with a tour operator is that your airport-to-hotel and hotel-to-excursion transfers are likely to be prearranged.
Taxis can be found at airports and hotels and can also be arranged in advance. Several taxi for call companies are listed in the telephone directory. They are a cost-effective way to get around. Taxis are safe and reliable option in Santo Domingo as well as in many inland towns. Inter-city taxis cost RD$200.
Various companies including several world brands offer their services at the main airports, tourist destinations and towns. Consider renting a vehicle to visit at your leisure the destinations and attractions that are located along the northern coast, the Samaná peninsula, La Romana and Punta Cana beaches.
Santo Domingo Subway (Metro)
The new modern Metro service began in 2009 and there are two lines. Avoid peak hours when they are packed with commuters. One of the lines goes north-south on the Máximo Gómez avenue and then east-west along the Correa y Cidrón avenue, passing the state university (UASD) on its way to the government building center at the Centro de los Héroes, where Congress, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Department of Migration, among other government offices are located. A subway card costs RD$30 with recharge starting at RD$20, the value of each trip: www.opret.gob.do/Estaciones.aspx
Low-Cost City Buses
Low-cost OMSA government buses travel along the main roads of Santo Domingo and Santiago, from 7am until 9pm. Similarly, there are other smaller privately-owned and operated buses called “guaguas” (bus) or “voladoras” (flyers), that travel scheduled routes and circulate around the main streets and avenues, stopping on request.
Public Cars or “Conchos” (Shared Taxis)
Concho cars or shared taxis are very similar to “guaguas” because they travel specific routes and stop at points requested by the passengers. You can find them in the capital as well as in towns and villages. Fares are usually RD$25 for the routes in which up to six passengers will be boarded. Consider a private taxi for an inter-city route costs RD$200.
“Motoconchos” (Motorbike Taxis)
Many young men in the Dominican Republic make a living by transporting passengers on their motorbikes. The service is used mostly for traveling relatively short distances, especially as the bikes can weave their way swiftly through traffic. The fare should be agreed beforehand.
Interurban Bus Service
It is not difficult to travel between different regions of the country. There are several private companies that can take you in comfortable modern buses at very reasonable prices. Make sure that you take a jacket as these buses tend to keep their air-conditioning at its lowest point.
Caribe Tours has daily bus services from Santo Domingo to Barahona, Cabrera, Jarabacoa, Montecristi, Nagua, Puerto Plata, Rio San Juan, Samaná, Sánchez, Santiago, Santo Domingo, Sosúa and other towns in the Dominican Republic. Caribe Tours buses also travel to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien in Haiti: www.caribetours.com.do
Expreso Bávaro has several departures to Santo Domingo during the day. Upon arrival to Punta Cana, the buses make several stops at hotels, tourist and shopping areas in Bávaro, Punta Cana. An affiliate of the company, Sitrabapu makes local stops departing from Veron in Higuey and La Romana. Sitrabapu also as a non-stop express route to La Romana: www.expresobavaro.com
Sichoem buses commute between La Romana and Santo Domingo with several departures from the La Romana stop next to the Shell gas station, Tel 809 556-4192. Asomiro offers a similar service with buses that need to be taken at the Av. Padre Abreu Km 1 stop, near La Gallera, Tel 809 556-9099.
Transporte Samaná (Asotrapusa) services Samaná with several departures during the day from its stations at Calle Barahona 129 or las Americas Expressway). Tel 809 687-1470.
DOMESTIC AIR TRANSPORTION
In Punta Cana, helicopters are a quick and comfortable way of getting to know the area and its 31 miles (50 km) of beaches. Helicopter companies fly to Santo Domingo and other destinations, connecting different cities and tourist points: http://www.helidosaaviationgroup.com/
Charter flights can be arranged to and from the international airports of Punta Cana (PUJ), Santo Domingo (SDQ, JBQ), La Romana (LRM), Santiago (STI), Puerto Plata (POP), Samaná (AZS, ABA) and Barahona (BRX). Several small airports cater to domestic flights. These include: Arroyo Barril (ABA) in Samaná on the northeast coast Constanza (COZ) located in the central mountain region, Cabo Rojo (CBJ) in Pedernales on the southwest coast and Montecristi (MTC) on the northwest coast.
Table of distances between the towns and cities of the Dominican Republic:
The silver clouds atop Mt. Isabel de Torres, the towering mountain behind Puerto Plata, gave the city its name. Today tourists ride the cable car to get to the top of the mountain, visit its botanical gardens and take in the sweeping views of the port city.
The city boasts the largest collection of still-standing 19th century Victorian-style houses in the Caribbean. Its San Felipe Fort is one of the oldest military colonial period fortresses in the region, dating back to 1577.
Puerto Plata is the province where the remains of the first European settlement in the Americas are located. Admiral Christopher Columbus’ famous three ships made landfall here in 1492, naming it La Isabela.
But today Puerto Plata is better known for its Atlantic coastline with more than 62 miles (100 km) of beaches, coastal villages and hotels. The beach towns of Sosua and Cabarete, world famous for its windsurfing and kiteboarding, are less than half an hour away.
The popular Ocean World Adventure Park is on the outskirts of the city. Damajagua Falls, Disney’s Splash Mountain ride but for real, is just a 30-minute ride south.
The main port of entry is the Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP) and the Ocean World Marina is a full-service facility.
One of the country’s top visitor destinations, La Romana is defined by sugar cane, golf, beaches and diving. To arrive, tourists drive past sprawling sugar cane fields.
In the 1970s, the largest sugar mill in the Americas diversified and opened the resort of Casa de Campo, famous for its world class golf and the artists’ village of Altos de Chavón, featuring galleries and shops. While golf put La Romana on the tourism map, most visitors today come for the beaches and the comfort of its resorts.
Bayahibe is the gateway to Saona Island in the National Park of the East, the most visited natural attraction in the country. It is the land of the rare Bayahibe Rose, a cactus-shrub that in 2011 was named the National Flower.