Category Archives: RESOURCES

All the information and resources you might need while visiting Dominican Republic.

Helpful Hints – Driving Public Transportation

Driving and Using Public Transportation

Some helpful hints and ideas when traveling that could make your time in The Dominican Republic more enjoyable. I highly advise that you do not drive until you know the ways of the road. Taking public transportation or a taxi is much easier than trying to drive yourself.

Morning rush hour traffic crossing the Puente Flotante / Floating Bridge coming into Santo Domingo.
Morning rush hour traffic crossing the Puente Flotante / Floating Bridge coming into Santo Domingo.

Driving is done on the right side of the road.

Right turn on red is permitted.

Most Dominicans do not drive at night, especially outside of the city. Most roads are not well lit so you cannot see the obstacles. Many roads are bad. Some are very good then they suddenly will have a giant rut or change in an instant to a dirt road. You must always be alert. Also, headlights do not function the best here. Many cars do not have lights, they do not use lights or they always have the high beams on. Many Motor Cycles do not have lights at all and are very difficult to see.

A dark highway without and street lights on the return to Santo Domingo.
A dark highway without and street lights on the return to Santo Domingo.

Fill up the gas tank of your car if you are driving and keep an eye on it, especially if leaving the city or going out at night. Gas stations are few and far between in rural areas. The stations are not self serve. Be alert and keep an eye on the attendants pumping your gas to be sure that no adds-ons are happening to your bill. Many of these attendants are good at deceiving. Some will charge for gas they did not put into your tank giving them a little extra money in their pockets.

An unwritten rule of the road. The bigger your vehicle the more rights you have. Little guys get out of the way for the big boys.

Traffic on the streets of Santo Domingo.
Traffic on the streets of Santo Domingo.

Speed limit signs are in KM’s, not miles, so be aware of this. Even if the speed is posted it is not USUALLY enforced. It all just depends on the mood of the officer that day or the officer might need a little extra cash in his pocket.

If you are driving keep some change handy in the car. This way you will not have to reach into your pocket to give money. The person that helped you park, the attendant, the passing beggar, the guy that just washed your windshield (even if you did not want it), all want a handout. Also, many of the toll roads are the type where you throw change into the bin. It is always easier to have change handy instead of having to make change at the booth.

A toll booth in Santo Domingo.
A toll booth in Santo Domingo.

Someone most likely will approach you when you park your car. They will offer to watch your car for a price. Give them a small amount and tell them you’ll give them more when you return. This way they MIGHT pay more attention to your vehicle to make sure it is safe in the street.

Pare / Stop and other directional road signs on the road to La Romana.
Pare / Stop and other directional road signs on the road to La Romana.

Traffic laws are similar to those in the United States. In Dominican Republic drivers, in general, do not pay attention to the driving laws. Turns are made from opposite sides of the roads and turn signals are just pretty lights. Cars are known to stop without any warning and in the center of the road. So when driving always watch closely to what is going on around you. People drive aggressively. They do not yield or give right-of-way. Stop signs (Pare) are a rare sight and even if you do see them not many pay attention to them. *Note: They are starting to watch more for traffic violations. If you have a large violation or crash you could have your car taken or go to jail, even if you are a tourist.

Try and practice the word no or better yet the “I don’t see you or hear you” look. If you are not good at either of these make sure your window is wound up when you are at a stoplight. There are many vendors trying to sell items to people at stop lights or any place where cars are stopped on the streets. If you purchase anything be sure to get the item in your hand before you give the cash. There are also beggars at street stops asking for a handout. If you wish to give a little change that’s ok, if not don’t make eye contact or acknowledge their presence.

Traffic can be very chaotic on the city streets.
Traffic can be very chaotic on the city streets.

Seat belts are the law here. Many laws are not enforced but this law is one of the few that they are very strict about. Using a cell phone while driving..DON’T! This is another thing that WILL get you in trouble if the police see you. Going through a stop sign you might and might not get a ticket. Talking on a cell phone when driving WILL get you a ticket. Use a hands free device.

Pedestrians tend to step out into traffic and do not pay attention to cross walks, corners, or traffic signals even though they DO NOT have the right-of-way. People cross everywhere. Even on the busy highways and interstate roads. Be cautious, you do not want to hit someone or even bump into them.

Traffic jam in Santa Barbara with pedestrians trying to direct the traffic.
Traffic jam in Santa Barbara with pedestrians trying to direct the traffic.

Motorcycles and motor scooters outnumber the cars in the Dominican Republic. The drivers are supposed to wear helmets. Sometimes this law is enforced and other times it is ignored. Motor drivers will work their way through traffic while everyone is stopped at an intersection to get to the front of the line. They drive on the sides of the road and even on sidewalks. Many do not have lights. They drive the wrong way on the roads. This is not true for all motorcycle drivers just most. You need to remember that a motorbike could be anywhere at any time and at any place.

Do not leave your purse or belongings on the seat near you if your windows are down. Keep them on the floor between your feet with the strap held or wrapped around your leg. Grab and runs are very common.

When talking on your cell phone use caution if the window is down. I know many people that have had their phones torn from their hands while talking from someone in the street or a motorbike passing by.

A dirt road in the campo. Little girls are rolling tired down the street.
A dirt road in the campo. Little girls are rolling tired down the street.

Watch when you open your car door. There may be a motorcycle driver coming up the side of the road.

Watch out for Horse carts. They move slow and are found in many of the streets. They also cross in front of cars with no regard for their surroundings.

Goats taking a stroll down the street near Lago Enriquillo.
Goats taking a stroll down the street near Lago Enriquillo.

There are no large wild animals in Dominican Republic. No deer or skunks to watch out for in the street. There are goats, horses, pigs and cows that do like to hang out in the streets. Even in the cities. Be aware!

A vehicle crash on the street going to Barahona. People usually gather around to see what is happening.
A vehicle crash on the street going to Barahona. People usually gather around to see what is happening.

If you do have a wreck try and resolve the incident without police help if possible. Give the other driver some cash and get out of there unless it is a serious crash with injuries. Remember, if you have a wreck you may not be able to leave the island if there are any problems. You could end up in jail until it is resolved.

Driving while drinking is not permitted. The country has been cracking down on drinking and driving so be aware. If you are in a wreck or do a traffic no-no drunk you’ll be in big trouble. Even though they say no drinking and driving, many people do and the police really do not pay much attention unless you look like you are doing something wrong or make a mistake.

Public Transportation

The larger tour busses are quite comfortable and clean. They have air conditioning that can get VERY COLD. Remember to take a jacket or wrap with you. Most likely you will need it.

When riding a bus some can get very noisy. Dominicans do like to listen to their music loud and they think everyone likes it that way also.

Loading up the guagua from San Jose de Ocoa to Rancho Arriba.
Loading up the guagua from San Jose de Ocoa to Rancho Arriba.

When riding a local bus or Guagua they can get loud and are many times dirty and crowded. Many of the smaller guaguas or busses do not have air conditioning so you have to open the windows. They can make many stops along the route. You could even be riding with a box of chickens in the back! So relax and try and enjoy the experience. Nothing much else you can do except getting upset (which does not help) or you can get off the bus. Remember, when stops are made watch for a might-be thief putting his hand into the window to take what you have when you are not paying attention and cannot make chase. It happens often so be aware.

Motor transport can come in many forms. Be careful.
Motor transport can come in many forms. Be careful.

I strongly suggest, especially if you are not familiar with the country, get a taxi or use public transportation. Do Not rent a car to travel around the country. Driving is not easy here. If you get in any type of accident you may not be able to leave the country until it is resolved. Remember, the police do not get paid much money (in general, basic pay can be less than $200 US Dollars a month). This is not enough to raise a family so many of the police do look for tips (regalas). Some spot a tourist and will pull them over and ask for money or they will give you a ticket or take you to jail. It is up to you, but I suggest try not to give money or give a small amount just to get out of the problem. Do not let them see how much money you have. Do not get too aggressive in your argument with them (a little arguing is expected). Many say to make a copy of your drivers license and give this to them instead of the original. Again I suggest, just to be safe, use a taxi. *note- I do not know about the police asking for a tip first hand. This is only what I have been told by other Expats and Dominicans alike. I have never had a problem with this in my years in the country. I do always use a taxi or public transportation.

When taking a taxi always ask before hand what the fare will be. This way you can decide then whether to take that car or not. Once you have taken the ride you have no choice but to pay what he asks. I used to make them write down the price so they could not change it later.

Driving through the tunnel in Santo Domingo.
Driving through the tunnel in Santo Domingo.

When using public transportation be aware of your surroundings. Watch who is close to you, bumping into you or making loud noises can be to distract you into not paying attention to the hand reaching into your pocket or worse.

The Public cars are convenient and inexpensive. I strongly suggest that you do not use Public cars at night. Best to take a taxi. Official registered public cars will have an ID badge in the car with the drivers picture and their identity number.

Have the money to pay the driver or bus attendant in your hand or in a convenient place away from your other monies. This way you will not be showing how much money you have to all the passengers.

The highway to Miches. Sometimes the road just is not there any longer.
The highway to Miches. Sometimes the road just is not there any longer.

Always try and smile and be nice to the driver. Tell them thank you. If possible, in a public car, say the drivers name when speaking to him. This way they know you know who they are.

Look in the car first. If you don’t like the look of the driver or passengers (most likely you won’t like the look of the car, but this is normal. Can’t be too choosy with this point) don’t get it. Wait for the next car to pass. The Dominicans do this so you can also. It is better to be safe than sorry. Follow your feelings and instincts.

Tsunami – Maremoto

Tsunami / Maremoto / Tidal Wave

Tsunami (tsoo-NAH-mee) is Japanese for “great harbor wave.” This wave can speed across the ocean at 500 miles (805 kilometers) an hour. When viewed in the deep waters the waves are only a few feet high. But watch out when the waves come close to shore and the more shallow waters. These little waves swell with energy and grow in height. Usually a second wave follows the first in about 15 minutes followed by others. These can last up to 2 hours or more.
There are Tsunamis in Dominican Republic. Many have been recorded in history.

Tsunami / Maremoto
Significant Tsunamis in DR | Districto Nacional Flood Zone | Official Warnings and Alerts | Warning Signs | Survival | Links to Tsunami Related Web Sites

A view of the Caribbean Sea and Santo Domingo in the distance.
A view of the Caribbean Sea and Santo Domingo in the distance.

Significant Tsunamis in DR

There have been 10 significant documented tsunamis in the Caribbean since 1492. Not only can an earthquake cause a tsunami but also landslides and volcanic eruptions can trigger a giant wave.

Tsunamis in DR:

*October 11, 1918 – Small tsunami on the coast of Punta Cana killing a person.

*August 4th, 1946. This destructive tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in the Dominican Republic. It killed about 1,800 people in the Caribbean. The natural phenomenon had waves over 10 meters high causing extensive damage to the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, according to contemporary reports in some low places the sea came up to 1500 meters inland. Reports say that the town of Matanzas was destroyed and an estimated 500 deaths occurred in that town alone. They say that one could walk underneath the pier in Puerta Plata, in the northern part of Republica Dominicana, because the retreat of the sea was so great. Read an account of the August 4th disaster.

We had a real tsunami warning after the 7. Earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. It was declared for Cuba, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Witnesses claimed that in the Dominican town of Pedernales the sea moved away. Shortly after the alert was made it was withdrawn.

Dominican Republic has set up mock tsunami drills in different areas throughout the country. These drills were executed very well. There are warning plans in place since an approaching tsunami cannot be felt as an earthquake can. A tsunami can sneak up on a person. The Caribbean Tsunami Information Center (CTIC) has been set up for this purpose.

Districto Nacional Flood Zone

The flood zone in the event of a tsunami can be from two kilometers from the coast or 20 meters high. An example of how far the flood Zone is in the National District, Santo Domingo that would be from the Avenida George Washington covering much of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Gascue and the Colonial Zone.

Official Warnings and Alerts

The warnings and alerts and what each of the different warnings mean:

*Warning: Earthquake occurred. Tsunami may have been generated. Arrival times 2 hours
*Watch: Earthquake occurred. Potential resultant tsunami not measured. Arrival times 3 to 5 hours
*Info Bulletin: Earthquake occurred but not sufficient to generate a damaging tsunami
*Info Message: Earthquake occurred but not magnitude too weak to generate tsunami.

See a Map of the Caribbean with respect to the Tsunamis in the Caribbean area. Tsunami Messages for All Regions in the past 30 days. Tsunami Warning Center – Caribbean Sea.

Warning Signs

Tsunami and Tidal Wave warning signs and evacuation routes signs.
Evacuation sign in case of tsunami “tsunami” / Señal ante alerta de tsunami.

Zona de Tsunami - Tsunami Area sign
Zona de Tsunami – Tsunami Area sign
Tsunami Warning Sign - Entrando Zona De Peligro -  Entering a Dangerous Area
Tsunami Warning Sign – Entrando Zona De Peligro – Entering a Dangerous Area
Tsunami Warning Sign - Zona De Riesgo De Tsunami. En Caso De Terremoto, Vaya A Suelo Alta O Tierra Adentro - Tsunami Risk Zone. In Case of Earthquake, Go To High Ground Or Inland
Tsunami Warning Sign – Zona De Riesgo De Tsunami. En Caso De Terremoto, Vaya A Suelo Alta O Tierra Adentro – Tsunami Risk Zone. In Case of Earthquake, Go To High Ground Or Inland

Survival

The best way to survive a Tsunami is to pay attention to the warnings put out by the government.
*Abandoning your belongings and home and get to high ground FAST.
*If getting away is not an option go to a tall building, climb a tree, do whatever you can to get high.
*If all else fails find something that floats and hold on for dear life.
*Stay wherever you found refuge and wait to be sure the tsunami is really over.

*The Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS) was established in 2005 as a subsidiary body of the IOC-UNESCO with the purpose of providing efficient assistance on tsunami risk reduction to Member States in the Caribbean region after the lessons learnt from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The newly established Caribbean Tsunami Information Center (CTIC). The IOC Tsunami Programme (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Tsunami Programme) http://www.ioc-tsunami.org/ is part of UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization)

*Oficina Nacional de Meteorologia (ONAMET) in Dominican Republic

*An excellent brochure put out by The United States Geological Survey (USGS) “Surviving a Tsunami – Lessons From Chile, Hawaii, and Japan.” Actions that saved lives, and actions that cost lives, as recounted by eyewitnesses to the tsunami from the largest earthquake ever measured, the magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile on May 22, 1960.
http://www.ioc-tsunami.org/images/stories/documents/usgslessons_e.pdf

*Tsunami: The Great Waves (Documents in English and French)

*The Tsunami story from NOAA

*Account of the 1942 Quake and tsunami in Dominican Republic (in Spanish) “Domingo 4 de Agosto del 1946 a las 12:55 p.m

*National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA Tsunami Information

*United States Search and Rescue Task Force. Tsunamis

*Tsunami – Tidal Wave – Santo Domingo Danger Areas (English and Spanish).

*Caribbean Tsunami Information Center CTIC and the Tsunamis and Warnings – A System for the Caribbean

Earthquakes & Terremotos

Earthquake / Terremotos / Temblor de Tierra Information for
Dominican Republic

Earthquakes / los Terremotos/ Temblor de Tierra

Yes, we do have earthquakes in Dominican Republic. We call an Earthquake in Spanish a Terremoto or Temblor de Tierra. Whatever you want to call them we do have this earth-shaking phenomenon occurring here on our island and we do have many earthquakes. The island of Hispaniola does have seismic activity almost daily, as with many places throughout the world, but the activity is so small that usually it cannot be felt. Every so often the quakes are strong and they can be felt. You can feel the earth move and sway under your feet!

Fault Lines | Fault Line Map | What to Do | Largest Quakes in Dominican Republic | The Quake Sept. 2003 | Recommended Emergency Products | Links to Earthquake Related Web Sites

The island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles chain of islands, rose out of the sea due to volcanic action. Dominican Republic has a long history of volcanic and seismic activity. The tallest mountain on the island, and for that matter in all of the Caribbean, is Pico Duarte. This mountain was at one time an active volcano. It rose out of the sea starting with this mountain and it is still rising. Many of the under water caves are not under water now. Don’t worry about Volcanoes for now. There are no active volcanos on our island.

Fault Lines

There are two major fault systems or lines that run through the island. In the North Hispaniola Trench. It is located just offshore running parallel to the north coast. The other is the Septentrional Fault Zone which runs from the North Hispaniola Trench to the Cibao Valley and Santiago. The Septentrional Fault Zone is responsible for most of the earthquakes in Dominican Republic’s history.
View a PDF document of the fault lines going through Dominican Republic by www.ig.utexas.edu

The Puerto Rico Trench (on the Northern side of Puerto Rico and the Northeast tip of Dominican Republic), which is close to the Mona Passage, marks a boundary where the North American tectonic plate and the Caribbean tectonic plate slide past each other, with the North American plate also subducting or sliding beneath the Caribbean plate. With water depths of more than 8 km (5 mi) make the Puerto Rico Trench the deepest part in the entire Atlantic Ocean.(see the map and learn more)

The Mona Passage is the water pass that divides Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. This area is very earthquake prone. Since the water level in this passage between the two islands is quite low it is very susceptible to Tsunamis. This passage has very fast flowing and dangerous waters with shifting currents that occur when the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet.
http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2007/05/

Fault Lines / Fallas Sísmicas

Map - Fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola.
Map – Fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola.

There are also many smaller fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola. This is a map from Emergency Operations Center (COE) showing all the lines running through Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Brochures – What To Do

Below are the instructional brochures put out by the Emergency Operations Center about what to do before and after an Earthquake happens. They are in Spanish. Click on the images to see the images to enlarge.

COE Instructional Brochure - What to do before earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure – What to do before earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure - What to do after an  earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure – What to do after an earthquake in Spanish

Many people say many different things one needs to do to be safe during an earthquake. Stand in a doorway, don’t stand in a doorway. Don’t go outside, get outside and away from buildings. Get under something inside your house, get in the “Triangle of Life” / “Triangulo de Vida” around a piece of furniture. While others say you need to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” / “Agacharse, cubrirse y agarrarse”. Our suggestion is to do a search and see what you should do in case an earthquake happens.

Make a plan with your family and loved ones what to do and where to meet in case of an emergency situation. We also suggest if you are coming on vacation don’t worry about it. Just come and enjoy. Leave all the worries at home and relax. Earthquakes do not happen often and the hotel staff will be there to inform all on their procedures.

The Largest Earthquakes

The largest earthquake on record in recent history for the Dominican Republic was August 15, 1946. It was recorded at 8.1 and centered in Matanza in Maria Trinidad Sánchez, Nagua on the northern part of the island (a large tsunami hit the coast from Arroyo Salado to Cabrera and left areas under water for about three weeks was recorded at that time).

Other notable quakes:
*1961 – 6.6 quake southeast of Santo Domingo.
*1971 – 6.0 quake registered in the Azua area.
*1991 – 7.0 quake recorded in the Central Mountains and San Juan de la Maguana area.
*March 1993 – a 5.2 earthquake affected the south and southwest parts of Dominican Republic along the Mona Passage.
*April 1993 – a 5.7 earthquake affected the Cibao region.
*June 1993 – a 5.1 earthquake affected San Francisco de Macoris area in the northeast.
*January 5th, 2012 – in Palmar de Ocoa (some information on the San Jose de Ocoa quake)
*January 22, 2012 – a 5.0 in the East near La Romana.
*January 23, 2012 – a 5.4 Rio San Juan.(some more information about this and more quakes in January 2012)
*May 28, 2014 – a 5.8 at Boca De Yuma – Mona Passage at 5:15PM
*February 4, 2019 – a 5.3 quake at 10:33AM. 31km SSE of Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic. People felt it in Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Haina, Bani, Las Terrenas and many other locations in the country.

There was a 9.0 earthquake when the Europeans occupied the island on December 2, 1562. It destroyed the cities of La Vega and Santiago. A quake estimated to be a 10.0 happened on October 18, 1751 and devastated the southern region. A terremoto estimated to be 11.0 happened on May 7, 1842 destroyed the north of Haiti and much of what is now the Dominican Republic.

There have been many earthquakes and tsunamis resulting from the tectonic-plate motions that have occurred in the history of the northeastern Caribbean.

Sept. 22, 2003 Quake

At 11:45 pm on 22 September 2003, a M 6.7 earthquake severely shook the northern part of Dominican Republic. It caused extensive damage to buildings in the major cities of Puerto Plata and Santiago along with landslides in the outlying areas. There were also several large aftershocks (over 200 in all) that happened in the days and hours following this quake.

Here are a few pictures of an earthquake that happened in September 2003. These were taken in the Puerta Plata area by our friend Cochman.

September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic store
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic store
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic observing the damage
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic observing the damage
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house

Recommended Emergency Products

The Earthquake Alarm (Amazon) can wake you up and alert you the moment a quake starts giving you more time to take cover.

*Operates off of a 9-volt battery.
*Loud distinctive alarm to wake you up.
*Can detect earthquakes miles away.
*Fully adjustable sensitivity setting. and more..(incluye instrucciones en espanol!)

I have heard many people use a detector and they say they work quite well. I recommend getting one if you live in any Earthquake prone area.

Another product that I read about is The Quake Escape

Ready America 70280 Emergency Kit, 2-Person, 3-Day Backpack. A backpack that keeps supplies at the ready. (Amazon)

*Sustains two people for three days
*Includes food, water, and emergency blankets
*One 33-piece first aid kit

NOAA Weather Radio and Solar Emergency Survival Device (Amazon)

*AM/FM Transmission
*Windup Power for Emergencies, Tornadoes, Hurricanes
*Micro USB Charger and Power Bank for Cell Phones and Electron

*The Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center (COE). They now offer a downloadable App for emergency Alerts – Alerta COE.

Other instructions on how to prepare for an earthquake and other interesting web sites about earthquakes.
*ready.gov/earthquakes

*Acqweather, complete information on the weather in Dominican Republic.SPANISH

*Earthquake Report.com – The best independent earthquake reporting site in the world

*Create an Earthquake Emergency Handbook

*This is the Earthquake information from the Puerto Rico Seismic Network

*Earths view of Earthquake activity

*Quakes – Live Earthquakes Map and other interesting maps.

*Earthquake forecasting and hazard analysis.

*USGS Earthquakes Hazards Program has all the Earthquakes listed in the world for the last 7 days. The latest in USA and surrounding areas (including Dominican Republic – sometimes called Mona Passage) with an earthquake of Magnitude 2.5 or greater. All other areas of the world are listed when they have a quake with a Magnitude 4.0 or greater.