We will try and give you some helpful hints and survival tools to make your visit to Dominican Republic much more enjoyable and safe. Going to a different country can sometimes be confusing and a little frightening, especially when you do not know what to expect and what the customs are.
Here I will put things I have learned and information others have taught me about how to make your vacation on this island in the Caribbean a more pleasant experience. Know what to watch out for. Warnings. Dangers. What's extra good and really bad. Anything we feel you should know. So, when you see a little blue "puddle" on a page follow it to get a few pointers. Remember, many of these suggestions are good for traveling in general no matter the destination.
Colonial Zone - You will hear it called many different names. Zona Colonial, La Zona, The Zone, Cuidad Colonial, Cuidad Trujillo, Santo Domingo.
For travel information and warnings given by your country:
Do just as you would in any other place. If you were in a strange neighborhood and there was a lonely, dark street or alley would you walk down it? I don't think so. Use your head; you are in unfamiliar surroundings in a country where many people make less than $200 USD a month working a full time job (44 hours a week). Do not act better than anyone else. Do not wear your best designer clothing and expensive jewelry.
Try and carry a noise maker. Be it a loud car alarm, a hand held one, or your outside voice. If you do get robbed make noise. Robbers hate noise and attention drawn to them. Vigilantism lives in Dominican Republic and people love to help when they see someone being wronged.
Try some new foods. You never will know if you like it unless you try it. I highly recommend Mondongo. Never ask what it is. Just give it a try, then after you like it you can ask what it is, if you're brave. Mondongo is the best after a night out partying if you feel like you will have a hangover (Resaca in Dominican Spanish). At least this is what I am told and so far it has worked wonders! There is also medicine sold in Colmados (the corner stores) that you take for a hangover, just say " resaca" and they will know what you need. (Dominican food and their translations)
Clap when the Airplane lands. Dominicans normally do this. Don't be shocked. If they do it on your plane, just join in. You are on vacation. Relax.
It is not only what you know but also whom you know that makes dealing with many things go much smoother here in Dominican Republic. I also suggest asking around. Talk to the locals and see which businesses they recommend. Also remember to take your time. Dominicans love to talk. They like to take things slow. It is too hot to get worked up over the little things. Take time, get to know who you are dealing with and just enjoy the chatter.
Lip Talk. Dominicans, especially women, talk with their lips or noses (sort of like a Bewitched thing). They do not use words, just a flick or twitch to the right or left or a quick pout. This says more than any word ever could. Maybe the lips puckered for a quick second is saying, "yea, right, sure, I believe you." (sarcasm). When getting directions no need to point just a lip flick to the left, right or straight ahead and one knows just what direction in which to precede. It takes some time to figure out what all the movements mean but it is fun trying to learn. So if you see people, especially the ladies, making nose and lip gestures you now have a better idea what is happening.
Drugs and Dominican Republic are a real no-no. If you do get caught with ANYTHING they will take you to jail and it most likely WILL be a long time before you get out. Even if you are in a place and you see some drugs or drug dealing my advise to you is to get out of there and fast! Here in DR they are known to arrest everyone in a place and ask questions later, sometimes much later. (Read my blog on the Big Almost Drug Bust -new window)
DO NOT DRINK THE WATER! You could get the runs or worse. Drink bottled water, which most places have unless you are in remote areas. Ice is usually OK also because it is purchased from water distributors and is clean (ask if you want to make sure). The shaved ice, ice in your juice or coco water that is purchased in the street is a definite NO-NO. It may not be a problem but even if you change your water in USA from well water to city water you can get the runs. Why take the chance and have a bummer (LOL!) of a vacation?
+click image to enlarge Truck delivering bottled water
Men with guns. Don't let this scare you. It sure frightened me the first time I visited. I never saw people sitting around so nonchalantly with a gun on their lap or hanging over their shoulders in public areas. It is quite the norm to see men, uniformed and in street clothes, standing or sitting in front of homes and businesses. Don't be too worried. They are most likely private security guards
+click imag to enlarge Security guard with gun. It was a cold day in the city (about 75°F lol).
Do not start any altercation with anyone. No exchange of harsh words. No physical contact. Walk away. Do Not fight. This is not easy sometimes but it is best for your safety. Remember if the police get involved EVERYONE goes to jail until they figure out the details (sometimes until they get a little payment)
Make copies of all your documents. Carry the copies. Put a copy of your passport or some type of identification in each piece of luggage. Always carry carry a copy of your passport with you in a different place where you have the original. Have all the numbers of your credit cards and contact information incase there is a problem or your cards get stolen then you will not have to search for the information. Scan everything front and back, Credit Cards, ID's, Bank Cards, Passports and email them to yourself. This way if anything gets lots or stolen you have all the information right there.
Keep your doors locked. The hotel doors if you are inside or out. Keep the car doors locked especially when driving at night in a rental or a taxi, just keep the doors locked.
Think twice before taking a stranger into your hotel room or car. They can rob you much easier this way. If taking a bed partner to your room make sure all your belongings are secure. Better yet, take the person to a Cabana (a sex hotel where you are charged by the hour) or another room someplace else. This way they cannot gain access to your belongings, documents and money.