Remember, in true Dominican fashion, if you have a drink and need to go somewhere where you don't want the alcohol smell lingering, make sure to (as I call it "suckin' a Euk"). Get a Hall's (eucalyptus) candy at the Colmado to get rid of the smell. It is the Dominican way.
STAY HYDRATED. Drinking mass quantities of alcohol without sufficient water intake can be bad, especially in such a hot climate. Alcohol does not hydrate your body like water does.
Guia/ Tour Guides can be helpful at times if you want to know about the history in Colonial Zone. They will receive a little kick back from any gift shop they take you to. Your bargaining leverage will not as good in these shops since they have to pay a percentage (usually 20% of what you spend) to the guide. Guides can be helpful in keeping bothersome beggars away. They can be helpful in taking you to the sights you want to see. They can also be expensive. Always discuss the price for their services in the beginning so you can decide if it is worth it for their services. Many will say it costs nothing for them to guide you but they WILL want a tip. Also, after they take you on your tour, especially if you tip well, they will be your friend for life. Generally, they will try to make you move at a less than leisurely pace because are always looking for their next guidees.
Street dogs are everywhere. Most of these dogs are starved both for food and for love. You can feed them if you want but you take the chance of having them follow you on your entire vacation or at least while you continue your walk around town. They might tell their friends and you could have a whole entourage following you wherever you go. 10 dogs following behind a group of tourists, I have seen it and it is quite funny! Dogs know who the tourists and dog-friendly people are. Really, some of the dogs are very nice and many of the neighbors take care of them and they are very friendly and sweet. (Read The Dominican Dog Blog and meet some of our local street dogs)
Walking along the Malecon at night is fun but please beware of your surroundings. You could be walking in front of a grand hotel and the next place could be an abandoned lot where there are not lights. If you walk along the Malecon stay where it is well lit and where there are people. If you want to travel to different places along the road and feel uncomfortable doing this there are always taxis along the road or if you'd feel more comfortable, the hotels can get you a taxi to move from place to place. Bad things can happen, as with any place, here or in any country. Just remember, if you wouldn't walk in that place in your hometown don't walk in that place here.
+click image to enlarge The Malecon can be very lonely at different times throughout the day.
Limpia Bota/ Shoe Shine boy Take the time to get a shoe shine. These shoe shine people do work hard and a shine will never hurt. Usually a shine costs about 10 pesos (and a little tip if your pleased with the shine). One important thing. - DO NOT GIVE NON PESO COINS TO THE STREET PEOPLE or pay for anything in non-Dominican coinage. It is useless to them because no place will exchange pocket change for pesos. No exchange house will take coins. So if you want to give non-Dominican pesos to someone, especially the people in the streets make sure it is the paper type.
+click image to enlarge
These are some of my favorite shoe shine boys/ limpia botas in Colonial Zone.
Dominican Time. Dominicans in general do not view time as most others, as is typical in most tropical climates. No one moves fast unless its in a motor vehicle. When a Dominican tells me they will be there at a certain time I always ask if that is Dominican time or North American time. Or course I say this with a laugh and receive a good laugh in return. But it is very true. When told that someone will meet you in 1 hour it very well could mean 1 hour. But mostly it means 3 hours, tomorrow, or maybe never. Ahora (now), Ahorita (later), have no real meaning here in the Caribbean.
Wearing shorts, miniskirts, and halter-tops in churches is not permitted. They will not permit you to enter if you are not dressed appropriately. So when taking tours it is best to either wear pants, crop pants, or a skirt for the ladies. Men should wear a collared shirt (not sleeveless) and long pants. *note - many places that do not permit inappropriate dress now provide a wrap for people to use to use as a cover-up. In the past Dominicans did not wear short pants in the streets. They have lightened up slightly with this and you will see shorts and really short shorts but NEVER beach wear in the city streets. It is a joke here that when one wears shorts they automatically look like a tourist.
When going out to a bar to dance, drink, or people watch. Remember, Dominicans usually go out late at night after it has cooled off. This means that bars are not busy until late. Some places are empty before midnight, especially on the weekends. Take a nap and wait to go out unless you want to be the only person in the place.
Don't carry a wallet in a back pocket. Anyplace in the entire world one should never make it easy for a pick-pocket to grab your wallet or purse. If it is possible don't carry a purse or wallet. Just keep money in a pocket. Maybe a few different pockets incase you do get pick pocketed you will not lose everything. Put a few bills in a shoe, bra, money belt, just in case.
When going out try not to wear good jewelry. In fact, just do not wear jewelry at all. Maybe a small pair of inexpensive earrings and a ring or 2 if you really want. But really, why make for more problems. If you do get robbed or lose something it could ruin your entire vacation. So why not just leave all the good stuff locked up in the hotel. Better yet do not bring that stuff when you travel, this way you won't have to worry.
When walking while carrying a purse or backpack try and always carry it on the side away from the road. Keeping it on the shoulder that is against a building or wall will make it a little more difficult for a passing motor bike rider to grab. This is something I have learned and use no matter what country I am in.
Be aware when in public transportation. Watch for people bumping into you, standing in line close or crowding into a public car. All these places and instances are perfect for a thief. More information about Public Transportation in DR
Learn more about parks, sights, and historical things check out our sightseeing pages
I strongly suggest you try and learn a little Spanish before you arrive. It is not essential but it does help. We have many language pages for you to learn a little or check out this link and learn a new language. Try to learn the basics of Spanish. Give that brain some exercise and it can also help you know what is happening around you, even if it is only understanding a few words. It could help you access wether there is a problem.
When opening a bottle of alcohol remember to pour a little onto the ground or floor. While doing this you must say "Por los muertos/ "For the dead". It is a Dominican tradition to give the dead a little drink before they start enjoying themselves.
Brugal rum bottles are covered with a strong yellow netting, which if opened haphazardly could cause undue stress when trying to enjoy your beverage. Now the bottles are not entirely covered with the netting making it easer to gain access to the smooth liquid waiting to be drunken inside the bottle. For special instructions on opening a bottle of Brugal
Remember, the beer is strong and it can seem stronger in the hot climate. Usually the drinks are mixed strong also. If you are going to be drinking all day (or night) try what I do. If you like beer I suggest starting with a nice cold one. Then, if you go out, switch to a mixed drink. For me rum is best. Get a bottle so you can mix it yourself if possible. In a bar is called "un servicio" which is a bottle of your choice, a mixer and a bucket of ice. This way you are able to mix your own drinks and it is also more economical. When you mix your drink mix it weak. If you are ordering by the drink tell them to mix it "suave" which means soft or not strong. This way you can last the night without any ill effects.
The dictionary of the Dominicana Gringa (written and published in my mind only) states definition - "ALCOHOL ABUSE = when you spill a glass, drop a bottle, or in any way waste your alcoholic beverage. This includes the act of spewing, disgorging, expelling, emitting or projecting. To put it bluntly throwing-up or vomiting"
+click to enlarge Playing/ jugando dominoes at a Colmado in Santo Domingo
You should try a Presidente con Clamato (beer with clamato juice) at least once. You can see this strange mix being drunk by many Dominicans in the Colmados or while playing dominoes (to see a picture of dominos being played with a can of clamato close at hand - new window). Clamato is a tomato type juice with a clam taste. The ratio is in general 3 to 5 parts beer to 1 part clamato. Pour the beer into the plastic glass then add the clamato, give it a little swirl to mix and enjoy. If you are a bottle drinker take a drink to give you room in your bottle then add the clamato directly into the bottle. It takes some of the bite out of the beer. It is said that if you drink clamato with your beer you will not get drunk...don't believe it!