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Dominican Republic Country Guide

dominican_republic_travel_tips

The Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean and the most geographically diverse. The country is known as a sun-blessed paradise of palm trees, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters where you can relax in the day and party at night.

However, there is far more to the island than sun, rum, and merengue. Tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, vast deserts, mountain peaks, ever-changing sand dunes, picturesque fishing villages,  sandy bays where pirates once roamed, colonial architecture, and a range of watersports in the Dominican Republic, mean that there's something for everyone.

The Dominican Republic: Key facts

The population of the Dominican Republic is 10.7 million and the capital city is Santo Domingo. Founded in 1496, Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, the first Spanish settlement in the New World.

Its 'Zona Colonial' remains in the heart of the capital. A UNESCO world heritage site, its beautifully restored monasteries, and cobblestone streets exude romance and charm. The performing arts are central to the Dominican republic's culture, the city has its own symphonic orchestra, opera company, ballet company and national theatre. The Casa de Teatro stages art and literature exhibitions, literature competitions, and is often frequented by actors, musicians, and other artists.

Away from the capital and away from the shores, the Dominican Republic's vast fertile interior hosts cows, horses endless fields of fresh produce. Four of the five highest mountains in the Caribbean are in the Dominican Republic it also has its fair share of rivers, waterfalls and lush jungles.

Dominican Republic history: The countries architecture in its cities and towns tell its up-and-down history. As well as being a Spanish colony for centuries, it has also occupied by the France (1796-1809) and the US (1916-24) and has had periods of independence. The crumbling homes of Puerto Plata and Santiago remain from more prosperous times, as do the scars from decades of misrule which now marked by monuments.

Most tourists stay in the large all-inclusive hotels in the Dominican Republic located along the beautiful, sandy beaches of the country's number one resort, Punta Cana. Tourist attractions in the Dominican Republic: Aside from the beaches, nature spots and architecture, there are many things to do in the Dominican Republic. Watersports are very popular and those seeking adventure can kite-surf, windsurf and try white-water rafting. There are also over 30 golf courses in the Dominican Republic. Its range of activities makes it the ideal destination for a family holiday in the Caribbean.

The people and culture are what really make your time there special. Dominicans really know how to party and enjoy their downtime and you can join in with the spectacular and the distinctive annual fiestas of each town and the spectacular Dominican Republic Carnival.

 

Dominican Republic Basic Information

  • Country: Domincan Republic
  • Capital: Santo Domingo
  • Population: 10.5
  • Currency: Dominican peso
  • Language: Spanish
  • Time Zone: GMT-4

When to Go

The temperature in the Dominican Republic doesn’t vary that much from season to season, meaning that year-round travel to the island is possible.

  • There are two distinct tourist high seasons; the summer months of July and August, when tourists fill the resorts, and the winter season between December and late February, when the Dominican weather has cooled down.
  • You can save money going there during the spring or the autumn, it is also easier to find accommodation.
  • The Dominican Republic is in the center of the Caribbean hurricane belt and it gets a big hurricane every decade or so. August to September is prime hurricane season, though storms can occur in the months either side.

Dominican Republic is a good destination for:

Dominican Republic Entry Requirements

A valid passport with six months remaining is required when entering the Dominican Republic.

Visitors to the Dominican Republic also need to obtain a visa unless they come from one of the following countries: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Peru, South Korea, and Uruguay.

Visas are obtained on arrival at the airport, though there are often queues so it is best to get one from the embassy in advance.

Tourist visas are valid for 30 days from the date of entry.

 

 

Dominican Republic Country Atractions

It endless sandy beaches, range of watersport activities, and geographical diversity mean that there is plenty to see in the Dominican Republic.

Things to see and do in the Dominican Republic

  1. Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo. After Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the island in 1492, Zona Colonial became the first European settlement in the Americas. Crammed with beautiful architecture which has been painstakingly restored in a multi-million dollar project which began in the 1970s, it is also very much a living neighborhood full of lively cafes and bars.
  2. Sanctuary of humpback whales (Samana). Considered one of the best spots in the world for humpback whale watching, 2,000 whales come Samana between December and March to mate. There are different boat trips which you can go on to enjoy the spectacle.
  3. Watersports. Comfortable water temperatures of 25-29°C allow for year-round snorkeling and scuba diving and visibility is perfect for underwater photography. Wind and waves also provide fantastic opportunities for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
  4. Los Haitises National Park. This magnet for eco-tourism has become if one the Dominican Republic’s most popular tourist attractions. Its tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, hiking trails and abundance of birds, trees, and other wildlife, make it an unforgettable experience.
  5. The Damajaqua Cascades (The 27 Waterfalls). Located 200km north of Santo Domingo on the Rio Bajabonico, the series of 27 waterfalls takes you on a trek which meanders through mountain wilderness. You hike up the mountain for an hour until you reach the top and then you work your way down by jumping or sliding down each waterfall into the crystal clear pools below. Physically challenging and not for the faint-hearted!
  6. The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia (the Basilica of our Lady). One of the most striking religious structures on the Caribbean, it is one of the most important pilgrimages for Catholics in the Dominican Republic. Completed in 1971, it was constructed on top of a 16th-century basilica and has spectacular stained-glass windows as well as gold and bronze gildings.

Travel Tips

  • Don’t drink the tap water. Even locals either buy tap water or boil the tap water before drinking it. Avoid ice and food which may have been washed with tap water, such as salads. Stomach bugs from poor food hygiene practices are common. Check online for which restaurants have been inspected by food hygiene auditors.
  • Wear insect repellent and advise your doctor before you go. There is a small risk of malaria and there is also the risk of dengue fever, which is also contracted through mosquitoes.
  • Is the Dominican Republic safe? In general, yes, and the people are very friendly. However, it remains a third-world country so you need to take common-sense precautions. Don’t flash what you have, if you go around showing expensive jewelry, clothes, and cameras you much more likely to become a target.
  • Are there ATMs in the Dominican Republic? Yes, and this is probably the best way to get money out there. There is a daily limit of 10,000 pesos (US$200). Also, watch out for phishing scams.
  • Be wary of the sun! Wear high-factor sunscreen to avoid sunburn and try to limit sun exposure as sunstroke is a great risk. Be particularly careful when you’re doing watersports, it’s easy to forget about the sun when you’re underwater all day.
  • Avoid talking about Haiti. Many Dominicans, particularly of the older generations, resent Haitians as Santo Domingo was invaded and occupied by Haiti during the 19th century. The Dominican Republic actually fought its first war of independence against Haiti and the Dominican Republic has faced several other invasions from its neighbor.