The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The western one-third of Hispaniola is occupied by the country of Haiti. To the north lies the North Atlantic Ocean, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south.
Explored and claimed by Columbus on his first voyage on December 5, 1492, the island of Ayití, named by Columbus as La Hispaniola, became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the American mainland.
The island was first inhabited by the Taínos and Caribes. The first ones were very friendly and the second were cannibals, an Arawakan-speaking people who had arrived around B.C. 10,000. Within a few short years following the arrival of European explorers, the population of Tainos had significantly been reduced by the Spanish conquerors. Based on Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Tratado de las Indias) between 1492 and 1498 the Spanish conquerors killed around 100,000 taínos.
The first European settlement founded on the America continent was located on La Isabela, founded in The Grace year of 1493 using a XV century style located in La Isabela, Puerto Plata (19º53'15.08" N 71º04'48.41" W). The City of Santo Domingo was founded by Bartolomé Colón, on august 5, 1496 and later that was moved by Frey Nicolás de Ovando at the west side of Ozama river in 1502.
In 1606 they Royal crown of Spain order the depopulate the west part of the island due to the high piracy and contraband. That measurement taken was the cause of French invasion and after that the raise of the Republic of Haiti
In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which in 1804 became Haiti. The remainder of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought to gain its own independence in 1821, but was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years; it finally attained independence as the Dominican Republic in 1844.
A legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative, rule for much of its subsequent history was brought to an end in 1966 when Joaquin Balaguer became president. He maintained a tight grip on power for most of the next 30 years when international reaction to flawed elections forced him to curtail his term in 1996. Since then, regular competitive elections have been held in which opposition candidates have won the presidency. The Dominican economy has had one of the fastest growth rates in the hemisphere.
Tropical maritime with little seasonal temperature variation. There is a seasonal variation in rainfall. The island lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and is subject to severe storms from June to October. It experiences occasional flooding and periodic droughts.
Citizens of most countries can purchase a tourist card on arrival. See Entry Requirements
The main airports (in alphabetical order) are:
You can get flights from Europe via Madrid (MAD) or Paris (CDG). From the US, you can fly from New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Philadelphia, San Juan, Atlanta or Charlotte. Most European and Canadian cities have charter flight connections, which operate seasonally.
You will be charged $10 for a tourist card on arrival. This must be paid in US dollars or euros. Local currency, sterling, or other currencies will not be accepted. A departure tax of $20 cash is payable on most charter and some scheduled flights. If you are flying on a US carrier, the departure tax is always included in the taxes when you purchased your ticket, so you will not have to pay anything when leaving.
Taxi fares to nearby hotels are posted just outside the airports.
Taxi from Airport to Santo Domingo (Ciudad Colonial): it is about $40. There are no hotel "courtesy shuttles" at airports in the Dominican Republic.
At the airport, you can change your US dollars and euros in Dominican Pesos. Note that you may not be able to exchange back local money to US dollars and euros, so do it before leaving.
Cars may be rented through Hertz, Avis, Prestige Car Rentals or other agencies in Santo Domingo and other major cities. Gasoline, however, is expensive often costing upward of US$5.75/gallon (as of March 2011). Some roads, especially in remote areas, are fairly dangerous (often without lane divisions) and many people tend not to respect oncoming traffic. However, road conditions on most major highways are roughly similar to road conditions in the United States and western Europe. However, potholes and rough spots are not rapidly repaired and drivers must be aware that there are a significant number of rough spots even on some major highways. However, there are a number of very good roads such as DR-1 which is a four lane highway connecting the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago and can be traveled with no trouble. Highway DR-7 is an excellent toll road opened in late 2008. It goes from just east of Santo Domingo north to near Sanchez. From there, you can go east to the Samana peninsula or west along the northern coast of the DR and costs about US $11.
Probably the biggest challenge that an international visitor to the Dominican Republic will face if he or she chooses to rent a car is not so much dealing with automobile traffic, but rather avoiding accidentally running over pedestrians who cross poorly-lit streets and highways in the evening and nighttime hours. Lack of head/taillights on cars and especially motorcycles is also not unusual and with motorcycles this makes them extremely hard to spot. The best recommendation is not to drive after dusk. Outside of Santo Domingo, the motorbike (motoconcho) is an extremely common form of travel. If lost, you can hail a motorbike driver (motochonchista) and ask for directions. You will be taken to your destination by following the bike. A tip is appropriate for such help. Remember that many of these motorbike drivers look upon road rules as only recommendations. However, driving in the Dominican Republic should not be particularly difficult for experienced drivers from North America or Europe.
There is a ferry that travels between Mayagüez in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic. The website says the journey takes 12 hours, leaves Puerto Rico on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8PM, and arrives in Dominican Republic at 8AM the next morning.
For prices and bookings, visit the Ferries Del Caribe English website .
NOTE: According to an article on DiarioLibre.com, the ferry service between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic "temporarily" ceased on 15 April 2010 due to a conflict between the company Ferries del Caribe and the administration of the Port of Mayaguez.
NOTE: As of March 1, 2011 ferry service has returned, it now sails from Mayagüez and San Juan. Check their website for schedules.
Options for getting around the country include bus service, 'gua-guas' (pronounced "Gwa-Gwas": small battered vans or trucks that serve as a collective taxi running fixed routes that are very cheap but can also be very overloaded), domestic air flights and charter air service. There is a rail system operating only in the city of Santo Domingo. Most towns and cities have regularly scheduled bus service, if not by one of the big bus companies, then by gua-gua . The bus lines are most often simple, independently run operations, usually only connecting two cities within a region (Southwest, East, North) or between one city and the capital (with stops made for any towns on the route). Because of the geography of the country, to get from one region of the country to another you have to go through the capital.
Guaguas are the traditional means of transport in the Dominican Republic. Guaguas will be filled to the brink with people and luggage; expect to squeeze to fit more people who will be picked up en route. If you prefer authentic experience over comfort, traveling by guagua is the right choice (see ).
Guagua comfort can range from air conditioned with leather seats to a bit worn down with open window air breeze cooling. Traveling with guaguas is safe, and tourists are treated friendly and get helped out.
You can also hop on mid way if you know where to stand on the route and gesture the driver; tell the conductor your destination and he'll tell you where to get off and how to switch guaguas; sometimes you'll have to ride across town to another bus station.
Prices are modest, around 100-150 pesos for a 1-2 hour ride. Since most guaguas are minibusses, you might have to stow your luggage on a seat; in this case you might have to pay a fee for the occupied seat. Larger routes get serviced by normal sized buses with a separate storage compartment.
Be aware that guaguas stop operating at dusk. Plan your trip with enough slack that you will be able to catch your last guagua when the sun is still up.
The guagua network is organic and does not require you to go through the capital; you might have to change several times though, as guaguas usually only connect two major cities.
Caribe Tours , based out of the capital, is the biggest bus company, and has coverage in most regions that are not well-served by the other 'official' bus companies. Unlike taxis and gua-guas, Caribe Tour rates are fixed by destination and are extremely reasonable due to government subsidies. Expect to pay under 250 pesos (Dom) or US$10 for even the longest trips. Caribe Tour buses typically run from 7AM to 4PM (with departures approx. every two hours) and cover most major cities. On longer trips, expect a short (10 minute) stop for coffee and lunch. Buses are fairly luxurious with movies playing for the entire trip and air conditioning (which can be extremely cold - bring a sweater). Another option is the slightly more expensive Metrobus bus company . Metrobus serves the northern and eastern part of the country. The 'unofficial' gua-gua system covers nearly every road on the island for some moderate savings (if you don't mind being packed in).
In short, bus services across the country are comfortable and a good value. The buses are clean, air conditioned (bring sweater), usually play a VHS movie, and are pretty inexpensive, costing no more than $300 pesos one way cross-country (less than $10).
Taxi services are available but potentially dangerous when dealing with unlicensed drivers. In all cases, it's a good idea to go with a licensed driver and negotiate a price for your destination before you leave. Good drivers are often easy to identify by licenses worn around the neck, uniforms, and clean air conditioned vehicles. When calling a taxi company, you will be given a number to verify your driver. When being picked up, make sure your driver gives you the right number as 'false pickups' are often a prelude to robbery.
Another way to get out and about is to book an excursion with one of the many representatives at most local hotels and resorts.
The Dominican Republic is generally a safe country. Although the major cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago have experienced the growth of a thriving middle class, construction booms and reached a high level of cosmopolitanism, the Dominican Republic remains a third world country and poverty is still rampant so you need to take common sense precautions: