Skip Navigation

Dominican Republic

Photo © JOSE_MARIA

Travel Guide Caribbean Hispaniola Dominican Republic

edit

Introduction

Santa Domingo

Santa Domingo

© All Rights Reserved shinenyc

Discovered by Columbus on his first voyage to the New World, the Dominican Republic has come a long way since the Spanish empire claimed it, ignoring the presence of the local Taino people. While modern Dominican culture retains some elements of traditional Taino culture, aspects of Spanish, African and American culture have also contributed, creating an energizing lifestyle dominated by music and dance (the nation celebrates three annual music festivals).

The country is larger than most of the other Caribbean island nations and this gives the Dominican Republic a greater geographic diversity. While it offers beautiful sandy beaches to relax by, travellers can also enjoy a spectacular mountainous inland, a rich habitat for native flora and fauna.

Top

edit

Brief History

The Arawakan-speaking Taínos moved into Hispaniola, displacing earlier inhabitants, circa A.D. 650. The Taínos called the island Kiskeya or Quisqueya ("mother of the earth"). They engaged in farming and fishing, and hunting and gathering. The fierce Caribs drove the Taínos to the northeastern Caribbean during much of the 15th century. The estimates of Hispaniola's population in 1492 vary widely, from 100,000 to 2 million.

The Dominican Republic was claimed by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. He named it the island of La Española (Hispaniola), and it became an important city during the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the Americas.

By 1697, the French had gained dominion over the western third of the island of Hispaniola, which became Haiti in 1804. The remaining two thirds of the island, known at the time as Santo Domingo, attempted to gain their own independence in 1821, but they were conquered by the Haitians and subsequently ruled by them for 22 years. In 1844, they finally attained independence and became known as the Dominican Republic.

Top

edit

Geography

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola and covers an area of 48,442 km², including offshore islands. The land border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is 388 kilometres long. The Dominican Republic's shores are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The Mona Passage, a channel about 130 kilometres wide, separates the country from Puerto Rico. There are many small offshore islands and cays that are part of the country. The two largest islands near the mainland are Saona, in the southeast, and Beata, in the southwest. The country has 4 major mountain ranges. The most northerly is the Cordillera Septentrional, which extends from the northwestern coastal town of Monte Cristi, near the Haitian border, to the Samaná Peninsula in the east, running parallel to the Atlantic coast. The highest range in the Dominican Republic is the Cordillera Central. Here are the four highest peaks in the Caribbean: Pico Duarte (3,098 metres), La Pelona (3,094 metres, La Rucilla (3,049 metres) and Pico Yaque (2,760 metres). In the southwest corner is the Sierra de Neiba, while in the south the Sierra de Bahoruco is a continuation of the Massif de la Selle in Haiti. There are other, minor mountain ranges, such as the Cordillera Oriental ("Eastern Mountain Range"), Sierra Martín García, Sierra de Yamasá and Sierra de Samaná. Between the Central and Northern mountain ranges lies the rich and fertile Cibao valley. Other valleys include the San Juan Valley, south of the Central Cordillera, and the Neiba Valley. Most of the Enriquillo Basin is below sea level, with a hot, arid, desert-like environment. There are other smaller valleys in the mountains, such as the Constanza, Jarabacoa, Villa Altagracia, and Bonao valleys. The Llano Costero del Caribe is the largest of the plains and another large plain is the Plena de Azua. There are 4 major rivers draining the numerous mountains of the Dominican Republic. The Yaque del Norte is the longest and most important Dominican river. The Artibonito is the longest river of Hispaniola and flows westward into Haiti. Finally, there are many lakes and coastal lagoons. Enriquillo is a salt lake of 40 metres, making it the lowest point in the Caribbean. Other important lakes are Laguna de Rincón or Cabral, with freshwater, and Laguna de Oviedo, a lagoon with brackish water.

Top

edit

Regions

The valleys and mountains of the Dominican Republic divide the country into 3 geographical regions:

  • Northern Dominican Republic includes Cibao Valley, the Northern Mountain Range and the Atlantic coastal areas.
  • Central Dominican Republic is dominated by the Cordillera Central (Central Range).
  • Southwestern Dominican Republic lies south of Valle de San Juan, encompassing the Sierra de Neiba.

Top

edit

Cities

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Cigars

The Dominican Republic is one of the largest producers of cigars in the world. Some argue Dominican cigars are even better than Cubans. A great activity is to go explore the entire cigar making process from growing to rolling and lastly smoking. The best places to experience the cigar process are in the center of the island near Santiago and Cibao Valley region.

Golf

Due to the large number of resorts on the Dominican Republic some world class golf courses have appeared. The island has been a favorite golfing destination for many famous people like Bill Clinton. There are 19 courses with oceanfront views and several courses designed by legendary designers.

Beaches

The Dominican Republic has more then a thousand miles of white sand beaches with clear blue water. If you're looking for super high end resorts with pools and gold course then some beaches are perfect for you. If you're looking for something more off the beaten track with no people, that is also easy to find! The beaches surround the entire country and all of them are great in different ways. The beaches are amazing and are a great place to relax.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Cabarete Beach, on the north shore in Puerto Plata, is famous for windsurfing, kitesurfing and regular surfing. It's also an excellent place for paragliding.
  • Diving - Go for some excellent diving at places like Boca Chica, Juan Dollo and Ocoa Bay.
  • Eco and Adventure Tourism - This has grown in the Dominican Republic in recent years. Travellers who enjoy bird watching, camping, climbing, horseback riding, or white water rafting will find plenty of opportunities.
  • Baseball - Catch a baseball game and experience a local sports event.
  • The Colonial District of Santo Domingo - Explore the back allies of this historic district and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Catedral Santa María La Menor - This was the first Catholic cathedral in the Americas and is located in Santo Domingo.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

  • Carnaval. Carnaval is an exciting time to party. The best Carnaval celebrations are in the city of La Vega and Santo Domingo. The Merengue Festivals, which occur in the Malecon in the city, are also exciting events.

Top

edit

Weather

The Dominican Republic is a very popular places to spend some time doing nothing much more than relaxing and enjoying the weather and it is obvious to see why. The climate is warm (sometimes even hot) throughout the year, but the humidity can feel oppressive at times. Although most of the country is warm and there is a wet season like in most other parts of the Caribbean, there are some small differences, mainly between north and south.
In the south, where the capital Santo Domingo is located, differences between the summermonths of May to October and the wintermonths of November to April are relatively small regarding temperatures, around 28 °C to 31 °C during the day and 19 °C to 24 °C at night. In the north, it is a bit colder during winter but somewhat warmer (September can feel extremely hot) during summer.
Also, although the south has the wet season from June to October, the north actually sees more rain on average throughout the year and the wintermonths of November to April actually have much more rain as well.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Air Dominicana (website under construction) is the national airline of the Dominican Republic, but is only expected to begin flights in April 2008, mainly charters to several cities in the Caribbean and to New York. It is based at Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) which offers a wide range of flights with many other airlines. Destinations include Moscow, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Stuttgart, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Santo Domingo, Paris, Madrid, Edmonton, Quebec City, Regina, Vancouver, Atlanta, Miami, New York, San Juan, Amsterdam, Caracas, Vienna, Bogota, London, Frankfurt, Newark, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Zürich, Faro, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brussels, Santiago, Lima, Atlantic City, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Holguin, Pointe-a-Pitre, Port of Spain, Sint Maarten, Varadero, Fort Lauderdale, Halifax, Moncton, Birmingham, Glasgow, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Campinas, Manchester, Newcastle and a few other places in the region.

Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) near the capital Santo Domingo is another important international hub with flights to most neighbouring countries and islands, South America, Central America, North America and several direct flights from Europe as well. Destinations include Frankfurt, Toronto, New York, Madrid and Paris.

By Boat

Ferries del Caribe offers three weekly ferries between Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic and Mayagüez in Puerto Rico. From Santo Domingo they leave on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8pm arriving in Mayagüez at 8am the following morning. From Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, they leave on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm, and arrive in Santo Domingo at 8am the next morning. The journey takes about 12 hours in both directions.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Plane

Air Santo Domingo is the only domestic carrier and has regular flights between Santo Domingo, Santiago, Samaná, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. There are also gua-guas which are smaller and less comfortable buses but are an excellent way to meet locals and travel within a smaller region.

By Car

Renting a car is a good way to get around in the Dominican Republic, although it's expensive compared to other countries in the region. Roads are generally in a good condition, although not all roads are tarred and some roads (even tarred ones) can be difficult to pass after very heavy rains. The main roads include the Sanchez Highway running westwards from Santo Domingo to Elias Pina on the border with Haiti, the Mella Highway eastwards from Santo Domingo to Higuey in the southeast and the Duarte Highway which runs north and west from Santo Domingo to Santiago and to Monte Cristi on the northwestern coast. There are several international and local companies offering rental cars, both at the airport as well as the major towns and resort areas.

You have to be 25 years of age to rent a car, and you must have a credit card and a valid national driver's license. Driving is not easy in the Dominican Republic and traffic police are known to be corrupt.

By Bus

The Dominican Republic has a good bus system and it's one of the best ways to get around. Buses are generally cheap, reliable and comfortable, although some buses aren't as nice. Metro Bus or Caribe Tours have air-conditioned and comfortable cabins and are a little faster as well. For an overview of schedules and connections, see thebussschedule.com.

By Boat

Other than a daily ferry between Samaná and Sabana del Mar, most travellers that go out on ferries or boats are on a tour for snorkeling, diving or fishing.

Top

edit

Red Tape

The following nationals can enter visa free and only need a passport:

Argentina, Chile, South Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Peru, Liechtenstein and Uruguay.

The following nationals can enter the Dominican Republic without a visa but have to purchase a Tourist Card upon arrival for $10:

Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Curacao, Denmark, Dominica, Finland, France, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Reunion, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Turks and Caicos Islands, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom the United States (including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), Venezuela.

Top

edit

Money

See also Money Matters

Top

edit

Language

Related article: Spanish: Grammar, pronunciation and useful phrases

Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic.

Top

edit

Sleep

There are many different options for stays in the Dominican Republic, including many resorts.

Resorts
Puntacana Resort & Club is one of many resorts in the Dominican Republic. It features accommodations that range from hotel stays to private villas to real estate opportunities. The amenities at the resort include world class golf courses, a premier spa, an ecological preserve, land & water sports galore as well as many dining & entertainment options.

Top

edit

Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to the Dominican Republic. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to the Dominican Republic. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, rabies, tuberculosis and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent inland, mainy along the border with Haiti and also in the province of Altagracira, including the popular beach destinations Punta Cana! It is recommended to take malaria pills if visiting these areas, although for Punta Cana anti-mosquito precautions are generally enough, as chances are very slim. Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

Top

edit

Safety

See also Travel Safety

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Post

INPOSDOM is the national postal service of the Dominican Republic and unfortunately, although things are getting better, is not known for its fast and efficient services. It takes at least a few weeks for your letter or postcard to arrive in the USA and even longer for Europe or other continents. It costs from RD$3 to North America and from RD$4 elsewhere for standard letters and postcards. Post offices generally are open from around 8:00am to 3:00pm, though in big cities and tourist resort areas there are sometimes longer hours and you can usually give your postcards are major hotels and resorts as well at all times. Stamps are available at post offices, but at many shops and kiosks and some hotels as well. Sending packages is not recommended through the official postal service, and it's much better to use good international courier companies like UPS, TNT or DHL.

Quick Facts

Dominican Republic flag

Map of Dominican Republic

[edit]

Local name
Republica Dominicana
Capital
Santo Domingo
Government
Representative Democracy
Nationality
Dominican
Population
8,580,000
Languages
Spanish
Religions
Christianity (Catholic)
Currency
Dominican Peso (DOP)
Calling Code
+1809
Time Zone
UTC-4

Contributors

as well as dr.pepper (12%), Lavafalls (10%), 300feetout (3%), Peter (3%), coppertop (1%), pancho_arg (1%), Hien (1%), rdenning (1%)

Help contribute to this article to share the ad revenue.

Dominican Republic Travel Helpers

Accommodation in Dominican Republic

This is version 48. Last edited at 13:19 on May 22, 13 by Peter. 57 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License