Posted by: D. M. | April 25, 2010

Living in the Dominican Republic –

The spirit and charm of the Dominican Republic  is captured in its music, food, and national pastimes.  Slightly fewer than half of Dominicans live in rural areas; many are small landholders. Haitians form the largest foreign minority group. All religions are tolerated; the state religion is Roman Catholicism.

The Dominican Republic has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, but in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy’s largest employer, due to growth in tourism and free trade zones. The economy is highly dependent upon the US, the destination for about two-thirds of exports but Central America , Canada and Europe are also business partners and hot destination for exporting and importing.

Transport:   Island Main’s Transportation

There are a variety of options for inter-city travel in addition to travel by car. Inter-city travel by tourists is safest on one of the more reputable tourist bus companies.

Local buses known as “Guaguas” and taxis also offer transportation but are not generally as safe.  Hotel taxis are also available at the larger hotels around the clock. Several drivers of these are bilingual and could double as a tour guide as they are experienced in assisting tourists. Dominican taxis do not use fare meters. Instead, there are flat rates for each destination. Always confirm the rate with the driver prior to departing; you may get him to put it into writing if there is a language problem, to avoid any misunderstanding.

Conchos or– Publicos

Publicos are regular cars that serve as multi-passenger taxis, found mainly in the large cities. They will charge you about RD$20.00 for a short route. If you stay on, they will charge you again. The concho drivers may pack two passengers in the front seat and four in the back, regardless of the size of the car. You may pay two fares and book exclusivity for the front seat or pay four fares and get the back seat.

– Motoconchos

Motorcycle taxis are an inexpensive way to get to your destination fast, but they are also the most risky of transportation options.

Public & Private Bus Service

Large metropolitan transport buses in Santo Domingo and Santiago cover the longer city routes for RD$10.00 to RD$15.00 (air conditioned) fares.
Metro and Caribe Tours provide air conditioned coach transportation service between Santo Domingo and major cities. Other cities may be served by express regional bus lines.
Minibuses zip in and out of city neighborhoods and go from one town to another for a tenth of the cost of a taxi. Depending on the hour, the drivers may pack in twice as many people as the capacity of the vehicle.
Driving in the Dominican Republic

Driving is on the right hand side and the speed limit is 60 kph in the cities and up to 100 kph on the highways, unless otherwise indicated. Getting around the DR is not always easy and it is wise to take advice before setting out on a long trip.  There are networks of highways from major cities; however roads inside towns and cities may not be in perfect condition so watch for large holes and oversized speed bumps.

– Car Rentals

Major car rental companies have airport, hotel and city locations. Do not cut corners when choosing your rental car service. Also take out the extra insurance plan that is available. If you suffer an accident that dents your car, for instance, the insurance will prevent delays or hassles. All you will have to do is visit the nearest police station and declare the accident. To do so, have the other party accompany you, or just take his name, insurance company, license number, cedula (ID card) and car registration (license plate) number. A valid driver’s license and major credit card is required to rent a car for up to 90 days. You must be at least 21 years old.

– Importing Your Car

Importing a car to the Dominican Republic can be a difficult task, sometimes making buying a car a simpler alternative.  If you choose to ship your car to the DR there are a few things you need to know ahead of time.
As a new resident you can bring in a car at little or no duty if you have owned it for 2 years, and it is less than 5 years old.  You can bring in a brand new car if you pay duty on it; you cannot bring in a car more than 5 years old, under any circumstance.

To export an automobile from your country, there will be additional regulations. In the event that you decide to import a car, it is strongly recommended that you employ a local customs clearance agent.  This will cost around RD$10,000 pesos or US$300 but is likely to save you
both money and heartache.

Driving in the Dominican Republic is on the right side of the road. Speed limits vary from 28 mph in the city to 48 mph on rural roads, but they are generally not enforced. Traffic laws are similar to those in the United States, but undisciplined driving is common, due to a lack of adequate traffic controls.

A local traffic custom is that the larger the vehicle, the greater the right of way, regardless of the traffic laws. Driving is aggressive and erratic, and drivers often do not yield the right of way even when road signs or signals indicate they should. Defensive driving is advised at all times. Travel at night on inter-city highways and in rural areas should be avoided, due to vehicles being driven at excessive speeds, often with malfunctioning headlights or taillights. Turning right on red lights is permitted, but it should be done with caution.

Motorcycles and motor scooters are common in the Dominican Republic and are often driven erratically. While helmets for motorcyclists are required by law, the law is not enforced.

Seat belts are required by law, but that law is also not generally enforced. There are no child car seat laws. Penalties for those driving under the influence of alcohol and those involved in accidents resulting in injury or death can be severe.

Dominican drivers can sometimes seem to be a little aggressive; however one has to remember that they have probably not had the same experience as you or I had to drive in counties where there are many more restrictions.  So when driving here just take a little more time and give a little more space.  You may arrive a minute later, but you will arrive.

Driving at night can be an adventure as some other drivers, not always Dominican, seem to save electricity by not using any lights!  It’s one reason why a number of people always use main beam at night.  Be aware that when driving at night or in heavy rain, although your tires are probably good, as are your brakes, the other car may not be so lucky.  Just take a little extra time.

The police, and sometimes the military, will carry out road checks and stop traffic.  They are normally only checking to see whether you have the correct documents.  So always carry a photo copy of your car’s registration and insurance.  It is also a good idea to carry a copy of your passport and driving license.  Once stopped, the officers are usually polite and courteous, even if you don’t speak Spanish.  You will be given differing advice on whether to offer a bribe or not.  We suggest that you do not unless specifically asked, which will be unusual.

Communications: – Land Telephone Systems

There are a limited number of companies providing telephone communication.  CLARO previously (Verizon/Codetel) has a monopoly on land lines and internet connections.  Generally their service is adequate, but slow.

– Mobile or Cellular Telephones

There are both very good land telephone systems as well as a number of mobile operators.  All mobiles that would normally work in North America will work here. Any modern European mobile, or older ones with tri-band, will also work. If you already have a cell phone you can activate it here, depending if your phone is activated by one of the major providers of cellular service. These are available from a number of providers, with Claro and Orange having the greatest share of the market.  Both these providers cover the major cities and towns, but once outside of these areas you will need to check who seems to have the better coverage locally as neither providers invest anything like enough in infrastructure.

If you have a GSM phone, you can go to any number of Orange outlets and, for a small fee, they will activate your phone, and you can either purchase pre-paid phone cards or a phone plan. If you have a CDMA phone, you can go to many Orange or Centennial outlets and purchase a plan.

Recently Tricom which is another provider has begun to offer a new telephone plan where those in the Dominican Republic can call New York, or anywhere in the U.S., and be charged at local dialing rates. This development is a clear indicator of the progress of telecommunications in the Dominican Republic.

Cable TV

Cable services in the DR are provided by a variety of companies. These companies offer both English and Spanish language television, plus a variety of shows in other languages. Also, the channels come from not only the Dominican Republic but also the United States and Europe.

Satellite TV

If you can afford the service, there is also satellite television available from various sources. Once you purchase the satellite dish the vendor will provide you with details on installation and maintenance.

– Internet

This is available in either ‘dial up’ or ‘flash’ which is similar to broadband and is only from Claro.  Flash is available in a number of speeds with the price increasing proportionally.


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