Located in the centre of the Caribbean Islands, the Dominican Republic is famed as a destination for all-inclusive holidaymakers. Sharing the Hispaniola Island with Haiti, this country inhabits the Hispanic side of the separated island. The Dominican Republic is a country of contrasts, being the most geographically diverse island in the Caribbean. Although holiday resorts cover its beaches, around 80% of its population still live in poverty. However, this is not reflected in the landscape of the island which is regarded by some as the most beautiful in the Caribbean. White sand beaches, crystal blue waters and sparkling green vegetation are only some of the reasons why tourism has become its greatest industry. Transport recently has improved and adventure activities throughout the country are springing up.
Spanish is the native language although English is widely spoken due to tourism.
Although the official Dominican currency is the Peso (RD$), US$ are accepted in the all-inclusive hotels and by tour operators. At time of writing the rate was around £1 to every RD$61 (August 2006). Pesos are virtually impossible to obtain outside the country, but can be changed as soon as you land in the airport.
The temperature does not vary greatly from season to season. However, the Dominican Republic lies directly in the hurricane belt. The island is only hit about once a decade, but when this does occur it can cause devastation. August and September are the main hurricane months, although small ones can occur in the surrounding season. Most hotels have protected shelters, so these are the best places to head in the event of a hurricane. The rainy season falls in summer, although this just consists of short bursts of rain a few times of week, which are followed by more sun.
Aside from its beaches, the Dominican Republic has much to explore and discover.
Throughout the heart of the country lies the Dominican Alps know as Cordillera Central. Vast plantations of bananas, coffee, and coconuts can be found, as well as waterfalls and the longest river in the country. Three-day, two-night treks can be offered for the more intrepid traveller. These mountains offer a different world from the beach life that so many travel to the Dominican Republic for.
Christopher Columbus lies behind the countries Spanish origins, and evidence of his travels can be found all round the island. The Parque Nacional La Isabela houses remains of Columbus’s castle and the foundations of the first church of the New World. Much of this was rebuilt for the 500th anniversary celebrations of Columbus’s discovery.
The country’s capital, Santo Domingo, is a reminder of the days of Spanish rule. With whitewashed houses, and Catholic Churches the Spanish influences are never far away. Although its vibrant atmosphere may be overwhelming to some, the city is submersed with so much history and beauty that it must be explored. Hurricanes throughout its history have left their marks on different areas of the city. The most popular area is Zona Colonial, which houses many old buildings and dozens of museums.
The Catedral Basilica Menor De Santa Marie is reputedly the first cathedral in the Americas, and Columbus’s son laid its first stone. This magnificent structure combines gothic, romanesque and baroque architectural influences.
Activities like horse riding, white water-rafting, diving and wind-surfing are available at different tourist destinations across the island. The white sand beaches that flank the island are, of course, in themselves an attraction.
Santo Domingo will cater for all your purchasing needs. The main shopping street El Conde, in Zona Colonial, is lined with shops selling anything from cigars to CDs. Numerous other shopping centres can also be found in the capital. Tourist resorts have a more refined variety of shops, although usual tourist fare will be found. Amber can be found throughout the country, although do not buy it from street vendors as it is likely to be plastic. Most reputable shops will own an ultraviolet light, which amber fluoresces under, in order to test its authenticity. Haggling is expected in markets although it is hard to try and get much of a bargain.
Santo Domingo has numerous bars and discos that play a selection of Western or Latin music, or more specialist merengue venues can also be found. A few others bars are dotted around the country, but the main venues are located in the resorts.
Dominicans drive, often at a terrifying speed, on the right-hand side of the road. Driving rules are similar to those in North America, for example seat belts must be worn, but these rules are not often enforced in rural areas. Speed limits vary from 25 mph in cities to 50 mph on rural roads. Car horns and lights are used liberally and obstacles are frequently found in the roads. Driving in the Dominican Republic can be a hazardous and unique experience and you are recommended to be alert at all times. Law enforcement officers who cannot afford a car are placed along the roads, and they will literally jump out at you as you pass. Their main concern is bribe taking so you should continuing driving past them, or, if they do manage to flag you down, pretend not to speak Spanish and keep repeating 'tourist' and they should let you go.
Although driving under the influence of alcohol is deemed illegal in the Dominican Republic, a limit of 0.05% is set for professional drivers only. Again this law is not often enforced and thus the dangers of driving at night are emphasised.
Food and Drink
Following the style of the rest of the Caribbean, the Dominicans like their food colourful and spicy. This is not a place to come if you are watching your weight as Creole cooking sets the tone. You will find an abundance of stews, bean and rice dishes which are well seasoned with chilli, garlic, pepper and oregano. These are eaten in large portions for all three meals of the day. A plethora of fried snacks are available at stalls throughout the island to ward off any hunger pangs. Meat is a staple part of most dishes and vegetarians might have difficulty tracking down restaurants that supply vegetable dishes, however the island is home to an enormous range of fruit which is plentiful throughout the year.
With one of the world’s largest consumptions of alcohol per capita, you shouldn’t have a problem finding something to drink. The country’s main beer is Presidente Lager which monopolises the island’s trade. Rum is the country’s signature drink. Varying strengths and colours can be found and it is advisable to check the proof of the rum that you are given in order to avoid a sore head the next day. With coffee being one of its largest crops and the produce being among the best in the world, you can guarantee to find a flavour that will suit every pallet.
Dominican Republic Ministry of TourismAve. George Washington,Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep.Tel: +1-809-689-3655, 586-3676; 800-752-1151; Fax +1-809-682-3806;www.dominicanrepublic.com
AirportsThe main international airports are found at Santa Domingo, Puerto Plata, La Romana, Santiago and Punta Cana. Punta Cana and La Romana offer a gateway to the all-inclusive resorts of the east coast, and the airport at Santa Domingo provides access to the south of the island. If you wish to start your holiday in the north of the island, then you should fly into the airport outside Puerto Plata. Most flights are included in holiday packages, but there are also a number of charter flights available from Europe and North America.
All car hire locations in Dominican Republic
- Casa De Campo International Airport
- Cibao International Airport
- Gregorio Luperon International Airport
- Herrera Airport
- La Guama
- La Isabela International Airport
- La Romana
- Las Américas International Airport
- Puerto Plata
- Punta Cana
- Punta Cana International Airport
- Samaná El Catey International Airport
- Santiago De Los Caballeros
- Santo Domingo