Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic, with a total population of almost 8 million, is the most populous country in the Caribbean. The great majority (75%) of its citizens are mulattoes, a mixture of Europeans, Africans and Amer-Indians. as for the remaining, 15% are whites who are mainly descended from the original Spanish settlers. Blacks make up virtually all of the balance (10%). There have not been any pure Amer-Indians remaining on the island for the past three centuries. There are also a fairly large number of Haitians living and working in the country, doing mainly heavy manual labour and less remunerative work. The country has a very high birth rate, with about half of the population is under 15 years old, while only 3% are over the age of 65. The main religion for more than 95% of its citizens is Roman Catholic.

The Dominican Republic, with an area of 48,482 square kilometres, occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with its neighbour Haiti to the west. Cuba is the only larger country within the Caribbean and the greater Antilles region. Hispaniola is strategically located directly in the heart of the region. (When Christopher Columbus saw the island on his first voyage in 1492, he couldn't stop raving about its natural beauty, insisting that "There is no more beautiful island in the world.") The Windward Passage separates western Hispaniola from Cuba. To the east of the D.R., across the Mona Passage, lies Puerto Rico only 54 miles away.

The country is divided into 29 provinces and a National Territory surrounding the capital, Santo Domingo. There are two major cities with large population concentrations, Santo Domingo, with more than 1.5 million residents, and Santiago de los Caballeros, with more half a million.

For the bulk of the people the economic situation is relatively poor, with an average wage of approximately RD$ 2000 (about US$ 150) per month, but slowly improving. Tourism accounts for the greatest portion of foreign exchange entering the country and also for employment in many of the coastal regions, particularly in the Puerto Plata-Sosua-Cabarete and La Romana areas.

The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. Around the main areas where tourists are concentrated, many Dominicans also speak some English and German, and quite a few may also speak French and Italian. However, in some areas of the country, particularly within the interior, the local residents usually speak only Spanish and nothing more, so it can be quite helpful to know a few basic words or commonly used phrases of this language if you are planning to move around on your own.

International Airline Service
There are direct flights from Dominican airports to several cities in the American and European continents. Regularly scheduled flights to the Dominican Republic from North America is provided by American Airlines, Continental, Pan American, TWA, and Air Atlantic. Inter-Caribbean flights are principally handled by American Eagle, Copa, Dominair, TCCA, ALM and Air Guadeloupe. Copa also offers a direct link to Central America, through Panama. Aces, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeropostal and Lanchile provide service to South America. Regular direct flights to European cities are serviced by Air France, Air Portugal, Iberia, Air Europa, Condor, Hapag Lloyd, LTU, and Martinair. More than 50 charter airlines travel to the Dominican Republic's Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo and Punta Cana international airports from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Canada.

There are direct scheduled or charter flights from Europe departing from airports in Madrid, Rome, Milan, Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Bonn, Berlin, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Munich, Stuttgart, Helsinki, Brussels, London and Glasgow, among others. Airlines link the Dominican Republic with San Juan and Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), Havana, Providenciales (Turks & Caicos), Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Antigua, St. Martin, Point-a-Pitre, and Port-au-Prince in the Caribbean and the Latin American cities of Bogota, Caracas, Panama City, Santiago de Chile, La Paz, Cancun and Buenos Aires. North American routes link the country with Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Newark, and New York.

The Dominican Republic has seven international airports. They are the Las Americas International Airport, 20 minutes east of Santo Domingo; Puerto Plata International Gregorio Luperon Airport, 15 minutes from Playa Dorada, Puerto Plata and Sosua, handles the north coast's scheduled and charter flights. Punta Cana's international airport serves the far east. La Romana International receives a daily AA jet from Miami. Barahona's Maria Montez International Airport, which opened this year, is the country's newest. Air Santo Domingo is a domestic airline, affiliated to Air Europa, with 54 daily flights to seven major airports in the country. The smaller international airports in Santiago and Herrera in Santo Domingo handle light aircraft, small jets and commuter planes. The Samana-Arroyo Barril airport is under construction.

Flying Times
New York (3-1/4 hrs.), Miami (1-3/4 hrs.), San Juan (35 mins.), Toronto (5 hrs.), most European cities (8-10 hours).

Entry Requirements
Visitors in general should reconfirm travel documentation requirements with the nearest Dominican consulate or Dominican tourist information office (see below for contact information on the tourist offices). In general, passport-bearing visitors from Argentina, South Korea, Ecuador, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Peru, and Uruguay are exempt from visas or tourist cards. Tourists cards (sold at US$10) are required for citizens of: Albania,Andorra, Antigua, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croacia, Checoslovakia, Chile, Curacao, Denmark, Dominica, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Paraguay, Polland, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, San Marino, St. Vincent & Grenadines, St. Lucia, Sweden, Switzerland, Surinam, Tunisia, Turks & Caicos Islands, United Kingdom, United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.

Nationals from other countries might require visas. Passports are the preferred travel document.

Legal residents in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela may enter with their passport and residency card.

Citizens of the United States may enter with passport or with an original birth certificate and additional photo-bearing official document (such as voter's registration or driver's license.) Minor's may enter with only an original birth certificate. Cuban residents of the United States may enter with their U.S. residency card and additional official photo-bearing document.

Departure Tax
Foreign visitors must purchase a US$10.00 Tourist Card upon entering the country, unless they are exempted nationals from above-mentioned countries. A US$10.00 departure tax is required at the airport when leaving.

Inland Transportation An extensive network of over 20,000 kilometers of highways and secondary roads and airports throughout the country link major cities and ports. Visitors will find all areas of the country accessible through the use of taxis, car rentals, buses, ground tour operators or light aircraft charters.

Local Transport. Most hotels have taxis available 24 hours a day; radio taxis operate in Santo Domingo, Santiago and Puerto Plata around the clock. Public taxis (carros publicos), buses, and motoconchos are inexpensive ways to travel along busy thoroughfares within the cities. Rental cars are available everywhere if you wish to drive yourself.

Car Rentals. Major car rental companies have airport and city locations including National, Avis, Budget, Hertz, McDeal, Honda, Nelly, Dollar, Thrifty as well as over 10 local companies. A valid driver's license and major credit card are required to rent a car for up to 90 days. Driving is on the right hand side and the speed limit is 60 kph in the cities and 80 kph on the highways, unless otherwise indicated. Many companies require a minimum two-day rental for unlimited mileage, otherwise single day renters pay additional per distance traveled.

Limousines. Airport pickup, city transport and sightseeing is now available by limousine. On call 24 hours a day you may request optional services such as cellular phones, faxes and bars in the limos which seat up to 10 persons.

Buses. The country has an excellent bus system providing scheduled transport between Santo Domingo and major cities. Those privately-operated companies include Metro Tours and Caribe Tours.

Ground Tours. A wide range of sightseeing, shopping and overnight tours can be arranged through local tour operators who have tour desks in most hotel lobbies. Tours vary from the standard general interest to those tailor-made to suit individual needs.

Domestic Air. Air Santo Domingo operates flights between Santo Domingo (Herrera Airport) and principal tourism regions of the Dominican Republic. Light aircraft charter companies rent single- and twin-engine planes and helicopters with a pilot for flights to domestic and international airports within the country.

Domestic Travel Times
Getting around the Dominican Republic is easy given the fine roads and highways that connect the cities and towns. Following are the projected travel times between Santo Domingo and major tourist destinations.

Santo Domingo-Puerto Plata = 3-1/2 hours
Santo Domingo-Punta Cana = 3-1/2 hours
Santo Domingo-Juan Dolio = 45 minutes
Santo Domingo-La Romana = 2 hours
Santo Domingo-Samana = 4 hours
Santo Domingo-Barahona = 3 hours
Santo Domingo-Jarabacoa = 2 hours
Santo Domingo-Santiago = 2 hours

Over 400 kilometers of sparkling beaches span the South, East, Southwest and North coasts. These include the beaches of Boca Chica, Juan Dolio, La Romana, and Bayahibe in the Southeast. Punta Cana and Bavaro in the East. Paraiso and Enriquillo in the Southwest. And on the north coast the beaches of Playa Dorada, Sosua, Cabarete, Playa Grande, and Luperon. In the Northeast, there is Las Terrenas, Las Galeras, Puerto Escondido, and Portillo. Numerous other deserted beaches dot the coastlines waiting to be explored.

There is a wider range of sports in the Dominican Republic than on any other island of the Caribbean. There are the traditional sports of golf, tennis, polo, scuba diving, snorkeling, all kinds of watersports, horseback riding, skeet and clays shooting, deep-sea fishing, sailing, bicycling, bowling, and parasailing. There are the ecosports for adventurers such as trekking, hiking, rafting, tubing, canyoning, caving, mountain biking, camping, paragliding, and cascading. Then there are the spectator sports of baseball, international polo, horse racing, boxing, basketball, volleyball, windsurfing, powerboat and sailing competitions, cockfighting, motocross, and car racing.

Special note: Baseball is the national sport and passion. The Dominican Republic outnumberered all other Latin American nations with the most ballplayers (over 50) playing in the North American Major League last season. All 26 U.S. clubs have academies or camps in the Dominican Republic. A Professional Winter League plays in the country from late October through January (which draws many American players) and summer tournaments are held annually. The most important stadiums are in Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana, and Santiago.

Over 20 hotels in the capital city, North, South and East coast tourism destinations have casinos offering Las Vegas-style odds featuring blackjack, craps, roulette, slot machines, poker and baccarat. Players must be over 18 years of age; casinos are open 4 pm to 4 am (weekends until 6 am). Other forms of gaming action are bingo, horse-racing and cockfighting.

Dominican restaurants offer a worldwide mix of cuisines including Italian, Chinese, Spanish, German, Swiss, Japanese, Korean, New Orleans, Mexican, French, Iranian, Continental, North American and South American. The local Dominican cuisine is a savory yet subtle blend of native Indian, Spanish, Middle Eastern and African ingredients. Popular Dominican dishes are sancocho (meat and vegetable stew), moro (rice cooked with beans), mangu (mashed green plantains), longaniza (spiced pork sausage), carne guisada (beef stew), lechon asado (roast suckling pig cooked on a spit), pescado con coco (fish simmered in a coconut sauce, popular in Samana) and stewed goat. Plantains, rice, beans and root vegetables are staples.

A very favorable exchange rate makes shopping for colorful handicrafts and other locally produced products a great bargain. Most popular are the amber (brought to world acclaim in the hit film Jurassic Park) and larimar semi-precious stones. Other favorite items are wicker, rattan, and wood furniture, hand-painted masks, macrame, ceramics, straw and woven goods, rocking chairs, carved mahogany structures, Dominican fine art and paintings, fashions from local-born designers such as Oscar de la Renta and local coffee, rum, and cigars. Santo Domingo has large commercial malls and smaller shopping centers. Store hours are generally 9 am to noon and 2 pm to 7 pm, but major shopping centers, supermarkets and stores with a large tourist clientele remain open for lunch time. While most stores are open Monday through Saturday at noon, several large shopping centers and most supermarkets are now open on Sunday mornings. Duty free shopping is available at Las Americas and Puerto Plata international airports, as well as at select locations in the capital, but duty-free goods are claimed at the airport prior to departure and purchases must be made in U.S. dollars.

Historical Sights
As the site of Columbus' first landing in the Americas and home of the New World's first city, the country is steeped in history. Among the leading attractions in Colonial Santo Domingo are Columbus' Castle (Alcazar), Saint Francis Monastery, Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Museum of Royal Houses, Columbus Square, Ozama Fortress, National Pantheon, Dominican Convent, and Calle Las Damas (the first street ever built in the Americas). In Puerto Plata, Fort San Felipe bears witness to Nicolas de Ovando's founding of that city in 1502. The town of Isabela, discovered by Columbus on his second voyage in January of 1494, lies west of Puerto Plata. The monumental Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo boasts 151 search lights and houses museums displaying treasures from Italy, Spain, Israel, Great Britain, the U.S., Japan and other countries. The chapel with Columbus' tomb and remains serves as the Admiral's final resting place.

National museums celebrate all aspects of Dominican life past and present, as well as house treasures and artifacts from the world over. Most are located in Santo Domingo including the Museum of Dominican Man, Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Dominican Family, Museum of Royal Houses, Prehispanic Art Museum, Numismatic and Philatelic Museum, Modern Art Museum, Museum of Antique Coins, Viceroy Museum and Alcazar, Amber Museum. Outside of the capital city, visit the Tomas Morel Folklore Museum (Santiago); Amber Museum (Puerto Plata); and the Archeological Museum (Altos de Chavon, La Romana).

Carnival, a colorful parade along the Santo Domingo Malecon, takes place the week of Independence Day, which is February 27. Merengue Festival is a lively celebration of the country's national music with merengue bands performing at major hotels and on the Malecon in Santo Domingo from the last week in July through the first week of August. Puerto Plata's Merengue Festival is held during the second week of October. Christmas celebrations begin in early December and end on Epiphany Day on January 6.

Stores, banks and most businesses close on: January 1, New Year's Day; January 21, Our Lady of Altagracia Day; February 27, Independence Day; Good Friday; September 24, Our Lady of Mercedes Day; Corpus Christi Day; and December 25, Christmas Day. In the Dominican Republic, the following holidays will be celebrated on the closest Monday or Friday to the actual date: January 6, Epiphany Day; January 26, Juan Pablo Duarte's Birthday; May 1, Labor Day; August 16, Dominican Restoration Day; November 6, Constitution Day.

The Latin tradition of long lunches, the major meal of the day, is maintained, and thus many shops still close from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. Major shopping centers, supermarkets and stores frequented by visitors usually remain open from 9 to 7 pm.

Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. Traffic signs and most menus in restaurants are in Spanish, although menus in tourist regions tend to be multilingual.

40,000+ rooms are available at business hotels, tourist resorts, private villas, condos, aparthotels, inns and guest houses at city, beach and mountain locations. Over two million people visited the Dominican Republic in 1996. The government is forecasting 1997 visitors will surpass 2.3 million.

Getting Married
Most hotels and resorts in the Dominican Republic offer special wedding packages for the convenience of their guests. Getting married under one of these packages takes the planning of this major event out of the hands of the couple, leaving them to enjoy a honeymoon atmosphere before and after the ceremony.

A couple needs to inform the resort at least one month in advance, with a minimum of 15 days notice, in order to reserve the judge. The resort wedding packages all provide flowers, a cake, a seaside wedding site, champagne, the judge, and other special touches to make it a memorable day. Professional services such as video recording, photography, and music are available at extra costs. The resort will inform guests of all the required documents they need to present in order to legally wed in the D.R. However, couples should note that they are expected to have a notarized letter from an attorney, legalized by their embassy, stating that each one is single and free to marry; a divorce decree if there has been a previous marriage; and passports for the couple and for any foreign witnesses. These documents must be translated into Spanish upon arrival in the D.R. Those contemplating marriage in this beautiful country may contact the resorts in the different areas and compare wedding packages.

Duty Free Allowance/Customs Entrance
One liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and up to US$100 worth of gift items are allowed duty free when returning to the United States. Personal electronics are admitted into the Dominican Republic, although professional video equipment, television cameras, and such may need special clearance.

Light casual resort wear for day and night. Sport jackets and cocktail attire is recommended for elegant evenings out in Santo Domingo and some of the bigger resorts. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not permitted in landmark churches, casinos and some restaurants.

On the same time zone as New York in spring (Eastern Standard Time). Daylight Savings is in effect year-round, so the time is one hour ahead of New York in the fall.

Electricity 110 volts/60 cycles, the same as the U.S.

Tropical climate averaging 27 degrees Celsius and ranging from 18 degrees in winter to 34 degrees in summer; the hottest month is August, the coolest is January. Trade winds keep the air cool and fresh; temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius in the mountains.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean is from June to November, with most hurricanes striking in August and September. The Dominican Republic was hit by Hurricane Georges on September 22, 1998. The hurricane entered by way of Isla Saona on the Southeastern coast, crossing the island diagonally on its way to Haiti. It primarily caused damages to the provinces of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana and Santo Domingo along the south coast. Recovery though has been remarkable, with 98% of hotels reopening in time for the December winter travel season start. Likewise, being this the tropics, nature restored the affected greenery in such a short time that has surprised all. Hotels took advantage of insurance payments to renovate and improve their facilities. Prior to Georges, the last hurricane to affect the DR had been Hurricane David in 1979. Tourists traveling to the DR during the hurricane season should not have major concerns. Hotel management safety plans proved their effectiveness during Georges. At the worst, if your area if affected you will be bussed to see another area. Note that witnessing a major hurricane is a major experience, and one of a lifetime, always to be rememebered. The worst part of a hurricane is not the hurricane, it is dealing with the clean up afterwards, a problem tourists do not have to deal with.

Currency Exchange Click Here For Currency Exchange
Foreign currency can be changed into Dominican pesos at Banco de Reservas booths at the airports, major hotels, or at commercial banks. Banking hours are 8:30 to 3 pm, Mondays through Fridays. Airport booths remain open to service all incoming flights, up to 24 hours if necessary. Travelers checks and major credit cards are widely accepted. Cash advances are available at some commercial banks. The rate of exchange fluctuates around RD$15.50=US$1 (December 1998).

Tips And Taxes
Hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge plus an 8% sales tax to the bill. Hotels add an additional 5% for room tax and may include a nominal energy charge. It is customary to give an additional 10% for good service. Bellboys, maids and taxi drivers are tipped according to the service.

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