Over the past 15 years I have spent vacations in the Dominican Republic and learned much about the island, the people’s customs and how they operate. Below are my top 12 tips and helpful hints for those travelling there for the first time.
Carry Cash on Arrival
Upon entering the airport when landing in the Dominican Republic, right after you get your passport stamped, you will be required to pay a mandatory entrance tax of US$10. Cash is required. There is also a Departure Tax but that is included in your flight/hotel package.
Handle Your Own Luggage
If you’ve pre-arranged a transfer company to get you to your resort, hold onto your luggage until you meet up with them, either at their desk or once you exit the airport. At luggage claim, there will be many men there who want to assist you with your luggage, but they will only carry it to the transfer company’s desk or the airport exit and will be looking for a tip.
They are Serious About Check In Time
Once you arrive at your resort, if it is before the posted check-in time, do not expect to get to your room. You will be able to leave your luggage with a Bell Captain and go to the bar or buffet or take a swim, but you will not be going to your room before the allotted time. It’s just the way it is.
Bring Personal Toiletries You Can’t Do Without
If you use face cloths, it’s best to bring your own from home. Not all resorts supply them. Some resorts treat them as “personal hygiene” making it your responsibility to supply them yourself. This is not a big deal for most guests, but if you want one; make sure you bring one from home.
Be Prepared For the Runs
Bring Imodium or Kaopectate or some other kind of anti-diarrhea medicine. Most times you will experience some tummy issues, so why give up some of your precious vacation time feeling uncomfortable or spending too much time in the bathroom. The list is endless on what will cause these tummy troubles from eating more fresh fruit than you normally do, drinking more alcohol with or without fruit juices than you normally do, eating more or different food than you normally do, the tropical climate, accidentally drinking some tap water in the shower or when brushing your teeth. Better to have and not use it then need it and not have it.
Bring Your Own Mug or Cup
You can and should bring some kind of insulated mug/cup for drinks (check out some options here). The coffee cups, juice cups, drink cups are all smaller than what you’re used to and the small amount of ice that are put into your cold drinks melt almost immediately. I like my drinks cold to the end. There will be no need for embarrassment to bring your cups to any bar. The bartender won’t even bat an eye. It’s now the norm.
Tipping isn’t expected, but it makes a difference
Tipping mostly does make a difference but you don’t need to be “tip happy”. If you find yourself sitting in the same area at the breakfast buffet, give the girl who brings your coffee a dollar or two. She will make sure that your table is ready for the rest of the week. If you’re hanging near one particular bar for the day/week, give the bartender a couple of dollars after you’ve received a few drinks. Your drinks will be ready before you even reach the bar. I’ve tipped the pool boy to get prime shaded seats by the pool. Basically, tipping is not required at your all-inclusive resort, but I find it’s worth the small amount when I do.
Don’t drink ANY tap water.
Pretty simple. Just don’t do it.
Do not pay full price for anything from a Beach Vendor. Haggle.
You can go too far with this, remember, what seems like small amounts of money could mean an entire meal for the vendor’s family. But on the other side of the coin: there first price is set expecting that you will haggle, it is part of the dance of buying goods on the street.
Do be on time for your airport transfer.
In fact get to the airport 3 hours ahead of time. Dominican time is sooooo much slower than our time. The airline counters, Security and Customs/Immigration will take some time to get through.
A bit of Spanish will go a long way
If you know any Spanish, feel free to speak it. It’s greatly appreciated and will always earn you a smile.
Always keep your patience – your on Caribbean time now
Keep your patience, always smile and relax. You are on vacation on a beautiful island in the Caribbean. Their customer service is not like our customer service but it is part of what contributes to the laid back, relaxed attitude – what is known as Caribbean time or island time. Smiles and patience will get you what you want.
I hope you find these hints/tips helpful for your upcoming vacation to the Dominican Republic. Most may be common sense but others I’ve learned from experience.
Author: Abby Lewtas
Abby Lewtas is an adventurer, life coach and blogger. Adventure and travel were ingrained in her from an early age. Thanks to my parents she experienced my first overseas adventure at the tender age of 18 months.