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If you’re thinking about moving to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic but not sure of where to begin, here’s a beginners guide to all the know-how’s and to-do’s of living in this vibrant city! There are tons of different neighborhoods and things to do for anyone looking to enjoy living a few months or years here. Santo Domingo is also the hub for many cultural events, conferences, workshops and other activities where you can connect with locals and immerse yourself in the capitaleño way of life. You also won’t be alone as a foreigner here, there are tons of expats and digital nomads living in Santo Domingo, in addition to all the tourists stopping by.
Fun fact: Lonely Planet’s recent book named Santo Domingo as the #1 travel destination in the country to visit!
Finding Long Term Accommodation in Santo Domingo
The length of time you plan on staying in Santo Domingo can influence the cost of your accommodation. For instance, many landlords want a 6-12 month lease. However, there are options for you if you’re looking to stay here for less than that. And you don’t always have to sign a lease if you talk to the owner and explain your situation. Also, if you offer to pay cash a certain amount of months in advance, you may qualify for a big discount! Here are the best places to search:
- Airbnb – A great place to start. You can spend a week in different neighborhoods to see which is the best fit. This is also a great way to start connecting with locals! If you really like the place you could offer an off-Airbnb arrangement to the owner at a better price.
- Mercado Libre – You save the 12% commission/fees that Airbnb charges and it’s full of better long term options.
- Corotos – This is a great place to find apartments furnished or unfurnished. But usually, the owners here want 6-month minimum. However, you can always work something out if you don’t want to commit for that long to one place. This is also an amazing resource for buying/selling goods.
- Facebook groups – There are various on FB and here you can try to find roommates or others renting out apartments. Tu Casa RD is one that many people use.
- Passing through – Walk around the area that you want to live in and you’ll see “For Rent” signs in front of homes. This is a great way to get a better price because you’re talking directly to the owner instead of going through busy brokers.
How to Get Around / Transportation in Santo Domingo
This is probably the #1 question I get asked while being here in Santo Domingo. Walking isn’t really a thing here unless you’re in la Zona Colonial or in the Mirador del Sur park… So transportation is almost always via car/moto. Here’s how you can get around:
- Uber – This is probably the most secure and affordable way to get around Santo Domingo. The minimum rate is 90 pesos. Or $30 pesos if you choose the moto option. Enter code q0vfd for $5 off!
- Cabify – Another application that’s used here, though I’ve found it to be a little more expensive than Uber. However, others argue sometimes it’s cheaper. Play around with it and see!
- Metro – The metro here is brand new (less than 10 years old) and very efficiently run. However, although it only goes through/to certain neighborhoods, it can be a great way to get around. The cost ranges from 20 to 35 pesos depending on if you have a metro card.
- Teleferico – The teleferico in Santo Domingo is more than a fun way to see the city from above, it’s also how locals get around from the outskirts of the capital and into the city. It’s free/a part of the metro.
- Guaguas (buses) & carritos (collective cars) – These are collective buses or cars are shared among others going on the same route. You can find them going up and down the major streets. The cost ranges between 25 and 30-ish pesos depending on the type of car/route.
Choosing a Neighborhood to Live in Santo Domingo
There are several neighborhoods to choose from here in Santo Domingo. I was torn between La Zona Colonial and the Bella Vista Area. La Zona Colonial is more walkable and bustling with events and activities. But the Bella Vista or “downtown” area (to the west) has all the amenities you need for day to day: such as gyms, doctors, shopping, and supermarkets. Here are the most well known neighborhoods:
- Zona Colonial – Amazing, but if you need a gym or basic stuff you may have to come to the western part of town a lot of the time. Also, the prices for something more modern here seem relatively higher; unless you choose something more “rustic” you may be looking at around $1000+/month rent.
- Los Cacicazgos – A quiet neighborhood, next to the amazing Mirador del Sur Park.
- Gazcue – More rustic, but closer to la Zona Colonial and with lots of vegetarian/vegan restaurants.
- Naco/Piantini – One of the more “upscale” neighborhoods in Santo Domingo but also really jam-packed with traffic. It’s loud and busy but close to everything.
- Bella Vista – This is my favorite area because it’s quieter and next to the park, supermarkets, and gym.
Where to Go Shopping for Stuff in Santo Domingo
When I first came to Santo Domingo, I packed an entire suitcase of things, thinking that it would be hard to find stuff here. But I was shocked to see the same things you’d find at Whole Foods or Duane Reade, right here! Not to mention we, here we also have….
- AMAZON – Yep, you read right. You can order Amazon to the Dominican Republic! Through some Dominican ingenuity called Vimenpaq.
- Blue Mall – Higher end shopping
- Agora Mall – Very full of people but has a lot in one place (options for food and chains like f21)
- Acropolis Mall
- Downtown Center Mall – Also has an amazing VIP theatre upstairs.
- Mercado Modelo – Artisan goods and souvenirs
- Almacenes Unidos – This is like a Dominican K-mart.
- There are also tons of cute stores around the city of boutiques and small business shopping.
Where to Go Shopping for Groceries in Santo Domingo
Street vendors have the best rates for fruits and veggies, but beyond that here are the best supermarket chains:
- La Sirena
- El Nacional (a favorite)
- Almacenes Unidos
Ordering Delivery Food in Santo Domingo
If you want to order food in Santo Domingo here are the best two options I’ve discovered:
- Uber Eats
- Menu.com.do – Here you can find the places and call them by phone.
Health Insurance in Santo Domingo/Dominican Republic
This is recommended so that you have access to better health services in the country. Health insurance in the Dominican Republic is relatively affordable and easy to enroll in.
The Best Gyms in Santo Domingo
Gym and fitness culture in the Dominican Republic is everywhere. So you have lots of options to find the right gym. Here are just a few:
- The Body Shop – The most expensive, on the 9th floor of a skyscraper offering stunning views of the city and FOUR floors of gym. There is one in Bella Vista and another in Naco (with an outdoor pool!)
- Smart Fit
- Orange Theory
Coworking Spaces in Santo Domingo
Although I’m a digital nomad, I often just work from home. So I haven’t tried any of these, but here are 4 of the coworking spaces I’ve passed by or heard of through word of mouth:
- La Mochila (zona colonial)
- Internation (zona colonial)
- Chez Space
- Between Us
This guide is a personal work in progress of my reflections living here on my own (away from family). I will continue updating and adding to it. If you recommend any places in specific that I haven’t mentioned, please them below in the comments!
Also, stay tuned for the next posts about the Dominican Republic. Be sure to subscribe in the upper right-hand bar to see it! In the meanwhile, here are a few related posts:
- Visiting the Three Eyes National Park (Los Tres Ojos) in Santo Domingo
- Best Places In the Dominican Republic to Visit Beyond Punta Cana
- 27 Unique & Incredible Things to Do in the Dominican Republic for 2020
- 10 Reasons to Visit Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic
- 23 Iconic Dominican Foods to Try Around the Island & Their Cultural Influences