Is it your first time traveling to the Dominican Republic? Do you want the quick 411 on everything you need to know before visiting the Dominican Republic for tourism? From safety tips and transportation logistics to hidden gem recommendations, here’s a quick and easy run down!
Table of Contents
1. COVID Protocol for Traveling to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is one of the most welcoming places to visit for tourism right now. There is no COVID-19 test needed to enter the country. And the Dominican Republic has ended all vaccine and mask mandates. So there are NO vaccine requirements upon arrival.
- Covid-19 Flight Departure Requirements: However, depending on which country you’re flying back to, you may be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test before departing the country.
- Costs & Testing Sites for COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic: Testing for COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic is relatively easy, as there are several sites where you can make an appointment or walk in before departure. You can easily find these testing sites here. They cost $50-100 each.
2. Dominican Republic Travel Visas & Departure Fees
Americans do not need a visa to enter the Dominican Republic. But you DO need to fill out this migration form. It’s FREE. Do not pay anyone for this.
Most visitors can legally stay in the Dominican Republic for up to 30 days. If you go over 30 days, have cash ready upon your departure, because you will be required to pay a penalty fee when exiting the country. Here are those fees according to the number of days:
- 30-90 days: $50.00 USD
- 3-9 months: $80.00 USD
- 9-12 months: $100.00 USD
3. Is it Safe to Travel Through the Dominican Republic?
You should always take precautions when traveling, anywhere, period. Most crimes in the Dominican Republic involve petty theft, so keep a watchful eye when traveling to tourist spots and cities for pickpockets. Muggings are not uncommon in Santo Domingo (“un atraque”) and tend to happen when people are being flashy with their belongings and unaware of their surroundings.
Most crime in the Dominican Republic is in the major cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago. The community values of smaller places make it safer because everyone knows each other, so they wouldn’t dare get caught doing anything.
I’d say the most dangerous part of the Dominican Republic is the driving. Make sure the car you’re being driven in is in good condition. Ask your ahead of time about the model and year. If you’re going to off-the-beaten-path places, confirm that the car is a 4×4. Avoid driving at night, in the cities, or on unpaved roads.
If you’re a woman traveling alone, avoid talking to most local men beyond the necessary, and dress modestly when walking outside to reduce street harassment. If you smile, laugh, or make eye contact, they will take that as a massive invitation to swoop in. And you could end up in an uncomfortable situation.
The hospitality here is amazing, we’re helpful and friendly people. But use the SAME common sense you’d use riding the train in NYC. You’re in a country where most people are in survival mode, don’t take it personally if they aggressively come at you seeking help but also be smart.
So all that being said, we think it is safe to travel through the Dominican Republic. However, here are some more tips on how to avoid issues:
- Avoid going out at night.
- Memorize and practice some basic Spanish words.
- Only stay at Airbnbs with high reviews and a secure entrance. People breaking into Airbnbs in the Dominican Republic is NOT uncommon.
- Do not flash your valuables in public.
- Don’t walk around in Santo Domingo unless it’s La Zona Colonial. Because you may risk getting mugged by dudes on a moped.
- If someone seems too friendly, they probably are!
- Do not drink tap water or salads washed with tap water.
- Avoid street foods or any places using reused oil.
- Use the same street smarts you’d use on the subway in NYC!
- Listen to your intuition!
4. Internet in the Dominican Republic
WIFI speed and reliability in the Dominican Republic totally depend on where you are. Santo Domingo and the bigger cities have some of the fastest and most reliable internet connections. In other parts of the country, it depends on the local infrastructure. Even the resorts can have horribly slow internet. So if having fast internet is important to you, call the owners of your accommodation ahead of time and ask if they have opted for the fastest internet package.
International Plan: Consider activating your international plan on your phone. T-Mobile charges about $50 for 15GB of internet for 30 days. It’s easy, fast and reliable. This is my go-to! Remember, time is money, too.
Getting a SIM card: If you choose this route. It will require a trip to the store and some Spanish-speaking skills. Of all the carriers, we recommend Claro for SIM cards. It’s about $20 USD a month for unlimited internet and texting. You need to bring your passport for this. So unless you’re traveling to the Dominican Republic long term, then we do not recommend this laborious option.
5. Top Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic
This section could be an entire BOOK! We have popular blog posts already dedicated to it: 1) the 37 Best Places to Visit in the Dominican Republic and 2) 40+ Amazing Things to Do in the Dominican Republic. For a quick summary, here are the most popular places in the Dominican Republic:
i) Cabarete: For Beach + Wellness
Cabarete is heaven. This wellness community focuses on watersports, healthy eating, and beach life. Here you can learn to surf, go horseback riding, and meet a community of locals + immigrants from around the world. There are also several day trips you can take from Cabarete.
ii) Jarabacoa: For Wellness + Mountains
Located in the mountains of the Cibao region, Jarabacoa is gaining popularity with travelers for its plethora of ecotourism and relaxing wellness opportunities. You can hike to the highest point in the Caribbean, go horseback riding, white water rafting, visit Dominican waterfalls, and tons more. Stay at the Gran Jimenoa hotel!
iii) The Southwest: For Desert + Beach
This is our editor’s favorite region in DR! If you love road trips, consider renting a car with your family and exploring the southwest Dominican Republic. Here you’ll find raw, untouched natural beauty. The beaches are so clear and shallow that you don’t need snorkels to see the fish. And the desert topography envelopes you all around with tall sand dunes, hypersaline lakes (Laguna de Oviedo), and beautiful cactus plants along the roads. This is not for travelers who hate: raw nature and going off the beaten path. This is almost home to not just one of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic, but the world: Bahia de las Aguilas.
iv) Samana: For Beach + Jungle
While not our top favorite due to the over-tourism in some spots, this has become such a popular destination we’ve decided to add it just in case. For many, the natural wonders in Samana Bay are truly something special. Alongside swimming with fishes on the beaches of Las Galeras and Playa Fronton, travelers can head on boats to Los Haitises National park to witness limestone caves and the biggest mangrove forest in all of the Caribbean! Our personal favorite is the Dominican Waterfall: El Limon. Get there on horseback and before the crowds!
If you’re the type of nature lover who is in it for the animals, then visit between January and March to witness humpback whales swimming through the bay.
v) Punta Cana: For Resorts, Beaches, & Outdoor Day Trips
And, of course, the most popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic: is Punta Cana! While Punta Cana’s all-inclusive resorts have hogged up much of the area’s reputation, there are actually so many other fun attractions in Punta Cana outside of the hotels! We loved exploring Scape Park, swimming in the Ojos Indigenas cenotes, eating at gorgeous restaurants like SBG, taking day trips from Punta Cana, and so much more.
Other Places in the Dominican Republic to Visit
- 40+ Things to do in Santiago, Dominican Republic
- Top Puerto Plata Highlights & Day Trips
- 10 Reasons to Visit Monte Cristi: Dominican Republic’s Hidden Gem
- Best Luxury Resorts in the Dominican Republic
If you’re only interested in the Dominican resort scene, then you’ll find those in places like Punta Cana, La Romana, or Puerto Plata. If you want to veer away from chain hotels and resorts, we have some world-class villas and private homestays in our guide: the best boutique hotels in the Dominican Republic you can rent.
6. Weather in the Dominican Republic
As a tropical island, the weather is– you guessed it– tropical! The weather generally fluctuates between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. However, the months of July through October are hurricane season and, thus the worst time to visit the Dominican Republic.
The Mountains: The Dominican Alps area, however, has its own cooler climate with weather ranging from 20 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can enjoy the gorgeous view from the mountains during the day and later enjoy a brisk cool night’s sleep. The best towns in the Dominican Alps are Constanza and Jarabacoa.
7. Best Time to Visit the Dominican Republic
November through April are the best times to visit the Dominican Republic. However, avoid the crowded holidays (especially Semana Santa) and the hurricane season. As we have detailed in our Best Time to Visit the Dominican Republic Guide, the weather is different around the country. So please take the specific area and things you want to do into consideration when deciding what the best time for you to visit is.
8. Holiday Celebrations in the Dominican Republic
As detailed in our Dominican Culture Guide, Carnaval, Christmas Eve, and Semana Santa are the top three important holidays celebrated in the Dominican Republic. Independence Day on February 27, is probably the fourth most. If you like to travel during big and boisterous cultural celebrations, then these might be the times for you.
If you hate noise and crowds, then seriously avoid travel dates during those times. Especially if you’re traveling on a budget as prices will soar.
9. How to Dress in the Dominican Republic: Etiquette & Street Harassment
The Dominican Republic is pretty liberal when it comes to how you want to dress. You can wear short shorts and tank tops. Thong bikinis and tight dresses. However, just note that street harassment by men on the streets is a horrible problem in the Dominican Republic.
So if you’re a woman and you leave the house on foot, looking cute but without a man next to you, expect an insane amount of attention as you walk around the streets. Especially in the big cities like Santo Domingo. This is less common in Punta Cana and Cabarete.
If you’re a woman alone in Santo Domingo or Santiago, seriously take an Uber from door to door to avoid sexual harassment and catcalling. It’s on another level here. It sucks, and I’m so sorry that we have to take such things into account!
10. What to Pack for Your Dominican Republic Vacation
How to pack for the Dominican Republic depends on what you’re going to do, what part you are visiting, and when you’re going. But almost everywhere you go, make sure to pack plenty of loose and airy clothes, comfortable walking shoes, sandals with grip, and short-sleeved shirts. This type of attire helps you stay cool and ward off mosquito bites.
Here are some other special DR packing tips:
- If you’re going to the Dominican Alps, then be sure to throw in a sweater and some hiking boots.
- If you’re staying in the cities or by the beach, then you definitely need to dress comfortably for hot weather. But also consider cute outfits for fancy dinners.
- Many Dominicans LOVE to dress up when going out to nice restaurants. Do not stroll up to an upscale restaurant in shorts and flip-flops, it can be disrespectful.
- Do not wear shorts outdoors at sunset or night; the mosquitoes will feast on your legs!
- If you’re going on lots of water adventures, like chasing waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, then be sure to pack water shoes, bath suits, a waterproof backpack, a sunhat, and lots of eco-friendly sunscreen.
- If you travel during the rainy/hurricane season, pack an umbrella or a poncho if you’re doing hikes.
- For long bus rides or flights, packing a warm hoodie is a must since you never know how cold the air conditioning will get.
- I don’t like the idea of bug repellent unless it’s safe for your skin. Instead, I prefer to wear loose, airy clothes. But here is one mosquito repellent brand that actually WORKS! And here is an organic eco-friendly option. Neither have DEET.
11. Communicating in the Dominican Republic
Given its long colonial history with Spain, the Dominican Republic speaks… yup, Spanish! What makes Dominican Spanish so special, though, is our cadence and accent. If you’re really nervous about the language barrier, contact Dominican tour guides beforehand to have things set up by the time you arrive.
- Dominican Spanish: We drop many D’s and R’s and S’s from our words for efficiency. However, because we are mostly Black, our Dominican accent has unfortunately been met with prejudice and racism. Despite it being one of the oldest Spanish accents coming from the Canary Islands and Southern Spain.
- Speaking English in DR: If you want to travel outside of the resorts, you might have a hard time getting around in the Dominican Republic if you don’t speak Spanish. But that’s OK. Some Pictionary hand gestures and a translator app can get you far. Memorize some words!
- Dominican Slang: Additionally, like every culture in the world, the Dominican language is full of colloquialisms and ever-changing slang. If you want to brush up on your Spanish before you travel to the Dominican Republic, be sure to check out our guide to Dominican Slang Words.
12. Exchanging Your Money in the Dominican Republic
Unless you’re hiding out in a resort, most places in the Dominican Republic will only accept cash and no credit cards. That means it’s important to understand how to get local money when you arrive.
- Currency in the Dominican Republic: The currency in the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. The exchange rate fluctuates daily, but the most consistent way of remembering the exchange rate is 1 Dollar = about 50 Pesos.
- ATM Withdrawal ★: This is the safest and overall BEST way to exchange your money in the Dominican Republic. Do this in moderate amounts. Do NOT risk carrying around a ton of cash. Petty theft and robberies are not uncommon when you travel. So play it safe, pay that ATM fee, and withdraw sporadically.
- Exchanging Cash: The Dominican Republic is one of the only countries I’ve traveled to where I feel I’ll get a good rate if I decide to exchange U.S. dollars for the local currency. However, nobody wants to walk around with a bunch of cash. So only resort to this option if you have no other alternative and must carry cash with you.
Bonus tip: Since the Dominican Republic’s second major source of revenue is foreign remittances (Dominican families abroad sending money back home), there are lots of industries and businesses built around exchanging U.S. dollars for pesos at a very good rate. This also means that if you are strapped for pesos but have cash, you can often pay people in dollars with an exchange rate that is rounded up in their favor.
13. Cost of Travel/Living in the Dominican Republic
The below includes a sense of the cost when either traveling or being an expat/digital nomad in the Dominican Republic.
- Rent: We have compiled a list of the BEST hotels/rentals in the Dominican Republic (click to see). The hotel/Airbnb prices are relatively affordable. But to give you an overview idea… For about $900/month, you could rent a nice condo apartment in Santo Domingo (with a pool and parking included). Wowza!
- Uber: A 15-minute Uber ride in Santo Domingo can cost you somewhere between $3-$10, terrible traffic included.
- Food: For $6 you can get an entire plate of rice, salad, beans, and pollo guisado plus a coke! And if you’re there long enough to do grocery shopping, the prices on local homegrown vegetables and Dominican fruits will turn you into a chef. I couldn’t stop making my own fresh passion fruit juice!
However, just because a place is more affordable to you does not mean you should underpay or exploit locals. Don’t be that kind of problematic traveler/expat in the Dominican Republic. Please remember to pay locals fairly and tip them for their good service!
14. Quick Summary of Dominican History, Politics & Religion
Although we go into further detail with the history, politics, and religion of the Dominican Republic in our Dominican Culture and Important History article, the important beats to know are that:
- We were invaded, colonized, and enslaved by Spain for centuries. It has had some pretty tragic consequences, which are still felt today.
- Dominicans have a multiracial and multiethnic background which is intrinsic to understanding the country’s culture. Read more on Blackness in the Dominican Republic here.
- There were TWO ruthless dictators in the 1900s. One of them reigned into the 1990s! Both were backed by the United States. Oy vey.
- Like most of Latin America, we were invaded twice by the USA and still recovering from the detrimental effects.
- The country is majority Roman Catholic and the government reflects a lot of radical religious conservatism.
15. Food in the Dominican Republic & Dominican Cuisine
Food is a quintessential part of traveling to the Dominican Republic. Our meals are rich in African, Iberian, and indigenous influences. Here are just a few Dominican dishes you can NOT leave without trying. Check out our FULL post on Traditional Dominican food to try for photos, descriptions, and additional recommendations.
- Habichuelas con dulce
- Onion Tea
16. Dominican Books to Read Before You Go
Despite being the largest minority group in New York City, Dominicans remain underrepresented in various forms of media. But that’s slowly changing.
We’re not just dominating on the baseball field and in music– we are now producing some of the most popular books of the past two decades. Below are some culturally meaningful books by Dominican/Dominican-American writers:
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Perhaps one of the most prolific works of fiction by a Dominican writer, this book is rich with Dominican history, folklore, and language. The book makes you feel like you’re time-traveling through NYC and DR, and the footnotes tell their own stories.
- Dominicanish by Josefina Baez– Reading this book will make you feel like you just witnessed a performance– probably because it is written by Josefina Baez, an important cultural icon in the world of Dominican-American theatre.
- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo– This novel offers a sharp yet poetic contrast between the Dominican-American experience and the Dominican experience by showcasing two protagonists related by blood and distanced by circumstance.
- The Dominican Republic Reader – This 560-page curation of Dominican knowledge is the best resource for fans of history, statistics, personal anecdotes, and general non-fiction.
- Undocumented by Dan-El Padilla
- Why the Cock Fights by Michelle Wucker
- In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
These books will give you insight into Dominican culture that will prove invaluable as you travel. They’ll also help you feel more connected with Dominican people when you get there—and they’re just good books. If you are interested in finding more books by Dominican authors, check out the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Library. Or subscribe to our newsletter for future Dominican Republic cultural and travel guides.
17. Dominican Movies to Watch Before You Go
When it comes to cinema, the Dominican Republic has traditionally kept its film industry within the genre of comedy. However, the past decade has changed that! The following films are the most notable films to come out of the Dominican Republic in the past few years. Each of the films below resists traditional Dominican storytelling and have done the best internationally:
- Carpinteros(2016)- Combining romance and drama within the setting of a real-life prison called La Victoria, this film is a must-watch for its rugged cinematography and powerful performances. It was also the Dominican Republic’s first film to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival! Available to watch on Google Play.
- Reinbou(2017)- A young boy retraces the history of his dead father to the Dominican Civil War of 1965 with the help of a magical book. If you’re like me and absolutely adore magical realism, this is the film for you. Available on HBO Max.
- Cocote(2017)- An evangelical Christian man returns home to mourn his murdered father. This film is perfect for those interested in learning more about the different expressions of Dominican spirituality. Available on Amazon Prime via Topic.
- Hotel Coppelia (2019)- This film is so good we even made a TikTok about it. It tells the story of a group of Dominican sex workers whose brothel turns into a site for revolutionaries during the second US-backed invasion of the Dominican Republic. Available on HBO Max.
- Veneno: La Primera Caida, El Relámpago de Jack (2017)- This film is a fictionalized telling of the life of popular Dominican wrestler Jack Veneno. The film has impressive fight scenes, the perfect amount of magical realism, and the most talented actors in the Dominican film industry involved. Available on HBO Max.
If you want our full run down, check out our guide to the best Dominican movies. You’ll get in touch with how Dominicans live, some of our history/culture, and you might even learn some colloquialisms that will help you when traveling.
18. Uber In the Dominican Republic
It does! Uber is available in the major cities, Santiago and Santo Domingo. And now also in Punta Cana! Yay! Rides can range from $3-$14 depending on the distance and traffic. I once took a thirty-minute Uber ride from the airport to a friend’s home in Santo Domingo Oeste, and it was $18 dollars.
A cool thing about Uber in the Dominican Republic is that they also offer UberMoto! By ordering on the app, you can have a motorcyclist pick you up and take you to your destination for a fraction of the price. However, motorcycles can be scary, so decide at your own discretion.
19. The BEST Way to Get Around the Dominican Republic
- Hire Private Drivers & Ubers ★: If you’re someone who is trying to enjoy as much of the Dominican Republic comfortably (and time is more valuable to you), then the very best way is to hire a driver to take you around. Private drivers can cost around $100-$200/day (depending on the route/length and if you’re paying for the driver’s food/accommodation). Leave a comment below if you want a few drivers’ contact info. For Punta Cana, we loved Jose Manuel! +1 (849) 403-4647 <– his Whatsapp.
- Uber: Within the big cities, absolutely take Ubers around. They are the best, safest, and most efficient way to move within the cities. Check our guide to Santo Domingo for all the things to do in our amazing capital!
- Private Bus Routes: Private bus companies like Caribe Tours and Metro Servicios offer cross-country transportation at an affordable price. You can purchase a Caribe Tours bus ticket from Santo Domingo all the way to Sosua for about $10. They’re not that slow, but they’re also not the fastest way to get around. This is the middle ground between private drivers and public transportation. The seats are comfortable with great air conditioning (bring a hoodie).
- Hotel Cab Companies: This will cost you 5x the price of an Uber. Avoid hailing any cab driving down the street for your safety. If you don’t have a number, ask your hotel or search for your nearby taxi cab service for a ride. When you call the taxi service, always ask how much the ride will cost before confirming!
20. Local/Public Transportation in the Dominican Republic
I don’t recommend this for first-time travelers. But, if you are really tight on cash and want a truly immersive transportation experience in the Dominican Republic, here are some super “cheap” options available for getting around. And here is a report of how our friend Fausto, took all public transportation from Santo Domingo all the way to Bahia de las Aguilas.
- La Guagua: A guagua is a public transportation bus that is not controlled by the government, but rather a network of drivers who drive on specific routes. The guagua’s can get really packed, so if personal space is important to you, we suggest finding another method of transportation! They cost between 30-35 pesos, and if you’re noticeably a foreigner who is not sure of how it works, we don’t recommend experimenting with them in the big cities.
- Motoconcho: A motoconcho is a motorcycle ride that functions as a taxi. It is 25-100 pesos depending on where you start/end. These are the best ways to get around in Cabarete. You say “concho?” and they’ll nod if they’re giving rides. I can only recommend this in towns where everyone knows each other. If you’re in a major city, then order these through Uber to be safe.
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About the Co-Writer: Greisy Genao
Greisy Genao (she/they) is a published poet and filmmaker from Queens, NY with a BA in English Writing and Film Studies. As a Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher, she has researched Dominican folklore and film in the Dominican Republic. Their award-winning film work has been celebrated across the Dominican diaspora and praised at film festivals from Santo Domingo to New York City.
Greisy has also produced “Stories of the Diaspora,” a series dedicated to capturing the narratives of multi-generational Dominicans in New York. As a multidisciplinary storyteller, Greisy seeks to explore and honor the connection between folklore and nostalgia as it appears in the hyphenated Dominican experience. Follow Greisy on Instagram @Grei-mg.
About the Co-Writer: Gerry Isabelle
Gerry is the editor and founder of Dominican Abroad, a popular travel and culture blog that shows people how to travel meaningfully, highlighting cultural gems and unique experiences. Follow her on Instagram @DominicanAbroad.