Tips for Travelers
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Access for Travelers with Disabilities
By law, resorts and hotels on beach properties cannot exceed three floors. This isn’t a disability-friendly law, but it does, by default, make navigation over the resort grounds a bit easier since most restaurants and facilities will be on the ground floor. Make sure to request a room on the ground floor, in case there is no elevator. Many of the all-inclusive resorts have rooms for travelers with disabilities. However, outside of the all-inclusive resorts, the Dominican Republic isn’t exactly an easy place to get around, so expect some logistical glitches. It’s best to check with a travel agent prior to booking. Your agent should make the right reservations at the right hotels.
Women Traveling Alone
It’s generally safe for women to travel in the Dominican Republic. However, women traveling alone are best off playing it safe and doing any trekking during the day and on public transportation so that they are not alone. You might be given some grief and opposition if you tell a Dominican (male or female) that you wish to travel throughout the country alone. It is not seen as “right” for women to “have” to travel alone. The major thing you will come face to face with is the machismo of Dominican men in the form of whistling and ogling. They mean no harm and it is a completely normal interaction for them even though it might startle a newcomer. Just be smart about whom you talk to and whom you decide to befriend. Using common sense is always a good idea. Don’t wear flashy jewelry—you don’t want to attract attention for a robbery—and dress conservatively when traveling alone. If you carry a purse, don’t carry all your money in it. Separate your cash, credit cards, and bank cards so they aren’t all in one spot.
The days of senior travelers content to sit for their entire trip on a lawn chair in the shade with a book are all but gone. Older travelers are finding a lot more pep in their worldly steps as they globe-trot and aren’t content to sit around as much (okay, so taking a load off for a bit is a much-deserved break, of course). In the Dominican Republic, there are oodles of things for the energetic to do.
Seniors on a budget may want to consider the all-inclusive resort. They offer comfort, security, cleanliness, and luxury at an unbeatable bargain price, and excursions can be booked right at the front desk if you should choose to have some adventure at the last minute.
Enjoying your golden years golfing will be purely divine in the Dominican Republic. The nation was voted Golf Destination of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators for its 2009 celebrations. Many of the all-inclusive resorts and major hotels can organize tee times at any course.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers
There have been positive strides made in the gay and lesbian community of the Dominican Republic recently: Gay bars are able to have a longer shelf-life than before without being forced to close their doors; the first all-gay, all-inclusive resort opened up on the Península de Samaná; and the first gay pride parade was held July 1, 2001, in Santo Domingo to little opposition.
Still, homosexuality is relatively taboo, while not intolerable to most, and just isn’t something that can be openly shown. If you’re traveling with your partner (or you meet someone there), showing affection, even holding hands in public, is not acceptable.
For gay and lesbian nightlife options, Santo Domingo has the best scene. Many of the bars are in the Ciudad Colonial. Check out www.monaga.com/casamonaga.htm and www.santo-domingo-gay-tourism.com/ for some info on where to go. Some venues can be more discreet than others.
You’ve done the all-inclusive resort, the spa getaway, and the city shopping spree. But sometimes, you wonder if there is more to vacationing than just making it through the buffet line for the fifth night in a row while wondering if you will fit into your bikini by the time you leave. Maybe you want to show thanks for your good fortune, or perhaps you want to learn about the community you are visiting and at the same time give back to them. Well, this is what volunteer tourism is all about. You will contribute to the local economy in a bigger way than buying a trinket that will just sit on a shelf at home.
Voluntourism is the best way to augment your vacation in the Dominican Republic. Lots of companies are jumping on the bandwagon of voluntourism, so do your homework before you sign on to any one company. Reputable companies should be able to produce a list of past participants and their contacts.
While voluntourism isn’t free, it shouldn’t be expensive to help others, either. You should expect to pay for housing, meals, and some other costs, but the expenses shouldn’t be exorbitant.
If you are concerned about not getting enough rest and relaxation from the stresses in your regular life, consider mixing a shorter stint as a volunteer with a fun vacation for yourself, and your vacation will be a well-rounded one.
Sustainable and Responsible Travel
Reducing the impact on the country that you travel in is a responsible way to visit a new culture. To make a positive impact as you travel, help conserve natural resources and support the local culture and economy. Here are just a few ideas on how you can do that.
Learn at least a few courtesy words in Spanish. Although the Dominican people are very hospitable and many know English, it is very appreciated (and the polite thing to do) when you try to speak Spanish.
Visit during a local festival. Not only is this great fun, but it is a wonderful way to learn about the culture through music, history, dance, art, and crafts. Dominicans can throw a party!
Choose Dominican-owned businesses, restaurants, and hotels as often as you can. If you are cooking for yourself, shop at the local farmers market. The produce on the island is gorgeous, fresh, and cheap. However, when buying seafood, limit what you buy to fish and shellfish that are in great abundance in the ocean. Avoid buying food in containers to go and instead eat inside the restaurant. This will minimize your waste on the road. It can be hard to be in a country that hasn’t fully grasped the idea of recycling and where you see garbage strewn. So if you see trash, pick some up and put it in a bin.
Shop in the colmados (corner stores). It supports the true Dominican workhorses of the nation. Have a fria (beer) and a sandwich there, and listen to music; they are the keepers of the culture and hold the mood of the country in their hands. Whatever you do, support them by spending some money there. Buy a telephone card, gum, or some platanitos (plantain chips).
When shopping: Support the local artists by buying their hand-made products. Say “no gracias” to mass production. Where is the personality in that? Know what is endangered. In the Dominican Republic, watch out for red coral and tortoiseshell anything! Check out www.traffic.org for up-to-date information. Use public transportation instead of renting a car. Dominican highways and streets are dangerous to drive on anyway, so let a local do it for you and you’ll be supporting the economy at the same time.
When choosing a beach, go to a Blue Flag beach. Communities that have earned this moniker for their playas have been practicing responsible environmental policies. There are seven in the Dominican Republic and they are named at www.blueflag.org.
Shut off your lights, air-conditioning, fan, TV, computer, and radio when you leave your hotel room. The Dominican Republic is notorious for electricity shortages. Help ’em out. Better yet, pick a hotel that is environmentally aware and practices energy-saving tactics too. Find one at www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com
Hey, Wanderer, stay on that trail! When hiking, it may be tempting to venture off, but you could be seriously damaging some land or treading on and destroying flora and frightening fauna.
Perhaps most important: Respect the culture you are in and their traditions and customs. Things that are not normal in your culture are commonplace here and vice versa. Respecting the Dominican way of life for the short time you are visiting is responsible travel. You wouldn’t want someone to come to your house and sneer at you, would you?
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition