Planning Your Time
- 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
Santo Domingo is a vibrant city with a lot to offer. Tourists can touch the same fortress walls where Columbus, Cortés, and Ponce de León once leaned. History buffs will need more than a couple of days to soak it all in and may want to hire a guide (the official tourism ones wear blue shirts and have Ministry of Tourism name tags) in order to fully appreciate the significance of all the sights.
They are often very sure that you need them. This is debatable. Some are very knowledgeable (always agree on a price before commencing), but if you’d rather go it on your own, a simple no gracias should suffice. Many tourists can probably cover the Ciudad Colonial in a couple of days with a self-guided tour, making sure to hit a couple of museums and save some time for shopping on El Conde.
For certain, the major tourism draw for Santo Domingo is the Ciudad Colonial, including sights like the Catedral Primada de América and the Fortaleza Ozama, but other sights elsewhere in the city are worth visiting as well, like the Jardín Botánico Nacional, the Plaza de la Cultura, and the Faro a Colón.
The Ciudad Colonial is easily walked in a comfortable pair of shoes. There are also plenty of motoconchos around for hiring a ride if walking isn’t your thing—riding on the back of speedy little motorbikes can be a way to cover the small area quickly or if you need to leave the Ciudad Colonial.
To get an official guide, go to the Parque Colón and look to the ones sitting near the cathedral or in the shade of the trees around the park. The key tip-off that they are official is the outfit—khaki pants and light blue dress shirt—and they have licenses (sometimes hanging around their necks) with the official state tourism logo on it. Ask to see it.
These walking tours cost US$20–30 and last about 2.5 hours. The guides will take you to the major sights of the Ciudad Colonial. Always be sure to agree on the price before going with the guide. Some are notorious for trying to make an extra buck by the time the tour is over.
Another alternative is to join a large group for a tour. Major agencies include Prieto Tours (Av. Francia 125, tel. 809/685-0102, www.prieto-tours.com), Omni Tours (Roberto Pastoria 204, tel. 809/565-6591, www.omnitours.com.do), and Metro Tours (Av. 27 de Febrero, tel. 809/544-4580, www.metrotours.com.do).
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition