THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Our country, your vacation
The Dominican Republic is one of the most visited destinations in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is known for its hospitality and the warmth of its people. The exuberant natural beauty, intriguing history, and rich culture combine to make it a country like no other. For vacationers, the Dominican Republic is a symbol of exotic dreams, a paradise of sun, beach, sea and the Caribbean joy and life. To Christopher Columbus it was worthy of the most beautiful name ‘La Hispaniola’, while its natives honored it with the name ‘Quisqueya’ (Fruitful Mother Earth).
Today the island is known as Hispaniola. It offers a unique variety of natural beauty: luscious subtropical vegetation, mountains 3,000 meters high (over 10,000 feet), the famous white-sand beaches surrounding the entire country, and the turquoise sea which turns every Caribbean dream into an idyllic real-life experience. In order to make your travels to the Dominican Republic even more convenient, we have put together the some interesting and important facts to help you.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The Atlantic Ocean borders the north side of the island and the Caribbean Sea is on the south side. Haiti is to the west with a mutual border of approximately 200 miles. On the eastern end is the Mona Channel (Canal de la Mona) and across the channel is Puerto Rico. It is an island paradise with a diverse geography: three mountain chains, valleys, plains, and wonderful beaches with fine, white sand along its coast. Abundant vegetation characterizes this very fertile land. The Cordillera Central is the highest mountain range in the country, but probably the most important geographical fact for all vacation lovers is the approximately 1,000 miles of coastline, providing the Dominican Republic with pristine beaches and stunning bays.
You will also find some surprising extremes in the Dominican Republic, including the following:
• Pico Duarte (3087 meters or 10,164 feet): the highest mountain in the Caribbean (see details about our excursion to Pico Duarte)
• Yaqué del Norte: the longest river in the Caribbean with a length of 297 kilometers or 185 miles
• Agua Blanca: the highest waterfall in the Caribbean at a height of 83 meters or 272 feet (close to Constanze, find your hotel here)
• Valle Verde (Green Valley): with the lowest temperatures found anywhere in the whole Caribbean
• Bani Dunes: the largest desert in the Caribbean (best to explore with our 4-day tour “Unknown Southwest”)
Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola during the last days of his first intended journey to the West Indies on December 5th, 1492. Columbus and his companions made note of a very distinct population of friendly indigenous ‘Tainos’, who welcomed the exploring Europeans. Only one year later the city of today’s Santo Domingo was founded.
Columbus and his expedition members observed that the rivers on this island were a good source of gold, which motivated the European settlement. The indigenous group of Tainos who inhabited the Island were then enslaved, and through the years, eradicated, which gave the Spanish full access to Hispaniola. However the French, hearing of the island’s riches, soon captured the western part of the island. In 1804, the country that is now Haiti declared independence from France, motivating the eastern population of Hispaniola as well. The Dominican Republic was born on February 27th, 1844, declaring independence from Spain.
The climate in the Dominican Republic is predominantly tropical with ideal temperatures for travelling and enjoying sea and sun between 80°F (winter) and 90°F (summer) with a gentle Caribbean breeze. There is also a perfect year-round ocean temperature of around 80°F which makes it even more enjoyable on the picture-perfect beaches. However for nature lovers and active vacationers, it can get considerably colder in areas like the Valle Verde and Cordillera Central with its Pico Duarte, where temperatures might drop to freezing – also unique in the Caribbean. We can advise you on what to expect depending on your unique Dominican vacation.
Population and Territory
The Dominican Republic has a population of just over 10 million people and is politically divided into 31 provinces and one National District – the capital of Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo (officially Santo Domingo de Guzmán) is the capital city in the Dominican Republic with three million people and is the oldest city of the New World.
Dominican Republic has a total of six airports across the country. These are:
- Las Américas International Airport (SDQ) Santo Domingo
- La Romana International Airport (LRM) La Romana
- Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) Punta Cana / Bavaro
- El Catey International Airport (AZS) Samaná / Las Terrenas
- Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP) Puerto Plata
- Santiago International Airport (STI) Santiago
Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are the two main airports of the Dominican Republic with non-stop flights from many European, American, Canadian and Latin American cities. Delta, Jet Blue, Sunwing Airlines and Air Transat (among others) offer flights to Punta Cana and Santo Domingo from many American and Canadian Cities, such as Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Toronto and many more. Puerto Plata, Santiago and La Romana are serviced by selected flights each day from New York, Miami, Toronto or Montreal whereas the smaller Samana El Catey airport (with access to Las Terrenas and Las Galeras) hosts flights from Montreal, Toronto and New York, plus seasonal flights from Halifax and Ottawa.
As a professional tour operator and travel agency we’re more than happy to research the best airfares to the most convenient airports in the Dominican Republic. Please use our travel request page.
As of May 1, 2012 citizens of ALL nationalities are required to have a passport with a minimum of six months remaining validity in order to enter the Dominican Republic. Tourists do not require a visa to enter the Dominican Republic for a stay of up to 60 days. However, on arrival and before going through passport control, every visitor must purchase a tourist card (“tarjeta de turismo”, $10.00) for a maximum stay of 30 days. Visits extending beyond 30 days are subject to an additional fee to be paid upon departure. For the most up to date information, please use the website of the State Department of the United States and Canada.
The Dominican Peso (RD$) is the official currency. American dollars are easily used in tourist areas. Credit Cards are accepted in international restaurants, hotel chains and tour agencies. For smaller transactions such as supermarkets, snack vendors, bars and tips we recommend using the Dominican Peso, which can be conveniently obtained through many conveniently located ATM’s, accepting major bank and credit cards.
Spanish is the official language in the Dominican Republic. However most tourist facilities, like hotels, etc. have staff that speak English and other languages. If you run into a problem, you can always call WICKED for help.
Legal Drinking Age
The legal drinking age in the Dominican Republic is 18 years old.
Drugs and Dominican Republic are a real no-no. If you do get caught with any they will take you to jail, and it will most likely be a long time before you get out.
Driving a vehicle in the Dominican Republic is allowed for people of at least 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license. Every now and then the national traffic police (Amet) will perform routine checks, so you must carry your driver’s license with you.
Electric energy in the Dominican Republic operates at 110 volts/60 hertz. We recommend the use of a converter and/or a voltage protector if you plan on using technology with different voltage. The same wall plugs as in the US are used in the Dominican Republic.
Every little corner store or restaurant in any city in the Dominican Republic offers safe food. Local Dominican food is very delicious and diverse. A plate known as ‘la bandera’ (the flag) is made of rice, green beans, meat, vegetables and plantains. The Dominican ‘sancocho’ is a gastronomic derivative of the Latin cooking style, and every region in the country has its own way of preparing sancocho. In fact, while traveling within the country, it’s worthwhile to stop at the small roadside stalls, as each is offering delicious local food or snacks which vary from province to province.
Baseball is the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, not only as a sport or for recreation, but as part of the national identity and pride.
Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic and is the national dance, enjoyed at many folk events. Bachata is also popular and is also said to have first emerged in the Dominican Republic. This style of music and dance is part of the island folklore, and we hope you have a chance to see it and try it for yourself.
The roads in the Dominican Republic are pretty good, especially compared to other islands and countries in the Caribbean. The major routes are in a good condition which allows, by Caribbean standards, for reasonably rapid travel. There is a multi-lane highway between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana/Bavaro, and between Santo Domingo and Santiago which brings the travel time down to about two hours in either direction. Recently a new toll highway opened between the Samana peninsula and Santo Domingo, decreasing the travel time to two hours as well. Despite these good conditions, secondary and minor roads might have potholes or unmarked obstacles, if they are paved at all.
In general, the traffic is similar to many other Latin American countries. Traffic rules are more recommendation than law, and most intersections are (unofficially) dominated by a first-come/first-served basis, or by the right of the bigger vehicle. There are traffic laws but they are sometimes ignored, and typical of many less developed countries, on the road it is the biggest vehicle that dominates. However, while traffic in the city of Santo Domingo can be a bit challenging, driving with your rental car through the tranquil and stunning countryside of the Dominican Republic can be a true pleasure. Of course you can book your rental car directly with us which secures you the best rates along with our expert knowledge, insider information and advice about where to go with your vehicle.
The Dominican constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Over 90% of the population is Roman Catholic, but there are also small communities of Protestants and Jews.