Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 02/22/12

Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 02/22/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Colorado. Connection through Miami. Total flight time takes about seven hours, not including layovers which can be long when going to the West coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is mixed with apartments and houses with yards. Most of the apartments are within walking distance to the embassy, most of the houses are a 20-40 minute commute. Generally the apartments and houses are very nice with tile floors, detailed woodwork, modern kitchens and good closet space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are more expensive than in the US, unless you're buying rice or tropical fruit. It's an island, so almost everything has to be imported!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More summer clothes! Good quality clothes are expensive here, and shopping choices are limited. Many locals with the resources to do it prefer to fly to Miami for shopping than buying on the local economy.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yes, they have lots of American chains here and many unique local restaurants. The have Chilis, Outback, McDonalds, KFC, BurgerKing, Tony Romas, etc. Prices are comparable to the US.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Limited, but the grocery chain "Bravo" carries some items.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes, they are worse in the summertime.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have a DPO address or via the pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available, costs about $250-$300 per month for full-time help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, readily available, many options.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Not safe, don't do it. This is a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, there are a few options but I'm only familiar with the Episcopalian service in a small church here, it is good but very small.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No newspapers, but some limited TV channels.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is a must, although some locals speak limited English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Very difficult. Sidewalk and road conditions are poor with lots of potholes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Some of the taxis are safe, you have to take the right ones. They will cost about $5 to almost anywhere in town. I wouldn't take the buses. There aren't any trains here.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUVs are best because of road quality, but you would be fine in a sedan too. Toyotas and Hondas are common here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, good internet access at reasonable costs. We pay around $100 per month for cable/internet/phone package.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Claro and Orange are the two large companies here, both have reliable service.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good and readily available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some, but there are more people wanting work than there are available positions.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. Dominicans like to get dressed up, they are pretty fashion conscious.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime here is a problem, but it could be worse. There have been some problems with break-ins and muggings. You must use street smarts here, and if you do, then you'll likely be fine. If you expect to be able to jog in the park after dark, you will find your lifestyle crimped here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is adequate, but for more complex issues most people fly to Miami. Dengue is a concern, you need bug spray here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate to good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

70-80 degrees year round. Gets a little humid in the summertime, but not unbearable.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Carol Morgan school is supposed to be good. People also have their kids in St. Georges and New Horizons. They schools here are generally good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Good, inexpensive, and readily available. We have our kids in a bilingual preschool, and they love it!

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, lots via the schools.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Families really seem happy here. Some (but not all) of the singles and childless couples are pretty unhappy. It's partly what you make of it. If you want a cultured, urban experience, this is not the place for you. If you enjoy excursions or a slower pace, you will be happy here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are malls, movie theaters, bars, restaurants, etc. There is a good variety of choices here, but again, this is not NYC or anything.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is an AWESOME post for families. There are tons of kids at post, and families here tend to be very pleased with quality of life. Singles and childless couples seem to get bored at times....although there is a decent variety of bars and restaurants, this is admittedly not NYC.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There seems to be a good deal of homophobia here, but there is a small active community from what I know.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

This is a racially mixed country with many different shades of skin color and a general acceptance of varying races. With that said, there is some prejudice here against Haitians and very dark skinned folks are often assumed to be Haitian.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beaches here are amazing! The weather is great year-round, albeit a bit hot in the summer. The proximity of excursions makes it easy to get away for quick weekend trips.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots of great excursions to beaches and mountains. Inside the city there is the zoo, aquarium, museums, small shopping malls, and the historic colonial zone.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Larimar and amber jewelry. Rum. Artisan items.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Quick and easy access to outdoor activities. Beaches, mountains, waterfalls, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, scuba, deep sea fishing, etc. This country has it all, and it's all within a 2-3 hour drive from Santo Domingo.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't explore the country much you can save money. But you will get bored quick staying in Santo Domingo all the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! I wish they would let me extend my tour here, but they won't let me! This place is great!!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen!

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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