Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 06/04/12
Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
Numerous flights available to Miami, NY, NJ, ATL, Boston. It's easy to get to the States.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
First overseas experience with US Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Commute time and the quality of housing are Variable. The commute was the most despised thing in the DR. Commute time ranges from 10 mins walking to 45 mins driving.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Many US-style supermarkets and most things are available. Sometimes at a little more than US prices, but the COLA covers it. There's also Pricemart, a Costco-esque place that is pretty good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Specialty spices. Good cheese.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Many American fast food places. If you like fried chicken this is the place for you as it's very popular.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Not a lot of veggie options. You could find Morningstar fake sausage patties for $7 a box. Tofu is pretty common.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap and plentiful. Don't expect inspired cooking though.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The GSO compound has a small gym. Local gyms are available, but everyone tries to go between 5-7pm so traffic getting there is terrible.
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 recommended. Write a check at the embassy and pay cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Not really. Yes...recommend paying in advance with Tricom to save money and save numerous trips to pay your bills.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's pretty hard to get around without Spanish. Few Dominicans know English outside the Zona Colonial and those that do are probably going to try to hustle you.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Many, though probably not impossible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Wouldn't use them.
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?
Everyone thinks an SUV is needed here. Americans and locals alike. If you are feeling insecure and want to look rich you should bring one. Otherwise a standard sedan is fine. On Dominican roads, size wins so the bigger your vehicle the more right you have to the road. The government has invested a lot of $ in roads connecting the capital to the major tourist destinations. There are a few places (Villa Pajon) and some beaches where a 4x4 is needed but, invariably someone else will have an SUV to use. In 20 years of driving I was never in an accident until I got the DR. Twice I was hit, but I was not at fault. The second time the woman who hit me literally had no front bumper. And she hit me from the back/side when traffic was going ~2 mph. Needless to see she was not a good driver. That's how most people are.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yeah...not very fast and $40/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
Not a lot.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Generally business suits. Complimented with gold chains if you want to look like a local.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Don't go running with your iPod in public places.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Pretty good for dentists. Cleaning, check-up, and xray for US$30.
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?
Pretty good. The DR isn't very industrialized.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Tropical. Never THAT hot, but rarely cool. Unless you go to the mountains. Which you should do.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Smallish and young outside the embassy.
2. Morale among expats:
Decent if you stay away from the negative people. At times the traffic and local attitude can get you down -- particularly if you work in the consulate. Best to keep in perspective that you can easily go to beaches, mountains, diving, and the US cheaply.
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families seem to hang out a lot together. Singles can do the beaches and bars. Restaurants are ok, but never great. If you want to date locals...well you should keep in mind the average Dominican makes it to 6th grade.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There was one park that was known as a gay hangout in the Zona Colonial when I was there. The papers made a big deal about it, which isn't surprising in a super macho country like the DR. No one ever caused trouble there and it was just homophobic reporting. There are a couple gay bars. In general, not an open place though.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
African-Americans occasionally faced problems getting into clubs.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Don't miss going to Villa Pajon near Constanza. Cool, fresh air, green grass, no car horns, no loud music. You'll think you are in another country. My biggest regret was only going there once.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Beaches, cheap rum and beer, easy access to the US, lots of sunshine.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beaches, cheap rum and beer, easy access to the US, lots of sunshine, diving, snorkeling, resorts. There's enough to keep you busy for two years.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
One tour is enough.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, patience, and dancing shoes.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Sanky Panky the Movie. Especially if you are doing consular work.