Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 04/30/13

Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 04/30/13

Background:

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

First expat experience.

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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?

Ohio. It takes about seven hours with a connection through New York or New Jersey.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost 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?

A mix of houses and apartments. We are a family of four and we have an apartment with three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. The apartment is nice, but it doesn't have any outdoor space.

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

You can buy most things at the major grocery stores, but U.S. products tend to cost quite a bit more than they would back home.

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

We are glad that we shipped paper products, detergent, good shampoos and conditioners. Sometimes I have my family send me cereals that we can't find here or that are ridiculously expensive here. I would bring a good supply of shoes for everyone in the family. Shoes are expensive here and are often of lesser quality than what you would find in the US.

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

Pretty much everything is available in terms of fast food (except for Chipotle): decent Italian, Spanish, and Middle Eastern food. There are a couple of Japanese restaurants. Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian places are very difficult to find.

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

Mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and 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?

About $300 per month for a full-time housekeeper.

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

Yes. People seem to like the Body Shop.

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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?

I use the ATM at the embassy and limit credit card usage.

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

The country is primarily Catholic, and I have heard that there is at least one church with a service in English. There are various Protestant denominations that also probably have some English-language services. There is a Jewish temple that offers regular services as well.

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

We read English-language papers on the internet. We have basic cable that includes a few English language channels. It is about $70 per month for our cable and internet.

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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?

It would be difficult to live here without knowing any Spanish. English is not widely spoken outside of the resorts.

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

It would be difficult to walk most anywhere. There are no ramps and there are often large holes in the sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

Apollo taxi is affordable (about $4-$5 in the city) and safe. There is a new subway, but I have never taken it. Buses look very crowded.

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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?

We have a Subaru Outback and it has been fine.

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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. About $70 per month for cable and internet. We can usually watch Netflix via the internet.

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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?

They seem to have a wide variety of phones here. Some people have brought IPhones from the US.

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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)?

Several vets are 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?

Not really. There seem to be some jobs at the international schools, and there are some people who telecommute. Most spouses and members of household work for the embassy.

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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. Shorts are not as common here for adults as they are in the US. Women tend to dress up even when they are only going to the grocery store.

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Health & Safety:

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

We haven't had any problems, but we are cautious. We don't walk outside at night and don't wear nice jewelry or carry around anything that might attract attention.

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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?

Okay, but I would go to Miami for anything serious.

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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 unhealthy in Santo Domingo. Good in the mountains.

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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?

Mostly sunny and in the 80s. Some rain, but it usually doesn't rain all day. Temperatures are lower in the mountains.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our kids attend St. George School. It is a bilingual pre-K-12 school. We have a 5th grader and a 2nd grader and they have been happy there. I have also heard good things about the Community for Learning School. Carol Morgan School has the nicest facilities. Some families really seem to like it there. Others have not had a positive experience.

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

I believe that Carol Morgan is willing to work with students that have special needs. I am not sure about the other schools.

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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?

There are a variety of options. Most people seem pretty happy with the choices.

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

Yes, mainly through 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?

There is a decent-sized expat community.

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

Plenty of informal gatherings.

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3. Morale among expats:

Varies. Based on some of the prior reports, there are clearly some people who are unhappy. Most of the people that I know seem to like it here.

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

Good for all.

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

There are gay couples who work at the embassy and they seem pretty happy. It is not as gay friendly as some places, but people are generally tolerant here.

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

There is some prejudice against Haitians.

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

Weekend trips to the beaches and the mountains.

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

Go to the beach, go camping in the mountains, walk around the Colonial Zone, go kayaking, learn to surf. There are plenty of outdoor activities.

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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.

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

Great weather. Amazing beaches. Nice people.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you go away every weekend.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I wish that I could stay longer.

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

expectations that things will always run smoothly and on time.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen and swimsuits.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sanky Panky .

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

Anything by Julia Alvarez or Junot Diaz.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I guess it all depends on your perspective. There certainly inconveniences associated with living here, but for me, the positive aspects of living here far outweigh the negative ones.

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