Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 08/25/14
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?
This is my 4th expat experience with the government.
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?
DC area; it takes about 6-7 hours to get to Santo Domingo either through NY's JFK, NJ's Newark Airport, Atlanta or FL (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando).
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government assignment with the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are large homes and high-rises with comfortable square footage ranging from 1,500-3,500 sqft, in the affluent areas of the city (Los Cacicazgos, Bella Vista, Evaristo Morales, Naco, Piantini). Commute times are relatively easy early in the morning (prior to 7am) but if you wait until 7:30-8:00am, a commute of 10 minutes will turn into 60 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get any American product but usually pay about 20% more.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything as most things have an additonal cost of about 25%.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You get all the fast foods that are available in the States. There are many specialty and common restaurants that run the gamut from steaks, seafood, European, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. Prices vary from US$50 - $200/couple.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos and ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the DPO at the Embassy. FedEx, UPS and DHL are available but costly. PO Boxes are relative inexpensive as you get charged per weight and the box is located in Florida.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is plentiful but it's best to have them start on the low side of the salary scale and work their way up as they prove their abiltity to perform tasks appropriately and you are sure that they are not stealing from you. Starting salaries for a live-in maid for 5 1/2 days per week is between US$200-$250 per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, they are plentiful but more expensive than the U.S.
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?
Use credit cards sparingly and only at reputable establishments (such as resorts). Pay cash whenever possible.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are many.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need at least a conversational level in order to engage in any haggling of items. Not many people in the city speak English in the local establishments, but you have to have a minimal level in order to get around.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, the sidewalks are not properly maintained and many are cracked, broken and have gapping holes.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local trains are safe and clean but are limited to where in the city they can take you. Public transportation of buses and/or taxis are not recommended due to the potential threat of victimization from crime, health or groping for women.
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?
SUV for the high clearance and flooding that occassionaly occur after it rains. You can pretty much find all American made parts as well as Japanese and Europeans but at a much higher cost than the U.S.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, I pay about US$135/per month for phone, internet and cable with DVR.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are three major carriers (Orange, Claro, Tricom) here and all have relative decent prices for montly payments. You can also bring an unlocked phone (such as an iPhone) and just purchase a sim card.
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 quarantine as long as all the vaccines and paperwork are in order. Vets and Kennels are good.
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?
Mainly as school teachers, but otherwise they are few and the salaries are very low.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business and business casual with the local flair of Chacabanas.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime rates are high amongst Dominicans and in particular the greater metropolitan area of Santo Domingo. Most incidents are crimes of opportunity and expats are not specifically targeted. Just like any major metropolis, security awareness should always be employed when walking around the city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mold and respiratory issues are a problem due to the high humidity especially in the summer. Private hospitals can give adequate care but for anything serious the U.S. is best.
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 as the Caribbean breeze keeps the pollution moving out of the city.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mid-80's F year round with high humidity in the summer. Hurricane season goes from June 1st to November 30th with the bulk of the island being hit by torrential rains are in the August/September timeframe.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My children went to the Carol Morgan School and had a wonderful experience. My son graduated from HS and it was a memorable experience for him as he played on the school basketball team. There are an additonal eight other schools that meet the stringent U.S. standards.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The higher costly schools make efforts to accomadate special needs but don't have a robust program.
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?
Yes, they are plentiful.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, schools and organization are active in many Olympic type sports (swimming, volleyball, track & field, martial arts, archery, etc.).
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Expat size is huge but many are of Dominican descent and morale appears high.
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?
Restaurants, cultural events, concerts, operas, theaters.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Each category can find a niche in Dominican society.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It is not widely accepted, but most recently it has become more tolerable due to U.S. Ambassador's stance on human rights issues. LGBT organizations have become more vocal and have exposed themselves to Dominican society, making the international community take notice.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Dominicans have issues with Haitians due to their history as a shared island nation. For the most part, they are tolerant of all others.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The ability to play golf year round at very inexpensive prices as compared to the U.S. The beach resorts are only a 2.5 - 3 hour drive on a well paved highway to the east of the country (Punta Cana). The resorts run the gamut from relatively ok to luxurious ameneties.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The Colonial Zone has a rich tradition as it is the first city discovered in the Americas by Christopher Columbus and where the first Cathedral was implemented. Many ruins and architecture from 500 years ago can still be seen and touched.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Amber and Larimar.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Tourism, golf, beaches, scuba diving snorkling, fishing, eco-tourism, weather, mountains, etc.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, even if you chose to go out.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I whish I knew how to play golf prior to coming here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Attitude, winter clothes.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience, appetite, dancing shoes, golf clubs, scuba gear, shorts, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, swimwear.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Tropico de Sangre
- based on true events of the muders of the Mirabal sisters at the hands of the dictator Trulillo.