Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 01/19/16
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?
No, have lived in the Middle East and Central Africa
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?
Washington D.C., connections through New York and Florida. Several flight options. Tickets are not cheap.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
An embassy compound is in the works for 3/4 of the community I believe. Most people were not happy with their housing. Not many with yard space, too many bad apartments that also seemed unsafe if there were ever a major earthquake. Overall housing is some of the worst we have seen.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is available here. Because it is an island costs are 25% or more expensive although local produce, beans, rice, meats are same costs as in the States.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Rugs, boogie boards, SUP boards and other beach items.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Almost every fast food restaurants you can think of. Many other American chains as well and a ton of local restaurants.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, roaches and mosquitoes. We knew too many people with dengue fever which can be very serious. Rats in the streets due to the large piles of trash everywhere.
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?
Never had "great' help as the few we employed at various times had attitudes and expected way more than they would get from other expats or Dominicans. There are a few good ones out there but many are lazy and never hesitate to ask for everything. We paid about US$300 a month for 3 days a week which did not include cooking, shopping or anything more than laundry and cleaning the bare minimum.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, lots. US$50 a month and more.
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?
We used our credit cards all the time with no issues. If you use your ATM at a bank you should be fine.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic and I believe Mormon and there is a Jewish temple as well.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot if you don't want to feel depressed and discouraged to going out. Dominican Spanish is a difficult language to understand.... it is not like the Spanish you learn online or even at FSI. The more you know, the better tour you will have.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, the sidewalks are not good and walking around the city is not easy; it's often dangerous due to reckless drivers and motos.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Apollo taxi and a few other transport services (we used JET) are embassy approved. You can get around locally for about $6 a ride.
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?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes anywhere from US$75 and higher.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
CLARO, Orange and Tricom are all decent.
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 and plenty of decent vets although we have known too many people that had an animal die from various causes or gotten sick and not ever really sure why or how. We had an animal but I would discourage anyone from bringing theirs here. They are plenty of street animals to choose from if you decide to help the local animal population.
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?
Probably but you must speak the language.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty of places from pet facilities to elder homes and orphanages.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual and people tend to dress up when they go out.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Several people from the embassy and other expats have been held up by gun point and robbed. It's also common for people on motos to cause commotion and rob as well as cause "fake" accidents to attempt to get money.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Dengue and other mosquito born diseases. Medical care is not like the states but is "ok". Some places better than others.
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?
Stinky, smog but not too heavy. People with allergies feel it worse than others.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You will definitely experience issues so know ahead of time. Have your meds.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dec - Feb tend to be the best with low humidity and temps around mid 80's to low 90's F. Summers through October are hot and humid. I could never could figure out the rainy season as it was inconsistent the entire time.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Several options available but if your children don't have much or any Spanish and you don't want full immersion, Carol Morgan School is the best option. The school is decent but the athletics department (or lack there of) was a huge letdown. We were given very misleading information prior to arrival from the CLO and the school. Academics seem to be fine. The population is largely wealthy Dominicans. Overall, our children were happy and were not mistreated by the kids that have grown up in the school.
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?
Several available and new ones seem to be popping up. Costs similar to the states.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Other than soccer or activities for young kids I would say no.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community but overall poor morale, not just among the Americans.
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?
Drink and eat.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
The younger single people seem the happiest. Most of the people I know had a really hard time adjusting here and some never did.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
With the current Ambassador and his husband, the current embassy seems to be a great place for those who are gay. The Ambassador has gone the extra step to welcome the GLAD community. I believe the overall expat community is good for gay and lesbian expats.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are mainly prejudices against the Haitians and lower class Dominicans.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Weekend trips out of the city.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Get out of the city so you don't lose your mind. In the city there is eating, drinking, Colonial Zone, the Malecon boardwalk, movie theaters that play in English, bowling alley, roller rink, malls and indoor kids parks. Diving outside of the city is good and inexpensive although there is not much to see as far as wildlife and color.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing worth spending it on.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is nice, hot and humid in the summer months. Good beaches within 1-3 hours of the city. Can't think of any other positives.
10. Can you save money?
We didn't save a dime because of traveling outside of the city, entertaining guests and kids activities.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How miserable the embassy community was.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Not a chance.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of everything. I can't fully explain why this tour was so difficult but I can tell you we were one of many, many that would say the same.
4. But don't forget your: