Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 11/18/16
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, I previously lived in Japan.
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?
California, USA, 6-8 hours with a connection.
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?
Houses (in Las Praderas and Cacicazgos, 20-45 min from embassy depending on traffic) and apartments (mostly in Piantini, also 20-45 min from embassy based on traffic). Houses tend to have strange layouts; apartments are modern and spacious.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available here; U.S. packaged goods are more expensive. Local produce is cheap. European goods (Spanish in particular) are relatively cheap and available.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Strong U.S. influence, so all of the standard U.S. chain restaurants and fast food. Very good Spanish restaurants; more limited Asian food options.
5. 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?
DPO, Amazon orders take 1-2 weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available and cheap (I paid ~$25 per day).
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Big boxes, Crossfit, many other specialty gyms, all reasonably priced.
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?
Yes and yes.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Easy to survive without any Spanish, but the city and country is much more interesting if you can converse with locals.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, few buildings / streets have access for disabled persons.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Most public transportation is not safe (mostly because of risk of traffic accidents). The metro is clean and fast, but has a limited route.
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?
Big SUVs and trucks are nice to have in traffic (because little cars get out of the way). 4WD is only necessary for a few out of the way weekend spots. Your car will get dented and scratched in traffic.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, easy to set up, generally fast and reliable and cheap (I paid $40 per month for 10 MBPS + cable).
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local providers offer monthly plans or pay-as-you-go (I paid $30 per month for unlimited calls and data).
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?
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?
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?
Suits for most government and office work. People in general dress better than in the United States (collar shirt, long pants, and loafers is the typical casual outfit).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime is a constant risk; do not walk with any visible valuables. Houses are more prone to break-ins than apartments.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mosquito-borne illnesses (dengue, chikungunya, and zika). Tap water is not potable. There is good medical care at private clinics.
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?
Some smog in Santo Domingo because of the traffic congestion, but less so on the weekends; everywhere else in the country is fine.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, but not oppressively so as there is almost always a breeze (75-90F year round); frequent, intense, but short-lived rain showers.
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?
Large and mixed, over a million Dominicans living in the DR are U.S. citizens or LPRs, lots of Haitians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Russians, and Europeans as well.
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?
Many nightlife and restaurant options; baseball games; day trips to beaches and mountains.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes / Yes / Yes; Santo Domingo can wear on you with the constant crush of people and traffic, but this country has all of the comforts of the United States with more freedom and great and easy to access outdoors.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, but not perfect, there is a large LGBT community, but they are not completely out and open. It is a conservative country and there is still societal discrimination and rare police harassment of LGBT persons.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No religious discrimination or conflicts; machismo / gender violence is an issue in Dominican society, but does not directly affect treatment of expats.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Meeting happy and gregarious Dominicans; learning about the country's complex history and visiting historic sites; the music and dancing; the endless weekend road trips to hidden beaches, surf spots, mountain hikes, etc.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Steer clear of big resorts in Punta Cana. Hike in the high alpine forests of Armando Bermudez and visit the ingenios of Santo Domingo.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, although most commercial stores are more expensive than the United States, there are some local handicrafts and beautiful larimar and ambar jewelry.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Great music and dancing, good Spanish food, fantastic weekend beach locations.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had read more history before arriving (Juan Bosch, Frank Moya Pons, Roberto Cassa).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Careful, cautious driving habits.
4. But don't forget your:
Water sports gear.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Nueba Yol the movie, Rene Fortunato documentaries, books by Juan Bosch and Frank Moya Pons.