Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 01/21/19

Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 01/21/19

Background:

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

No. Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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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?

The United States. There are several flight options available but expect to pay anywhere between $400 to $600 dollars just to get to Miami which is a two-hour flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years and counting.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission, U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

New embassy compound is located approximately five minutes from the embassy which is great for your commute but not for your social life. If you are single or have a relatively small family, expect to live in the apartments and not the larger standalone residences. Though the compound is new, folks are already complaining about the quality of work.

Several other families live throughout the city. The housing pool is not great in my opinion.

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

Supermarkets are plentiful and groceries will run approximately 25% higher than in the US (except local fruits).

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

You can get everything here.

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

Several U.S. fast food outlets are here: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. Costs are about the same as in the U.S. There is a good selection of mid-range and upscale dining, too, though they all share the same menu (risotto with truffle, tuna tartar, pork belly, etc). Prices can be pretty high but are on par with what you'd pay in the US. Diplomats don't have to pay the 18% VAT, which is a huge plus.

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

All of them, as you are on a tropical island.

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Daily Life:

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

The DPO. Amazon orders take one to two weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available, but the quality of work and the integrity of the household help is an issue. I've heard it's normal for families to fire their staff due to integrity reasons (theft, lying, etc).

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

Private gyms (Gold's, Body Shop) and CrossFit, moderately priced, several offer diplomatic discounts.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted and a good option. ATMs are also fine but the embassy cashier will provide a better rate.

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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. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very few people speak English, so having the ability to speak basic Spanish is really important. That said, Dominican Spanish does not seem to be your typical Spanish, much less the Spanish you learnt at FSI. Good luck!

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

Yes, few buildings/streets have access for disabled persons.

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Transportation:

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

Most public transportation is not safe (mainly because of the risk of traffic accidents and crime). The metro is clean and fast, but has a limited route. Uber is now available though there have been reports of drivers requesting cash instead of using a credit card and denying service if the route is an inconvenience for them (e.g., the airport).

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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?

I recommend a high clearance vehicle due to the number of potholes and overall poor road conditions. Expect to be in at least one car accident during your tour here. These are the worst driversI have personally witnessed.

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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, easy to set up if you speak Spanish or have a local assist you. Speed is excellent, I pay approximately $80 dollars for a triple play package (100MBPS, phone, and cable).

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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?

Claro or Altice.

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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?

Plenty of decent vets although several families have had an animal die from various causes or gotten sick and not ever really sure why or how. There are plenty of street animals to choose from if you decide to help the local animal population.

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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. Salary scale seems too low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty of places from pet facilities to elder homes and orphanages.

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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. Dominicans seem to be all about appearances.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, as the Dominican Republic is rated critical for crime. Though safer than Central America or Venezuela, petty crime is a big concern. I've heard that several people from the embassy and other expats have been held up by gun point and robbed. It's also common for people on motorcycles to execute a robbery or cause "fake" accidents in an attempt to extort you for money. Do not walk anywhere nor flash your valuables. Unfortunately, sexual assaults are far too common here, especially at hotels/resorts, often committed by hotel employees.

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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?

Mosquito-borne illnesses (dengue, chikungunya, and zika). Tap water is not potable. High rate of STDs. Any serious health concerns will warrant a medevac to Miami.

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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?

Not terrible. Some smog in Santo Domingo because of the amount of vehicles, but less so on the weekends; everywhere else in the country is fine.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

People often complain of allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Low morale at post. Santo Domingo is not a Caribbean paradise and it doesn't seem friendly here.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot, humid and often rainy for the six months of summer and mildly hot with much less rain for the six months of winter. Think Miami weather.

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Schools & Children:

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

Per a previous post: The schools, particularly Carol Morgan, are decent academically. Problem is social integration for middle/high school foreign students. It seems to be a constant complaint. While some older kids manage to break the barrier and befriend many local kids, most do not. So this might be of concern for parents of middle/high schoolers.

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

Not sure.

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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?

Not sure.

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

Not sure.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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?

Baseball games, the beach, restaurants, etc...

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

Yes, but if are a single male, you may have to exercise good judgement in relationships. Also, I've heard STDs are prevalent here, and abortion is illegal.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, I have not found it easy to make friends with locals. Some of the best advice I received here from a local was "nothing is free in the DR, everyone wants something".

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5. 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 seems to be societal discrimination and rare police harassment of LGBT persons.

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

No religious prejudices. There seems to be racism towards Haitians. Machismo/gender violence seems to be a big issue in Dominican society.

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

Very few to be honest, as I would likely not return. Perhaps the weekend trips to a beach?

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

Colonial Zone, but leave Santo Domingo as often as possible. Bahia de las Aguilas is worth visiting once...

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing here is really worth taking home, in my opinion.

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

The weather, proximity to the US and the decent beaches though they are serioulsly overrated.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Don't be fooled into thinking Santo Domingo or the rest of the DR is like Punta Cana, if not, you might be surprised.

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

No. I've visited over 60 countries and this is by far my least favorite country that I've visited or lived in (and I've been to poorer countries, and two war zones). Living here has not been easy for me, and I have had a very hard time with the other drivers.

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

Common sense and manners...certainly leave behind your expectations of living in paradise.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience...

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

None.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Yes, personally, I would not consider bidding here again.

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