Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 05/13/09

Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 05/13/09

Background:

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

Our third overseas experience after Dar El Salam and Athens.

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2. How long have you lived here?

4 years.

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

Diplomatic spouse.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From the east coast most US carriers go to Miami and then SD. Delta, American, US Air.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

OK housing for US Embassy people -- lots of large houses with gates. Some people still live in highrises.

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

Very expensive.

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

Books to homeschool my kids.

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

The usual suspects as far as fast food. More expensive than in the states.

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

Mosquitoes and cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

APO works well, but oodly enough, letters from the States also show up at our house address by Dominican post.

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

Mid-range on both.

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

Some, but be sure to read the fine print.

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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?

There are many scams and rip-offs. Be sure to protect yourself. Use an ATM in a mall, if possible, or in a bank in the middle of the day --don't use an ATM at night.

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

NIce churches and cathedrals.

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

Not really, but you can get the Hearald Tribune and Miami papers in certain places.

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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 really helps to know Spanish. Your kids will suffer unless they can learn or know Spanish quickly. CMS is a Spanish-speaking school for all intents and purposes.

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

Many, the walks and streets are awful. Biking is terrible.

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Transportation:

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

No. Taxis might be okay. Try to get a driver and stick with him.

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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?

Four-wheel drive -- for the mountains and roads, also for the floods in the city.

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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 50 USD per month.

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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?

Plentiful and cheap.

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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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress is casual. Most Dominicans step out of the barrio but manage to look good after they do.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It is only poor during rush hour in the city.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Lots of secutiry concerns. Burglary, strong arm robberies, drive by robberies and all other kinds of crime that is spilling over from the Dominican community onto foreigners.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Lots of health concerns: dengue fever, malaria, parasites, fungi. Medical care at the embassy is great. Locally there are some good clinics and doctors.

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

Great weather year 'round. Average temperature of 81 degrees F. There is a rainy season and a hot season.

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Schools & Children:

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

The only true international school is Carol Morgan. There are many problems from preschool to highschool. Poor administration and consistent mismanagement are the norm for this school. The headmaster is entrenched in the school and community and probably should have left a long time ago; he is way past his prime. There are many personal issues among the administration (and also staff) that make the school a snakepit of issues for parents. This year's opening of a new media center and library will help with resources -- but at the same time, poor hires and "stuffing the ballot box" for the board elections continue the same old issues. Embassy community members are second- or third-class citizens at this school.

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

I understand that CMS has some services, but without a doubt, except for the library, the Special Needs and ESL departments of CMS are the worst people to deal with. They are an odd collection of misfits and poor hires, and their incompetence and ineptitude make any dealings with them difficult.

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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?

Stay with a local provider. There are great daycare facilities, particulalry without the low quality of teacher that staffs this area at CMS. Plus, you have a real chance for your son or daughter to learn Spanish at a local daycare.

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

Some facilities, but again: at school it can be a bad experience for gringo kids.

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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. Mostly Americans.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor to middling. If the school was better it would be better.

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

House parties and nightclubs.

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

It is only ok. At school your kids will not get the opportunities because rich Dominican kids' parents will make sure your kids are miserable from sports. And other after-school activities at CMS are very expensive.

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

Obviously it offers something. Publicly, dominicans are against homosexuality, but privately it exists. The headmaster of CMS is openly gay.

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

Yes, if you are African American be prepared to experience Jim Crow.

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

Travel to beaches, hike in the mountains. Visit with Dominicans who are very friendly.

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

Rum.

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9. Can you save money?

NO, sorry.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No way.

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

anything of value and your sense that your kids will meet wonderfull little Dominican kids.

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3. But don't forget your:

diving gear.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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