Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Report of what it's like to live there - 08/11/10

Personal Experiences from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 08/11/10

Background:

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

No. Frankfurt, Germany.

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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?

Washington, DC.5 hour trip via Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year. Summer 2009 - Summer 2010.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is a serious issue in Santo Domingo. To summarize, if you live close to where you work, it will be a small apartment. If you live farther out, you will have a house. I suggest living closer to your workplace, since traffic is terrible. A 3 mile drive could take you upwards of 1.5 hours.

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

Typical U.S. groceries are available, but normally cost about 25% more than in the U.S.

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

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

Most U.S. fast food chains are in the D.R., but are priced at a premium. For example, a quarter pounder combo at McDonalds will cost you about 8 dollars. As for decent restaurants, several are in Santo Domingo, but again are priced at a premium. For example, at a normal Italian restaurant, a family of 4 can expect to pay about $70, without drinks.

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

Since the island never cools off, insects never die. Ants are a constant problem, as are mosquitoes. While I would not suggest that someone brings their bug nets, a good insect repellant is critical.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Domestic help is very available and relatively inexpensive.

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

There are gyms, but due to traffic conditions, they are very hard to get to.

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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?

Do NOT use your credit card in the DR, and be very careful with your ATM card. Literally everyone that I know has had their card number stolen.

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

Several churches offer either dual-language or English language services.

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

There are not any English-language newspapers, but several English television channels are available through cable TV. Television normally cost about 35 – 40 USD per month.

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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?

You HAVE to speak Spanish in order to function in daily life. Outside of major hotels, no one speaks English.

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

You do NOT want to go to the Dominican Republic if you have physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

No trains on the island. Buses are not safe for use. As for taxis, I suggest only using Apollo taxi. They are wonderful, and reasonable.

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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 suggest bringing a 4x4 SUV.Driving conditions in the D.R. are terrible, and the average driver only respects more metal. I would absolutely NOT recommend a nice car. Either way, you will have a wreck within the first 4 months of driving in the D.R.

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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?

DSL and Cable internet are available, but both are expensive.

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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?

I recommend a prepaid phone. Basically at every traffic light people will be trying to sell additional units for prepaid phone services, so it is easy to purchase them.

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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?

No need for quarantine.

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

Santo Domingo has several good vets, but during my stay my family could not find a good kennel.

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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?

Jobs are available, but only if you want to earn about 200 USD per month and/or do menial tasks.

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

People typically dress very formally. Women often wear formal dresses and for men, suites.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is a serious problem in the Dominican Republic. Our maid was robbed at knife point only 2 block from the U.S. Embassy in broad daylight. This is absolutely a place where you should do everything in a group, and even then, do not go to remote locations.

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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?

Quality medical care is available for basic issues, but for anything more complicated, most people fly to Miami. As for health issues, Malaria and Dengue (aka. Bone break fever) are both common. While Malaria is more common in rural areas, Dengue can be found ANYWHERE.TB, HIV, and Syphilis are also VERY common.

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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?

In Santo Domingo, air quality depends on how much traffic is around you…which most of the time is a lot. Water pollution is a completely different topic. Since Santo Domingo does not have a sewage treatment plant, waste flows directly into the ocean. Due to that, it is not safe to drink tap water (anywhere in the country), nor swim close to the city.

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

Realistically Santo Domingo only has two seasons, hot and hotter, with varying degrees of humidity. Also, the island is normally subject to hurricanes.

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Schools & Children:

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

My children went to Carol Morgan school. I can honestly say, with agreement from the majority of the U.S. Embassy community, Carol Morgan school is awful. Do NOT send your children there. The kids that attend Carol Morgan are completely out of control. Additionally, it is NOT an international school. The vast majority of the children are local kids, and have know each other since kindergarten. The reason that this is a problem is that new students are not able to make friends and break into the “clicks” that have existed for years.

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

You do not want to bring children here that have special needs. The schools and the society in general, do NOT accommodate.

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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?

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

Not really.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The English-speaking expat community is relatively small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Due to the high crime rate, morale is low.

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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?

If you are independently wealthy, the Dominican Republic offers a lot of social opportunities.

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

This is NOT a family-friendly post. It would probably be fine for singles or couples, but not for school-age children.

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

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

In general people with darker completions are discriminated against. Also the D.R. is also a male-oriented society.

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

My wife developed a close relationship with the Damas Diplomaticas, a charity organization that assists about 2000 orphans throughout the country.

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

The beaches are nice, but VERY expensive.

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

Rum. Forget the cigars, the best ones are for export only…but you can find excellent rum.

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

I honestly do not know of ANY advantages to living in the Dominican Republic. Your touring opportunities are limited to visiting the various resorts, which are VERY expensive. The island is extremely expensive. Almost everything is imported, and thus will cost you about 1.5 times as much as in Washington D.C.Additionally, a cheap resort is about $ 100 per person per night. For a family of 4, that is $400 per night…cost prohibitive. As for weather, the winters are quite nice. It drops down to about 75 degrees F at night. The summers are a completely different story. It is extremely hot and humid.

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11. Can you save money?

Not a chance. Everything is MUCH more expensive here than even in Washington DC.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not a chance.

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

Camping gear. The Dominican Republic is not safe enough to feel comfortable camping.

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3. But don't forget your:

Extra cash. You will need it.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sanky Panky.

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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. Do you have any other comments?

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