1. WHERE DO YOU LIVE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED THERE?
Husband, Daughter, Son, two dogs and I are in our fifth year in the capital of Santo Domingo. My husband works for Carol Morgan School, a large American college-prep school for K-12.
2. WHY DOMINICAN REPUBLIC?
When we were looking to live abroad our priority was to find a place where it would be affordable to work on one salary so that Husband could teach and I could write so when he went to interviews it was one of the first few questions he would ask. At the time, we didn’t have kids although I think we ended up in the place best suited for us at that time and still in this time.
3. WHY SANTO DOMINGO?
The short answer is that Husband’s job is here so we’re here. I am more of a city girl than anything else so I do think this is probably the best place for me (city close to the beach) although I have visited a few places that have made me reconsider. Here’s a quick overview of some places I would certainly consider living in the Dominican Republic someday:
4. WHAT DO YOU LIKE / NOT LIKE ABOUT DOMINICAN REPUBLIC?
I love more than I don’t. I love that life is slow paced and not all about work so I have so much more time to spend doing the things I love with the people I love. I love that my kids are always playing outside because the weather permits it and that this is a super child-friendly culture. I love that I can go to the beach on my birthday… in January and get a tan. I love the cold, cold beer and the colmados. With that being said, I don’t like that I get home everyday with a layer of balm on my skin. I don’t like that many of the streets don’t have street signs which makes it very difficult to know where you’re going. I don’t like the garbage and the stray dogs and the pollution that take away from such a beautiful place.
5. I’VE HEARD THAT THINGS RUN ON “DOMINICAN TIME” – IS THIS A REAL THING?
This. is. very. real. Very, very real. Island life is slow. Maybe because it’s so hot so no one moves fast for anything. I have found myself wanting to shake people just to move them faster. The upside is that once you get here, you will also be hot and running on a slower pace so it will stop bothering you after a while. If that doesn’t work, drink a Presidente. That always helps me.
6. DO I HAVE TO KNOW SPANISH?
No, but like I talk about here, you could go to China and skip seeing the Great Wall or visit Egypt and pass on the Pyramids too but that would be silly. You can get by without knowing the language but you should try and learn.
7. ARE THINGS EXPENSIVE?
I’d say it really depends on what you’re buying. People who live in Manhattan will understand this: you are living on an island so many things get imported which means that many things are expensive. If you are buying a box of Cheerios, expect to pay about $6.00. Gas is also on the pricier end of what we’d pay in the states. For 15 gallons of gas here we pay around $75.00 (about $5.00/gallon). In the states, we would fill up our car around $50.00 (about $3.50/gallon). We drive significantly less here.
However if you are buying local items, say avocados or peppers or mango (yum!), I’ve bought them for as little as $0.50/pound in comparison to $2.00/pound in NJ and they taste better.
Another thing that is less expensive are services. I’ve bought a package of 10 massages for as little as 6000 pesos ($135 U.S.) where the masseuse came to my home – that’s about $13 per massage! I bought another package at a spa for 10,000 pesos ($230 U.S.) At under $25/massage that’s still super cheaper and they were some of the best massages I’ve ever had. Salons are also an inexpensive service. I’ve paid $32 for a wash, blow dry, manicure and pedicure with tip. We have a maid that cleans once a week, including transportation the cost comes out to 600 pesos ($14).
8. PHONE SERVICE
Claro and Orange are the big guns here right now though there are smaller companies popping up. I have Claro, which gives me a fair sure of heartburn but haven’t heard anything significantly better from Orange users. Customer service here, in general, tends to suck – certainly not everywhere but in many places. If you are bringing a phone with you, say an iPhone, you must make sure that it is “unlocked” otherwise it won’t work here. If you buy an iPhone here through a phone company, they will unlock the phone for you after two years.
9. IS THE HEALTHCARE AS BAD AS I IMAGINE IT?
Well, I have had both of my babies here and all that that entails: OB-GYN visits, ultrasounds, blood work, vaccinations, circumcisions, surgery, etc. – so I hope not. I have a great relationship with noth my gynecologist/OB and our pediatrician and they have all been professional and smart and personable. They’ve all given me an emergency number to call that gets me in touch with someone within a half hour if the office is closed. I’m sure there are some meh places but I haven’t been to one yet. The hospitals are small. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good, just don’t be shocked by their size in comparison to the monstrous buildings we have in the States.
10. IS THERE A LOT OF CRIME?
There is crime. Unfortunate but true. However, I have heard that a lot of the crime is petty crime like theft. As a good rule of thumb, I wouldn’t walk around (especially at night) with anything you aren’t willing to part with. I don’t wear my wedding ring often and tend to wear inexpensive jewelry that I wouldn’t care about losing.
11. WHAT IS THE TRANSPORTATION LIKE?
Your own personal car – This is the best option although the downside is that buying a car here is very expensive. Think of a budget you are willing to spend on a car and then add a few extra thousand dollars. The upside of that is that when you sell the car you will probably be able to get at least half of what you paid for it back.
Taxi – I used a taxi company the first few weeks we were here without a car. The charge is minimal (usually 150 pesos = $3.50) and they arrive quickly but I hated calling them. They spoke fast and were often rude but they got me where I needed to go. TIP: Ask to be sent a car with air-conditioning. You don’t know how nice this is when you’re 8 months pregnant. And there is no need to tip since the tip is already included in the charge. Use a company you know is reliable. When I got here I used Apollo – 809-537-0000.
Carro publicos – I haven’t ever used a carro publico and wouldn’t recommend it. You must be very cautious with who you get in with and the cars are very old and broken down and they will often try to fit 7 or more people in on car. But it’s cheap.
Guagua publicos – Inexpensive and a bit safer than public cars because there are more people around you but there is also no real limit as to how many people one of these bad boys will hold so you might be jammed in like a sardine. Also very cheap.
Motoconchos – Motorcyclists that can take you from point A to point B for super cheap. They are quite skilled in being able to fit almost anything and anyone on their motorbike but MAJOR NO RECOMMEND-O!
Public transportation – DR is in the process of getting a subway system in place.
** UPDATE: Uber is here now and though I have not used it, personally, many good friends have and would recommend it.
Many people here do not get paid salary and are essentially living on your tips.
Restaurants add a 26% tax which often includes a tip but many of us tip in addition to that (10% – 20%)
Grocery Store guys will bag your groceries and bring them to your car. Generally a 20-50 peso tip is fine.
Colmado delivery guys are getting some salary (small) from the colmado but, generally, a 20-50 peso tip is also fine.
Have any other questions or more information to add about living in the Dominican Republic? Please leave a sip in the comments below.