The Dominican Republic is a colorful tapestry of Spanish, French, Haitian, and African influences woven by a rich and storied history.
Christopher Columbus described this lush land as "a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys".
This statement is still as true today as it was in 1492. In addition to the comforts of sun, sea, and sand, the Dominican Republic offers
an exciting and unique cultural experience that will captivate your senses.
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of La Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti, and is the second largest country in the Caribbean, comprising an area of 48,198 square kilometers (29,948 square miles). It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the Caribbean Sea. This is a big island by Caribbean standards and care should be taken to arrive at the one of seven international airports that may be closest to your final destination to avoid long car trips, sometimes of up to eight hours - for example if you land at Punta Cana International and are headed to Puerto Plata.
Foreign currency can be converted to Dominican pesos at the Banco de Reservas exchange booths found at airports, major hotels, commercial banks and authorized exchange houses. There are over 1,600 automatic teller machines (ATMs) located nationwide. Banking hours are usually 8:30am to 3pm, Monday through Friday. Some bank branches (primarily in shopping malls or supermarkets) remain open longer. Travelers checks (which will require presentation of a passport) and major credit cards are widely accepted. Cash advances are available at certain commercial banks. Exchange rates fluctuate daily and the US dollar is the most widely transacted currency, but Euros and Canadian dollars are accepted for exchange across the nation also.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic although English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas and large cities. Knowledge of German, Italian and French is also common in resort towns. Traffic signs are in Spanish, although menus in tourist regions are usually available at least also in English.
All Americans traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States .
The Dominican Republic is on Atlantic Standard Time all year long. Clocks are one hour ahead of those on the US eastern seaboard in the fall-winter but keep the same time in the spring-summer. The Dominican Republic is four hours ahead of GMT time.
Travelers are advised to hire tourist taxis or radio taxis that can be arranged in advance. Avoid unmarked taxis.
During the day, temperatures range from the mid to high 80s, but the light ocean breeze makes the climate quite enjoyable. A message to those who worship the sun - WEAR THAT SUNSCREEN! The evening weather is a bit cool; it's nature's way of keeping the hot clubs from catching fire! Rain is very rare for the spring break season!
Technically, there isn't one in Punta Cana, but guys must wear a shirt into the clubs. Some hotels may not allow men wearing sandals and shorts to dinner.
No worries, your blow dryers and clothes irons will work without adapters.
Every dollar counts when you are a college student, but please don't forget to tip the people who are good to you: bartenders, waitresses, maids, bellboys. Hotel and restaurant bills automatically include a 10% service charge (on top of a 12% charge for tax purposes) but an additional tip may be given as an appreciation of good service.
Roaming charges can be very expensive. Check with your cell provider before leaving on your vacation.
CODETEL (owned and operated by Verizon), Dominican Republic's telecommunications company, has produced the Comunicard, which enables tourists
visiting the country to phone anywhere abroad from any touch-tone phone.
Mobile Telephone Coverage is good along most coastal areas and around towns but patchy elsewhere. There is a 3G network.
Keep all medication with you at all times. Do not put it in with your checked luggage and keep it in the prescription bottle.
Most stores are open from 8am to 12pm and 2:30pm-6:30pm Monday thru Saturday. Best buys are products made on the island including amber jewelery and decorative pieces. These are a national speciality; some pieces encase insects, leaves or dew drops within the ancient petrified pine resin. Larimar or Dominican turquoise is another popular stone. Milky blue and polished pink pieces of conch shell are also made into jewelery. Rocking chairs, wood carvings, macrame, pottery, Taino artefacts, Creole dolls, baskets, limestone carvings and CDs of salsa and merengue also make good buys. Bargaining is recommended. - They will try to rip you off! Bargain with the salesperson to get your best price.
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy with national powers divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms. Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Congress--the Senate (32 members) and the House of Representatives (178 members).
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