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The Basics

The_BasicsBrief History
When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, the island he named Hispaniola was inhabited by some 400,000 Taino Indians. Old World diseases, slavery and abysmal treatment by the Spaniards all but erased this population. To replace the manual labor, the first African slaves were brought to the island in 1520. The country gained its first independence from Spain in 1821, but the following year, the Haitians invaded, inspired by the ideal of “one indivisible island” set by their liberator Toussaint L’Ouverture. The Dominican Republic remained under Haitian control until February 27th, 1844 when the founding fathers of Dominican independence Juan Pablo Duarte, Ramon Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sanchez led a successful revolt and declared independence.

Geography
The second largest country in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles, with Haiti occupying the western portion. Situated in the heart of the region between North and South America, the country is bathed by the Caribbean Sea on the south coast and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and its contrasting landscape ranges from towering mountains, to cacti-studded deserts, to rainforest along with 400+ kilometers of soft sand beaches. The DR is big by Caribbean standards at 48,198 square kilometers (29,948 square miles).

Population
The country’s population is approximately nine million with three million people calling the capital city and province of Santo Domingo their home.

Language
The Dominican Republic’s official language is Spanish. English is widely spoken.

Government
A Representative Democracy, the Dominican government is made up of three branches: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The President is elected by popular vote every four years. President Leonel Fernández was elected to office through August 2012.

Religion
About 95% of the country is Christian, mainly Roman Catholic, however, many denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness are practiced and tolerated. There are also Jewish, Muslim and Bahai places of worship. Visit dr1guide.com for a complete list of houses of worship.

Climate & Weather
The country is a tropical, maritime nation. The main annual temperature ranges from a cool 17C (62F) to hot 33C (92F) primarily in low-lying areas and along the coast, with most temperatures in Santo Domingo ranging from 25C (77F) to 30C (86F) all year round. Although known as a tropical island, temperatures in some mountainous regions can dip below the freezing mark in the winter months. See dr1guide.com for weather updates.

Conversions: Fahrenheit to Celsius:
Temperature in the DR is recorded in Celsius.
18C = 65F
21C = 70F
24C = 75F
27C = 80F
30C = 85F
32C = 90F

Time
The DR’s time zone is Eastern Standard, although the country does not follow Daylight Saving. Because of this, the DR is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time during the Daylight Saving period.

Safety
Be alert to your surroundings and take the same safety precautions recommended worldwide for traveling in any major foreign city, such as using the hotel safe and keeping money and valuables out of sight. Do not leave luggage in sight in a vehicle.

Electricity
Electrical current in the Dominican Republic is 110 volts AC, 60 Hz. US-style. Two-pin plugs are standard, so European visitors should bring suitable adaptors.

Water
Drink bottled or treated water. Locals do not drink the tap water so you will be served bottled water at restaurants.

Conversion Box
Weights & Measurements:
1 pound = 0.45359 kilo
1 kilogram = 2.204 pounds

Speed Kilometers/MPH:
1 mile per hour = 1.60934
1 kilometer per hour = 0.62137

Money
The official currency is the Dominican peso (RD$). Most ATMs operate on the Cirrus Networks (Mastercard) or Plus networks (Visa). Remember that money withdrawn from ATMs in the DR will dispense Dominican pesos and not your home currency. Dominican pesos are available in RD$2,000, RD$1,000, RD$500, RD$100, RD$50 bills of different colors. There are coins for RD$25, RD$10 and RD$5. Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards are widely accepted. American Express Travelers checks can be replaced at branches of the Banco de Progreso nationwide.

Banking Hours
Banking hours will vary greatly. Some open as early as 8:30am and close as late as 7pm at shopping center branches, Monday to Saturday. Expect to do most of your banking from 9am to 4pm.

Tax & Tipping
Goods and services in the Dominican Republic are subject to a 16% government value-added tax, or ITBIS Tax. At restaurants, for example, your bill includes the 16% ITBIS plus a 10% service charge. It is customary to leave an additional 10% tip.

Shopping hours
Schedules vary widely, but most are open from Monday to Saturday from 9am – 6pm. Some shopping centers will open at 9am and remain open to 8pm and on Sunday to noon, while many large grocery stores will be open daily through 10pm and on Sundays to 8pm.

Beverage limitations
Discos, restaurants and casinos inside hotels are exempt from the present liquor-vending schedule that affects establishments throughout the country. Note that many restaurants, clubs and bars must close at midnight from Sun-Thurs and at 2am on Fri, Sat and holidays. Numerous establishments have been given an extension allowing them to close at 1am Sun-Thurs and at 3am Fri, Sat. Bring and ID. Patrons under the age of 18 won’t be admitted.

Holidays in 2009
Thursday, 1 January: New Year’s Day.
Monday, 5 January: Three Kings Day (6 Jan).
Wednesday, 21 January: Our Lady of Altagracia Day.
Monday, 26 January: Duarte Day.
Friday, 27 February: Independence Day.
Friday, 10 April: Good Friday.
Monday, 4 May: Labor Day (1 May).
Thursday, 1 June: Corpus Christi Day.
Sunday, 16 August: Restoration Day.
Thursday, 24 September: Our Lady of Mercedes Day.
Monday, 9 November: Constitution Day (6 Nov).
Friday, 25 December: Christmas Day.

Mail
For sending important parcels, consider using DHL, UPS or FEDEX. There are postal office stamp vending and drop off points for letters or postcards at La Sirena (Winston Churchill), Hotel Embajador and Centro de los Héroes main post. Please see Postal Information under Important Telephone Numbers in this section.

Embassies & Consulates
Please visit dr1guide.com/directory for a complete list of embassies and consulates.

Communications

Mobile Phones
There are several options for visitors who would like to use their mobile phone. One would be using your personal cell phone and paying your provider’s roaming charges. Another would be taking your phone to a local provider to unlock the phone for local use. This can be done if your mobile uses CDMA or CMS frequency.

Orange and Claro telecoms also offer the service of activating most open European and North American based cell phones. They will provide you with a SIM card, which is the removable information card all phones have, and a local phone number. You can remove the chip once you leave and re-insert your original SIM.

Lastly, visitors can purchase a local prepaid phone along with prepaid phone cards. This is a great option if you are a frequent visitor to the DR.

Calling Cards
Upon arrival in the Dominican Republic, it is a good practice to purchase a calling card from Codetel, Orange or Tricom. The cards, which are available in several denominations, will make it easy for you to use a public phone (otherwise you need coins) for national or international calls from almost any LAN or cell phone in the Dominican Republic. You will have to dial 1+area code+phone number to dial to the US. To dial Canada dial 011+1+plus the number. To call European countries you must dial 011+ the country code+ area code + the number.

Internet Access
If you require Internet access, cyber cafes are located throughout Santo Domingo and nearby beach towns. Wi-fi hot spots are also readily available with many universities, hotels and eateries now providing the service.

Calling Cards
Upon arrival to the Dominican Republic, it is a good practice to purchase a calling card from Codetel, Orange or Tricom. The cards come in multiple denominations. These cards will make it easy for you to use a public phone (otherwise you need coins) for national or international calls from most any LAN or cell phone in the Dominican Republic. You will have to dial 1+area code+phone number to dial to the US. To dial Canada dial 011+1+plus the number. To call European countries you must dial 011+ the country code+ area code + the number.

Transportation
A variety of transportation options exist for getting around Santo Domingo and nearby beaches. Public transport is the most readily available. This includes taxis, públicos, buses and motorcycle taxis.
The 14.5 km long Santo Domingo Metro line provides transport from Villa Mella in the north of Santo Domingo to south-central Centro de los Heroes.

Types of Transport Box

Guaguas – Small buses
Carros Públicos – Small public taxis
OMSA – Government run buses
Motoconchos – motorcycle taxi
Private Taxis
Santo Domingo Metro

Guaguas
Guaguas are a cheap alternative for getting around the city. These buses cost RD$25 per ride, but travel long distances across major metropolitan cities. You can jump on one of these buses and transfer to another bus paying a second fare, which will eventually get you as close as possible to your final destination.

Carros Públicos
Públicos are regular cars that serve as multi-passenger taxis, and are found throughout Santo Domingo. These taxis usually run on set routes and will charge you RD$15 per ride. If you wish to take a público make sure you know where the car is headed and exactly where you need to get off. Be aware that the público drivers may pack two passengers in the front seat and four in the back, regardless of the size of the car. You may pay two fares and book exclusivity for the front seat or pay four fares and get the back seat.

OMSA
Large metropolitan transport buses (OMSAs) in Santo Domingo cover the longer city routes for RD$10.00 for regular and RD$15.00 for air-conditioned buses. These buses usually run along main city avenues, though they can be packed with passengers during rush hour traffic. The buses begin running at around 6:30am and continue until 9pm. On weekends the availability of these buses is limited.

Motoconchos
Motorcycle taxis are an inexpensive way to get to your destination fast, but they are also the riskiest of transportation options. Drivers weave in and out of traffic constantly and are often victims due to their recklessness. The cost of a ride depends on the distance.

Private taxis
Private taxis are available 24 hours a day in Santo Domingo and can be contracted by telephone. The phone operator will tell you what the rate should be to your destination. It’s also good to ask for the taxi number and color when calling. This way, you can be sure you are getting into the taxi you asked for. Dominican taxis do not use fare meters. Instead, there are flat rates for each destination. Remember, the farther you go outside the city center, the more expensive the ride. Always confirm the rate with the driver prior to departing; you may get him to put it into writing if there is a language problem, to avoid any misunderstanding.

Santo Domingo Metro
Inaugurated in February 2009, the Metro runs north/south along Avenida Máximo Gómez traveling from Villa Mella to the Centro de los Héroes. A one-way ride costs RD$20. The Metro represents a massive overhaul of public transport in Santo Domingo that will include several Metro lines covering much of the city.

Intercity Buses
Metro and Caribe Tours provide coach transportation service between Santo Domingo and major cities. Expreso Bavaro travels to the east coast destinations. Other cities may be served by express regional bus lines that can be boarded in the Enriquillo Park area near Av. Duarte or Kilometro 9 (a bus hub on the Duarte Highway.)

Car Rentals
Major car rental companies have branches at airports, hotels and city locations. Do not cut corners when choosing your rental car service. Also take out the extra insurance plan that is available. If you suffer an accident that dents your car, for instance, the insurance will prevent delays or hassles. You must be at least 21 years old.

Domestic travel times by car

Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata 3 1/2 hour
Santo Domingo to Santiago 2 hours
Santo Domingo to Jarabacoa 1 1/2 hours
Santo Domingo to Constanza 2 hours
Santo Domingo to Boca Chica 1/2 hour
Santo Domingo to Juan Dolio 40 minutes
Santo Domingo to Bayahibe 2 hours
Santo Domingo to La Romana 1 1/2 hours
Santo Domingo to Punta Cana 3 1/2 hours
Santo Domingo to Samana 2 hours on toll road
Puerto Plata to Samana 3 1/2 hours
Santo Domingo to Barahona 3 hours

Important Phone Numbers

Telephone numbers
All Dominican-originated telephone numbers have the 809 or newer 829 area code appended. The full 10 digits need to be dialed. To dial a cell phone from a land line, dial 1 plus the 10 digit number.

Calling the US Toll Free
With few exceptions, toll free numbers in the US are not free of charge in the Dominican Republic and you will be charged at international dialing rates. Numbers must be substituted as well when calling from local land lines.

U.S. Toll Free Codes Dialing from the DR
(800) (880)
(888) (881)
(866) (883)
(877) (882)

International Airlines Serving Santo Domingo
Please visit dr1guide.com/directory for a complete list.

Lost or Stolen Credit Cards and Traveler’s Checks

Visa: 410.581.9994
Mastercard: 800.307.7309.
American Express: 800.327.1267

Hospitals
Please visit dr1guide.com/directory for a complete list.

Pet Care

Santo Domingo

Hospital Veterinario Arroyo Hondo
Calle Euclides Morillo #76
809.412.2042

PADELA (stray animal services)
Calle Isabel La Católica #5
809.685.0999

Postal Information

Fedex: 809.565.3636
DHL: 809.534.7888

Money Exchange

Vimenca
Ave. Abraham Lincoln & Ave. Bolivar #306
809.569.9232

International Currency Wiring

Western Union
809.200.1163

12 Step Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous
Meetings in English: Tues, Fri 7 pm-8 pm
Iglesia Episcopal Epifania, Av. Independencia #253, Gazcue.
809.299.0961

Narcotics Anonymous
Meetings in English: Tues, Thurs 6 pm.7pm.
Iglesia Comunitaria Cristiana, Calle Palo Hincado and Calle Canela, Colonial Zone.
809.777.6629