Caribbean Real Estate & Realtors in the Dominican Republic - Living in the Dominican Republic
Most things are possible in the Dominican Republic but it certainly helps to know how to go about arranging the necessities of life. Relocating to a new country and culture can be challenging but with our long experience of how things are done in this Caribbean island, West Indies Real Estate can put you in touch with the relocation experts and advise on the basics. Here we provide information on driving, car rental and importing a vehicle; private and public transport; telephone, TV, internet, mail; electricity, water, garbage, gas and employing domestic staff. For more general information see our separate section on Relocation/Residency, which also covers visas.
Driving,Transport, Communications, Utilities and Domestic Staff in the Dominican Republic:
Living in the Dominican Republic – Transport:
Living in the Dominican Republic – Driving in the Dominican Republic
Driving is on the right hand side and the speed limit is 60 kph in the cities and up to 100 kph on the highways, unless otherwise indicated. Getting around the DR is not always easy and it is wise to take advice before setting out on a long trip. There are networks of highways from major cities; however roads inside towns and cities may not be in perfect condition so watch for large holes and oversized speed bumps.
Driving in the Dominican Republic is on the right side of the road. Speed limits vary from 28 mph in the city to 48 mph on rural roads, but they are generally not enforced. Traffic laws are similar to those in the United States, but undisciplined driving is common, due to a lack of adequate traffic controls.
A local traffic custom is that the larger the vehicle, the greater the right of way, regardless of the traffic laws. Driving is aggressive and erratic, and drivers often do not yield the right of way even when road signs or signals indicate they should. Defensive driving is advised at all times. Travel at night on inter-city highways and in rural areas should be avoided, due to vehicles being driven at excessive speeds, often with malfunctioning headlights or taillights. Turning right on red lights is permitted, but it should be done with caution.
Motorcycles and motor scooters are common in the Dominican Republic and are often driven erratically. While helmets for motorcyclists are required by law, the law is not enforced.
Seat belts are required by law, but that law is also not generally enforced. There are no child car seat laws. Penalties for those driving under the influence of alcohol and those involved in accidents resulting in injury or death can be severe.
Dominican drivers can sometimes seem to be a little aggressive; however one has to remember that they have probably not had the same experience as you or I had to drive in counties where there are many more restrictions. So when driving here just take a little more time and give a little more space. You may arrive a minute later, but you will arrive.
Driving at night can be an adventure as some other drivers, not always Dominican, seem to save electricity by not using any lights! It’s one reason why a number of people always use main beam at night. Be aware that when driving at night or in heavy rain, although your tires are probably good, as are your brakes, the other car may not be so lucky. Just take a little extra time.
The police, and sometimes the military, will carry out road checks and stop traffic. They are normally only checking to see whether you have the correct documents. So always carry a photo copy of your car’s registration and insurance. It is also a good idea to carry a copy of your passport and driving license. Once stopped, the officers are usually polite and courteous, even if you don’t speak Spanish. You will be given differing advice on whether to offer a bribe or not. We suggest that you do not unless specifically asked, which will be unusual.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Island Transportation
There are a variety of options for inter-city travel in addition to travel by car. Inter-city travel by tourists is safest on one of the more reputable tourist bus companies.
Local buses known as “Guaguas” and taxis also offer transportation but are not generally as safe. Hotel taxis are also available at the larger hotels around the clock. Several drivers of these are bilingual and could double as a tour guide as they are experienced in assisting tourists. Dominican taxis do not use fare meters. Instead, there are flat rates for each destination. 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. It is also a good idea to have small change available.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Taxi Publicos
Taxi Publicos are regular cars that serve as multi-passenger taxis and have a sign on the roof showing they are public taxis. They are very crowded but fares are reasonable, currently 25 pesos from Sosua to Cabarete, for example. Fares increase by about 60% after 6.00 p.m. If you would like a little more space, it’s possible to pay for two seats. The guaguas and cars run along the main highway and will pick up and put down wherever you are waiting, just indicate you wish to travel.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Motoconchos
Motorcycle taxis are an inexpensive way to get to your destination fast, but they are also the most risky of transportation options.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Bus Service
Large metropolitan transport buses in Santo Domingo and Santiago cover the longer city routes for RD$10.00 to RD$15.00 (air conditioned) fares.
Metro and Caribe Tours provide air conditioned coach transportation service between Santo Domingo and major cities. Other cities may be served by express regional bus lines.
Minibuses zip in and out of city neighborhoods and go from one town to another for a tenth of the cost of a taxi. Depending on the hour, the drivers may pack in twice as many people as the capacity of the vehicle.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Car Rentals
Major car rental companies have airport, hotel 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. All you will have to do is visit the nearest police station and declare the accident. To do so, have the other party accompany you, or just take his name, insurance company, license number, cedula (ID card) and car registration (license plate) number. A valid driver’s license and major credit card is required to rent a car for up to 90 days. You must be at least 21 years old.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Importing Your Car
Importing a car to the Dominican Republic can be a difficult task, sometimes making buying a car a simpler alternative. If you choose to ship your car to the DR it is important to check out the regulations in place at the time before commiting to this option as the law is currently being reviewed.
To export an automobile from your country, there will be additional regulations. In the event that you decide to import a car, it is strongly recommended that you employ a local customs clearance agent.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Communications:
Living in the Dominican Republic – Land Telephone Systems
There are a limited number of companies providing telephone communication. Claro, previously Codetel and Verizon, has a monopoly on land lines. Generally their service is adequate, but slow.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Mobile or Cellular Telephones
There are both very good land telephone systems as well as a number of mobile operators. All mobiles that would normally work in America will work here. Any modern UK mobile, or older ones with tri-band, will also work. If you already have a cell phone you can activate it here, depending if your phone is activated by one of the major providers of cellular service. These are available from a number of providers, with Codetel and Orange having the greatest share of the market. Both these providers cover the major cities and towns, but once outside of these areas you will need to check who seems to have the better coverage locally as neither providers invest anything like enough in infrastructure.
If you have a GSM phone, you can go to any number of Orange outlets and, for a small fee, they will activate your phone, and you can either purchase pre-paid phone cards or a phone plan. If you have a CDMA phone, you can go to many Verizon or Centennial outlets and purchase a plan.
Tricom offers a new telephone plan where those in the Dominican Republic can call New York, or anywhere in the U.S., and be charged at local dialing rates. This development is a clear indicator of the progress of telecommunications in the Dominican Republic.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Cable TV
Cable services in the DR are provided by a variety of companies. These companies offer both English and Spanish language television, plus a variety of shows in other languages. Also, the channels come from not only the Dominican Republic but also the United States and Europe.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Satellite TV
If you can afford the service, there is also satellite television available from various sources. Once you purchase the satellite dish the vendor will provide you with details on installation and maintenance.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Internet
This is available in either ‘dial up’ or ‘flash’ which is similar to broadband. Flash is available in a number of speeds with the price increasing proportionally.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Mail Service
Whilst there is a mail service through most of the towns, business mailing addresses are used extensively and various express delivery services such as UPS and FEDEX operate widely. Within the island, Caribe Tours and the Metro Bus service offer a delivery service.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Utilities:
Living in the Dominican Republic – Electricity
The electrical supply in the Dominican Republic is based on the US system, 110 and 220 volts at 60Hz. Most houses and commercial locations have dual voltage. This allows for the use of 220 volt appliances such as air conditioners.
Most computers will work on a varying voltage from 100 – 220 volts and are generally protected from voltage spikes; however for most high cost electrical items such as computers, televisions, etc, it is a good idea to run them through a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) unit. These cost around US$30 each and can maintain up to four items.
Power outages are extremely common in the Dominican Republic; therefore most homes will have an alternative source of power such as an inverter or generator. Many developments or complexes have this already, usually by way of a generator which runs up after about 30 seconds. Timing will vary depending on the type and system being employed.
An inverter is a simple device that uses power from a battery source and converts this to 110 volts. This device switches in immediately there is a power outage without the owner being aware. Some available within the DR are somewhat basic and use mechanical switching to create the 60 Hz. These are easy to detect as your fans will ‘hum’, sometimes quite loudly. Typical costs for a 3kw inverter will be about US$1,000 including 4 batteries and should give a typical house around 8 to 10 hours.
A better quality inverter will generate electricity via an electrical switch which will be also identical to the mains supply and will not create any humming. These cost around US$2,000 plus batteries. Another benefit is that you can set the minimum and maximum voltage allowed; in other words you can set the inverter to allow no less than 90 volts to 120 volts through the public system.
The second option is a generator which can be either on auto or manual start, depending on your preference. Auto start is likely to delay by about 15 to 30 seconds. The big advantage of a generator is that it should be powerful enough to run your air conditioning. Generally inverters are not.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Water
Tap water in the DR is normally safe to use for cooking, washing clothes and bathing but not for brushing your teeth or drinking. The supply is generally continuous even if the pressure sometimes falls. All houses have a standby tank system with a pressure pump, so water is not normally a problem.
Drinking water is available in 18 liter or 5 US gallon containers, and is cheap at around US$1 per container. Dispensers with built in chillers are available at around US$150. Most shops or garages sell these containers.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Garbage Collection
If you live in a condo complex or some gated developments, this is sometimes part of your monthly maintenance fee, and your only obligation is to ‘put it out’. If you live in an area where this is not part of your fees or you live outside of a gated development, then you will have to organize this yourself. There are a number of private collection services, and most have a bi-weekly collection for around US$10 per month. They also tend to take virtually all household and limited garden rubbish.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Gas
This is always supplied in bottles and may be come as part of your condo fees or, more likely, you will have to occasionally arrange to have your bottles refilled. You can either take them yourself to one of many locations, or arrange for them to be collected. In either case this is a painless and inexpensive experience.
Living in the Dominican Republic – Domestic Staff:
Most foreigners employ domestic staff to assist with the basic household work and gardening. Typically costs will vary considerably, but as a rule you should expect to pay around US$200 to US$250 per month for a full time maid or cleaner and about half that for a gardener.