What To Know Before Visiting the Dominican Republic

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Unfortunately, my trip to Punta Cana was one of my least favorite trips I have been on.

It’s not the country I didn’t like, it was my trip. I want to be clear about that. I didn’t really look into the DR before hand, it was very last minute. I was expecting a relaxing vacation with just a few excursions, I don’t even think we book any excursions before, just when we arrived. This is very unlike me but I was trying to be spontaneous, not my thing when it comes to traveling. You are in fact spending a good amount of money, you want to have your basics covered.

Lesson learned, I wanted to share a few things to know before visiting the Dominican. Knowing the basics before visiting a new country is not only smart, but helps keep you from coming off as disrespectful in any way or might keep something from ruining your trip.

We did end up getting engaged during this vacation, so for that reason the Dominican Republic will always have a special place in my heart.

Out engagement night. Punta Cana, DR

Do Not Only Stay In Punta Cana

Considering a lot of things are hours from Punta Cana, you might be considering just taking it easy and staying at your resort or hotel here. I promise you will be missing out. Unless the usual resort-y tourist scene is your vibe, you won’t get much culture from this town

I searched hours for tours or excursions that were not offered in any other Caribbean island. I couldn’t find anything that made Punta Cana unique. This was the most frustrating part of my trip. I wish I had done more research about getting to waterfalls, nearby cities, or anything other than what Punta Cana was offering.

My advice, unless you want to just relax or party, make plans to visit another area too.

Punta Cana beaches are still beautiful.

It’s A Very Poor Country

I knew the DR was a poorer nation, but I did not expect to the degree I saw. I’m not saying this is bad or in any way changed my mind about the country. Although, I wasn’t prepared for people knocking on my taxi door at almost every stop light asking for money, and it being impossible to walk around the streets. If you’ve never seen poverty, it is something to prepare yourself for.

It sounds superficial, but it’s reality. If you’re like me, your heart will break and it will really take a toll on you. I had been all over the Caribbean and latin America and still never saw worse poverty.

A few people at our hotel told us that there is a working class, and the povershed class. In my opinion the working class locals we spoke with seemed to have a bad opinion on the poorer class. I’m not one to judge, but to me it was obvious the poor do not have equal opportunity here.

Businesses on the side of the road.

There Is Not Much To Do

Let me be clear, there IS things to do but what I discovered in the DR is that it’s a country of hidden gems and everything is spread out.

I did research of where to stay before hand, and we ultimately decided Punta Cana because we wanted relaxation. We were thinking of staying in cultural cities across the country, but none of them had enough to do to last us the 5 days we were there. My recommendation, if visiting the Dominican, stay long enough to travel around and do the few things in every area, or else you will probably be spending most of your time by the pool.

There is plenty to see and do, but expect to be hopping around the country to fill up your itinerary. If all you’re needing is a beach getaway, it’s fantastic for that. In fact, Punta Cana and Saona Island have some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen.

Saona Island

Punta Cana Is Party Central

I heard my friends’ stories before hand of all the drunken Punta Cana nights. Most resorts will have events planned in the evening and going until late, giving every night of your vacation an opportunity to get tipsy. This might be good or bad, depending on what you like. We enjoyed having the option to party even on a weekday, and our room stayed quiet for the nights we needed some sleep.

Even during the day our pool was covered in younger travelers in neon colored swim suits getting their drink on. I guess we were two of them!

I did not look into more quiet areas to visit, although I’m sure they exist. If you’re looking for something more secluded I recommend looking through the resort reviews, typing in the word “quiet”, and staying where ever has the most reviews using that word.

A night out at our resort

Try Mamajuana

Mamajuana was something I had no idea about before visiting the island. Usually it’s not even available around the resorts. You basically need to visit a shop somewhere outside Punta Cana to find it.

What is it? Well, the locals say it has healing powers, weather that’s true or not, it’s probably going to be the most interesting shot you’ve ever tasted! In a good way. I am not a shot taker by any means, but I loved Mamajuana. It’s a mix of rum, red wine, honey, tree bark, and herbs.

It’s most famous “healing power” is it’s power to increase sexual potency, hence it’s nickname ‘the baby maker’ or ‘liquid viagra’. Although, it also is said to help with digestion, blood circulation, the flu, and so on.

The People Are Welcoming

Any pre vacation worry you might have, don’t stress it! Everyone was very willing to help us out and give us information. Dominicans are very proud of their country and would love to tell you about it.

Although I would’ve loved to explore a little more, what I did explore, I was always met with kindness and a lot of enthusiasm. Dominicans also love to party, you will quickly find out. So be ready to have an amazing time.

I hope I gave you a few pointers for your future trip to the Dominican Republic.

Although I didn’t plan my trip accordingly, I hope I was helpful in planning yours.

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Happy travels!

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