Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European city in the Americas. The old city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The most important tourist destination of the city is the Zona Colonial or Colonial Zone, on the western bank of the river and facing the Caribbean Sea. To the west of the Zona Colonial lies Gazcue, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, filled with old Victorian houses and tree-lined streets. The city's waterfront George Washington Avenue, knows as "El Malecon," borders the Caribbean Sea and attracts many tourists because of its hotels, casinos, palm-lined boulevards and monuments. Surrounding the Gazcue area you will find the Palacio Nacional (seat of the Dominican government), the National Theater, the Museums in the Plaza de la Cultura, and the Palace of Fine Arts.
Santo Domingo enjoys a tropical climate. Temperature averages from 73.4°F (23°C) in the morning to 89.1°F
(31.7°C) by the afternoon. Generally, January and February are the coldest months, and August is the hottest month of the year. The island is prone to hurricanes especially during June 1 to November 30, but fortunately they receive many warnings beforehand to prepare their people and tourist of any harm. Santo Domingo is a great city to visit during any season, because the city's ideal tropical weather runs all year long!
Santo Domingo is the headquarter of economic activity in Dominican Republic. The city catches the attention of many international firms. Many of these firms have their headquarters in the city due to its great location and prosperous economy.
Power outages have been one of the downfalls of placing a major headquarter in the city, but the infrastructure is a great advantage to many of these international firms. Since Santo Domingo has privatize and integrated with the US telecommunication system, they have been fortunate to have the benefit of a contemporary telecommunication system.
Incomes in Santo Domingo can vary from extremely rich to extremely poor. Many of the prominent families live in neighborhoods surrounding Avenida John F. Kennedy ("Avenida" = "Avenue") to the north, Avenida 27 de Febrero to the south, Avenida Winston Churchill to the west and Avenida Máximo Gómez to the east. Some other areas that are always expanding and developing are Naco, Arroyo Hondo, Piantini, Paraíso, Bella Vista, Sarasota. Most of the city's less fortunate live outside the center of Santo Domingo, which can be seen by various slums that emphasizes the huge issue poverty is for the city.
Avenida Winston Churchill and 27 de Febrero Avenue are two of the commercial centers of the city. Many malls and shops are located in these two avenues such as, Acropolis Center, Scotiabank, Citibank, Banco BHD, Banco del Progreso, Banreservas, Plaza Central and Plaza Naco. However, some of the most popular malls are Acropolis Center, Bella Vista Mall, Blue Mall, the upcoming Novo-Centro, Agora Mall and Galería 360 because it contains more contemporary shops and is popular within the high income families.
Santo Domingo was formerly called "Ciudad Trujillo" during the era of the dictatorship of Trujillo
The national government of the Dominican Republic is located in Santo Domingo. The National Palace is the workplace of the current President of Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, and the National Congress. The National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Tourist Police (Policia Turística) are in charge of implementing city safety. The national police station is located in Av. Leopoldo Navarro #402, you can also contact 809-682-2151 for the cenral line, but in case of an emergency dial 911. Be warned that their reliability is questionable and are not always responsive even to dire emergencies. There are also many destacamentos (police outposts) scattered throughout the city.
Las Americas International Airport (Located: Greater Santo Domingo). is located approximately 15 minutes from the greater metropolitan area and around 30 minutes from the city`s center. The airport offers several transportation options, including all major American car rental firms.
Direct flights from:
Atlanta, Boston, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Philadelphia, Panama City, San Jose Costa Rica, San Juan Puerto Rico, Havana, Port-au-Prince, Caracas, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Munich and Duesseldorf and surrounding Caribbean islands.
Airfare to Santo Domingo may vary widely depending on season and demand. A round trip ticket from Boston or New York ranges anywhere from US$300 to US$700, with fares from Miami or San Juan only slightly lower.
Airfare from most cities in Latin America cost between US$400 and US$1,000 and require layovers in Panama City, Panama (Copa Air) or San Jose, Costa Rica (Taca).
Upon arrival, a Tourist Card must be purchased ,it is 10 dollars, US money only and is available at a booth in Immigration.
Other airports in the country:
*La Isabela International Airport (Located: Greater Santo Domingo).
*Punta Cana International Airport (Located: Punta Cana / Higüey City)[[Punta Cana].|
*La Romana International Airport (Located: La Romana City)[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Romana,_La_Romana]].]
*Cibao International Airport (Located: Santiago de los Caballeros City [[Santiago de los Caballeros[/url]).|
*Gregorio Luperón International Airport (Located: Puerto Plata City)[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Felipe_de_Puerto_Plata]].]
*El Catey International Airport (Located: Sanchez City)[url=http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A1nchez,_Saman%C3%A1[/url].]
*María Montez International Airport (Located: Barahona City)[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Cruz_de_Barahona[/url].
There is ferry service to and from Mayaguez as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. It costs around US $200 roundtrip and the overnight journey last 12 hours. For an additional fee, you can bring your car along for the ride. The former company, Ferries del Caribe is now out of business and the new provider is called America Cruise Ferries. [http://www.acferries.com/]
Sansouci is a state-of-the-art terminal that holds up to 3800 passengers+luggage. From there you can get a taxi or a tour, and there is also an ATM, gift shops, a call center, and internet service.
Walking along major thoroughfares in Santo Domingo can prove quite challenging. First, drivers aren't very respectful of pedestrians, so you have to take extra care when trying to cross a street. Second, some sidewalks can be damaged or under construction , forcing you onto the street.
The Malecon and Colonial Zone are the most walkable parts of the city. They offer multiple pedestrian attractions and are relatively safe areas for tourists to explore. Although it is always wise to use common sense as everywhere.
While exploring the Colonial Zone try hiring a "properly-licensed" tour guide. These talented yet underpaid, multi-lingual individuals will keep you entertained for hours with unprecedented historical insight and humor. You can usually find them at the Plaza Colon in front of the Cathedral. Most are worth every penny. On the other hand, some of them are known to take their customers to businesses that throw them a kickback, so it's up to you to decide whether you really like to act upon their advice on businesses or not.
From the airport You can book your airport transfers in advance. Can try Dominican Airport Transfers[http://www.dominicanairporttransfers.com] one of business leaders, you can actually get an instant quote and book online on their automated site but the office is located in the city.
Taxis charge anywhere from US$25 to US$40 for the drive from the airport into Santo Domingo.
Unlike most major metropolitan areas, there are very few roaming taxis in Santo Domingo. Even if you see one, it is best not to take a chance, it can be dangerous. In most cases you have to call a dispatcher to have a taxi sent to your location. This isn't a problem and most businesses will gladly call a cab for you. Relatively expensive, usually US$ 4-15 per average trip and possibly more if you use one of the friendly cabs waiting in front of your nice hotel lobby. Again, depending on circumstances, you may find that hiring a cab driver for the day is a good bargain.
Alternatively, go up to the second floor at the Arrivals (at the very end), where a minivan will accommodate up to 8 passengers for a ride (70 pesos or ~ 2 USD, 1/2 hour) to the Zona Colonial (only). For further distances to the center (i.e. to the Caribe Tours Terminal), you will need to negotiate just like you would have with the usual un-metered taxis. To return, the cheapest option is to go to the corner of Av. Sabena Larga with Av. Las Americas (walkable in 15 minutes from Zona Colonial), where this same van may be there, or if not take the bus going to Boca Chica (40 pesos, about 1h); ask the driver to stop before the express route to the Airport, from where you can walk (about 20 minutes, some 2 km). I would not recommend this return during night time, nor do I know if lack of Spanish will hinder this option (hardly anyone speaks English in the bus, around the terminals etc). However getting to the city center seems more viable, that van was recommended at the Tourist Desk in the airport, and some sort of authority (with a badge) was entertaining the driver while waiting for the car to be filled.
Bottom line: taxis are convenient but expensive.
*Also be sure to never get into stray cabs at night or cabs that aren't sent by a dispatcher, they are not the safest. Another note, some cabs will put several passengers in at once, each paying a separate fare.
All major US car rental firms are available at the airport, along with several local vendors offering everything from subcompacts to late model Hummers, Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. When renting from local vendors be sure to read the fine print regarding insurance coverage; you might think you're getting a great deal on a car, only to get into an accident and find out that your insurance coverage does not apply or that your deductible is as high as US$5,000.
Advice to potential renters: Gasoline costs around US$ 5 per gallon here and people drive fast and furious, breaking every imaginable rule. It might be safer and cheaper to develop a friendship with a cab driver who will gladly become your personal driver, tourguide and concierge for a day rate equal to a fraction of what it would cost you to rent, insure and gas up a rental.Traffic at rush hour can be very heavy, especially in the city center and as stated by others, aggressive driving is the norm. There are many “one-way” roads that are not marked and signage is very poor all-around. The police are looking for handouts and so they will attempt to pull over any gringo in sight. It is not recommended to drive yourself as the drivers are super aggressive, road rules are ignored more often than not and no matter the circumstance an accident will always be the fault of a non-local.
For some unknown reason bus service in Santo Domingo is not very user-friendly and geared more towards locals getting to and from work. It is often impossible to know which bus goes where unless you ask the driver, as neither buses nor routes are clearly marked.
Bottom Line: Inexpensive (around US $ 0.5 and 1.00 per ride) yet complicated. Avoid unless you are accompanied by a local. These are called "guaguas" by locals.
These collective taxis or “carros públicos" as they are called by Dominicans, stick to a predetermined route (usually up and down a major avenue), picking up and dropping off passengers along the way - often cramming up to five passengers into a twenty year old Toyota Corolla. Very inexpensive,US$ 0.50 per trip, yet very uncomfortable. By the way, if you are overweight don't be surprised if the driver charges you for two seats instead of one.
They fit 7 people total, the driver, two in front passenger seat, and four in the back seat.
Santo Domingo has just recently gotten its own Metro, with just one line operating on a North-South axis under the Maximo Gomez avenue, going from Villa Mella to the Centro de los Heroes and the Malecon, passing by the National Theater and the Santo Domingo Autonomous University (UASD). It costs just 20 pesos per ride (less than US$ 0.6). A second line is currently in construction and there's around five more lines in plans of construction for the upcoming future.
An update to previous entry. Two lines are now running. See maps at http://www.colonialzone-dr.com/images/santo-domingo-metro-map-line1-line2.jpg
In the Colonial Zone:
* Alcázar de Colón - Visit this stunning villa, built in 1510 and retaining period furnishings and other items owned by Governor Diego Colón, first-born son of Christopher Columbus.
* Naval Museum of the Atarazanas Located across the plaza from the Alcazar de Colon on Calle Atarazana, the oldest street in the Western Hemisphere.
* Museum of the Casas Reales Another great museum featuring collections depicting life in 16th century Santo Domingo. Located on Calle Las Damas, walking distance from the Alcazar de Colon and the Naval Museum.
* World of Ambar Museum An impressive collection of amber stones [http://www.amberworldmuseum.com/]
* Museum of Duarte A collection of artifacts and writings regarding the Dominican Republic's founding father, Juan Pablo Duarte. Located on Calle Isabel La Catolica, a few blocks west of the above museums.
* Museo del Ron Dominicano Interesting museum presenting the history and evolution of rum production in the Dominican Republic. In the after hours it turns into a bar (read below). [http://www.museodelrondominicano.com/]
In Plaza de la Cultura:
* Museum of Natural History
* Museum of Dominican Man
* Museum of Modern Art
* National Museum of History and Geography
There are many parks around the city of Santo Domingo. One of the most popular parks are called Los Miradores, which are located on various sections of the city. These parks are very cozy for a picnic, to bike ride, a quick jog, or a long walk to enjoy nature and relax with friends. They’re a quite huge and can be a bit unsafe if wandered during the night, because it lacks street lights. Although Santo Domingo is surrounded by beautiful parks it does lack recreational facilities accessible to the public. Some of the parks that can be found:
*Mirador Norte Park, lies in the north of the city, close to Villa Mella
*Mirador Sur Park, located in the southwest section of the city
*Independencia Park, located in Zona Colonial
*Colón Park, located in Zona Colonial
*Las Praderas Metropolitan Park
*The Malecón, cityfront coastal park
*Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanical Garden
*Dominican Republic National Zoo
*Parque Nuñez de Caceres
Two of the top festivities of the year occur in Santo Domingo. The annual Merengue Festival in the summer and Carnival in the spring.
Each of these is held on the city's main seaside main road, El Malecon, but tend to spill over into hotel ballrooms, beaches, patios and even parking lots.
This is a great way to emerge oneself into the Dominican culture, as well as meet new interesting people from the city. The Merengue Festival takes place between July 26 to 31.
The festival is a celebration of Dominican Republic’s main dance, merengue. They invite the top merengue bands to perform free concerts to the crowd. The festival begins with a parade, but later becomes a concert.
There are art exhibitions, food fairs, and games that occur at the same time. The main activity that is done during the festival is dancing merengue, so be prepared to be spun uncontrollable when you decide to dance with a local.
The other amazing festival is The Carnival, which takes place during the entire month of February, but reaches its peak on February 27, the Dominican Independence Day.
The Carnival also takes place in El Malecon, where masks, which symbolizes spiritual spirits;elaborate costumes,and intriguing dances parade down the streets while entertaining and sometimes scaring the crowd.
The Colonial Zone offers plenty of shopping opportunities, especially if you are looking for Ambar and Larimar, the traditional stones of the DR. Don't forget to haggle, as all the shop owners adjust their prices for this purpose. You will also find a ton of Haitian art for sale everywhere at great prices. If that's your thing, great, just remember its not Dominican. The main boulevard in the Colonial Zone is El Conde, a pedestrian boulevard lined with all kinds of shops and eateries mostly aimed at the locales. Have fun shopping and people watching here.
If you are feeling adventurous, have a cab take you to the Mercado Modelo nearby. This indoor labyrinth of shops can be overwhelming for a new tourist but, don't worry, it is safe. Then again, you might feel safer asking the cab driver to escort you through the maze of shops and kiosks offering every imaginable kind of souvenir, jewelry, stone, artwork, etc.
If you want to experience American-style shopping there are plenty of options but here are the four most popular: Agora Mall, Blue Mall, Galerias 360 and Sambil, for those of you willing to venture into Santo Domingo Oriental, MegaCentro. Remember: no haggling at the malls. While MegaCentro is farther away than the others, it is the second largest mall in the Caribbean (after Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico) and is a destination in and of itself. This place is HUGE!
Please remember when shopping at the malls, this is an island where practically everything being sold is imported and, worse yet, taxed at 18% (ITBIS or Value Added Tax). Don't expect to find too many bargains to brag about back home!
If you want to spend less than US $8 on a decent meal and drink:
*Visit a “comedor” or cafeteria.
Comedores offer a “Plato del Día” or predetermined meal of the day (usually rice, beans, salad and meat or chicken, and a soda) for just US$3 - 8. Cafeterias and Comedores can be found everywhere around the city but specially around business areas and universities, this is where locals eat so is a great way of getting in touch with the culture. “Mimosa”, located on Padre Billini street in the Colonial Zone, offers a great variety of tasty local food during lunch hours. Another great option is Cafeteria "El Parque" which is in front of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park attached to the "Clinica Abreu" one of the country's best and most prestigious clinic,close to the Colonial Zone and the Malecon, great place for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.
*" Vegetarian - Kalenda corner of Calle 19 de Marzo and calle Arzobispo Portes.
Wonderful food. Afternoon veg meal comes with a free tea infusion like jasmin or green tea. Or just order a green juice to keep you going for the day for four dollars "
*Best sandwiches, juice and shakes in the Caribbean
"Barra Payán", located on 30 de marzo street only five minutes from the Colonial Zone, is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sandwich cafeteria, the place has been a traditional eatery for more than a half century. Buy a sandwich and a delicious squeezed-to-order fruit juice or milkshake for less than US$ 5.
*Chinese and "Pica Pollo"
At some point in history Dominicans became quite fond of fried chicken and chinese food, combining both cuisines into fast food establishments known as "pica pollos". These are usually take-out joints run by first or second generation chinese immigrants, serving up heaping portions of fried rice, plantain slices and tasty (and greasy) fried chicken, along with the usual variety of chinese comfort food. Very inexpensive. Visit Santo Domingo's China Town, near the Mercado Modelo and not far from the Colonial Zone (Duarte Avenue), a very busy zone where working class people do a lot of their shopping. If you feel adventurous enough to enter this usually chaotic but very picturesque part of the town it would an experience to remember. Keep in mind, pick-pockets love the crowded streets, watch your belongings closely.
A Mcdonalds combo costs around US$ 5, Taco Bell, Wendys and Pizza Hut around US$ 6. There are also several very good local franchises like Pizzarelli [http://www.pizzarelli.com.do/nuevo/]where you can have pasta, pizza or a salad for no more than US$ 10, and others like Pollos Victorina. Also, don't miss some good Dominican "empanadas" at De Nosotros Empanadas. Interesting note: you can walk into a McDonalds in Santo Domingo and order a value meal with a Presidente beer instead of a Coke. How cool is that?
Adrian Tropical A unique, quality and "affordable" dining experience. There are three restaurants in the city, the coolest one is literally built on the water in the Malecon. Best known for its "Mofongo" dish. This plate is made out of mashed plantains.
* El Conuco Very touristy and rather affordable restaurant in Gazcue, where you can enjoy live traditional Dominican dances.
* Lincoln Road On the Abraham Lincoln avenue, this restaurant has recently been remodeled.
* Yokomo The Dominican Sushi franchise. Enjoy the most unique and inventive Dominican-fushion sushi, such as sushi with sweet plantains.
* Falafel In the colonial zone, a good and affordable Near Eastern restaurant specializing in, as the name suggests it, falafel.
*Atras and Cinnamon in Plaza Orleans, two contiguous open-air restaurants. In this plaza you can order from any restaurant while sitting in the courtyard.
* Buen Provecho Middle range restaurant serving different types of food, a good place to get the "Dominican Flag" of meat with rice and beans.
* Red Grill A very trendy grill with several locations in the city. One is located in Plaza Orleans, another one has its own bar on top. Pricier, but not a splurge.
* Chef Pepper Also very trendy, and it just opened a new branch in Bella Vista. If you're craving a hamburger or a steak and cheese sandwich, this is a good place to go.
* L'Osteria A mid-range but very high quality Italian restaurant, facing the national theater.
* Sapore d'Italia Another mid-range, very good Italian restaurant.
* La Lasagna And yet another good Italian restaurant, very good and pretty affordable.
American and international midrange franchises include:
* TGI Fridays in Acropolis Mall
* Tony Roma's in the Sarasota Avenue
* Outback Steak House in Acropolis Mall
* Aviation Sports Bar in Plaza Central Mall
* Hard Rock Cafe in the 4th Floor Blue Mall, Churchill Street.
If you have to ask how much, you can't afford these places. The following are very tourist-friendly:
* El Vesuvio The oldest and finest Italian restaurant on the island, bar none, located on the Malecon
* La Briciola Fancy Italian restaurant in a Colonial Garden
* Mesón de la Cava An expensive average restaurant whose chief gimmick is being located within a natural cave underground.
The following are not very touristy, mostly being frequented by locals. However, if you want to explore how the wealthier classes dine in Santo Domingo, these are the places to go:
* Pat'e Palo Colonial Spanish/Mediterranean brasserie style restaurant, situated by the "Plaza de Espana" overlooking the "Alcazar de Colon" frequented by locals
* Pepperoni Grille Upscale, modern Italian.
* Sofia's Mediterranean cuisine.
* Any of the restaurants around Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenue
* David Crockett The most expensive steak house.
* Mesón de Bari One of the classiest restaurants for Dominican cuisine
* Porter House Grill Steakhouse
* Marocha Very popular cafe/restaurant, especially because of its "Churros"
* Lupe Right next to Marocha, Mexican Restaurant
* La Marrana Very trendy Spanish restaurant
* Cane, Jaleo and Tangerine Three contiguous "Dominican fusion" bar/restaurants
* Aka Possibly the most popular Japanese restaurant
* Fellini's Fancy Italian
* Don Pepe Fancy Spanish restaurant, very pricey
* Mitre Chic restaurant and wine bar
* Tabu Bambu Asian Fusion
* Scherezade Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant, with a lunch buffet on Sundays.
* The average price is about six to fourteen dollars a plate, a international menu that includes, imported seafood, imported pasta and cheese, imported steaks and some of the most popular Dominican cuisine. The decoration is artistic, with Michaelangelo finest works on the walls but at the same time very modern and chic all in white, with a outdoor terrace to enjoy frozen cocktails and wine overlooking one of the most popular avenue in the city. The restaurant products are mostly imported and they only cook with bottle water, making it one of the most safe place to eat.
* Sixteen Cuts Restaurant & Marine Lounge. This is by far the best kept secret in Santo Domingo. Offers one of the most exclusive views of the Colonial Zone. Has an excellent international menu, being its main courses the Black Angus and US Certified Cuts, divided in: 16 Tapas & Entrees, 16 Greatest & Newest Cuts,16 Ultimates Sides. All this complemented with a delicious offer of Seafood Meals, Fresh Salads and "More Great Cuisine”, all harmonized with their Wine Selection. Avenida Miguel Barcelo #1, Marina Bartolome Colon, Tel. 809-827-0660, 809-594-9634.