FAQ – Dominican Republic Travel Guide

A Finn and a flamingo.

Before I went on holiday I had a million questions, most of them involving life-threatening illnesses. You can get all of this information from other people, but I’m going to write down everything I can remember and hopefully it will be of use to the next person frantically surfing the web for some answers about the Dominican Republic. And as always, I will reply to any messages, if I only find the right button.

How long realistically should I plan to stay in Juan Dolio?
Most people who go to Juan Dolio are not looking for adventures. Nope, they are totally sickeningly sweet couples looking for a totally relaxing holiday, a paradise where stress is but a memory.

Okay, getting to that point takes a week, and when you FINALLY have managed to settle down, your stomach handles the food, that sun rash is disappearing and the couples that made you want to shoot more than dirty looks have ceased to annoy you, it’s usually time to go home. At this point, that second week that would have cost you virtually nothing will seem like God’s gift.

Realistically, if you only have that one week, you will still love it. But I would definitely recommend two, if you want to see more than Juan Dolio.

NOTE! If you do stay for two weeks, bring enough money to go on excursions. You can only lie on a beach like a dead fish for so long.

Is Juan Dolio Safe?
If a stranger pulled up to you on a motor bike in your hometown and asked you to hop on, would you do it?

Don’t be silly. Of course you would, if it was Jennifer Lopez or Ben Affleck. Otherwise you’d most likely say no, and give them an odd look.

Do I have a point? Well, yeah… use common sense and you’ll be fine. Juan Dolio, or any other city in the Dominican Republic is fairly safe as long as you’re not out on your own (women in particular), you don’t flash money around and you stay in populated areas. Juan Dolio is just hotel after hotel after hotel, but walking alone in deserted areas is never a good idea.

Tourists are not advised to rent cars, as an accident will always result in blame on them, regardless of whose fault it really was. Walking in a group is fine, though, and there is also a minibus going from resort to resort through the night. Just don’t expect a schedule…

Juan Dolio.

Where can I lay my head?
The best way to see the Dominican Republic is to grab an all-inclusive deal.

Now (!!) – before you start thinking “How lazy and unadventurous is THAT?” remember that these trips are usually the cheapest way to get there, to guarantee a roof over your head and food in your stomach. The odds that you at some point will run out of money are huge, and when you do, you have somewhere to return. A place that will serve you copious amounts of alcohol, nonetheless.

Meanwhile, dump what you don’t need at the hotel and start exploring the island!

We stayed at the 3-star hotel Barcelo Talanquera, and I have two words for you – cheap and cheerful!

Can I drink the water?
No, no and no. You can brush your teeth with it, you can wash yourself in it, but it is not fit to drink. I have no idea if it will kill you or not, but we are talking more than upset stomach here.

There is bottled water to be found everywhere though, and the hotels have clean water in everything they serve (ice cubes included). Just make sure that even the ice cubes are made of bottled water before you drink anything. Getting sick on this island is something you should avoid at all costs.

Is the Dominican Republic Expensive?
Yes and no. If you buy something on the beach you will most likely get ripped off. $8 USD for a coconut?? HELLOOO? And if someone tries to sell you a watch, go ahead, ask them what time it is. If the salesman has to find his mobile phone to give you the time, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? So beach stuff is a no-no.

Buying things at the hotel is a ripoff as well. They know the tourists can afford it and will buy that bag of crisps, no matter how overpriced it is. But if you don’t want to leave the hotel area, you have no choice.

Then there’s shopping in the bigger cities. In Santo Domingo, for example, you’re likely to find amazing bargains . Trying to get the price down further seems to be half the fun. So that’s where the inexpensive part of the Dominican Republic comes in.

On a katamaran.

Am I going to get ill?
Apart from dehydration and sunstroke, you’re bound to get one of the following – constipation, diarrhoea, toothache, sun rash or backache. C’mon, if it’s your first holiday in a year, something is bound to go wrong.

Diarrhoea can be avoided by A) not eating all the fruit offered as they are natural laxatives; B) not drinking huge amounts of piña colada as coconut milk is a natural laxative; C) not eating all the fried food you can handle as they’re cooked in coconut oil. I’m sure you get the point. Besides, the runs seems to be everybody’s holiday friend. Just be careful. And hey, if you get constipation you can just do the exact opposite of what I just told you. Piña Coladas for everyone, man!

Most “all-inclusive” hotels also put a plastic band around your wrists to “brand” you. Your wrist will sweat and most likely you will soon start to develope a rash. It goes away after a while and is nothing to worry about. Just remember to rinse it often.

Okay, these are the less serious diseases. Let’s move on to the less cheerful ones. Get your shots for hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. That means you should be okay. Unless you plan to stay in the jungle. In that case malaria pills are what you need.

Malaria pills are not needed if you are only planning on staying in the resort. Please check this with your GP/PCP before you go, but basically what I was told is that the pills given before the trip are not strong enough to conquer malaria in the first place, and the really strong ones have irritating side effects. Why that mosquito from the jungle would not be able to find its way into a resort I don’t know, but apparently they don’t. Maybe they need street signs…

Mosquitos do carry other diseases, though, so ALWAYS wear bug repellent.

Whew… that’s me done. But before you cancel your trip to the Dominican Republic, please remember that what you’re likely to get there, you can get on any trip outside your native country, and if you do take the right precautions you are unlikely to get anything but the runs.

Then there’s always the issue of unsafe sex. Here I will refer to what I said earlier about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck on a motor bike. If you wouldn’t do it back home, don’t do it on holiday either.

I am going to the Dominican Republic and don’t want to take malaria tablets – will I die?
Doubtful. But as said above, do check with a doctor before you go. It will take you a second, and probably make you worry much less.

Where can I go shopping in Juan Dolio?
Umm… nowhere. You can get the basic sunscreen and after-sun lotion. Or a bag of crisps and “local art” sold at the beach. For anything else, hop on a bus to Santo Domingo or San Pedro de Macoris. There you find street markets, shopping centres and the opportunity to bargain to your heart’s content.

Carita, with big red starfish. Souvenir?

How do I get there, is it worth it?
Is it worth it? God yes, and I would go again at any point in time. But this depends a lot on what you’re looking for. Would I go to Juan Dolio again? Not necessarily, although it does have its perks. It is CLEAN, as opposed to resorts on the north coast where the water is reportedly brown. Juan Dolio also has a few local pubs, and the locals actually go to them as do the holiday reps.

But if you’re looking for something slightly more “happening,” I’m sure La Romana is better for that. It’s on the south coast as well, so the beaches are clean, but it’s a bigger city. I’ve only driven through it and it looks like a dump to me, but I wouldn’t even take my own word for that one. It’s apparently surfer’s paradise. Not to mention the fact that Michael Douglas plays golf there. Can’t be all bad.

The best way to get to the Dominican Republic if you’re on any kind of a budget is to take a last-minute deal off the web.

If you’re flying from the UK, www.teletextholidays.com is where we got our holiday, a week for £500. From the US, I’m sure the possibilities are endless.

Where else is worth seeing around Juan Dolio?
If you only see one thing in the Dominican Republic make it Saona Island. It is what dreams are made of. Fluffy clouds, cute small houses, white sandy beaches and palm trees. Saona is part of the national park of the east, and on your way to the island the boats usually stop at what they call the “natural swimming pool”, an area of clear turquoise water where you can swim and pick up starfish from the bottom of the sea.

Go on, you know you want to.

Altos de Chavon

Also worth seeing is Altos de Chavon, a perfect replica of a small mediterranean village. Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson have both gotten married in this village, which looks like it’s from the 1500s but was built in the 80s. If I remember correctly it is used for design students and students of architecture so that they can do… well, design and architecture, I suppose.

From Altos de Chavon you can look at the gorgeous nature that has been used in both Anaconda and Apocalypse Now. Breathtaking to say the least.

If you want to experience the cultural and historical aspect of the island it would be silly not to visit the capital, Santo Domingo. We were silly, but also very poor, so we only went to the east coast.

Who writes this stuff?
Umm… me. And I am by no means an expert. But if you do have any questions, fire away! I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.

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