- For other places with the same name, see Santo Domingo (disambiguation).
Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic, and it prides itself in being the first European city in the New World. Founded by Christopher Columbus's brother Bartolome Colombus in 1496, it is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial empire in the New World. For this reason, the city of Santo Domingo has a really rich historic and cultural heritage that makes any visit extremely worth it. Nowadays, it remains one of the most populous cities in the Central America-Caribbean area, and the main economic and commercial center of this region. The country suffered 31 years of a brutal dictatorship by Trujillo, during which time the city was called "Ciudad Trujillo".
The city is divided into two parts by the Ozama River. The western side is very developed economically, while the eastern part, known as "Santo Domingo Este," has historically lagged behind.
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, known 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.
In the central part of western Santo Domingo lies the economic and commercial heart of the city, in an area known as the "Poligono Central" and delimited by the 27 de Febrero, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Maximo Gomez avenues. This high-income area remains rather unexplored by tourists, despite offering most of the best dining and shopping available in the city. Many of the city's most affluent neighborhoods surround the city's two main parks, the Parque Mirador Sur in the South and the Jardin Botanico in the North.
In the more populated but less developed East Santo Domingo you will find other major monuments and tourist spots, such as Columbus's Lighthouse, where the explorer's remains are buried, the open caves of the Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos, and the National Aquarium.
This all makes of Santo Domingo a cosmopolitan, vibrant and bustling city with very distinct neighborhoods and ambiances, all worth a visit, and providing the most diverse cultural experiences.
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. The city is also home to over 26 colleges and universities including the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, which is the largest and the first university of the Americas.
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.
Government and politics
The national government of the Dominican Republic is located in Santo Domingo. The National Palace houses the current President of Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina Sánchez, and the National Congress. The National Police (Policía Nacional) and the Tourist Police (Policía Turística) are in charge of implementing the city safety. The national police station is located in Av. Leopoldo Navarro #402, you can also contact 809-682-2151 for the central line, but in case of an emergency dial 911.
- Las Americas International Airport (Located: Greater Santo Domingo). (IATA: SDQ) is located approximately 15 minutes from the greater metropolitan area and around 30 minutes from the city 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 Düsseldorf 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 Panamá City, Panamá (Copa Airlines) or San José, Costa Rica (Avianca).
- La Isabela International Airport (Located: Greater Santo Domingo). (IATA: JBQ)
- Punta Cana International Airport (Located: Punta Cana / Higüey City). (IATA: PUJ)
- La Romana International Airport (Located: La Romana City). (IATA: LRM)
- Cibao International Airport (Located: Santiago de los Caballeros City). (IATA: STI)
- Gregorio Luperón International Airport (Located: Puerto Plata City). (IATA: POP)
- El Catey International Airport (Located: Sánchez City). (IATA: AZS)
- María Montez International Airport (Located: Barahona City). (IATA: BRX)
Taxis charge anywhere from US$25 to US$40 for the drive from the airport into Santo Domingo.
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.
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.
Santo Domingo is served by Expreso Bavaro and Caribe Tours from Punta Cana and by Caribe Tours from Sosua via Puerto Plata and Santiago de los Caballeros. Taxis from the bus terminals to the historic city center cost between DOP200 and DOP400, depending on bargaining skills.
Santo Domingo was, until recently, a huge city (pop. nearly 4 million people) that was split into 5 independent municipalities: Distrito Nacional, Santo Domingo Este, Santo Domingo Oeste, Santo Domingo Norte and Boca Chica. Fortunately, nearly all tourist attractions and shopping, dining and entertainment venues are located relatively close to each other in the Distrito Nacional, making it easy for you to get around and see the sights.
Santo Domingo is not entirely a tourist-friendly city. It`s often hard to move around if you don't know the city, as many streets lack proper signage and addresses are often reliant on the neighborhood's name more than an actual street address. However, don't be afraid of asking the locals for orientation, as Dominicans are well known for their helpful nature and usually helpful to tourists. It's a good idea to get a street map (there are many city maps online but it's also possible to buy one at any gift shop or book store for no more than US$5).
Walking along major thoroughfares in Santo Domingo can prove quite challenging. First, drivers aren't very respectful of pedestrians, so you have to take extra care when trying to cross a street. Second, some sidewalks can be damaged or under construction, forcing you onto the street.
The Malecon and Colonial Zone are the most walkable parts of the city. They offer multiple pedestrian attractions and are relatively safe areas for tourists to explore. Although it is always wise to use common sense as everywhere.
While exploring the Colonial Zone try hiring a "properly-licensed" tour guide. These talented yet underpaid, multi-lingual individuals will keep you entertained for hours with unprecedented historical insight and humor. You can usually find them at the Plaza Colon in front of the Cathedral. Most are worth every penny. On the other hand, some of them are known to take their customers to businesses that throw them a kickback, so it's up to you to decide whether you really like to act upon their advice on businesses or not.
Unlike most major metropolitan areas, there are very few roaming taxis in Santo Domingo. Even if you see one, it is best not to take a chance, it can be dangerous. In most cases you have to call a dispatcher to have a taxi sent to your location. This isn't a problem and most businesses will gladly call a cab for you. Relatively expensive, usually US$ 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.
By rental car
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.
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.
By public car
You can identify a public car from a regular car because it will have a government seal on the windshield. Public cars usually go up and down a street. You can catch one by standing on the street and signaling if your going up the street or down. Public cars are also safe, except you will probably be riding along with at least 5 other people going the same way you are. Public cars are roughly 20-25pesos.
By collective taxi
These collective taxis or “guaguas" 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$0.50 per trip, yet very uncomfortable. By the way, if you happen to be overweight don't be surprised if the driver charges you for two seats instead of one. Safety can sometimes be a concern, so it is best to take guaguas when traveling with locals.
They fit 7 people total, the driver, two in front passenger seat, and four in the back seat.
Santo Domingo has just recently gotten its own Metro, with just one line operating on a North-South axis under the Maximo Gomez avenue, going from Villa Mella to the Centro de los Heroes and the Malecon, passing by the National Theater and the Santo Domingo Autonomous University (UASD). It costs just 20 pesos per ride (less than US$ 0.6). A second line is currently in construction and there's around five more lines in plans of construction for the upcoming future.
Despite boasting a rich cultural, architectural and artistic heritage, Santo Domingo has not been exploited for all its tourist potential. You're pretty much on your own to discover this fascinating city. Make the most of your time there.
- Colonial Zone. Santo Domingo was the first major European settlement in the New World. Christopher Columbus walked these streets! Check out the many examples of 15th and 16th century architecture in the Colonial Zone. Don't miss the Ozama Fort, the Alcazar de Colon and the Cathedral, all built in Columbus' lifetime. You can also check beautiful churches and convents, such as the Iglesia Regina Angelorum and the Convento de los Dominicos. Don't miss the Panteon Nacional, where the national heroes are buried, located in the Calle Las Damas, the New World's first (European) street! Also, walk up the Calle del Conde, a very old pedestrian shop-lined street that used to be the commercial heart of the city. This street leads to the Puerta de la Independencia, where the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti, and the Parque Independencia, where the country's founding fathers' remains are kept. On Sunday evenings, check out the Ruinas de San Francisco for live bands playing Merengue, Bachata, Salsa and Son, in a wonderful weekly show where both locals and tourists dance, drink and enjoy themselves. This would be an unforgettable experience! Also check out La Atarazana street after dark for a variety of romantic outdoor cafes with a spectacular view of the Alcazar and bay area. One such brasserie, Pat E Palo, has operated uninterrupted since 1505. Check out the house where Ponce DeLeon lived before he embarked upon his quest for the fountain of youth and ended up discovering Florida.
- Santa Maria la Menor Cathedral. An important landmark because it is the first cathedral of the Americas. First built in 1514, its construction was not finished until 1540.
- Ozama Fortress. The oldest formal military construction still standing in the Americas. Cost of entrance is about $30 pesos per person and about $200 for a guide to take you. The guide is recommended because he will explain much of the historical background. The fortress itself is not very large, but within the perimeter you will find a large open area with a park and an exhibition of military vehicles and weapons, most of them relatively modern.
- Malecon (George Washington Avenue). This waterfront boulevard is home to several huge hotel/casino complexes and dozens of small restaurants, clubs and cafes. Go there to people watch, take a romantic carriage ride or just have a few beers. Site of many festivals and concerts throughout the year. Parallel to the Malecon you will find Avenida Independencia, a tree lined street full of shops, bed and breakfasts and affordable restaurants with a nice mix of locals and tourists. For a unique dining experience check out Adrian Tropical, a traditional Dominican restaurant literally built on the water, or San Gil, a more formal eatery occupying the ruins of a colonial fort. The Malecon Center, located on the far end of the Malecon, is a new and still under occupied high-end shopping center/hotel/condo complex with a Botero sculpture out front that reportedly cost US$1 million.
- Plaza de la Cultura (Walk all the way down the Malecon to Avenida Maximo Gomez and take a left. Walk past the McDonald's and Pizza Hut.). This amazing complex is home to the National Theater and five museums, ranging from the dilapidated and mundane, to the crisp, modern Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art), the largest in the Caribbean and home to exhibits by artists from Jamaica, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and of course, the Dominican Republic. Other museums include the Museo de Historia Natural (Museum of Natural History), Museo del Hombre Dominicano (Museum of the Dominican Man) and Museo de Historia y Geografía (Museum of History and Geography). The entrance to the museums will cost anywhere from 5 to 20 pesos. If want a nice beautiful garden to read or talk this is your place also.
- Eco-tourism. Find your way to the Parque Mirador Sur, an impressive park overlooking the coast. It gets closed for cars on weekdays between 5 and 8AM and pm, as well as on Sundays, enabling it to get filled with families playing with their children and exercising. Bike rentals are at your disposal.
Also, you can visit the Botanical Garden, a vast, beautiful and lush park situated near one of Santo Domingo's most exclusive neighborhoods. There you can experience different ecosystems from a rain-forest to a Japanese garden!
- Eastern Santo Domingo. Referred to as Santo Domingo Oriental, this separate municipality is not very tourist-friendly. Fortunately, most of its attractions are very close to the Colonial Zone and easy to get to. Check out Los Tres Ojos, or Three Eyes, a series of open-roof caverns and underground lakes for the whole family to explore (with a local this part of Santo Domingo is the most poverty stricken and can be dangerous!!!!). Head over to the Faro a Colon, a huge lighthouse and monument built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas in 1492 that is thought to house his remains and doubles as a museum. Check out the Santo Domingo Aquarium, a small but impressive showcase of the local aquatic life. If you're looking for some shopping, you can go to the Megacentro, Santo Domingo's largest shopping mall.
- Sun Dial/ Reloj de Sol (on Calle Las Damas). Most impressive and beautiful sight. Built in 1753 its one of the oldest sun dial in the Americas.
- Upscale Santo Domingo. If you want to see the cosmopolitan, upscale side of Santo Domingo, head to the Piantini and Naco neighborhoods. Streets like Gustavo Mejía Ricart and major avenues like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are lined with high end boutiques, shopping plazas, expensive cafes and restaurants offering a huge variety of international cuisines and just about anything money can buy, from cigar shops to Ferrari and Bentley dealerships. The Holiday Inn Hotel has recently opened in this area, which is very likely to bring much more tourism into what is the actual "downtown" of Santo Domingo. Don't miss Acropolis Center, an ultra-modern shopping center/office building where you will find everything from TGI Friday's to Prada. Just opened is Blue Mall, which has the most expensive shops in the city from Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Cartier, Tous & L'Occitane to more casuals like Zara and Adidas. Also just opened is Novo-centro which opened in a glass tower which was originally going to be a bank, but turned into a 2 story shopping center featuring a Fine Arts Cinema and some high end restaurants and gelaterias. Further away you can find Bella Vista Mall and Diamond Mall, two other big shopping malls in Santo Domingo. If you're looking for more open-air plazas lined with smaller boutiques, you should check out Plaza Andalucia. For bowling, you can go to the Plaza Bolera, which has recently gotten a face-lift. If you're in this area in the early afternoon, you should check out trendy cafes such as La Cuchara de Madera, where you can enjoy delicious deserts such as their dulce de leche "Piramides", and Marocha & Grappa for dining and definitely to high-end nightclubs and bars like Fellini or Praia.
In the Colonial Zone:
- Alcázar de Colón (Museo Alcázar de Colón), Plaza España, Zona Colonial, ☎ +1 809 682-4750. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM; closed M. 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.
- (Museo Naval de las Atarazanas), Calle La Atarazana, Zona Colonial, ☎ +1 809 541-5652. Mo-Su 9AM-5PM. Located across the plaza from the Alcazar de Colon on Calle Atarazana, the oldest street in the Western Hemisphere.
- Museum of the Casas Reales alt=Museo de las Casas Reales, Calle Las Damas, Zona Colonial, ☎ +1 809 682-4202. Mo-Su 9AM-5PM. 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.
- 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.
- Museum of Rum and Sugar Cane (Museo del Ron y la Caña), Isabel la Catolica #261, Zona Colonial, ☎ 809-685-5111. 9AM to 5PM (bar is open during the museum hours with limited service) daily. Closed Sunday.. This museum is free and is very new. It holds all the history of rum making in Dominican Republic. In the front of the museum you will find all the Dominican rum for sale at reasonable prices. There is also a very nice bar inside where you can enjoy a nice drink of rum or any other drink you like. In the after hours it turns into a bar (read below). Free.
- Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, Calle Arzobispo Nouel #210, Zona Colonial, ☎ +1 809 688-4440, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana (Memorial Museum of the Dominican Resistance) presents an ample presentation of 20th century history of the country, and the ordeals endured under the Trujillo regime. RD$150.
In Plaza de la Cultura:
- Museum of Natural History
- Museum of Dominican Man (Museo del Hombre Dominicano), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue, ☎ +1 809 687-3622. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; closed M.
- Modern Art Museum (Museo de Arte Moderno), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue, ☎ +1 809 685-2154, e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM; closed M. Adults: RD$50, Students/children: RD$20, Children age 5 and under: Free.
- National Museum of History and Geography (Museo Nacional de Historia y Geografia), Avenida Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Plaza de la Cultura, Gazcue, ☎ +1 809 686-6668. Tu-Su 09:30AM-5:00PM; closed M.
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:
- Columbus Park (Parque Colón) (in the center of the colonial zone). This park is most popular among locals and visitors alike. It is a beautiful plaza which surrounds a monument of Columbus to which the park is named after. It is visited by people who would like to relax, families who come to enjoy the park with the kids and couples who enjoy the scenery and its wonderful restaurants. Because the park is very popular you will find plenty of vendors selling CD's of local music, hand made trinkets, rosaries and food. You will also find many tour guides hanging around ready to give anyone who wishes a guided tour of the cathedral and the colonial zone at a price. Taxis ready to take you anywhere will also be hanging around the park. A typical taxi fare within the city will rarely exceed $200, as of January 2012.
- The Malecón. A cityfront coastal park running along the sea side of the busy street of Ave. George Washington. It is a nice and relaxing place for a walk. Along the road you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean sea, people hanging, and if you are by the Colonial Zone small kiosks selling goods and restaurants. There are many benches where you can sit and admire the view.
- Dominican Republic National Zoo (Parque Zoológico Nacional Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá), Av. La Vega Real, Arroyo Hondo, ☎ +1 809 378-2149, fax: +1 809 378-2070, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A cityfront coastal park running along the sea side of the busy street of Ave. George Washington. It is a nice and relaxing place for a walk. Along the road you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean sea, people hanging, and if you are by the Colonial Zone small kiosks selling goods and restaurants. There are many benches where you can sit and admire the view.
- Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso National Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso), Av. Republica de Colombia, ☎ +1 809 385-2611, e-mail: jardinbotanicoO@jbn.gob.do. Mo-Su 9AM-6PM. Adults: RD$70, Children: RD$50.
Santo Domingo is an excellent place to study Spanish off the beaten track and get immersed in the language. One recommended Spanish school that specializes in one on one lessons at discount rates is the RoofTop Spanish School.
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.
Most transactions in the Dominican Republic can be paid in Cash and credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in most stores and restaurants.
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. However most merchants will accept dollars or euros. If you do choose to purchase goods or services in dollars or euros, be wary of the exchange rate. The official exchange rate in the Dominican Republic is set by the Banco Central de la Republica Dominicana and is updated daily.
Foreign Currency exchange services are prominently available at major ports of entry or are located nearby. Some of the most prominent foreign exchange dealers are:
Agente de Cambio Caribe Express and Agente de Cambio La Nacional Caribe Express offices and major banks which include:
Banco de Reservas, Scotia Bank, Banco Leon, Banco Popular Dominicano among others.
Some of these banks are located at
- Gruen Projects -- Art Gallery, Bella Vista (by appointment), ☎ 809 707 1967. Gruen Projects exhibits and promotes the work of Dominican Artists, such as Hector Ledesma, Miguel Pineda, Leonardo Sanz, Joaquin Rosario, and Joel Gonell.
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 locals. 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 three most popular:
- Acropolis Center (Condominio Centro Comercial Acropolis), Av. Winston Churchill and Calle Rafael Augusto Sánchez, ☎ +1 809 955-2020. Mo-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM.
- Agora Mall, Av. John F. Kennedy and Av. Abraham Lincoln (Estación Pedro Mir L2), ☎ +1 809 363-2323, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Bella Vista Mall, Av. Sarasota #62 Esq. Arrayanes, Bella Vista, ☎ +1 809 255-0664.
- Galeria 360, Av. John F. Kennedy and Bienvenido Garcia Gautier (Estación Pedro Mir L2), ☎ +1 829 995-7360, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Plaza Central, Av. 27 de Febrero and Av. Winston Churchill, ☎ +1 809 541-5929.
No haggling at the malls. Please remember when shopping at the malls, this is an island where practically everything being sold is imported and taxed at 18% (ITBIS or Value Added Tax).
Santo Domingo offers a variety of cuisines from around the world from Chinese, Italian and Mediterranean to Brazilian. You can also find the main fast food franchises like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, among others.
Be aware that mid-grade and high-end restaurants can be quite costly for third world standards, a dinner with an entrée, main course, drink and dessert can range from US $15-$75 per person, plus 10% mandatory tip plus 16% ITBIS tax. Be careful and ask around as price doesn't always equal quality, especially in tourist areas.
Note: Unless the contrary is specified menu prices don’t include the 10% service charge and 16% sales tax, so real prices are 26% higher than indicated in the menu.
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$3 – 8. Cafeterias and Comedores can be found everywhere around the city but specially around business areas and universities, this is where locals eat so is a great way of getting in touch with the culture. “Mimosa”, located on Padre Billini street in the Colonial Zone, offers a great variety of tasty local food during lunch hours. Another great option is Cafeteria "El Parque" which is in front of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park attached to the "Clinica Abreu" one of the country's best and most prestigious clinic,close to the Colonial Zone and the Malecon, great place for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.
- Best sandwiches, juice and shakes in the Caribbean
"Barra Payán", located on 30 de marzo street only five minutes from the Colonial Zone, is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sandwich cafeteria, the place has been a traditional eatery for more than a half century. Buy a sandwich and a delicious squeezed-to-order fruit juice or milkshake for less than US$ 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.
- Fast food
A McDonalds combo costs around US$ 5, Taco Bell, Wendy's and Pizza Hut around US$ 6. There are also several very good local franchises like Pizzarelliwhere 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 Food, Avenida 27 de Febrero, ☎ (809) 472-1763. 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-fusion 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, Av. Winston Churchill, Acropolis Center, ☎ +1 809 955-8443. Mo-Th 12PM-12AM Fr-Su 12PM-1AM.
- Outback Steak House, Av. Winston Churchill, Acropolis Center, ☎ +1 809 566-5550. Su-Th 12PM-11PM Fr-Sa 12PM-12AM.
- Hard Rock Cafe, Av. Winston Churchill, Acropolis Center, ☎ +1 809 686-7771. Su-Th 12PM-12AM Fr-Sa 12PM-1AM.
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
- Pat'e Palo Colonial Spanish/Mediterranean brasserie style restaurant, situated by the "Plaza de Espana" overlooking the "Alcazar de Colon" frequented by locals
- 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:
- 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.
- Michelangelo Restaurant (Winston Churchill and Roberto Pastoriza, Plaza Las Americas). The average price is about six to fourteen dollars a plate, an 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 Michelangelo's 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.
Santo Domingo has an amazing variety of night life options. Unfortunately, most bars and clubs must close at midnight from Sunday to Thursday and at 2AM on Friday and Saturday. This is a regulation imposed since 2006 intended to curtail the escalating crime in the city. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to start partying at 8PM on the weekends. Happily, the regulation is suspended on holidays and the last two weeks of December for Christmas partying. Usually the clubs located inside major hotels are exempt from this rule, although they aren't usually much fun.
As of November 2007, there are a couple of bars that are open until 3AM on weekends since August 2007.
The Malecon is home to several options as well, depending on what's in style at the time.
Check out Jet Set on Monday nights for live Merengue and Bachata shows from the most popular top bands.
Head over to the upscale side of Santo Domingo (Naco, Piantini) if that is your scene. There are a ton of options there, including perennial favorites such as Trio Caffe, Praia and Montecristo. Be aware that those kind of places can have a rather strict admission policy, you usually have to look white enough and rich enough to be admitted. This discrimination hasn't go unnoticed, the Embassy of United States directed all resident official U.S. Embassy employees to refrain from patronizing Loft one of the most popular and exclusive nightclubs in the city, responding to the actions of Loft management in selectively denying entry to African-Americans embassy on July 22, 2007.
In this upscale area of Santo Domingo, consider:
- Amika Dance club and lounge
- Cinema Cafe (within Plaza de la Cultura, adjacent to Museo del Hombre Dominicano), ☎ 809-221-7555. Monday thru Thursday 11AM to 1AM, Fridays 11AM to 3AM. Saturday 4PM to 3PM, Sunday 5PM to 1AM. A meeting place of artists, students, young professionals, music and movie-lovers. It is a place to listen to good music, poetry and to see theater performances. Nice ambient, presents local rock bands on the weekends. In case of concert there is a $15-20 cover.
- Dock Very trendy Bar at the Acropolis Center. Open air, electronic music.
- El Barcito Very nice ambiance, mostly rock music. The owner is always present and very friendly.
- Fellini Fancy Italian restaurant, becomes bar later at night
- LED, Ave. Independencia & Abraham Lincoln (inside the hotel Hispanola), ☎ 809.476.7733. Wed-Sat. A nice Club with House music, where some well known DJs are invited. Students love this spot because of its spacious dance floor and popularity. It may be a bit costly than the other bars/clubs, make sure to call for entrance fee ahead of time.
- Level 2 On the second flour of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Also check out the rooftop bar and pool!
- Maruja New, trendy open air bar, close to La Marrana and Margo
- Mix Right next to the Mix Restaurant, another popular bar.
- Praia The fanciest club, currently moved to the Holiday Inn Hotel.
- Rua Open air bar in front of Aka
- Shots Mostly rock music, very young crowd. Ave. Roberto Pastoriza.
- Plaza Uris located on Ave. Roberto Pastoriza
This plaza has become one of the capital’s top weekend destinations with five very popular bar/clubs with Zambra-809.683.7373, Vié 809.227-2503, Shots (829) 886.1208, Sinatra 809.368.1155 and Taboo Bamboo 809.227-2727 all in the same plaza. This is a favorite spot for locals and especially visitors because it reminds them of the states. Because of its proximity you can bar hop until you find the one that fits you. Music ranging from rock, hip-hop and Latin. When in the plaza the drink to try is definitely Omega shot. Make sure you have a designated driver or number to a taxi.
If you you are more into the bohemian scene check out the Colonial Zone for great bars and cafes, as well as a vibrant gay nightlife scene. Here are some hints:
- Bio. Modern eclectic music from regueaton to Latin rock, very young public. Famous for serving drinks from buckets. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Bocanegra Currently the trendiest place in the Colonial Zone
- Cacibajagua.. Great rock music, nice decor, adult crowd. Sanchez #201.
- Casa de Teatro Enjoy live jazz and rock concerts, pretty bohemian.
- Doubles Good Latin dance music.
- El Beduino New Hookah Bar on a rooftop in the Colonial Zone.
- El Sarten this is a vintage Latin bar frequented by a mature crowd of experienced dancers. Drop in if you want to see some serious merengue and salsa steps. Located on Calle Hostos #153, Zona Colonial # 809.686.9621 – Open every night
- Encuentro Artesanal. The decor is definitely the best in the Colonial Zone highly selected electronic music, frequented by artists and publicists.
- Misifu. New bar in the Atarazana street. Very trendy at the moment.
- Museo del Ron. The daytime museum turns into a very cozy bar, offering a wide range of Caribbean rums to taste, as well as some of the best rum based cocktails in the city. Nice lounge music, beautiful patio.
- O' Brien's Supposedly an Irish Pub, and although there's nothing of a pub about it, it is a very trendy place.
- Ocho Puertas Rock, alternative and electronica with live music also, very beautiful place. Jose Reyes #107
- Parada 77. Latin rock, Spanish songwriters some merengue and salsa, people in their mid thirties and forties.
- S Bar. Mostly rock music, can enjoy some falafels too, you would love the owner Isaac. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Segafredo. A franchise, lounge music, Italian food and good coffee.
Whatever you do, don't leave Santo Domingo without visiting La Guacara Taina, the only nightclub in the world inside a huge natural cave. Descend several hundred feet into a fantasy world of lights and sound. You have to see this place to believe it. Located (under) the Mirador Sur park mentioned above. It can be empty if you go early or on weekdays.
- Courtyard by Marriott Santo Domingo Hotel, Avenida Maximo Gomez, ☎ +1 809-685-1010. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM. Near the business district, conveniently located to the US Embassy and the US Consulate, ideal for business travellers. Comfortable rooms equipped with free wireless internet.
- Hotel Atarazana, Calle Vicente Celestino Duarte #19 (Zona Colonial), ☎ +1 809 688 3693. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM. Family-run boutique hotel. All rooms are equipped with color cable TV, en-suite, air conditioning or ceiling fan and wi-fi. All rooms have balconies. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s patio, surrounded by lush plants and a jacuzzi. English, Spanish, German, French and Italian spoken by staff. US$ 80-100.
- Hotel Beaterio, Calle Duarte nº8 Ciudad Colonial, ☎ +1 809 687 86 57. Excellent accommodations in a former nunnery! Wrought iron beds, old world charm, and central to the colonial district. From $75 up.
- Hotel Delta:. Sarasota #53 in Bella Vista area, +1 809 535 0800. Excellent for the business traveler. It located in the center of the city making it very accessible. Hotel offers a business center and wifi connection. Restaurant with 24 hour room service. There is a very nice pool/bar on the rooftop which offers a 360 degree view of the city.
- Pension Ginette, ☎ +1 809 623 9740. El Conde 505 (near Puerta del Conde). 400 DOP for 2 people.
- Renaissance Jaragua Hotel & Casino, ☎ +1 809 221-2222. Reservations:. Centrally located near El Conde (shopping district), historic colonial buildings, and restaurants. Also across the street from the malecon (which is long sidewalk and sitting area in front of ocean).
- The RoofTop Hostel, ☎ +1 809-297-2538. Calle Francisco Peynado No. 56, Edificio Calú, A great hangout spot for backpackers with dorm beds starting at $6 USD per night .
Poverty, though not as bad as next door Haiti, is still rampant and it is best you take precautions. Do not flash obvious wealth in poorer or middle class sections of the city (lots of jewelry, expensive camera, big watches, etc.). Keep your bag away from the street when walking as it can be snatched by kids on mopeds and keep a firm grip on it. Keep your passport at your accommodation and in a safe (some maids can steal). If you are Caucasian (no matter how you are dressed), expect to have a lot of insincerely friendly people on the streets follow you and strike up conversation with you. They are only talking to you in order to get money from you. They inevitably steer the conversation towards money and are looking for handouts or, worse, 'protection money' to protect you from the more undesirable elements of society. When walking on the side walk do not stand too close to the street. There are robbers on mo-peds/motorcycles that will pass by and yank your purse from you. Note that some men and maybe even women carry a gun on them; do not let this alarm you. You will see men in civilian clothes relaxing on their patio or on the streets playing dominoes, with a gun they could be security guards.
Walk confidently. Don't dress like a tourist. Be yourself but if yourself is flashing Gucci and Prada where ever you go, maybe you need to dress down a bit. If you get lost at any time ask a local person walking by for directions. They are always more than happy to help foreigners at everything. Do NOT follow anyone that offers to take you to your destination. They will usually expect some payment for their effort. Even worse, they could be setting you up.
Do NOT drink the tap water. It is not processed to be ingested by people. You can get sick. Bottled water is really cheap and sold every where. Ice is okay.
Embassies & consulates
- Canada, Capitán Eugenio de Marchena, No. 39 La Esperilla, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ☎ +1-809-200-0012, fax: 809-682-2691, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Greece, Centro Otorrinolaringologia Especialidades, Avenida 27 de Febrero, Esq. Federico Henriquez Carvajal, ☎ +1-809-685-3372, fax: +1-809-685-0071.
- Spain, Av. Independencia No. 1205, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ☎ +1-809-535-6500, fax: +1-809-535-1595, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United Kingdom, Ave 27 de Febrero No 233, Edificio Corominas Pepin, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ☎ +1-809-472-7111, fax: +1-809-472-7190, e-mail: email@example.com.
- United States of America, Av. República de Colombia #57, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ☎ +1-809-221-2171, fax: +1-809-567-7775. 08:00-16:45.