Tropical Travel Tips an overview Recently updated !
These are high priority items for us coming from North America to the tropics. If you would like to see something added to the list let us know in the comments or through our contact form. Before we get started a word about safety. Petty crime is common here but they target specific things. Dont bring your expensive jewelry. Please avoid flashing expensive items like nice smart phones and don’t carry bags. The petty criminals here love to snatch bags and chains. Use the local currency and keep a low financial profile. Only go to ATM’s that have guards. Move in groups as much as possible. In other words use the same common sense you would in a place like New York, L.A., Sydney or London. No need to be a target.
If you have any mobility issues request a wheelchair when you fly. They normally have them at the Airports and being in that chair is no impediment. In fact you fly through customs faster and easier. Don’t forget to tip the guy who pushes your chair. Notice he will get you to the head of lines and quickly past the inspector. Welcome to the Tropics.
It is ALWAYS about the water. Drink it, consume it. Your body will go through a lot of it. Get it as soon as possible. You will want a minimum of a half gallon of water per day per person if you are not doing anything strenuous. The supermarkets will deliver for you if you meet their delivery minimum. We prefer to purchase sealed gallons. Always check seals. After many years in the Caribbean we believe the best way is to sip small amounts all day. We have also had good luck with magnesium supplements.
Insect repellent (lots) dont skimp. Mosquitoes can transmit all manner of vacation wrecking ailments. Neutralize them. Make sure you have good screens where you stay. Watch for the sand fleas at dusk. We like to douse our feet and ankles at dusk when they come out. If you do get bitten buy SYSTRAL from the Pharmacia to sooth the bites. No prescription necessary in the Dominican Republic. IT WORKS seriously try to remember the product Systral.
Sun Block. The tropical sun can hammer you. You will never see the people of the Caribbean standing in the sun idly. They sit in the shade. Don’t be afraid to wear a long sleeve shirt if you need it for part of your time here to avoid over exposure to sun. I favor a large brimmed straw hat and Expat uses scarves. Be careful with any loose fitting clothing or scarves on open wheeled vehicles.
Cash – Bring some cash and have access to some more (hide it artfully with two or more people if possible). You can exchange your dollars for pesos. Don’t spend in dollars or other currencies you will be more targeted as a tourist. Get the local currency. You can spend dollars but dollars say I am a rich foreigner. If you go to an ATM go to one where there is a guard. It is possible to use debit/credit to withdraw pesos from banks. Be sure to notify your card issuers prior so that no debit/credit card gets frozen for suspicious over seas activity and keep the international collect (or otherwise) number with you in case you need to call them. It is also a good idea to investigate the cost of ATM and other transaction fees while here. We have a card that refunds all our ATM fees.
Register with your local embassy. Let them know what your itinerary is. Your embassy will tell you that. How useful that is to you personally…we question, but that is what they recommend.
Snacks, bring some portable snacks that are not sensitive to the heat. Bring enough food for the first day or even to last the duration. It is a money saver and those little snacks can be handy through out your stay. No fresh fruits and veggies through customs of course.
Will you be calling home? Sending electronic communication? We are happy to tell you that calls to the US and Canada are now free through gmail.com from anywhere in the world. We have had guests change their cell plan temporarily to the tropical country they are visiting and many carriers are happy to oblige. Of course you may choose to use email only for example but be aware. US and Canadian phones can work here but often at high cost.
The following tips apply to the Caribbean and Dominican republic in particular.
How are you getting around town? Some areas are within walking distance of many things but its good to have alternate means of transportation at least occasionally. You can rent a bicycle. If you are comfortable with them there are scooters at good rates. Quads are available at higher rates, in fact you can often rent a car for the same price as a quad (ATV). And finally there are moto-conchos which means a guy on a motorcycle driving you around on the back. We have taken them often but prefer to drive ourselves.
Be careful with any loose fitting clothing or scarves on open wheeled vehicles. And please be careful with any of these recreational vehicles. Quads are fun but deceptively unstable as are scooters. If you respect them they can really enhance your vacation.
Do not drive drunk. Have a motoconcho drive you to and from the bar. The ones that are registered carry a Dominican registration. They are strongly preferred. There are car taxi’s in town as well for a higher rate.
Don’t fall for racing with the locals. They live here, they know the streets and more importantly they are going much too fast for the conditions. Stay to the right. Let them race around you. If you are renting have your contract with you this will serve as your registration and insurance. The larger vehicle (maybe not by law but in practice on the road) has the right of way. The pedestrian does not have right of way. The quads are more safe than the motorcycle but give the illusion of stability. They have a high center of gravity and you can tilt it over more easily than you think. Be careful, deliberate and calculated when driving and you will be fine.
Electricity. Be sure to understand who pays for electricity at your residence. Electricity is expensive here and sometimes is tacked on to the bill, it is important to have a clear understanding up front . If you have a separate bill for electricity (and in the name of common sense) do not over use your A/C when you aren’t in for example, It can add up quickly. An example is our electricity bill. We have a one bedroom with AC in the bedroom. We run the AC in the closed bedroom for about 12 hours a day. Our monthly bill is about $180 US Dollars. The main grid electricity will go out from time to time. It is normally a short time and rarely is it for more than four hours. Some places have back up power for limited uses. If this is important to you it would be wise to plan ahead. Its usually not an issue but it does happen.
Internet connection. Many residences have wifi of varying quality. There are also many bars and shops that offer free wifi. Ask around for the one nearest you. It is sometimes possible to pre-order short term dedicated broadband.