When you are planning a vacation, especially if it is a faraway destination, certain questions come to mind. Is the country safe? Do you need a visa? Should you get a vaccine? These are just some of the questions you need to ask. With its beautiful beaches and wonderful weather, Punta Cana is generally a beautiful place go on vacation. However, before embarking on your Punta Cana vacation, here are a few important things you need to know for a fantastic trip.
Dominican Republic Safety
Before planning your vacation to any Latin American country, be sure to ask yourself if the country is safe to visit. The Dominican Republic is, generally, a safe country for tourists. The Dominican Republic is ranked 76th on the list of the world’s safest countries. Dominican people too are quite friendly and most visitors traveled unharmed. However, do not let negligence ruin your vacation. Always stay alert and travel with tour guides when visiting remote areas of the country.
When exploring at night, keep in well-lit areas and common public areas. Do not travel off the beaten track alone on excursions and keep a 'buddy' system. People are always much safer in pairs. While crime against tourists is not a huge issue in the Dominican Republic, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Passports and Visas
You are required to present a valid passport when entering the Dominican Republic. You can stay in the country without a fee for 30 days. However, you will be required to pay a fee should stay in the country longer than 30 days. It is each traveler's responsibility to have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel. and a visa if required.
IMPORTANT: You do need a visa when visiting the Dominican Republic. It is called a Tourist Card and it is an entry fee charged by the government to individuals visiting the country for tourism purposes only. You can apply for this visa online or at the airport upon arrival. Visa cost is $10 USD.
Cash only, so be sure to stop at an ATM before you fly if needed (US dollars are accepted).
When you are flying into the Dominican Republic you are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes or one box of cigars, two bottles of perfume (opened and for your own use), gifts up to $100 and one litre of liquor. Baggage is declared upon arrival on the island and when you depart. DO NOT bring illegal drugs, animal products and agricultural items.
As the group will be staying at a resort, special vaccines are not usually needed. If you are adventurous and want to try out local street foods, you might consider getting a vaccine. You can contract hepatitis A or typhoid through contaminated water or food in the Dominican Republic. The CDC recommends this vaccine for travelers, especially if you are going to stay with friends and relatives, or if you are going to visit rural areas.
Staying Healthy While Traveling
There are several easy steps you can take to stay healthy while traveling which may help prevent contracting an illness while away from home.
Watch what you eat. Try new foods in modest quantities, and depending upon your destination, you may want to avoid street foods, salad bars, raw vegetables and fruits, unless they have thick peels like bananas or grapefruit.
Stay hydrated. The majority of hotels and resorts only serve filtered water and ice, which is perfectly safe to drink. Be sure to ask first, but it's rarely a problem for tourists. Drink bottled water as an option and avoid consuming ice cubes made with tap water. Again, just ask before consuming. If you have allergies to foods, medications or insect bites, or have any other unique medical issues, consider a medical alert bracelet and/or a physician’s note detailing required treatment should you become ill.
Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitizer.
Pack sunscreen and insect repellent (for this active and warm destination).
You may also want to bring a small first-aid kit with band-aids, antibiotic cream, pain killers, bug bite cream, digestive aids like anti-diarrheal or anti-bloat medications, antacids, and cold medicine. This is in addition to any prescription medications which should be adequate for the entire trip.
Because this is a tropical place, occasional rain and clouds do appear for short periods of time, just don't be scared away by your phone's weather report. If there is even a slight chance of clouds or rain, the weather report will look like it's cloudy all day, which is never the case unless there's a rare major storm rolling through. So set your mind at ease and know you will enjoy temps in the high 80s with sunshine throughout.
The Dominican Republic’s official currency is the Dominican peso. You may bring your dollars or euros and change them to the local currency at the airport. However, most places accept US Dollars. Just be sure to carry smaller denominations. On the issue of credit cards, it is important that you inform your bank or credit card company about transactions in DR. That said, nearly every place in Punta Cana accepts credit card payment.
As in many third world countries, wages are low so tips go a long way. Consider tipping 10-20% unless service is really bad, even when at all inclusive resorts. This is a great way to show your appreciation and will ensure that you are well taken care of during your visit.
A little pre-planning can make your trip go a lot smoother. Several weeks before your trip, make a list of what you will need to take with you. Make sure your personal documents (passports, visas, driver’s license) are in order and that you have enough prescription medications to last through the trip. We suggest that you make photocopies of passports, visas, personal ID and any other important travel documents and pack them separately from the originals. Pack a list of medications including dosage and generic names. If you lose the originals while traveling, you'll have copies for easier reporting and replacement. You may consider bringing a small supply of over the counter medications for headaches and/or anti-diarrhea pills (especially when traveling in the Caribbean). Avoid placing valuables such as cameras in your checked luggage. Airplane pressure can cause similar pressure in your body, most notably in ears, as well as liquid tubes and bottles. Your physician can suggest medication for decongestion. As for the liquid containers, we suggest that you squeeze out excess air from those containers and place into Ziploc bags to catch any leaks.
Cell Phones & Calling Cards
You may wish to carry a cell phone while traveling. Check with your cell phone provider if your phone will work in the destination(s) you are visiting or if you can pick up a short Italy plan. U.S. service is dominated by the CDMA technology standard, while most of the world uses the incompatible GSM standard. Some U.S. providers do offer GSM, but you may incur high international roaming fees. With GSM, however, you can often choose to have your phone unlocked and then add a local SIM card for lower fees. If you can access the Internet as you travel, you can take advantage of email or a Skype Internet telephone (VOIP) account for the best value. Alternatively, you may investigate renting a cell phone before you leave or buying an inexpensive phone locally. Some US carriers now have a daily Caribbean plan for as low as $10 per day!
When calling the U.S. from a foreign country, you may also use a prepaid calling card; normally, the only additional charge (besides the prepaid long distance charges) is a local fee of a few cents and possibly a connection fee if you are using your card at your hotel. It is best to check with the hotel’s reception desk prior to making phone calls to avoid unexpected charges.
Making Telephone Calls from One Country to Another
When dialing a number from one country to another, you should proceed as follows: dial your country's Exit Code + destination Country Code + Phone Number. The international calling code for the Dominican Republic is +1-809.
Wireless Internet Access
Passengers traveling with WiFi enabled devices (such as a personal computer, smartphone, tablet, or digital audio player) may be able to connect to the internet via a wireless network access point (or hotspot). WiFi access in hotels and/or cruise lines often involves a fee which, in some cases, can be very expensive. Availability of WiFi varies by country, hotel and/or cruise line. Even if WiFi is available, signal strength is subject to local conditions and not guaranteed. Internet availability on cruises is unpredictable due to the ship frequently changing locations while sailing through multiple countries. Passengers requiring internet access may seek out internet cafes or may be able to locate free WiFi hotspots such as libraries or coffee shops. Hotspots can often be located and planned in advance via an online search. Planning ahead may help avoid unnecessary fees.
Dominican Republic Nightlife
You have probably heard the phrase, “party like the Caribbean.” Maybe it is time to discover its origin and meaning. Dominicans love to party and this is quite evident when you go out in Punta Cana. People are always happy and positive, and there are many party nightlife destinations to choose from. From little pubs and bars to big clubs and discotheques, Punta Cana nightlife has something for everyone.