As my first follow up post to Traveling to Punta Cana – República Dominicana, on my trip to the Dominican Republic, I’m going to give a full breakdown of my travel tips & share some knowledge based on my experience. Yep, I’m still talking about Punta Cana & there will be one more post about the trip.. embrace it!
The Dominican Republic
Now, after posting “Traveling to Punta Cana” I quickly realised many people have absolutely no clue where Punta Cana actually is. Punta Cana is in the Dominican Republic (not Mexico) which is a country on the island of Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is on the right of the island & the island is shared with Haiti. The Dominican Republic has its shores on the North washed by the Atlantic Ocean & its shores on the south washed by the Caribbean Sea. Punta Cana is located on the far eastern point of the island & the beaches fall in the junction between both bodies of water. The area is one of the most popular resort destinations in the Caribbean.
Punta Cana is however not the capital city of the Dominican Republic, the capital is Santo Domingo. The language of the country is Spanish so if you do not “habla espanol” (like myself) be prepared to spend a bit of time back & forth with locals when communicating. For the most part they are very accomodating & try their best to communicate in English which is much appreciated. Their local currency is called the Peso (RD$) however USD & CAD are widely accepted. Euros & GBP are not as widely accepted. I made sure to check all the receipts for the currency conversions listed at the bottom & while everywhere included USD & CAD, some places definitely did not include Euros & GBP (I made special note of this because I had some GBP on me during my trip).
Tips for Planning Your Trip
- First & foremost before you plan a trip to the Dominican Republic it should be noted that you will need a valid passport to enter the country regardless of your nationality.
- Most sites make mention of a “Tourist Card”/”Tourist Visa” as a requirement for entry. Airfare costs to the Dominican Republic now include this $10 Tourist Card fee as of April 1, 2018.
- Choose your travel dates carefully. September tends to be the rainy season & during the Easter period much of the island shuts down for the holidays. Their off-peak times for the best prices are during the period March-May.
- Think about what you want to get out of the experience. Do you enjoy the resort life? Or do you want to “live like a local”? Do you prefer to pay one set cost, kick back & relax? Or do you like to explore and learn as you go? These questions guide whether or not you should choose the resort route or the airbnb/villa route.
- While most resorts have airport shuttles/transportation, before you get to Punta Cana, you should consider your means of transportation. Particularly, if you plan to stay outside of a resort. I definitely recommend car rental. Depending on the size of your group this can be as low as $10 per day depending on your rental company & size of the vehicle (based on Expedia). Please note there is no Uber in the Punta Cana/Bavaro area, Uber is however available in the Santo Domingo area & is cheaper than using the taxi system.
- Book your excursions before hand. Decide what activities/tours you would like to do & book them prior to your trip to ensure that you get the days/times that work for your schedule. I will cover what we did in an upcoming post but a simple google search of “Punta Cana Excursions” will guide you as to what is available.
Booking with a local tour company in the town may work out cheaper. If you choose this route I recommend heading into the town and making these bookings ASAP so that you can book your preferred dates & plan your trip accordingly.
- To avoid paying a large lump sums at once for your trip, try to pay for different aspects of the trip in the months leading up to your vacation. Your bank account will thank you.
For my trip in February;
- We made our initial deposit on the villa in August.
- I booked my flight in October.
- Bought outfits/accessories between in November – January.
- Final villa payment made in January.
- Booked excursions in early February.
This way, spending the budgeted amount of $1500-$2000 does not seem as heavy since it is being spread over multiple credit card cycles/pay days & you aren’t coming out of pocket all at once.
Tips For Your Vacation
- If you plan to drink, first things first, buy your favourite alcohol in duty free. They had great deals on most things like 2 for $120 USD bottles of Moët. I also recommend that you try BearHug Infusions. They have fruit infused rums & tequila with samples available as soon as you enter! We were taking shots straight off the plane, vacay was lit without hesitation! We bought the papaya infused Tequila & my personal favourite, the mango infused rum!
It is important to note though, these BearHug Infusions are only 21% alcohol so if you’re from Jamaica you know we are accustomed to a minimum of 40% alcohol in our rum so these on their own will not get you lit. I still loved them enough to bring some home with me though! 😃
- Download a translator app. While it was quite amusing for me & my girls to knock our heads together figuring out what people were saying, life would have been easier with a translator app. Don’t get me wrong, it was good fun & I would probably do it again, lol.
- While most places accept foreign currencies (USD,CAD,GBP,Euros) & credit cards you will want to have cash for tipping purposes during your stay. Walk with small notes $1’s & $5’s to give your waiters/bartenders/tour-guides as tips.
- When you arrive, head to BlueMall, just outside the airport & get yourself a sim card for your phone from Claro, they have unlimited data plans for $10 USD. That way you can share your trip with friends & family at home in real time.
- If you chose to stay in a villa, head there, check out the kitchen & bathroom situations, then head over to your nearest supermarket to get your supplies. If you’re in the Cap Cana or nearby area, check out “Supermercado Nacional” close by.
- Try the local food. You don’t go to a new country to eat your typical meals. If you choose to stay in a resort, try to get out & enjoy the local cuisine at least once. Even if your resort has local meals available, they may be altered to suit the tastes of tourists so get out the resort for the real & authentic flavours of the country.
Pictured below is the traditional Dominican breakfast, Mangú (mashed plantains), it is typically served with queso Frito (white cheese fried in a pan), Dominican salami, eggs & topped with onions cooked in vinegar. This dish in its entirety is called “Los Tres Golpes” which means “the three hits”.
- Please keep your swimsuits on! Public nudity is 100% illegal in DR.
- Bear in mind the weather app is not always accurate. Punta Cana is prone to having short rain showers. Weather forecasting apps tend to exaggerate these showers causing you to worry unnecessarily. It drizzled a few times during our stay but nothing serious enough to destroy any of our plans.
- Buy your souvenirs before your departure date. The local souvenir spots in town have a larger variety than the airport & are cheaper. We waited until departure day & the souvenir spots in the town open at 10am & even though we tried to stay until they opened we had to leave & ended up purchasing items we didn’t love in the airport.
- The capital city of Santo Domingo is a 2.5hr drive away from Punta Cana. If you plan to visit any sites in the capital plan ahead for the journey.
- While the water is safe to drink, I always recommend drinking bottled water to avoid traveller’s diarrhea. You wouldn’t want anything to possibly ruin your trip.
My Thoughts On Punta Cana
I genuinely enjoyed my entire trip. Based on this post & my previous post, you should have noticed by now that this is definitely a luxury trip. By no means was it cheap, however, it was worth it! The beaches were beautiful, the food & drinks were amazing & for the most part the people were friendly & helpful. I personally didn’t experience any of the racism I read about online however my friends did while we were in BlueMall. This doesn’t mean I think the people of the country are racist on a whole as everywhere in this world you will encounter some of these people but I refuse to let the minority ruin my impression of the majority.
I definitely recommend Punta Cana for vacations, it is such a beautiful country & there is so much left to unfold. In future (after checking out more countries on my list) I would definitely go back to check out more of the country, especially Santo Domingo & their historical sites & attractions.
If you’ve ever been to the Dominican Republic & have any other tips, share them in the comments below & don’t forget to like & share the post! 😃
Until next time,
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Great article with some very important advice when traveling to Punta Cana, Justine. Most of the things are super helpful. I love that you not just stayed in a resort as 98% of the visitors, so you got a more authentic experience of the country. 🙂
Please note that you can cheapest prices usually from May to November. Uber is now running in Punta Cana, lets see if they survive. 😉
Even I am pretty flexible with drinking water and drink whereever I can, I would not do so in DR, at least not over a longer period.