By Laura Bissessar
There are many articles on visiting Dominican Republic. So why read mine amongst the many? Because in my research before visiting this beautiful shared island, I read all of those articles. And in my actual travels, there were several points along the way where I thought, “I wish someone had told me this before.” Honestly, it’s nothing earth shattering, but if you’re the kind of type-A planner like I am, I think you’ll appreciate these 7 tips.
I didn’t set out to include travel in this blog; I’m not an expert traveler. I haven’t been over the pond or down under… they’re on the list. But what I am a well-researched traveler. Every time I set out on a trip, I carry out my due diligence on finding and creating the best itinerary that fits our budget.
Upon setting out for a long weekend in Punta Cana, DR for my cousin’s-in-law wedding, I thought I was 100% ready. I read all the must-do lists, I printed out all of our confirmation numbers (you know, just in case I suddenly became detached from my phone), and I literally had a pre-trip sit down with my husband to go over everything. I do not play. Until vacation starts, that is…
That being said, here are the things that I discovered on my own, and I hope to share more of these tips on our future travels…
1. The Mystery $10 Travel Visa
Have you read about the $10 travel visa that you’ll have to pay before exiting the airport?
Well, it didn’t exist. Now I’m not sure if the laws just recently changed, but we didn’t have to pay it.
I asked about it one too many times (okay twice) before I figured I should just shut my mouth, but I still kept a $20 on hand just in case we had to pay the fee before leaving the island. That ended up being $20 towards dinner when we got home. I’m not saying you should count on this happening, but I am suggesting that after you ask once, don’t ask again.
2. Don’t Be That Traveler
Yes, everywhere you go people speak English. Yes, there are translation apps that make it so much easier to get around on foreign soil these days. But can you truly experience connection with a country’s people without speaking some of their language? I say definitely not. My favorite experiences on our trip were the times I used my broken Spanish to communicate, and in return, I received warm appreciation for respecting their culture. It doesn’t take much to learn some solid travel-friendly phrases and responses. And you did plan this trip at least a month in advance, didn’t you? Download an app that can teach you a little bit of Spanish each day to get you ready for your holiday. And use this tip for all of your trips abroad.
3. BUY the Mamajuana
Yes, you should try it there. It’s delicious. But Mamajuana is a time-honored traditional tincture that is truly unique to DR and an infinitely better souvenir to take home over a magnet (not gonna lie, we bought a magnet too). I’d hate to spoil the history of this drink because it’s fun to hear the different stories while you’re there.
You can buy the dry ingredients all over DR, including the duty-free airport shops, and make your own at home. It’s easy, and a keepsake from your vacation that will last a long time and give your future home gatherings something cool to share.
4-5. Leave Your Resort, But Not to Visit Another One
Our resort was fantastic, but our off-site excursions were even better and offered us experiences that can’t be achieved from a lounge chair. Take advantage of the trips that your resort offers, or check Viator* for excursions that you can book directly. And, by the way, we saved 10% by booking directly on the Scape Park website using their coupon code!
Now… we didn’t stay at the same resort as the wedding to which we were invited. No big deal, we thought. We’d book a taxi, enjoy the wedding, and take it from there. The only part of that plan that happened was that we enjoyed the wedding. EVERY, and I mean EVERY, resort in Punta Cana charges a resort day pass, usually separated by full-day, afternoon, or evening prices, and conveniently in US dollars.
It cost us $110 to attend a wedding that our family already paid for per person.
And that’s one of the more modestly priced day passes. We had our taxi driver come back at a prearranged time so we didn’t overstay our overpriced welcome. We, and a few other wedding guests, were blind-sighted, but fortunately, our resort warned us when we checked in the day before, so we were able to compose ourselves and spare our family from the shock of having to shell out extra for their nuptials.
*Viator is not a sponsor. I've only had positive experiences using their app, but use it at your own discretion.
6. Don’t Haggle
Okay, I know this goes against every other piece of travel advice to Punta Cana, but hear me out. If you’re lucky enough to be able to leisurely travel, now’s not the time to haggle with the people of an impoverished country. Many Dominicans count on tourism for their livelihoods, so if the price seems reasonable enough for what you’re purchasing, especially if you’re off the resort, just buy it. Be gracious, and when you’re done tip your tour guides.
7. Print Your Boarding Pass
As of July 2018, Punta Cana airport (PUJ) does not use electronic scanners, so if you’re not checking luggage and want to hop directly to the security line with your iPhone wallet, hold up. Stop at the self-service kiosk to print your boarding pass first. That, or see if your hotel can print them. We made that minor mistake, but no regrets because I will always check-in online if I can help it; I just wouldn't use virtual boarding passes next time.
This was such a small thing that was easily remedied, but hey, didn’t I say that I’m a type-A vacation planner? This is my gift to the rest of you type-A vacation planners.
You’re welcome and de nada. ;-)
All photos and content are original by Laura Bissessar.
Please do not use without my written consent. Thank you!