The plane from New Jersey was packed, and we landed just outside of the Santo Domingo, en un aropuerto, and quickly exchanged our American dollars for Dominican pesos. The exchange rate is 57 pesos for every dollar. I exchanged $100 and we got in lines for customs.
Customs was a breeze and we were out in the open air in no time. There were taxis lined up outside but we had done a little research. It would be $45 American to get into Santo Domingo by taxi. We heard however, of a bus that ran for $2, or 100 pesos.
After exchanging words and pleasantries with a few locals we found the spot to wait for the bus. It was sunny, but not too warm, approximately 70 degrees. Beautiful, even in my long jeans. Within 5 minutes the bus was there. It was true, for 200 pesos we rode the packed bus into Santo Domingo.
We arrived at our hostel around 3PM and were shown around. The first thing we noticed was a fully stocked bar. Beers please!
There was no cash paid up front for drinks or food. It was all charged to your room and paid at the end. Nice!
A typical meal at the hostel cost around $3 American and they provided food all day and night, with a free breakfast. Our cost for a private room with double beds, $32 American, total, per night, for the two of us.
Santo Domingo is a historic city with structures built as early as the 1500’s. The hostel was in the historic part of town and completely surrounded by these early colonial buildings, which were now museums.
After our tour of the hostel which provided a pool, as well as a free pool table, we set out to explore our surroundings and maybe get some food.
It was then that we learned, through another traveler, that there was a curfew for the whole island, of 5PM. The fine for being caught outside after curfew, $5,000 pesos, or $100 American.
We made it back to the hostel and ordered a couple more beers. I had managed to score a pack of cigarettes, which weren’t as cheap as I thought, coming in at around $5 American, or 300 pesos. All good. We weren’t just here for the beer and cigarettes. We wanted to head to the beach and made it a plan for the next day.
Supposedly there was a beach that was a 45 minute walk from our hostel. We decided to take the walk, in that way we could see more of the city and it’s surroundings.
When we arrived at the coast the beach was not really a beach, it was more of a coastline. There wasn’t much sand but we found a way onto the beach and I quickly stripped off my clothing and raced into the ocean.
We had arrived at our destination, the Caribbean, for twelve days.
Later, we were told the closest actual beach was about 30km from the hostel, a beach called Boca Chica. It was on our list of things to do, if we could catch a cheap bus. The taxis really robbed you.
We had arrived on a Thursday, soaked our toes in the waves on Friday, and on Saturday, we toured the outside of the palaces and forts in the city. Everyone was wearing masks, and curfew on the weekend was 12PM. Good thing the hostel had a full bar. And a guitar! I play a little and it occupied my time.
There were plenty of other tourists. Three girls from France, Brittney and Leah from Maryland, Brandon from Wisconsin, and a kid from Scotland.
If you’ve never tried, staying in a hostel is a really inexpensive way to travel, and you meet a ton of people. Everyone is generally very friendly, and you could hook up and explore areas of town together.
A man followed us when we toured the city and we let him explain the colonial structures to us. He even led us to the best place for gelato, and a cheap place to buy cigarettes. When he finished the tour he said the price was 2000 pesos. We offered him 200, as he had never given us a price upfront. He said 1000 pesos. We said 200 and handed him the cash. He was a little upset but took the cash and he wished us well.
We didn’t have money to blow. We were being very frugal, but the prices in Santo Domingo weren’t as cheap as we had hoped. It was a high traffic tourist area and prices were reflective of this. I looked at some Spanish style hats but the man wanted 5000 pesos, or one hundred American.
No way I said, and we kept it moving.
In the hostel no one wears masks. But outside, everyone you see is wearing one, and the guards ask you to put one on if you are not wearing yours. There are guards all around the city, which is good.
I don’t have much information on traveling at night, because of curfew, but I think it would be a little dangerous. Some of the locals are really insistent on you paying attention to them.
Tomorrow we leave the hostel and head out for a town called Bani, which is a little bit south of Santo Domingo. But first, we are going back to the airport to get a car. Traffic is crazy in Santo Domingo, and I wouldn’t want to drive, but my Dad, who I’m traveling with, is a much better driver than I.
We will be visiting my uncle John, who married a Dominican woman six years ago.
It helps if you speak Spanish, and my dad speaks better than I, even thought I had Spanish for seven years growing up.
It’s been a blast so far, and I will keep you updated on our further travels in Bani, which should be less touristy, and even Punta Cana, which is where most Americans travel to when they come to the Dominican.
I hope you enjoyed this little preview into Santo Domingo from an American’s perspective. Know that there are people traveling during this pandemic, and there is much to explore.