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A few months ago, I went to the Dominican Republic not just once, but twice! I had a cruise to Puerto Plata planned when another trip to Santo Domingo came up two weeks before it. I knew very little about the country before I went, except that Punta Cana is a major tourist destination for East Coast Americans like myself and that it shares the island of Hispañola with Haiti.
Each trip was five days long, so I got a good taste of the country in my time there. I quickly fell in love with the friendly people, the delicious food and the leisurely pace of life.
The Dominican Republic has a number of different destinations worth visiting, each with something different to offer. Santo Domingo is the capital, with all the colonial charm you’ll find in other cities from that time period. It also has some modern restaurants, boutique hotels and the all-important cigar shops.
The Caribbean coast near Punta Cana has crystal blue waters and white sand beaches. On the Atlantic coast, known as the Amber Coast, you’ll see remnants from the age of the dinosaurs with creatures caught in amber. The beaches aren’t too shabby either. Check out the rum distilleries, coffee farms and chocolate factories near Puerto Plata. And in the middle, you’ll find Jarabacoa and the country’s best national wonders.
For both of my trips, I packed carry-on only because of tight connections and concerns over whether or not my bag would make it. I would definitely do this again because of the ease of getting around the sidewalks of Santo Domingo and onto my cruise ship in Puerto Plata. But with that said, you also might want a bag that gives you a little extra room for souvenirs like rum, cigars and crafts.
Lightweight is key, no matter what time of year you’re visiting because of the heat and humidity. Depending on what type of trip you’re going on, mix in casual and a few dressy looks.
- 2 pairs of shorts– I packed one athletic pair and one denim pair.
- 2-3 dresses– I mostly wore dresses, including one maxi dress that could be casual or nice.
- 4 tops– Mix in a few tank tops, one nicer top and one t-shirt you can get dirty.
- 1 light waterproof jacket– Rain can come out of nowhere, so be prepared.
- 1 scarf or sarong– Cover up in a cold restaurant or wear as a beach cover.
- 2 swimsuits– Wear one and let the other dry.
- 1 pair of lightweight pants or leggings– I only include this one if you’ll be traveling in rural areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are a problem. I wore leggings on visits to cacao farms and palm nurseries.
- Undergarments– You may or may not want to wash while you’re traveling, so you’re the best judge of what you need.
- Hat– I brought different ones on different trips. For the first, I wore a baseball cap at the beach and the second I had a straw hat.
- Small purse– You’ll only need the essentials for walking around town.
- Comfortable sandals– I packed my Birkenstock Madrids for this trip, which I wore to the beach and out to dinner.
- Sneakers or athletic shoes– I brought both running shoes and Converse All Stars, but in hindsight I only needed one pair.
- Tieks or dressy shoes– I packed a pair of comfortable Topshop wedges for nice dinners out.
Toiletries and First Aid
- Shampoo and conditioner– Bring your own or grab at the hotel.
- Deodorant– A must in the heat!
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- First aid kit– Throw in the essentials like bandages and antibiotic ointment. Witch hazel is a good one to add as well for mosquito bites!
- Sunscreen– Don’t get burned!
- Bug spray– Given the current crisis of the Zika virus, bring high DEET bug spray or wipes.
- Wet Wipes or hand sanitizer– Just in case.
- Body Glide– Not everyone has this problem, but I recommend this product, or baby powder, to prevent chafing when your legs rub together in the heat.
Entertainment and Extras
- Books or e-reader– Stock up on books in your own language.
- Music player– Don’t forget your headphones!
- Spanish-English dictionary– Good to know, just in case.
- Camera– Remember your trip better or rely on your smartphone.
- Laptop– Totally optional, but sometimes a necessity for freelancers like me!
- Chargers and adapters– Dominican Republic uses the same outlets as the rest of North America, but you might find hotels with plugs that work for many types.
- Water bottle– It’s not suggested that you drink the water in the Dominican Republic, but if you have a filtration system, that should be fine.
- Jewelry– Don’t bring anything too valuable.
- Towel– My Turkish towel served as a sarong, scarf and even beach towel!
Additional Dominican Republic Travel Tips:
A Warning About the Zika Virus
A few weeks before I left for my first trip to the Dominican Republic, the Center for Disease Control issued a warning about a mosquito-borne illness in many parts of Latin America that affected pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant specifically. I wasn’t overly worried about it since I am neither pregnant nor trying to be, but I knew that if nothing else it would cause some unpleasant side effects were I to contract it.
I packed a few items that would prevent bites like Repel Mosquito Wipes with 30% DEET and a BugsAway shirt from ExOfficio. I also made sure to wear long pants when we visited rural areas like the day trip to the cacao farm. Even if you’re not one of the people affected, protecting yourself against mosquito borne illnesses is always a good idea.
On Changing Money
The exchange rate makes it very inexpensive for most people to travel in the Dominican Republic. At the time of my trip, 1 US dollar equaled about 45 Dominican pesos. I found it unnecessary to change over money before I left and instead just took out money from an ATM in Santo Domingo. It was fairly easy to find.
When I was in port on a cruise to the Dominican Republic, however, the ATM only dispensed Dominican dollars but some places took US Dollars. There were a few situations when I wished I’d had more cash so it’s better to have some leftover to change back, if it’s worth it, than to be in desperate need of it.
Anything else you would recommend adding to this packing list for the Dominican Republic? Let us know below!
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