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Dominican Republic By Antonella Vilardo

Dominican Republic Driving Guide

Dominican Republic is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-08-11 · 10 mins

Hola! Bienvenido a la Republica Dominicana!

Situated within the Greater Antilles, the Dominican Republic holds some of the most pristine, long-stretch beaches in the world. Moreover, the country also hosts the oldest European settlement in the Americas and a sanctum for whales during the mating season. Whichever type of traveler you are, you’ll find the diversity of this country more than gratifying, especially when you experience driving in the Dominican Republic!

How Can This Guide Help You?

Before driving in the Dominican Republic, there are just a few rules and reminders that you need to remember and follow. This article will guide you to some of the major travel standards, including:

  • What to use as a valid driving license in the Dominican Republic
  • Some driving laws in the Dominican Republic (including the legal driving age in the Dominican Republic and laws on drunk driving in the Dominican Republic)
  • Potential dangers of driving in the Dominican Republic
  • Driving directions in the Dominican Republic to the top road trip destinations

General Information

Driving on Dominican Republic highways is crowd-pleasing because of their diverse, scenic terrains. By the same token, the country is truly rich in culture, history, and traditions that ground more than 10 million Dominicanos and Dominicanas.

Geographical Location

The country is located 18.7357o North and 70.1627o East. It shares a landmass with the country of Haiti called Hispaniola and is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and the North Atlantic Ocean.

The nearest neighboring countries of the Dominican Republic apart from Haiti are Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, and Cuba. You can travel back and forth between these countries by air or sea.

Administrative regions wise, the country is divided into 31 provinces. The capital city of Sto. Domingo, where Christopher Columbus landed, is located in the National District.

Languages Spoken

The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. As you might have guessed already, not everyone speaks and understands Spanish. This is why it is essential to secure a Spanish-translated driving license in the Dominican Republic.

Specifically, they practice Dominican Spanish, which roots from the Canarian and Andalusian languages of Southern Spain. Like a lot of Caribbean countries, a bit of the West African tongue is involved. Dominican Spanish is also characterized by the usage of old Spanish jargon more than what is observed in contemporary Spanish.

English is only spoken in tourist areas. The majority of provinces observe local dialects. These include the Haitian Creole, the Southwestern Creole English, the Samaná English, and the Chinese. A lot of Dominicans understand English well. However, not many know how to speak it. So before going to the country, it would be a great advantage if you had some knowledge about the local language.

Land Area

The Dominican Republic spreads to an area of about 48,442km2. The country is generally mountainous, characterized by cloud forests, coldish fertile valleys, and arid lowlands. Towering at 10,417 feet, Pico Duarte is considered the highest point in the entire Caribbean, while Lake Enriquillo is considered the lowest at 151 feet below mean sea level.

The country is influenced by two (2) seasons: summer and winter. During the winter months (December - April), temperature ranges from 18oC - 29oC. On the other hand, in the summer (May - November), temperatures fluctuate between 23oC - 25oC. Average temperatures, however, vary with altitude, with values in the Cordillera Central higher than what is experienced along the coasts. June to November is typically visited by the highest rainfalls, while December to May is relatively dry. So if ever you decide to experience driving in the Dominican Republic, it would be wise to check the daily weather updates.

History

When the Dominican Republic was discovered by Spanish colonizers in the late 15th century, it was initially called Hispaniola, which meant “Little Spain”. Santo Domingo became the center of the Spanish rule, not just of Hispaniola but of the Americas. Fast forward to the early half of the 19th century, Hispaniola was seized by Haiti. It wasn’t until 1844 that the country got its independence and was later on called the Dominican Republic.

Government

The Dominican Republic is a democratic republic country. This means that the president is both the head of state and government. He/she appoints the cabinet and the commanding chief of the armed forces. The legislative branch is bicameral, divided into the senate and the deputy chamber. Members of the senate are duly elected by the public, while the 178 members of the deputy chamber are elected through a proportional representation system. The third branch of government is the supreme court wherein the members are appointed by the judiciary council.

Tourism

Since 2010, the country has seen over a 50% increase in its annual tourist arrivals. This only accounts for international travelers and does not include regional inbound guests. With more and more improvements in the tourism sector, these numbers will arguably continue to grow in the coming years.

The local currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso, with a symbol of RD$. Some tourist areas, especially those on the high end, accept US Dollars. However, if you plan on traveling to the countryside, it would be best to secure some local denominations.

You can only convert foreign currencies to Dominican Peso within the country. If you have some Dominican Peso left, have it changed to USD before leaving the country to avoid devaluation.

IDP FAQs

The validity of your IDP will depend on the validity of your native driver’s license since it is just a translation. This means that if your native driver’s license expires before the 1, 2, or 3 years, your IDP will also become invalid automatically. If you stay in the country for more than 90 days, you will need to secure a Dominican drivers’ permit.

Is an IDP Necessary in the Dominican Republic?

To legally drive in the Dominican Republic, you only need to have a valid drivers’ license from your home country. So yes, you can experience driving in Dominican Republic with a Canadian license, a U.S. license, a U.K. license, and many more! You wouldn’t need to apply for one when you arrive in the country, but you would need to apply for a valid driving permit from your own country.

If you can also secure an International Driver's Permit, the better. An International Driver's Permit is a valid translation of your native driver’s license. One application will give you 12-translated versions that you can use wherever you go.

Technically, foreign drivers do not need an International Driver's License if they’re only staying in the country for less than 90 days. If you are staying in the country for more than 90 days under a special visa, you will need to apply for a local driving permit in the Dominican Republic.

How Do You Get an International Driver's Permit in the Dominican Republic?

There are two (2) ways to secure an International Driver's License for the Dominican Republic. One is through a walk-in process at authorized local agencies in the country. The second is through a brief online application process with the International Driver's Association (IDA).

The online application is a more cost-effective way to secure your International Driver's Permit. The standard application time is just two (2) hours, and the hardcopy will be shipped to you wherever you are in the world. The IDA also offers express shipping, great for when you decide that you want to be driving in the Dominican Republic at the last minute! With express shipping, it will only take you 20 minutes to finish the application process, and the hardcopy will be shipped to you on the same day.

You also have the option to apply for a digital copy only, which holds the same level of validity as the hardcopy. This is very popular for tech-savvy travelers and millennials who prefer fewer carry-ons.

What Are the Requirements to Obtain an International Driver's License for the Dominican Republic?

Once you have your native drivers’ license, you are just one step away from being a tourist, driving in the Dominican Republic. The requirements to apply for an International Driving Permit is fairly simple. You just need a:

  • Filled-in Application Form
  • Valid copy of your current, native driver’s license
  • Passport-size photo of yourself

The online application is only divided into six (6) steps, including payment. After filling in the application form and identifying your mailing address, you will be asked to upload clear copies of the other requirements mentioned above.

Renting a Car in the Dominican Republic

If you have an affinity for the yellow brick road, the Dominican Republic is a great place to follow it! More rip-roaring adventures await all those who choose to face the dangers of driving in the Dominican Republic (but more like challenges than dangers, though!).

Car Rental Companies

When you land at any of the airports, you will already see car hire companies where you can inquire at. The most number of car rental booths are found in the Punta Cana International Airport and the Cibao International Airports. If you’re planning to drive yourself the entire trip, it will be greatly convenient if you already get hold of your rental from the airport. You can ask the company to deliver the car to you at the airport, but expect that there may be additional charges depending on the distance of the “garage” to the Punta Cana International Airport.

Most of the companies, though, have an online presence, and you can reserve or book your car through their website or social media pages. You never know, you might be lucky enough to score a deal for booking online in advance!

Here are some companies that you can check out:

  • Prestige Rent a Car
  • Nelly Rent-A-Car
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • Nene Rent-A-Car
  • Sixt Rent-A-Car

Documents Required

To rent a car outside the home country, travelers need to satisfy the minimum legal requirements of the destination country. For the Dominican Republic, the regulations to rent a car are rather relaxed. You just need to have a valid driver’s license from your home country and satisfy the legal driving age in the Dominican Republic. You don’t need an International Driver's Permit to rent a car in the Dominican. It is, however, recommended because most of the car rental companies look for third-party car insurance. You have the option to get car insurance yourself before renting a car or go through the options of your car rental company. Either way, an International Driver's Permit is practical.

Vehicle Types

You can find various types of cars to rent in the country, from the economic types to the more luxurious units. This also goes to show how the car industry has grown as influenced by the country’s improving economy. Considering the topography and terrain of the country, SUVs are one of the most popular. Nonetheless, the important thing is that you are comfortable with your unit and the car is in its best condition.

Car Rental Cost

A lot of international car rental companies serve the Dominican Republic. These include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Europcar, and Sixt, to name a few. Renting from these brands, you could expect prices to be on the fancier side. If you want to save some of your rental budget for more travel activities, multiple cheap car rental companies around the country offer cheaper rates. But of course, for safety purposes, go for those legitimate or registered local car rental companies. It is also best to use a credit card to transact rather than a debit card or cash.

If you want to score the cheapest car rentals, you can look for companies within Punta Cana. If budget doesn’t concern you, though, then you shouldn’t have a problem renting in other towns like La Romana.

Age Requirements

You need to be at least 21 years old (not 18, even if it’s the legal age for driving in the Dominican Republic). Some companies have a higher age requirement to rent a car. These are mostly the more established car rental companies, and the majority of them raise the age requirement to 25 years.

Car Insurance Cost

When you rent a car in the country, you will have to pay for insurance, and it is charged to you on a daily basis. The cost will also depend on the insurance product or coverage. For example, a Super Collision Damage Waiver might cost between DOP1,156 – DOP1,734 per day. That’s about USD20 – USD30 per day based on the exchange rate as of this writing.

If you want to avail of a Roadside Assistance Cover, that also incurs you an additional charge of DOP578 – DOP867 per day. If you have an extra budget, we recommend that you get Personal Accident Insurance. This will cover your medical expenses just in case you have an accident.

Car Insurance Policy

The minimum car insurance policy in the Dominican Republic is Liability Insurance. In case you caused harm or death to another road user, your liability insurance will cover the cost. You don’t need to worry about applying for car insurance when you rent, though. This is already processed by your car rental company when they registered the vehicle for use.

However, you may have to pay for a Collision Damage Waiver, which stipulates that you won’t have any responsibility if the vehicle you rented was stolen or damaged. On the other hand, if you won’t be able to pay for a Collision Damage Waiver, you will have to pay instead for Third-Party Protection.

Other Facts

The rental process, policies, and requirements in the Dominican Republic are pretty much similar to what is observed in most countries. If you have tried renting in another country, then renting here shouldn’t be that baffling to you anymore.

Is It Better to Rent a Car in the Dominican Republic?

Anywhere in the world, having your car is always convenient (well, except probably for major cities that have the worst traffic) because you pretty much control your schedule. More than that, transportation service is also sparse, and Public transport may lead you to wait long lines consuming your limited trip.

Building up from the popular notion that driving in the Dominican Republic is dangerous, you can opt to rent a type of car that would best serve your planned itinerary (maybe motorcycle driving in the Dominican Republic will suit you better, for example). You can show your list of places to go and routes to take to your car rental provider, and they will gladly give you suggestions.

What Are the Car Rental Charges That You Should Be Aware of?

The costs of renting a car do not only involve the rental fee itself. Chances are, the posted rates that you see online or in advertisements do not include other fixed, associated fees. Here are the charges that you can additionally incur when renting a car:

Deposit Charge

A security deposit is a determined amount of money that you need to pay upon claiming the car. This is on top of the rental charge. This money is usually allotted for repair whenever you incur any physical damage to the car or lose any item owned by the company. In addition, unforeseen charges may also be debited from the security deposit. Take note that this is different from the insurance charge, and it will be refunded to you when you return the car.

Security deposits can be paid via credit card, debit card, or cash, depending on the company. Some deposits are given back immediately, however, some companies process the refunds for a couple of business days. You should expect varying refund time frames depending on your mode of payment.

Insurance Charge

If you already have car insurance that satisfies the coverage the company is looking for, you might not need to be charged for this. Talk to your rental car provider and go over your existing car insurance with them. Otherwise, you can expect to incur insurance charges.

Upgrade Charge

Upgrade charges are fees that you need to pay whenever you decide to rent a higher specifications car that’s different from the unit that you booked originally. Opting to change cars when you arrive is not a problem at all if you have the budget for it. Otherwise, if the comfort of the upgraded car is not much different from the one you booked, then you might want to allocate the money instead to other, more enjoyable items on the trip.

Remember also that when you upgrade, you wouldn’t only be paying for the upgrade fees. You would also be paying for the higher associated rental, insurance, and security deposit fees of the new unit as well.

Damage Charge

Car rental companies are very careful with their assets. Slight damages, like half an inch of scratch, may be charged to you. To avoid this, check the car yourself before driving it out and take note of any observed damages on the check-out slip.

Extra Days Charge

If you extend without prior notice or made changes to your original booking, car rental companies will charge you for this. It may even be higher than what you paid originally. It would help to plan your itinerary ahead of time and finalize your rental duration to avoid extra charges.

Processing Fees

Processing fees include the administrative fees for handling your booking and related transactions. If your rental includes cleaning services, it might be charged under this category. Some car rental companies provide a breakdown of the processing or administrative fees. If you see an item that you could do away with, for example, the cleaning fee, you can try to talk it out with the management. Oftentimes, they will grant your request if you can offer an alternative for it.

Rental Schedule Change

If ever you decide to extend your booking or change the time frame after you’ve confirmed the original booking, chances are you will be charged a corresponding fee on top of the daily rental fee (for extensions). This is likened to a rebooking fee for airlines and might be heavy for your pocket. So before you rebook, the first thing you need to do is to talk to the car rental company first for options.

Age-associated Charges

As mentioned earlier, the common minimum age requirement to rent a car in the Dominican Republic is 25. Although you can already rent legally upon reaching 21 years old, car companies just don’t want to take the risk of lending their expensive cars to considerably new drivers.

This also holds for senior drivers. As people grow older, physical capabilities have been known to deteriorate or slow down. As such, additional fees are charged for both seniors and those below 25 years old.

Road Rules in Dominican Republic By Asael Peña

The Road Rules in the Dominican Republic

Driving rules in the Dominican Republic exist for the safety of everybody. You’ve probably read about how driving in the Dominican Republic is dangerous. Well, don’t be too misguided. Although the Dominican Republic has been known to have some of the most challenging traffic, road-user behavior-wise, the country areas have come quite far with the enforcement of these guidelines. There is still, nevertheless, more room to grow in terms of traffic legislation, such as considering specific seat belt laws for children.

Important Regulations

Driving regulations are imperative laws that secure us from unwanted traffic accidents. If we don’t follow the road regulations, paying fines may become the least of our problems.

Drunk-Driving

Drunk driving in the Dominican Republic is highly discouraged. Although the Mobility, Ground Transportation, Transit, and Road Safety Act has yet to clearly define the drunk-driving laws in the country, some locals account that the blood alcohol concentration should not go beyond 0.10.

The Dominican Republic is quite a populated country, especially in urban areas, so extra caution on the road is mandatory. You might think that driving in the rural area under the influence will not be much of a bother because of lesser road users. Remember, the countryside has a lot of dirt roads with potholes. Drunk driving, especially at night in these areas, might not be the adventure you’d want to have.

Seat Belt Laws

The wearing of a seatbelt is mandatory for all passengers, whether they are in the front seat or the back seat. As mentioned, the country has no specific child seatbelt laws, but this should not encourage you to be complacent. If you have child seatbelt laws in your home country, then you can follow that. Almost all car rental companies also provide child car seats for an additional fee, so this is actually encouraged still in the country.

Parking Laws

Parking in non-parking areas is considered a legal violation. If you ever get caught parking illegally, you will be issued a ticket, or you will have your car towed away. Wherever you drive in the country, make sure to the locals where you can park legally. Even if you need time to look for a parking spot, this is still a lesser hassle compared to when you have to pay for your ticket or claim your towed car. The general rule is that you should not park in:


  • Bridges
  • Driveways
  • Emergency service roads
  • Junction corners
  • Road curves
  • Roundabouts
  • Areas where you’ll obstruct the views of traffic signs

General Standards

The golden rule whenever you’re driving is to practice safe and defensive driving at all times. This means that you must rid yourself of any distraction like using mobile phones. Even when you are at a full stop under a stoplight, you have to focus so that when the signal turns green, you won’t be delaying traffic.

Speed Limits

Maximum speed limits are considered based on different road profiles such as length, width, projected traffic volume, and the existence of establishments, to name a few. In some countries, speed limits are set based on the type of road: national, secondary, gravel/dirt, etc. In the Dominican Republic, the speed limits are:

Highways - 120kph (74mph)

Main urban roads - 80kph (49mph)

Villages and small towns - 40kph (24mph)

Even if you drive within rural and mountainous areas where traffic law enforcement seems reduced, you shouldn’t be complacent. Maintaining speed limits is one of the most focused-on driving rules in the Dominican Republic. This is also the case for many countries since overspeeding is the cause of the highest rate of road accident fatalities worldwide.

Driving Directions

Traffic directional signs are found all over the country, even in some remote countryside areas. However, a common observation of visitors is that there are plenty of directional signs that lack maintenance. As such, if you ever have a difficult time reading the sign or interpreting the symbol, it would be best if you ask the locals instead for validation.

Traffic Road Signs

Traffic symbols in the Dominican Republic are more or less the same as what you see elsewhere in the world. The difference lies in the words that come along with the symbols, as most are displayed in the Spanish language.

“Pare” - “Stop”

“Ceda El Paso” - “Yield”

“Una Via” - “One-Way traffic”

“Doble Via” - “ Two-Way Traffic”

“No Rebase” - “ No Overtaking”

“Peso Maximo Vehiculo” - “Weight Limit x Tons”

“No Doble Izquierda” - “ No Left Turn”

“No Doble En U” - “No U-Turn”

“No Estacione” - “No Parking”

“No Estacione De Este Lado” - “No Parking At This Side”

“Reductores de Velocidad” - “ Speed Reduction”

“Velocidad Maxima” - “Maximum Speed”

“No Entre” - “No Entry”

“Despacio No Levante Polvo” - “Slowly, Do Not Cause Any Dust”

“Prohibido Dejar Y Recoger Pasajeros” - “Passenger Pick-up and Drop-off is not allowed”

“Policia Costado” - “Road Hump Ahead”

“Precaucion, Cruce De Vehiculos Pesados” - “Take care, dangerous trucks crossing”

“Despacio” - “Slow down”

“Velocidad Controlada Por Radar” - “Speed Check By Radar”

If you can familiarize yourself with the language, it would also help you when you need to ask for driving directions in the Dominican Republic.

Right of Way

Right of Way rules tell us when we have the right to proceed on the first or when we should yield. Yielding is to be practiced at all times advisably; However, there are certain cases where yielding is mandatory by law. The rules on the Right of Way in the Dominican Republic are much similar to what is observed in other countries, perhaps in your home country too. The general rule is that, in any circumstance, you should give the right of way to:

  • Emergency response vehicles (like police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances)
  • Vehicles that are already inside the roundabout and intersection
  • Vehicles that are driving downhill
  • Vehicles that are bigger than yours

Dominican Republic laws state that the minimum age requirement to drive a car anywhere in the country is 18 years old. This also applies to foreign travelers. If you are 18 years old, you are also qualified to get an International Driver's Permit, considering that you possess a valid driver’s license from your home country.

If you are 18 years of age but still have a learner’s driving permit, the same rules apply in the Dominican Republic — you can only drive when accompanied by someone who has a valid drivers’ license.

Laws on Overtaking

Overtaking is a tricky driving skill that everyone should master. For one, you have to estimate the driving speed of the vehicles in front of you. Second, you have to be aware of everything that is surrounding your car (like road obstructions ahead and vehicles behind you that might be trying to overtake as well). Third, you have to maneuver quickly.

In order to proceed with this safely, do not forget to signal the entire time. This is not just for the vehicle behind you but also for the vehicle that you are trying to overtake. Road accidents happen a lot because of erroneous overtaking. If you are not that confident, better not proceed with it.

Driving Side

Dominicanos and Dominicanas drive on the right-hand side. If you are not used to driving on the right-hand side, it would be best to practice (or hire a trainer) before going out onto major, busy roads. The transition is difficult for many, but with a little patience and diligence, you’ll soon be adding a skill to your resume.

Driving Etiquette in the Dominican Republic

Road safety is a product of obedience to the law and exercising the correct road trips etiquette. A writer once said, “If you have no good drive in you, your life will not be steered through a good direction, and it will miss its destined station”. True enough, good road behavior is key to a successful travel story.

Car Breakdown

Road emergencies can include being in a car accident your car breaking down, you needing medical assistance for sudden health conditions, or you getting into a disagreement with another road user, etc. Always carry a first aid kit when traveling and all these emergencies can fill you up with intense emotions, especially when you are in a foreign country. Apart from some being avoidable, make sure that you have with you a list of emergency numbers wherever you go.

For all local calls (even emergency hotlines), you need to dial 1. Then press 1112 (for fire emergencies) or 1911 (for other life-threatening emergencies).

Police Stops

The capacity building of traffic police has been a priority in the country in recent years. One such training was part of the High Visibility Enforcement Campaign that trained officers how to catch and process drunk drivers more effectively. If you ever get waved-over by police, don’t be distressed. If a police officer wrongly assumed your violation, you can always explain to them calmly that they were mistaken. Nevertheless, you will be asked to present your driving documents, and this is where your International Driving Permit will be most useful.

Asking Directions

The majority of Dominicanos understand English. Some even speak it fluently. But you also need to consider those who don’t necessarily know the language, and learning even just a few common phrases will help you extend the courtesy. Plus! Spanish is the language of more than 500,000,000 people in the world! It would be a valuable skill to learn in case you’ll want to travel to and drive in other Spanish-speaking regions. Needless to say, you can use contemporary Spanish terms instead of Dominican Spanish if that’s easier for you to comprehend.

If ever you get lost driving in the Dominican Republic, here are some Spanish phrases you can use when talking to locals:

“Hello” = “Hola”

“Excuse Me” = “Disculpe”

“Do you speak English?” = “Habla usted Inglés?”

“I am going to ___” = “Voy a ___”

“Can you help me?” = “Me puedes ayudar?”

“Can you tell me where __ is?” = “¿Puedes decirme dónde está _____?”

“Am I driving in the right direction?” = “¿Conduzco en la dirección correcta?

“Thank you very much” = “Muchas gracias”

“Have a good day” = “Tenga un buen día”

Checkpoints

Apart from the immigration checkpoints that you’ll notice in the airport, you will also find police-military checkpoints around the country. However, these checkpoints are not mostly permanent, and they are established randomly in strategic places around the country. If you come across a checkpoint and see men in uniform, do not panic. Just prepare your driving documents and perhaps your travel documents in case the police request them. Likewise, it is protocol for checkpoint police to ask you questions, so you should answer them all politely.

Other Tips

Whether you are driving in the city or in the countryside, you just have to remember to remain calm at all times. This will allow you to think more clearly; and respond quickly and logically in every road situation.

Can I Drive Within National Parks?

About 26.24% of the country’s total land area is advocated for wildlife protection and environmental conservation (World Bank, 2018). There are about 18 national parks in the Dominican Republic, and some of these parks are traversed by the public through open access road networks.

These national parks provide shelter to endemic, threatened, and even critically endangered species such as the Hispaniolan Galliwasp (Celestus warreni), the Ridgeway’s Hawk (Buteo ridgwayi), and Ricord’s Iguana (Cyclura ricordii). Needless to say, these animals generally don’t know the hazards of crossing a road, so you’d need to be their big brother or sister and give them the right of way.

Also, try not to sound off your car horn too much as external, artificial sounds might alarm the wildlife and affect their behavior. A quick fact! Did you know that European robins (Erithacus rubecula) used to sing only during the day? But because of noise pollution, these signaling patterns have transitioned to the night time which further altered the behavior of other surrounding wildlife. So the next time you plan your route, be aware of where these national parks are and practice environmental stewardship by not causing any more disturbance.

Road Conditions in the Dominican Republic

In 2014, The United Nations categorized the Dominican Republic under the developing, upper-middle-income nations. The country has come a long way from its colonial era, and infrastructures for economic connectivity continue to be realized. When you go around the country, you will see a lot of tourists driving in the Dominican Republic!

Accident Statistics

According to a 2018 report by the WHO, the Dominican Republic has the 13th-most hazardous roads in the world and the third-highest within Latin America. For every 100,000 individuals, 29 deaths occur on average. Nevertheless, if you practice aggressive driving and observe all the road rules and etiquette, there’s nothing to be frightened about.

Common Vehicles

The most purchased brands in the country’s vehicle market are Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Nissan. Most of the car brands in the top 10 are Asian brands, except for Chevrolet and Mercedes. Following the top 10 are Volvo, Peugeot, and Renault. Top car units or models vary every year as well. In 2011, for example, the most bought car was the Hyundai Tucson, while for other years, the Nissan Pick-up has been a consistent top unit. Likewise, as mentioned, SUVs are the most popular rental cars. If you aren’t familiar with the economic standing of the country yet, this might give you a bit of a picture.

Toll Roads

There are toll roads in the Dominican Republic. One highway even has multiple toll gates. With this, make sure to bring with you Dominican pesos at all times as they don’t accept USD or other foreign currencies. Toll fees in the country range from RD$60 – RD$70. Almost all toll roads are connected to Santo Domingo, so you’d most likely pass through these roads at least once.

Road Situations

In 2015, 34.8% of the total road network were dirt roads, followed by 3,221.1km of gravel roads (23.3%). Paved roads comprised only 35.6% of the total road network, and this is constituted by primary, secondary, and tertiary roads.

It’s generally safe to drive in the Dominican Republic, even during the rainy season. You might even want to try motorcycle driving in the Dominican Republic, even when it’s raining. It would be best, however, to stay on paved roads and at minimum speeds. Dirty roads can be full of potholes, and if downpours occur, these may be filled in with water which you will not be able to see, especially if you are not familiar with the area.

The development of the road infrastructure in the country is still well underway. However, if you practice caution, especially when driving on dirt roads, you can completely avoid accidents. Interestingly, the existing and proposed road infrastructures are considered the most modern in the Caribbean region!

Driving Culture

People in the Dominican Republic are used to giving a tip to other people who guide them while driving. This includes parking attendants, valets, random locals who help you go out of your parking spot, gasoline attendants, people who clean the windshields, and the like. We’re not saying that it is expected of you also, but it would be a nice little thank you to them.

In addition, people also sometimes give change to homeless people who are begging on the street. In some countries, this is not allowed because it is believed to encourage mendicancy more. However, helping is always an option. If not money, you can always give them food.

Things to Do in the Dominican Republic

With all the amazing things to experience in the Dominican Republic, all the gastric delights, all the adrenaline-pumping rides, and breathtaking views, it’s quite hard to put a time limit on your visit. Much so that people from all over the world choose to migrate to the country. In 2015, the UN-DESA estimated that almost 4% of the population are immigrants. That’s a whopping 415,564 individuals!

Drive As A Tourist

Joining pre-arranged guided tours have a lot of benefits. For one, you get to know a lot of facts about a place because part of the job of your tour guide Is to educate you. Second, you can worry less about your safety because it is the responsibility of the tour company. However, joining tour packages also has its disadvantages. For example, your time at every destination will be restricted, and you’ll not be able to choose which destinations you’ll go to (not unless you pay for the more expensive, customized tour packages). Self-driving in the country is highly encouraged because driving, even without the destinations, is already an experience in itself. Plus, you can go to other destinations that weren’t covered in your guided tour package!

Work As a Driver

Driving jobs in the Dominican Republic pay between DOP5,320 to DOP24,200. This range considers jobs in the courier, delivery, and transport sector. There are other driving jobs that may provide higher pay, though. If you have more relevant skills other than driving, you may be able to bargain for a higher salary.

Work As a Travel Guide

If you’re fond of engaging with different people, you may find working as a travel guide fun and exciting. Most travel guide jobs do not require a driving experience. However, knowing how to drive will be plus points. If you do intend to work as a travel guide, though (or as a driver), make sure that you secure the necessary legal permits, like a work permit.

Apply for Residency

If you are planning to stay in the country for more than a longer time, you can apply for a residency visa. The residency visa is a primary prerequisite to qualify for a provisional visa and a permanent resident visa (eventually).

Residency Visa

The Residency Visa is valid for two (2) months. If you want to extend your stay, you need to apply for a Provisional Residence Visa before the Residency Visa expires. You can apply for a Residency Visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Estado de Relaciones Exteriores). The requirements are:


  • Birth Certificate with a true certified copy that is translated into Spanish by an authorized Dominican translator.
  • Two (2) copies of a valid passport
  • Tourist card/Business visa with any supporting documentation showing the latest date of entry to the Dominican Republic
  • Evidence of financial capacity (e.g., bank deposits, proof of property assets, work contracts, etc.)
  • Duly notarized Letter of Guarantee from a Dominican citizen or permanent resident
  • Certificate of good behavior from authorized Dominican authorities
  • Medical Exam taken in the Dominican Republic
  • Four (4) 2x2 front-facing photos
  • Four (4) 2x2 profile photos
  • Fully accomplished application form

Provisional Residency Visa

Application for a Provisional Residency Visa is made at the Dirección General de Migración (Immigration Department). This type of visa is valid for one (1) year. The requirements are:

  • Two (2) copies of the Residency Visa or the Tourist Card
  • Birth Certificate with a true certified copy of a translated version issued by an authorized Dominican translator
  • Evidence of financial capacity (e.g., bank deposits, proof of property assets, work contracts, etc.)
  • Duly notarized Letter of Guarantee from a Dominican citizen or permanent resident
  • Certificate of good behavior from authorized Dominican authorities
  • Dominican Work Contract (if applicable)
  • Medical Exam taken in the Dominican Republic
  • Four (4) 2x2 front-facing photos
  • Four (4) 2x2 profile photos
  • Fully accomplished application form

Permanent Resident Visa

Once you have a Provisional Resident Visa, you are now qualified to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. This will still be done at the Immigration Department. The requirement are:

  • Three (3) copies of the Provisional Residency Visa / Card
  • An affidavit from two (2) Dominican citizens/permanent residents attesting to your good morals and behavior
  • Certificate of good behavior from authorized Dominican authorities
  • Medical Exam taken in the Dominican Republic
  • Four (4) 2x2 front-facing photos
  • Four (4) 2x2 profile photos
  • Fully accomplished application form

Other Things to Do

If you want to immerse yourself in the everyday culture of the Dominicanos, you can sign-up with non-government organizations advocating for various causes (agricultural and food, animal rights, children and youth, wildlife and environment, etc.). Some of these organizations provide basic services for their volunteers like food and lodging.

Where Can I Volunteer in the Dominican Republic?

If you want to immerse yourself in the everyday culture of the Dominicanos, you can sign-up with non-government organizations advocating for various causes (agricultural and food, animal rights, children and youth, wildlife and environment, etc.). Some of these organizations provide basic services for their volunteers like food and lodging.

According to NGO Explorer, about 69 NGOs are operating in the Dominican Republic, and maybe even more! You can contact them via phone or email them should you want to know more about their advocacies and programs.

Here are some of the NGOs servicing the country:

  • World Vision UK
  • The Smile Train UK
  • Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust - UK
  • Minority Rights Group
  • Stand By Me
  • International Justice Mission UK
  • Caribbean Biodiversity Fund
  • Lifebox Foundation
  • Hope for Kids International
  • The Reef-World Foundation
  • Neotropical Bird Club
  • Rehabilitation Worldwide
  • Go Mad UK

Top Destinations in the Dominican Republic

By this point, you already have an idea of how to get an International Driver's Permit and how to behave properly on the roads while driving in the Dominican Republic. Now it’s time to introduce you to some of the most remarkable locations in the country!

Damajaqua Cascades (The 27 Waterfalls)

If you are an inland nature enthusiast, the 27 Waterfalls attraction will bring out the most intense adrenaline rush in you (in the good kind of way). This is one of the most infamous destinations in the Dominican Republic and is said to be frequented by more than 50,000 visitors every year.

Driving Directions

This nature destination is located in the hills of the Northern Corridor Mountain Range. The fastest way to get to Damajaqua is through Carr. Duarte. It will take you about 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the area from the capital city.

From Santo Domingo:

  1. Get to the Autopista Juan Pablo Duarte Highway/Carr. Duarte and drive towards the west.
  2. You will need to merge with the Expreso John F. Kennedy Avenue after Calle Lope De Vega.
  3. Continue to drive along Carr. Duarte and keep right.
  4. Once you pass by Palacio Del Mofongo, take the ramp onto Av. Circunvalacion Nte. and keep right.
  5. After Centro Educativo Guanabano, turn right toward Carr. Navarrete Puerto Plata.
  6. Continue to drive along Carr. Navarrete Puerto Plata.
  7. Once you pass by 27 Charcos Como Llegar, turn right at the gas station towards Camino De Damajaqua.

Once you enter Camino De Damajaqua, you can ask the locals around where the exact jump-off point is.

Things To Do

The falls are open from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm every day. The area can be closed, especially when downpours or hurricanes cause a threat to the safety of the visitors. As such, it would be best to get in touch with a local tour guide/company before driving to the area. Anyway, you will need to hire a tour guide whether or not you book in advance since you’ll not be allowed to partake in the canyoneering activity without one.

  1. Go Canyoneering

The best thing to do in the Damajaqua Cascades is to experience the river trekking or canyoneering activity. With this, visitors are pre-treated to a 25-minute walk up the mountain amongst lush verdant canopies to reach the jump-off point. The canyoneering activity involves sliding and jumping off 7-12 waterfalls (for beginners or intermediates). If you want to cover all of the thrills, you can go for the 27 waterfalls, along with more specialized equipment and guides. Don’t worry! Safety gears will be provided along with the most experienced tour guides.

2. Bathe in the Natural Pools

There are also areas for visitors who do not wish to take part in the thrill of canyoneering. You can relish in the calming power of the outdoors, take pictures, and swim in the natural pools without any intensive physical activity. Damajaqua is a retreat for all ages!

Laguna El Dudu

This blue-green lagoon is highly accessible from the Autopista Cabrera Nagua Road. It is relatively near to Playa Los Cocos. If ever you want to taste saltwater after the lesser-buoyant fresh water from the lagoon, you can just walk or drive across the road.

Driving Directions

Laguna El Dudu is located in the town of Cabrera. The fastest route is through Carr Juan Pablo II, which is about a 2 hour and 44-minute drive. If you travel via Carr. Duarte, it will take you about 3 hours and a half to reach Laguna Dudu.

From Santo Domingo:

  1. Get on Espreso 27 de Febrero and keep right.
  2. Take the exit towards San Isidro via the Tunel.
  3. Continue towards Tunel Las Americas - Autopista Las Americas.
  4. Take the exit on the left towards Marginal Avenida Las Americas.
  5. Turn right at Caribe Express Autovia onto Autopsia Juan Pablo II.
  6. Continue to drive following Autopista del Nordeste and back again to Autopsia Juan Pablo II.
  7. Turn left onto Autopsia Nagua-Samana.
  8. Continue driving and turn right at Talleres Diesel Los Compadres towards Calle Sanchez.
  9. Turn left onto ERnesto Estrella.
  10. Turn right at Ministerio de Medio Ambiente towards Calle Armanda Benitez.
  11. Turn right at Repuesto Matrix towards Autopista Cabrera-Nagua.
  12. Continue to drive along Autopista Cabrera-Nagua and turn left at D’Todo Restaurant & Parador.

Things To Do

Laguna El Dudu is best for families or visitors who have children coming along. Apart from eating, drinking, and just relaxing under the appeasing music of nature, you can:


1. Take a Dip at the Main Lagoon

There are two lagoons in the area: one very deep main lagoon and an adjacent shallower lagoon. The water is cool enough to refresh you from the tropical heat.

2. SCUBA Dive

Yes, the lagoon is a sought-after destination for freedivers and SCUBA Divers alike. The lagoon goes beyond 60 ft. and the bathymetry is just as interesting as what you see on the surrounding land area.

3. Jump to the Water from a Diving Board

Because the main lagoon is very deep, driving from a platform is pretty much safe. If you’re not afraid of heights, there is a 10-meter-high diving board that plunges you into the main lagoon. Likewise, if you have more courage, you can climb up to the surrounding cliffs and jump from there like the locals do. Lastly, if you’re open to another experience, try the zipline that takes you onto the main lagoon.

4. Explore Laguna El Dudu

If you want to explore the surroundings, you can rent a kayak and row along the banks. Likewise, if you don’t want to get wet, there is a nearby cave that you can explore on foot.

Playa El Valle by Wilson Paulino

Playa El Valle

If ever you’re traveling to the Dominican Republic between December and April, visit Playa El Valle. This 4km stretch of soft, powdery sand serves as a tranquil ocean retreat for those who wish to breathe the refreshing sea breeze. The beach is one of the more undeveloped coastal sanctuaries in the Dominican Republic and is where you can observe fishermen go in and out of the sea.

Driving Directions

Playa El Valle is located on the northeastern shore of the Dominican Republic. It will take you about 3 hours to drive to the beach from Santo Domingo via Autopista Nagua Samana.

From Santo Domingo:

  1. Drive towards Autopista Las Americas.
  2. Take the exit towards Marginal Avenida Las Americas and turn left.
  3. Turn right at Caribe Express Autovia-Samana towards Autopista Juan Pablo II.
  4. Continue to drive until you pass by Bienvenido A Samana.
  5. Turn right towards Autopista Nagua-Samana.
  6. After Hotel Nuevo Amanecer, you will reach a roundabout.
  7. Take the first exit to stay on the Autopista Nagua-Samana.
  8. Once you pass by D’Vieja Pan, turn right towards Av. William Jhonson.
  9. Turn left on the first corner.
  10. Keep driving and turn left towards Carretera Samana El Valle.
  11. The road terminates at Playa El Valle.

Things To Do

The beach is one of the more undeveloped coastal sanctuaries in the Dominican Republic. It is also where you can observe fishermen go in and out of the sea.

  1. Go Swimming

The water on this side is not as crystal blue as in other beaches. The waves are also stronger but enough to be safe for swimmers. It would also be safe to remember that riptides exist in the area. So, if you plan to go swimming, best to stay close to the shore.

2. Eat Grilled Seafood on the Beach

You can enjoy a bountiful seafood lunch along the beach, have a photoshoot with the stunning landscape and seascape as the backdrop, or have a quiet stroll on the beach. Visiting Playa El Valle will be a nice stopover for when you want to unwind from all the physical adventures around the country.

Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave

With the number of caves within the country, it will be hard to miss a spelunking activity. The Taino Cave is one of the most popular destinations to know about what life was like 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Likewise, since the Pirate Rum Factory is just near the cave, most tour packages put these two in one package.

If you’re going to be driving in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic might as well explore other places. Punta Cana is a bustling district with one (1) airport and stunning beach spots, so there are lots of activities to indulge in! Plus, most roads in this district are relatively wide, which allows traffic to flow easily. Driving in Punta Cuna, Dominican Republic, will be more peaceful than in Santo Domingo.

Driving Directions

The Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave are about a 2 hour and a half drive from Santo Domingo via Autopista del Este.

From Santo Domingo:

  1. Drive towards Espreso 27 de Febrero and onto Tunel Las Americas.
  2. Keep right and continue driving towards Autopista Las Americas.
  3. Drive straight and continue to Autovia del Este.
  4. Take the exit towards Autovia del Este and continue towards Autopista del Coral.
  5. Follow the road and take the second exit at the roundabout.
  6. When you reach Downtown Punta Cana, turn right towards Avenida Barcelo.
  7. You will find the Pirate Rum Factory and Taino Cave Tour a couple of meters after the Choco Plaza Shopping Mall.

Things To Do

Both the factory and cave are open for visitors from Monday to Friday, 8:30 am - 5:30 pm. You can also visit them during Saturdays but only until 1:30 pm.

  1. Try the Different Rhum Varieties

If rum does not excite you, wait until you try the different concoctions of the Pirate Rum Factory. The choice of drinks includes a variety of flavors: pineapple, coconut, passion fruit, mamajuana, lime, and banana. The recipes used in this factory have existed for 300 years, and you can buy the different flavors in hand-crafted bottles.

2. Learn about the Taino Indians

You can also explore the nearby Taino underground caves to learn about the Taino Indians, the original settlers of the Dominican Republic. When you visit the cave, try if you can also spot and name the different cave formations.

Dunas de Bani

The Dominican Republic is not only endowed with lush, green, and cloudy rainforests. In some parts of the country, perennially-dry regions exist, such as the Dunas de Bani. The dunes are of volcanic rock origin, which is why they are generally gray.

Driving Directions

Dunas de Bani is about an hour and a half ride from Santo Domingo via Carr. Sanches and Route 510.

  1. Make your way towards Avenida Luperon.
  2. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit towards Autopista 6 de Noviembre.
  3. Take the ramp to stay on Autopista de Noviembre.
  4. Continue driving onto Carr. Sanchez.
  5. Turn right at Plaza Gonzalez K1.
  6. Turn left on the first corner.
  7. Turn right at Vizcaino Comercial back onto Carr. Sanchez.
  8. Turn left towards Calle Wladislao Guerrero.
  9. Turn left at Vip Estilo.
  10. Turn right at Restaurante La Fiesta del Chivo.
  11. Turn left at Retroevolution Shop onto Duverge.
  12. Turn right at the gas station.
  13. Turn left at Financiera M Minino towards A Las Calderas.
  14. Continue driving onto Route 510.
  15. You can find the Dunas de Bani on the left before reaching the town proper of Bani and the Minas de Sal.

Things To Do

Dunas de Bani is likened to a coastal desert. There are no trees or establishments to take shade in, and the sand is relatively hot throughout. The park is open from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 8:00 am - 6:00 pm on weekends. It is recommended to go there early or later in the afternoon when the sun is not at its highest, and make sure to bring lots of water!

  1. Go Surfing

Apart from spotting the exotic wildlife that calls the dunes their home, there are sand surfing activities that you can take part in. And if sunsets are your thing, the Dunas de Bani is an excellent spot to experience it.

2. Learn how sea salt is produced

Bani is also known for its salt mines and succulent mangos, which you can visit since they are relatively near to the Dunas de Bani. If you don’t know how the sea salt you use for cooking is produced, this is a good place to learn about it.

For more travel and driving information about the Dominican Republic, stay tuned for updates from the International Driver's Association.

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