Dominican Sustainable Tourism Organization, DSTO

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ODTS Traveling Dominicana General Info
Dominicana General Info PDF Print E-mail

 

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Geography

We are an island in the archipelago of the Greater Antilles, occupying a little over two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. Bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean; on the south by the Caribbean or the Antillean Sea; on the east by La Mona Channel that separates us from the island of Puerto Rico; and on the west, by Haiti.
 
It has some 1288 km of coastline and the highest elevation mountain of the Caribbean islands called Pico Duarte with 3,098 meters above sea level. Inland waters (rivers and lakes), represent 1.6% of the territory.
 
 
Weather

Tropical. The average annual temperature is 26º C (79º F). Although, most of the year during daytime, temperatures reach 35º C (95º F). August is the hottest month and January the coolest. In mountainous areas, it could stay at 20º C (68º F), as an annual average, and in January, it could drop to -5º C (23º F).
 
The season with most rains covers from May to November, excelling May, August, and, September. The island is prone to storms which annually form in the Atlantic Ocean from June to November.
 
Due that the island is located in the northern hemisphere of the globe, the seasons are: Spring, from March 20/21 to June 22/23; summer, from June 21 to September 21; fall, from September22/ 23 to December 21; and winter, from December 21 to March 21.

The characteristic of a mild and stable climate throughout the seasons and days lasting 11 hours in winter and up to 13 hours in summer, enables us to be the ideal destination to perform the most varied sports and recreational activities as well as outdoor adventures.
 
 
Natural Areas & Biodiversity

Dominicana has a vast array of natural areas.  Among those are the ones which form the national system of protected areas of the Dominican Republic. Within their own categories of management, they possess features that provide attractive and unique ecosystems, habitats and biodiversity samples, many of which are tourism-oriented. They all provide the facilities for visiting and enjoying them.

The system is composed of 86 protected areas, distributed throughout the country.  They are identified in eight categories: 8 strict protected areas, 15 national reserves, 19 national parks, 19 natural monuments, and 25 managed habitat and species areas.

Our biodiversity is composed by a flora of more than 5,600 species of plants.  A fauna appointed throughout the island with about 70 fish species, 60 amphibians, 141 reptiles, 254 birds, and 33 mammals.  In addition, there is a large formation of coral reefs with a huge diversity of gender and taxonomic family throughout our tropical island.

Hispaniola, located in the domain of the neo-tropical region of the Caribbean (eco zone land that includes South America, Central America and the Caribbean); has a wide range of ecosystems from the ones typically tropical to the ones of temperate climate that has developed in the cacuminals areas (peaks) of the mountains, where weather conditions are determined by their height. In the Cordillera Central are located the highest mountains in the Antilles, including Pico Duarte. On the other hand, we have the Enriquillo Lake, the largest of the Antilles, with 265 square kilometers in area, located in a tectonic pit, 40 meters below sea level, with the characteristic of having hyper salted waters partly due to evaporation.

As well,  rains or the  rainfall patterns prevailing in different areas of the territory, one of the determining factors for the establishment of biotic communities and areas of life in the island, ten in total, make us one of the few places where this broad diversity can be seen.   The orientation from east to west of the main mountain ranges and the prevailing  direction of the alisios winds, from the northwest to southwest, lead rains  to the northern slopes of the mountains, making the more humid regions those  exposed to the Atlantic Coast and the drier the ones located towards the southwest coast of the Caribbean Sea.

Broadly, the main ecosystems of the island can be distinguished as described below, from sea level to mountain tops.

Coral  reefs.   They have developed in the coastal zone on the island platform.  They can be seen as fringe reefs, barrier reefs, and patches. They provide a characteristic habitat where part of the marine production grows, offering underwater landscapes of unique beauty.

Marine prairies. They are also distributed along the coast of the island, covering the sandy bottom of estuaries, bays and inlets. Consist mainly of sea grass: Thalassia testudium, filiforme Syringodium, and algae, which are higher photolytic plants belonging to the magnoliofitas species (those that have flowers and fruits, plus a complex system of rhizomes). These ecosystems are feeding and breeding important places for many different species of animals.

Mangroves. Typical pan tropical formation forest (in tropical regions of the continent); it is developed in estuarine areas (widest and deepest part at the mouth of rivers), protected bays and inlets, and also on the coastal marshes; It usually consists of a dense forest and intricate highly specialized, aggressive and pioneer trees such as Rhizophora mangle, able to grow in permanently flooded areas, as well as Avicennia nitida and Laguncularia racemosa, which develop on consolidated land.

The largest mangroves of the Dominican Republic are located in the Samaná Bay, the mouth of the Yuna River, and the mouth of the Yaque Del Norte River, San Fernando de Montecristi.

Lagoons.  Freshwater or salty; some temporary or permanent; they are on flood plains along the coast or in the interior, having or not communication with the sea. Are generally associated with other types of ecosystems, such as mangroves and prairie halophytes (plants that grow in salty soil) growing on its banks.

The largest are the Cabral and Oviedo in the South; the Redonda and Limon in the East and, of course, Lake Enriquillo which is the largest body of lentic waters (static) in all the Antilles. They are natural sanctuaries for many species of waterfowl, many of which are migratory.

Forests. The current forest formations represent a cliserie (staggered distribution of different vegetation types which are determined by changes in climate) from forest hyper xerofíticos (dry) of the lower areas of the Southwest and Northwest regions to the humid tropical areas in the mountains.

All these ecosystems belong to our various areas of life classified as: subtropical thorny mount, dry subtropical forest, dry- to- humid forest, subtropical wet forest, subtropical very- wet forest, subtropical rainforest, moist low mountain forest, very humid low mountain forest, low mountain rainforest, and very humid mountain forest.
 
 
Sports, Recreation & Adventure

Surrounded by crystal waters, our island, with an unique geographical diversity in the Caribbean, offers the perfect places to practice the most varied sports, entertainment, and adventure which has turned Dominicana into the center of the region.

If the sea is your preference, our amazing beaches and coastline invite you to enjoy diving, snorkeling or sail a boat to observe the spectacular coral and underwater life. The options for surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, ski, sailing or a quiet ride on pedal boats, among others, will keep you entertained and away from boredom. Fishing in its various forms, excursions, and trips on boats and yachts to unforgettable natural attractions are available all year.

The interior of the island, with its rivers and lakes, fields and mountains, as well as towns and cities are ideal places to practice from relaxing walks or hikes to extreme flights in delta wing, gliding, paragliding or parachuting, without mentioning other options such as horseback riding, fine step, jump and pole riding, rafting, rappel, climbing, mountaineering, mountain or all terrain cycling, motorcycling, all terrain vehicles, rallies, and many others.

If talking about traditional sports, enjoy or practice baseball, basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, and many other disciplines; they are offered during most of the year. Several championships and international and local competitions are held regularly. The popularity of disciplines offers the ease of practicing facilities throughout the territory.
 
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Nightlife

Having fun with joy and good company distinguishes Dominican nightlife. The night starts early, after the end of the regular working schedule, at 18:00 hours. Usually, it begins with a cold beer at a beer center or colmadón, where, in a pleasant atmosphere, begins the night journey!

For the more demanding ones, the enjoyment of a traditional drink made with rum or other Dominican drinks, accompanied by a Dominican cigar at different types of bars, taverns or cafes, offers different settings for different tastes.

For diner either typical, savoring our delicious Creole cuisine, or any other type of cuisine you want; you can enjoy the many and varied restaurants available.

There are many theaters, galleries and cinemas, offering a variety of music, plays, opera, ballet, visual arts, and films produced by local or foreign authors. These may be subjected to seasons and are usually offered in several batches during the week.

If you want to taste your luck, there are many casinos with a wide variety of games available throughout the territory. They are mainly located in the hotels. If this is your case, we wish you the best luck!

If you prefer to listen and dance merengue, bachata, son, salsa, rock, jazz or any other rhythm, you may do so in different environments, such as typical ranchos, traditional clubs, and dance halls.

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The Dominicans

Being Dominican is a great pride. Cheerful, quiet and not so loquacious as other Caribbeans, we are a blend of seasonings, traditions, expressions, rhythms, joys, attitudes, and algarabías; we love dancing our own music.

We like doing things slowly and enjoying them, but our best quality is that we are friendly and courteous. We want our visitors to be aware of our culture and customs, so that they return to their country with the best impression of what Dominicans are.


Culture

Dominican culture is the result of the fusion of three races that have shaped their beliefs and customs as consequence of the transmission of cultures initiated by the meeting of  two cultures in 1492: Mestizo from the European conqueror; from the Indian  carried out in  its nostalgia;  and from the African slaves.

The Hispaniola, as first baptized, was the first European colony in the New World. It was in Santo Domingo, the capital known as America's First City, where originated the first cultural and social institutions that symbolize colonization. Here were built the first forts, churches and cathedral; the first university, the first hospital, and the first monuments.

The prosperity of the colony, as the axis of the new colonialist enterprise, was clear and growing based on its mineral wealth and sugar plantations. However, towards the end of 1600s, gold mines were depleted in a meaningful way, causing the migration of settlers which reduced their population. This was exploited by French buccaneers who used the island as a bridge for smuggling and for permanently occupying the western part of the island.  They found Saint Domingue (now Haiti), as a colony based on the exploitation of plantations using African slaves laborers.

This changed the current economic system of the colony due to the arrival of slaves.  It resulted in a cultural fusion, prevailing the strongest culture, with the emergence of different ethnic groups still predominating today, as are our mulatos (blacks and whites) and / or mestizos (whites and tainos).

Subsequently, two nations were born sharing the same island: the eastern part, Spain, and the western, France. Being target of possession, disputes, and ambition by European colonialists, two states originated coexisting with obvious and marked differences by their historical national settings, cultural background, economic development, and political evolution.


Cuisine

The Dominican cuisine has the characteristics of an authentic Creole cuisine, with taino, European, and African origins, but developed in America, after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in 1492. It is similar to the Caribbean cuisine, influenced by other cultures, but with changes and variations uniquely developed in each region. Although its Creole cuisine, Dominicana offers the widest variety and more exquisite cuisines in the area.


Carnival

The Dominican Carnival is one of the oldest traditions in the New World and America. It has existed since 1520, when the inhabitants of the colony disguised as Morons and Christians during their celebrations which have evolved in what we do today.

In 1975, carnivals were held during the St. James feasts, Corpus Christi, and Shrovetides (three days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent), among others, traditions that came from the beginning of the colony.

The carnival as tradition increased its popularity after the independence struggles of February 27, 1844 (Independence), and August 16, 1865 (Restoration of Independence), provoking an association of the carnival celebration with the Independence feast and not to the Shrovetide.

In addition to the traditional celebration of the carnival, there are other expressions of carnival origin and with more African influences, which celebrations are not related to the holidays mentioned above or the Shrovetide. They are known as cimarron Carnival, which takes place until Easter of the Catholic Church.

 
Dominican Icons
  • Merengue is the Dominican dance. It is one of the oldest Caribbean Latin dances and the one that has suffered fewer transformations over the years.  It has become one of the most popular in the world. It combines an easy rhythm, an inhibited poetry, and a dance that, by nature, expresses sensuality, passion and eroticism.

  • Bachata, also an authentic Dominican rhythm, formerly known as "bitter music," reproduces a melancholy spirit, nostalgia, and loving animosity. It is considered a bolero mixed with African music influences of styles such as merengue, son, cha-cha, and tango.

  • Amber, the best qualified in the world, is a fossilized resin plant, waste product of prehistoric trees. That resin was a sticky fluid that once in contact with the air for a long period of time, hardened into amber.  As resin sprout from the trunk of the tree, many millions of years ago, often caught in its path bits of vegetables and small animals that have been well preserved until today.  Their colors are yellow, brown, red, blue, all very bright, with a great variety of beautiful tones.

  • The larimar is a rare and precious stone. It is a variety of a pectolite mineral (the group of mineral silicates). It can only be found in Barahona. In the Dominican Republic, its color varies covering a wide range of colors like white, light blue, teal blue and volcanic blue. It is a volcanic rock that has its origin millions of years ago, that once handcrafted becomes a mineral worthy of admiration.

  • The Casabe or casabi (Manihot esculenta or Manihot utilissima) is a traditional peasant and craft food product; one of our living and permanent links to our culture and indigenous origin.  The Yuca was one of the main crops of pre-Columbian times.  Its sub product, the casabe, due to their potential for conservation, was a fundamental base of feeding for the people of the island.

    The Dominican Casabe’s qualities are extraordinary: its craft tradition, its uses, and its nutritional benefits, such as its fiber content, exceed that of the wheat, oats, and rice. This makes it a healthy Creole culinary tradition.

  • Rum is alcoholic distilled liquor obtained from sugar cane molasses. It is usually a sub-product of sugar production, and includes the clear lights, the heavies, and the more flavorful. The origin of its production was due to the introduction of sugar canes in 1493 during the colonial period. It was called the "kill-devil" (kill-devil) or" rum bullion "(a word from Devonshire, England, which means a great tumult).  In 1667, it was simply called “Rum", from where the Spanish word ron and the French word rhum, came.

    White, gold, dark, with spices, aromatic or premium; of three, seven or 15 years, the Dominican rum is considered an elixir, nectar or unique treasure.   Served alone or with the versatility offered by mixtures; with that softness that caresses the palate, and with the sensuality that incites the senses of those who drink it, invites to enjoy life with a slight Caribbean accent.

  • Tobacco & Cigars. Dominican is the first country in the world in terms of cultivation volume. The qualities of it seeds and agricultural land, its development process, harvesting, drying, fermentation and storage, combined with the high quality of manufacturing and craft, have made  our cigars occupy the supremacy and popularity in the world.

    The unparalleled qualities of Dominican cigars among others; combustibility, texture, elasticity, color, exquisite smell and taste, and the balance in the composition of nicotine and oils have made them the undisputed leader of the world.

General Information
  • The Dominican Republic is an independent, representative democracy divided into three branches: the judicial, the legislature and the executive, this last one headed by the President, who appoints the central state cabinets and executes the laws passed by the Legislature. Elections are conducted by direct vote every four years.

  • Dominican takes about 48,442.23 km2 of the total area of Hispaniola which is of 76,480 km2. Its population is of approximately 10 million inhabitants and its capital is Santo Domingo de Guzman.

  • The language is Spanish or Castilian. Other languages such as English, is widely used internationally, as well as French, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, among others, used in most urban areas and in tourist activities.

  • The official currency is the Dominican peso. Its value in reference with foreign currencies varies according the official rate regulated by the monetary authority. Changes in foreign currencies can be done at commercial banks and authorized offices. Any transaction over U.S. $ 10,000.00 or its equivalent in other currencies requires a written declaration of origin and / or destination of funds, among other information.

  • The electrical system is based on the distribution of 110 to 220 Volts, 60 Hertz. Sometimes, due to various reasons, in some cities and towns, occurs the interruption of the electricity supply.

  • Many regions and localities have the potable water service, but it is recommended to consume distilled water.

  • The country keeps the Atlantic Standard Time all year, GTM -4.

  • The telephone area codes are 809 and 829. To call from anywhere in the world, dial +1, plus area code, plus the phone number. To make calls from the country to a foreign city, dial 011, plus country code, plus area or city code, plus the phone number.

    The country has one of the most advanced telecommunications network in the world.

  • For the vehicular traffic, it is used the right side of the road. It can be used a valid driver's license from any part of the world.

  • The purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages are restricted to adults.

  • The purchase, distribution and consumption of narcotic (hallucinogenic drugs) is strictly prohibited and severely punished.

  • The majority of age is obtained at eighteen (18) years old.

  • The laws of the Dominican Republic are based on the Napoleonic Code.

  • There is freedom of worship, but more than 90% of Dominicans, profess the Apostolic Roman Catholic Religion.

  • The Dominican Republic is a developing country with an average income, which depends mainly on mining, agriculture, commercial trade, services, and especially tourism, being this one of the fastest growing areas along with free zones. Mining and agricultural exportations account to be the most important commercial activities and are destined to our major trading partners, as are USA, Canada, Europe, and Latin America, among others. About importations, these come from the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America, among others. A major line, are the money remittances submitted by Dominican immigrants from the U.S. and Europe.

    The Dominican Republic is the eighth largest economy in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Peru.

Security

The Caribbean is one of the safest places for travelers wishing to spend their holidays in family. Dominicana is not an exception; the country has one of the lowest criminal and risk rates, compared with many other tourist destinations.


Transport

The transportation of passengers to and from the outside is done mostly by air using scheduled flights or charters, as well as private ones. It is also possible by sea through the use of cruise ships, ferries and private boats. If you are visiting the neighboring country of Haiti, you can also use buses, as well as private vehicles.

The country has airports and seaports, both local and international, and two bordering gates at the frontier with Haiti.
 
Nearly all the intern transportation is by road. Intercity transportations are via buses and minibuses.  In communities with low passengers’ traffic, there are cars, trucks, and minibuses available. However, there are also scheduled intercity flight services and air cargo.

Among major cities, there are conchos, cars passing by all day making route stops along the way collecting and removing passengers. In small communities and rural areas, there are motoconchos, motorcycles that make short journeys.

Taxi services are available in large and medium cities. Services are contracted by users and fees are subjected to time and distance.

There is not any rail transportation.  Sea transportation services are restricted to some communities at the Samaná Bay and islands, islets, and cays to connect them with land.

Another option is the rental of vehicles. Most of the companies that offer these services are global and locally well known.


Sanity

No specific vaccine is required or mandatory for traveling to Dominicana. Precautions should be taken against insect bites, especially mosquitoes.


Visas & Conditions

Visiting foreigners must present a passport and obtain a tourist card for USD10.00, paid in cash. Likewise, it is required to complete a form of embarkation / disembarkation.

This tourist card allows the visitor a temporary stay of sixty (60) days, extended if requested in the immigration offices. This is available in Dominican consulates and tourist offices, abroad before traveling, or at the port of entry.

If exceeded the retention period given by the tourist card, at the time of leaving the country at the port of embarkation, an extra cost would be charged for that exceeded period.


Taxes & Tips

Except for certain foods, medicines, raw materials and services, all consumptions are taxed 16% (ITBIS) over the final sale value. Hotels and restaurants charge an additional 10% per service. Also, every traveler should pay a departure tax of USD$20.00 in cash collected at the port of departure. As a tip, but not obligatory, it is usually charged an additional gratification of 10% on the value of consumption.


Credit and Debit Cards
 
Most commercial establishments accept all credit and debit cards; in addition, some accept traveler's checks. The country's network of ATMs is strategically distributed across the Dominican territory.
 

Observed holidays
 
January 01
New Year's Day (Irremovable)
January 06Epiphany Day (Removable)
January 21Day of Our Lady of La Altagracia (irremovable)
January 26Juan P. Duarte’s Birthday, Father of the Dominican Nation (irremovable)
January 27Dominican Independence Day (irremovable)
May 01Labor Day (Removable)
May 16Presidential, Congressional and Municipal Election Day
August 16Day of the Restoration of the Dominican Independence (irremovable on even years since it coincides with the beginning of the governmental periods)
September 24
Day of Our Lady of Las Mercedes (irremovable)
November 06
Constitution Day (Removable)
December 25
Christmas (irremovable)

In addition to the observed holidays above, in Dominicana are annually held two Catholic important dates:  Easter, which varies according to the liturgical calendar, observed from Thursday in the afternoon, remembering Jesus’ Last Supper with his Apostles, until Easter Sunday, the Day of Resurrection; Corpus Christi which takes place on Thursday, sixty (60) days after Easter or Sunday of Resurrection.

Irremovable: Its celebration is held at the exact date it falls in the calendar every year.

Removable: Its celebration is moved to the Monday before when it coincides with Tuesday or Wednesday; if it coincides with Thursday or Friday, it is moved to the next Monday. If it coincides with Monday, Saturday or Sunday, it is held on those dates. Particularly in the case of Labor Day, when it falls on a Sunday, then it is moved to next Monday.

* For more information about important dates, please visit our agenda.