A getaway to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Confession : I didn’t do Dominican Republic right. I just decided to leave Costa Rica as soon as possible and get to Europe before 10th of June and I accidentally found out an insanely cheap flight ticket from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to Brussels, Belgium. Otherwise I would have passed Dominican Republic. How come? Firstly it’s isolated, thus it would be so hard to get out unless I take another flight. But well, if you travel on a whim you always notice that plans never work out. Even if you just follow the plans you have made there’s always something going on and you are doomed to fix things, I know it’s a bit annoying but in my personal opinion, that makes your trip a lot more interesting. I enjoyed my time in Costa Rica but one day I realized that it was time to leave, maybe for a non Spanish speaking country. I always have been eager to visit Argentina and live there for a while, however getting to Argentina from anywhere in Central America costs A LOT, even way more than flying straight to Europe. Honestly I wasn’t relatively interested in other South American countries aside from Argentina so I just decided to go back to Europe sooner.

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How was Santo Domingo?

If you ask me how my time in Santo Domingo was spent, I’d probably say “So well”. What a boring answer, right?
Santo Domingo is a really pretty city, it’s a very important city with a couple of meaningful and historic monuments. As I’m into history, Santo Domingo couldn’t be more interesting ever. I studied a little bit of the city on the plane, let me tell you –
It was founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, on the east bank of the Ozama River and then moved by Nicolás de Ovando in 1502 to the west bank of the river, the city is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, and was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. Santo Domingo is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in the New World.

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Being the capital of a country means A LOT in Central America. Santo Domingo is economically, culturally, commercially and politically the heart of Dominican Republic. Although many visitors these days spend there only for a few days and prefer to move to cities on the coast side.

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Santo Domingo in June is extremely hot, even people living in the city admit it. I sort of underestimated its weather as I was already used to the typical Caribbean weather, but trust me, even if you do nothing you have to sweat all the time on the street. But don’t worry, there are a lot of beautiful and cool beaches you can go while in Santo Domingo. According to many travelers I met in my hostel, the beaches in Dominican Republic are way more peaceful and beautiful and better to play at than let’s say Mexico and Cuba. The color of the water is so precious.

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Believe or not, Santo Domingo is really easy to travel around. It has convenient metros, therefore we can avoid being lost for no reason. Also, the tourist information center is very helpful and they provide a really useful map for foreigners. Most people in the beautiful city speak English as it’s becoming more touristy year by year. Obviously, speaking Spanish is a plus though. If there’s one thing I really didn’t like, it’s the fact that there’s no public transportation you can take from the airport to the downtown. It should be a shared car or a taxi. A taxi costs more or less 20$. People prefer to receive in Dominican money but apparently American dollar is also accepted in many places.

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Eating out in Santo Domingo could be a bit costly for backpackers. Many luxury restaurants in tourist zones are more used to rich American and Canadian tourists, so the overall price has risen up a lot compared to last 10 years, according to a server I met. As well as Costa Rica, Dominican Republic is not a cheap country to live or travel. You will be definitely surprised if you expect cheap expenses.

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Despite the death-dealing weather I enjoyed walking through Santo Domingo’s old town. It’s amazing how this city has kept its own beauty over the years. I took a lot of nice pictures and I will definitely print them and put on my wall when I’m back home. Presumably Santo Domingo will shortly belong to those cities that pro photographers love, it’s not well known yet but soon…

Places to go in Santo Domingo

1.Zona Colonial

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Heart of Santo Domingo. It’s an Unesco World Heritage Site with cobblestone streets, stunning Spanish Colonial architecture, and excellent restaurants. Perhaps the most significant site here is the First Cathedral of America, the oldest existing cathedral in the Americas.

2.Catedral Primada de America

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Built in 1512. Such a fabulous looking church in the heart of Santo Domingo. I’d suggest you to visit it before noon, so that you will be tourist free. You can look around the church with an audio guide (English and Spanish). My tip is that you should try if your audio works before entering the church. And don’t make flash when you take pictures.

3.Alcazor de Colon

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It was built by the son of Christopher Columbus between 1510 and 1514, this restored building was one of the first structures built in the oldest remaining European city in the Americas. My tip for this place is that you need to take some time, don’t rush. Also don’t forget the unbelievably stunning views from the balconies.

4.Museo Memorial de la Resistencia

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I was just passing by this museum and thought it would be interesting to learn about Dominican history. The audio guide and photos are very informative and make you think how important to know about history, especially the resolution.

Lifestyle of the Dominicans

Very easygoing and laid-back. Dominicans are one of the funniest people I ever talked to. They seem to like make many jokes with foreigners. They laugh a lot and can be a bit loud from time to time. I think it’s pretty much the same for Cubans or Mexicans, they really like to live slowly, work slowly, eat slowly and basically do everything leisurely but they are so different when they drive.

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I’m not sure if I would like to drive in Dominican Republic, or actually in whole Central America. I took an Uber from my hostel to the bus station in my last day and the driver told me that it’s really dangerous to drive in Santo Domingo unless you are very good and used to the way of driving.

I supposed Dominican’s lazy lifestyle attracts lots of western travelers and make them love the country. I met a couple of Europeans who are eager to stay in Dominican Republic and they told me how fascinating it would be to live next to the incredibly beautiful beach. So it seems like young foreign backpackers work for a hostel as a part time worker and get to stay there for free, so that they are able to travel. I think it’s a really wise idea and I’d absolutely do that next time.

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I met a South Korean lady by accident on the street and I’m so glad that I met her. She has lived in Santo Domingo for 18 years, her son was raised there and currently married to a Dominican woman. She visited this beautiful country 20 years ago for the first time and it was just too impressive to forget about, thus she quit her job and gave everything up from her hometown and came back some years later and then just settled down.
“Well you know, I can’t even imagine me being out of Santo Domingo. It has become my second hometown.”
Warm hearted people, beautiful beaches and mountains and laid-back lifestyle, those are what have kept her in Santo Domingo and I’m so excited to go back there some time later as well.

Have you been to Santo Domingo? What’re your favorite spots?

All the love,
Felix

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Hello world, I'm a treasure hunter of life experiences. I'm curious minded with a strong force for discovery and adventure. These days I spend most of my time living out of a backpack, traveling from one country to the next.

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