After analyzing the Dominican traffic from the theoretical perspective in my last article, I would now like to look at the practical side of it. Because it is much more exciting to take part in it than the road conditions and the dangers of daily traffic. With a few first hand recommendations, it is much more relaxed to drive in the most dangerous traffic country in Latin America. What is the safest way to get around the streets of the Dominican Republic? When should I use a rental car? And how do I have to consider when planning a road trip?
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From the perspective of an individual traveler, I find the Dominican Republic a very interesting destination to discover. I’ve already written an extensive article about this in the past. There are so many odd and impressive reasons for your next vacation adventure in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. Yet it has much more to offer than the usual and expectable things. Read in this article 10 travel facts of the Dominican Republic to motivate individual travelers.
With all the scattered travel destinations, you’ll might ask yourself at some point how to move across the island in the fastest and most safely manner.
If you are a curious adventurer as well as I am, traveling by car is the best option for you.
What if I want to drive a car in the Dominican Republic myself?
I would recommend any adventurous traveler to spend as much time as possible outside of the big cities like Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. It is not only much more pleasant and smooth to drive in the areas far away from the urban concrete jungles. You will also be amazed at the biodiversity and different microclimatic zones of the Caribbean.
Of course, the lead-footed adventurer itches a little. Drive towards a Caribbean sunset on a tropical island. There is a lot to discover in the Dominican Republic and the fastest way to do that is with a ride. Driving is fun.
After fathoming in the previous article why the Dominican Republic is not necessarily the safest place for road users, I can still give some tips for safe driving in the Dominican Republic.
The most important lesson is to adapt to the flow of traffic and to take over a little bit of the chaotic Dominican style.
On the other hand, that does not mean that you should cross red lights without hesitating like Dominicans or ruthlessly pushing other road users away or also honk non-stop while driving. However, if you cannot change your usual driving style from home, then you are more likely to be the foreign body in the chaotic Dominican system than the other way around.
Don’t try to change a running chaotic system, rather adapt to it. They never learned how to respect other people on the streets or traffic rules. And why should that be suddenly now your responsibility to teach them how to do it right? The best and safest way for you would be to go with the chaotic flow and accept how it is.
If possible, keep the greatest possible distance from other vehicles. Of course, this is not always doable without any problems. Dominicans like to use two lanes or slow down other road users without batting an eyelid.
You will be able to understand my advice with the greatest possible safety distance, if a motorcyclist without wearing helmet or protective wear comes towards you from the opposite lane as a wrong-way driver because he keeps looking at his mobile phone while driving
If you want to be on the Dominican roads, you need a thick-skinned and be equipped with deaf ears. Everywhere in your surrounding it honks, squeaks and rumbles nonstop in Dominican traffic. You will see and experience things that you could not even have imagined in your wildest nightmares. Not for the faint of heart and people with a lack of concentration. Without your full attention while driving the car, those accidents happen quite unexpectedly.
Is my driver’s license valid in the Dominican Republic?
Perhaps another crucial question arises when planning your vacation to the Dominican Republic. Can I drive in the Dominican Republic with my driver’s license?
Yes it is valid, but only for the duration of your legal stay–i.e. your 30-day tourist card or visa term.Dominican Ministry of Tourism
Good news: All driver’s licenses seem to be valid in the Dominican Republic! Nothing holds you back to do a road trip in the Dominican Republic. Important: Take the original driver’s license with your photo with you when you are going to rent a car. The rental car providers will not accept a copy.
What if you accidentally left your driver’s license at home?
In addition, more than 300,000 people drive without a license. This is due to the fact that a high proportion of them are illegal foreigners who do not have the necessary documents to get a driver’s license.Dominican Today
According to official statements from the Dominican authorities, more than 300,000 people drive in the Dominican Republic without a license. That is almost 3% of the entire (!) Dominican population, disregarding e.g. too young, too old, disabled people, etc. However, it is not recommended to take the risk and drive in the Dominican Republic without a license. So don’t be an illegal foreigner and drive in the Dominican Republic with a driver’s license 😊
Incidentally, the further you move away from the cities, the more pleasant and safe the journey becomes. This is of course due to the reduced volume of traffic outside of the conurbations. It goes without saying that fewer accidents happen where there are fewer people driving cars and motorcycles.
Beware of all kinds of animals
We remember the quote from the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, which I also used to cite in my last article:
That being said, driving in the DR is known to be nerve-wracking; you must drive defensively and keep an eye out constantly for other drivers, motorbikes, pedestrians, cows, and other potential road companions and intruders.Dominican Ministry of Tourism
And of course such a kind warning needs to be investigated a little more. The further you move away from the cities towards nature, the more you have to pay attention to fauna and flora “and other potential road companions and intruders” in traffic. It is certainly safer to move in road traffic where fewer Dominicans are up to mischief. However, that does not mean that it is completely benign.
Agricultural areas are less exotic but at least as animalistic. Watch out for herds of goats, sheep and cows and drive past them as slowly as possible:
But if you want to take this opportunity to travel to these very remote places with all animal-like road users, then it only will be possible by rental car.
Rent a car in the Dominican Republic
For trips that last several days or entire round trips, I recommend using a rental car. Traveling quickly and individually, stopping everywhere to take photos and planning a route on your own: Renting a car in the Dominican Republic has many undeniable advantages for the traveler.
By the way: In November 2019 I made terrible experiences with the Auto Europe, which thwarted my travel plans and then betrayed and stole more than 1,000 dollar from me.
It is best to rent the car directly from the car rental company in your home country to avoid all those online brokers like Auto Europe. For possible legal skirmishes and annoyances in the aftermath, I also recommend signing a contract with the car rental company in your home country and paying in advance. This is not only the shortest and most convenient way, but also the safest way to plan your individual vacation in the Dominican Republic.
I was able to experience firsthand that it is better not to save on rental cars by these intermediates. Well-known providers such as Europcar or Sixt promise both better service and higher availability of their own fleet. Cheap providers like Interrent or car brokers like Auto Europe act unreliably and sometimes criminally when renting a car. Then it’s better to bite the bullet and spend a dollar or two more on a reliable and available rental car.
What can a driver expect in the Dominican Republic?
Driving through the Dominican Republic by rental car may not be everyone’s dream of a vacation in the Caribbean. It is the adventurous alternative to all-inclusive vacations in Punta Cana, where you spend your entire vacation in one place. The real and authentic Dominican Republic beckons outside the area around Punta Cana.
Only few rules and the typically chaotic Dominican mentality in traffic gives a latently unsafe and dangerous feeling. If you want to drive a car in the Dominican Republic by yourself, you should at least have practiced it beforehand in other countries during a vacation trip. Driving a car in the Dominican Republic is the Champions League of tests of courage and as demanding as the final level of a video game in ‘Hard Mode’.
The further your planned round trip leads away from the overpopulated cities in the Dominican Republic, the smoother and more carefree your journey feels. Not to forget the reduced potential for danger and fewer accidents outside of urban areas. Especially in the southwest of the Dominican Republic, deserted highways with no traffic are waiting to be driven by you:
This feeling of freedom and light-heartedness is extremely rare. Where else do you get the opportunity to be able to drive many miles completely alone on the highway in the middle of the day? Round trips in the Dominican Republic not only provide the opportunity to plan the vacation independently according to your own interests. Realizing and rewarding yourself with a road trip in the Caribbean is the real reason for every adventurous individual traveler.
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