Peculiarities of the daily Dominican street traffic

Dominican Republic, German, Reiseberichte, Reiseplanung

In the past few weeks I have written several articles about the daily madness on the Dominican streets. If you want to get around in Dominican road traffic, you really have to expect everything at all times. Sometimes a horde of wild cows skulks along the road, then the streets flood in no time after half an hour of rain and in other scenarios a tipsy biking ghost driver rattles through the area with a bottle of hard liquor in his hand. Action is always guaranteed in the Dominican Republic.

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Now, not all travelers want to take on have these risks while on vacation. It is much more convenient to let others drive. But is it really safer? Cheaper? More quickly? More reliable? In this article I would like to describe how a traveler can best move around the Dominican Republic without having to drive. And what strange peculiarities Dominican road traffic has to offer.

Major cities in the Dominican Republic lure travelers with many historical and cultural sights as well as with culinary specialties. Since the interesting city centers are usually within walking distance, you don’t need a rental car for these days and can explore the cities in other ways.

Museo de las Casas Reales in Santo Domingo
Die koloniale Altstadt von Santo Domingo lässt sich am besten zu Fuß erkunden

Because the country has become famous for mass tourism, there are many national travel destinations outside of the hermetically sealed all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana that are less known and seldom traveled. All of these exciting places are scattered across the island and are worth a visit. If you want to see the most beautiful areas with the most exciting travel destinations, then you should spend around 10-18 days for the whole experience. But that is hardly possible without a ride.

The safest option: A private chauffeur

The safest option would of course be a private chauffeur takes over the nerve-wracking task. So you would be fine yourself and can relax comfortably on the back seat. You don’t have to worry about anything and let yourself be driven through the Caribbean. The driver has local knowledge or even knows the entire route – and if not, the navigation system often helps with the winding architectural masterpieces in the Dominican Republic.

However, most of the drivers of these driving services lack language skills. If you don’t speak Spanish (and Dominican Spanish is the purest gibberish among Latin American dialects), the driver will usually not be able to offer you any understandable English. The job as a driver in the Dominican Republic does not require any foreign language skills and you have a very rudimentary command of English.

A private driver has many advantages and is of course only really possible with a few holiday budgets and at some point it is quite expensive.


The tourist option: Inner-city rental companies

Or simply experience ‘Slow Tourism’ live and in color and check out everything. Most cities in the Dominican Republic have some private ‘Rent-A’ agencies where bicycles, scooters or other means of transport can be rented cheaply per hour. For a small surcharge, you can of course take a guided tour to learn as much as possible about the sights.

For ecologically conscious travelers it should be said that the most modern electronic means of transport are already available in many cities. Of course, it looks a bit stupid with the helmet on if on the other hand not even any motorcyclist with the requirement to wear a helmet. But better safe than sorry.

Like that you’ll experience a lot more of the daily happenings on the Dominican streets and see things with different eyes. And some city centers, like the one in Puerto Plata in the pictures above, are definitely worth a visit!

The most rumbly option: Guaguas in the Dominican Republic

As in many other Latin American countries, there is also the possibility of a bus transport. In the Dominican Republic they are called ‘Guaguas’. These are Dominican bus operators who offer short and long transport routes.

Imagine some kind of shared taxis that are similar to a regular bus service that cover the same routes day in and day out. Mostly equipped with a loud roaring brute on the sliding door to recruit new passengers. These minibuses have up to eight seats on board. But don’t be surprised if twice the number of passengers squeeze in there. Those who cannot find a seat stand or kneel while driving.

Every bus in the Dominican Republic is a Guagua. Both urban and long distance buses. I also used the Guaguas a few times to get around the cities of the Dominican Republic. For these purposes, the buses are of course larger than the rocking tin cans on the urban asphalt.

However, the service around these bus trips is a disaster, information about routes, prices and timetables are difficult to understand or not transparent at all and a lot of time is lost on the creeping journey. I would only recommend traveling by Guaguas for long distances in the Dominican Republic to all those individual tourists who have a limited budget and still want to experience an authentic adventure.

Why are the Dominican buses called Guagua in Spanish?

I also asked myself where this extraordinary and infantile name came from. Of course, this strange word doesn’t have its origin in the Dominican Republic, but is one of the many misinterpretations by Latinos. In this example, ‘Guagua’ is said to have originated in Cuba as a new word.

The former transporting vehicles were simply called ‘wagon’ in antique English. Unfortunately, the Cubans could not pronounce this word correctly and so ‘Guagón’ was interpreted for this ancient means of transport. Cuba is not far away and a neighboring island in the Caribbean. Of course, at some point the term spilled over to the Dominican Republic.

An antique guagon. Back then, people had a lot more legroom than in the Guaguas today.

A few generations later, all you heard was ‘guagua’. I’m curious to see how the bus as a means of transport will develop phonetically in the future. And from the perspective of passenger safety.

Here is a quote about the public buses in Santo Domingo:

Urban public transport in Greater Santo Domingo is one of the worst in Latin America and can only be compared to some of the poorest countries in Africa. Chaos predominates in the streets and logjams in avenues because of the large number of private cars; Public transport is mostly carried out on buses and cars in unsuitable conditions.”

Public Transport and Urban Mobility in Greater Santo Domingo: Challenges of a Social Policy for Inclusion and Equity (2017)

If you want to escape these uncomfortable conditions, you can try private chauffeur services. For short trips within cities, there have also been transport services such as UBER in the Dominican Republic already for a couple of years.


UBER in the Dominican Republic

For day trips I would not recommend renting a car from a local provider. Round trips with rental cars are only worthwhile from a cost perspective after several days of rental. And who wants to sign a tricky contract in twisted technical Spanish while on vacation?

For this purpose it makes a lot more sense to either join a guided group tour or hire a private driver for a day. And online intermediaries such as Uber and Cabify are also expanding their services in many Dominican cities and regions and are simplifying this idea.

However, I had already had some strange experiences in Santo Domingo with UBER:

I can assure you that I have not manipulated these screenshots with Photoshop. The UBER driver drove these zigzag courses through the streets with me on board. Please do not ask any questions about how something like this can even be possible. Unfortunately I have no answer to that.

However, one of the clear advantages is the price per ride for the city trip. You can also pay electronically before you start your journey and you won’t be ripped off by a windy taxi driver. In contrast to trips with UBER in Europe or the United States, the prices in the Dominican Republic are much lower thanks to the higher availabilities of the driving services.

These passenger transport services (like all other delivery services) in cities are a big disadvantage for the entire traffic flow. Anyone can register to these apps as a supplier or chauffeur and as a traveler you contribute of course to the urban congestion of the streets. Not to forget air pollution, noise, etc. But these driving services are much more suitable for day trips in the cities anyway.

The most uncomfortable option: Carro Público

In a previous article I described motorcyclists in the Dominican Republic as ‘ticking time bombs’ on the road, but there is another mode of transport that has a similar bang.

In addition to motorcyclists, the ‘Carros Públicos’ are one of the worst and most criminal species that roam on Dominican streets day in and day out.

What does the word Carro Público mean?

This time it’s a little easier to translate. A Latino has not misheard or misinterpreted an English term, nor has a term been defaced beyond recognition.

A Carro Público means “public car” in English. The term is less about the provider, it is not financed from public funds. Much more, the services of a Carro Público are offered to the public.

That, in turn, can be taken literally. The load on these cars is so strained that almost the entire public is accommodated in them. But it’s not a taxi either. You don’t call Carros Públicos, these vehicles drive the same route up and down the whole day in search of passengers. Of course, this always happens on the side of the sidewalk, where passengers can be better forklifted. It is not uncommon for this to create a bitter competition and dangerous traffic scenarios at the expense of other road users.

They stop everywhere and let people get on and off where it seems to be best. This creates a dangerous domino effect to the rear if all other participants in traffic also have to brake or swerve abruptly. Not for the faint of heart – Use of such transportation for travelers is at your own risk. And only recommended for adrenaline junkies who really have nothing to lose!

Carros Públicos are the ancient precursors of privatized buses in road transport – only as a car. However, same level of density and discomfort.

These ‘Carros Públicos’ aim for maximum yield with the least possible comfort and safety for the passenger. It can happen that up to 10 passengers squeeze into a single car because they all want to drive in the same direction and want to spend the least fare possible.

The only reason why this outdated form of transport still wobbles through the Dominican streets is the long tradition of the Carros Públicos. They have a very strong and influential union and they have literally been there forever. Before there was a similar service with even larger vehicles for transportation, these cars were already rolling through the streets of Santo Domingo.

It is therefore a very complicated undertaking to be able to simply cut away this traditional profession for the common good and road safety. As soon as there is any effort to reduce the radius of these rolling hearses by politics and government, there are protests and blockades. And the drivers of the Carros Públicos react just as indignantly and roughly outside their cockpit as they do while driving.


The most life-threatening variant: Motoconchos

Motorcyclists also transport passengers through the streets. If you are not afraid of anything, you can take a ride in a so-called ‘Motoconcho’ in a busy city. You will sit in the back seat of the motorcycle and be driven around for a ridiculous low price.

In my last article I wrote that motorcyclists are responsible for 67% of all road accidents in the Dominican Republic. Motoconchos play their part and behave just as ruthlessly and aggressively as all other motorcyclists on the island.

However, they are real devils. Motoconchos are often hired for very ordinary transport purposes. Whenever any item for the household needs to be transported, motoconchos are the cheaper choice compared to other providers.

This splendid specimen of a Motoconcho driver transports four gas tanks and comfortably smokes a cigarette at the same time

Overtaking on the right, pushing other road users aside and constantly coercing and using even the smallest gap at a red light for your own benefit… Motoconchos do pretty much anything that is not allowed on the road. But who cares about the traffic rules in the Dominican Republic?

And why this extraordinary name? Why do the Dominicans call their two-wheeled vehicles ‘motoconchos’?

What means Motoconcho in English

Similar to the ‘Guagua’ before, the ‘Motoconcho’ is a term that does not appear in all Spanish vocabularies. In this case it is exclusively Dominican slang.

Translated from Spanish, ‘concho’ means shell. A word that we all associate with a very robust and protective body. What an irony, especially this means of transport is oftenly patched together and the first to crash in an accident. A ‘Motoconcho’ has nothing in common with that.

But where does this word come from? There are two different etymologies for this term.

Motoconcho is a portmanteau

According to the first explanation of this word, it is again a kind of misunderstanding, or interrogator from another language.

Rather, Motoconcho is a portmanteau. Moto – con – cho was originally a ‘Moto con Chauffeur’ – in other words, nothing more than a motorcycle with a chauffeur. Just shortened in order to highlight the offered service more briefly and clearly.

Is it safe to drive in the Dominican Republic?

And because the French employment as a chauffeur has its origins with locomotives, a chauffeur is nothing more than a stoker who shovels the coals into the fire to accelerate the locomotive. In the best tradition, the motoconchos still heat up the streets of the Dominican Republic today and produce as much smoke from their exhausts as an antique locomotive.

Motoconcho has a historical background

The word Motoconcho has its roots in an old illustration of the ‘Concho Primo‘, which first appeared in 1844. A figure was invented for military propaganda purposes that was used in the Dominican Restoration War between 1863 and 1865 to create politics against the Spaniards.

A century later, the figure of Concho Primo was used for advertising purposes. The first Chevrolets were imported from the USA and fixed routes were planned for the first time. The ‘Concho Primo’ represented the typical Dominican who likes to drive such a car. Later all vehicles for urban transport were called “concho” and the verb “conchar” was Dominicanized.

Street to Laguna Rincon
Stony path on the Dominican farmland

The Dominican road traffic has many peculiarities and crude systems to offer that seem completely alien and impossible in other cultures. Everywhere there is rumbling and honking and squeaking and clinking on the Dominican streets. Having seen it with your own eyes is one thing. A completely different thing, however, is to participate in road traffic yourself. These peculiarities in Dominican road traffic also reflect the somewhat chaotic culture of the Dominican Republic somewhere. But you get used sooner or later.

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How to drive safe in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic, English, Reiseberichte, Reiseplanung

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.

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.

Overloaded truck in the Dominican Republic
Only walking is cheaper

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.

Is it dangerous to drive in the Dominican Republic?
This is also the Dominican Republic – mountainous routes and green landscapes

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.

Carnaval 2020 en la Zona Colonial en Santo Domingo (12)
Even the smallest vehicles curve through the narrow streets of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo

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

On this random snapshot, two motorcycle drive wrong way

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:

A couple of goats are walking in the middle of the street

Wild critters can affect your driving skills even in the most remote places.

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.

Auto Europe Erfahrung
I made very bad experiences with Auto Europe. Watch out! These tricksters breach both agreements and contracts and leave you as a customer alone in a foreign country without a car.

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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How are the road conditions in the Dominican Republic?

Dominican Republic, English

Every adventurous and curious individual tourist will sooner or later come to a crucial issue when planning a vacation: Should I go on a round trip in a rental car? Driving around an unknown country on your own for several days or weeks? Is the whole preparation, organization and implementation really worth it or far too complicated and error-prone for relaxing vacations? With a series of articles I would like to help all interested travelers from my own experience with my knowledge.

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Approximate reading time: 8 minutes

The first article is about one of the most crucial topics. In all of our imaginations, we would expect the road conditions in a developing country like the Dominican Republic are challenging to drive.


Is it safe to drive in the Dominican Republic?

We would probably all assume that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are in bad condition and dangerous to drive. A road trip on the streets of the Caribbean dream island is far too risky and wanders over hill and dale. Fortunately, these assumptions are only true in exceptional cases.

The road conditions in the Dominican Republic are relatively good for a Latin American developing country. In recent years, many new highways have been added to the national transport network. Even if this is more interesting for travel planning, it not only shortens distances but also saves fuel costs. As a consequence, you can get to your desired destination across the island much faster, cheaper and safer.

Of course, there are also dangerous moments when you are driving a car in the Dominican Republic. However, this risk is usually less due to the nature of the road itself. Rather, the Dominican people are the ones to blame for a lot of traffic accidents. But that should not be the topic of this article and rather be addressed in another article.

How are the road conditions like in the Dominican cities?

Driving in the cities is relatively chaotic and disorganized. This is especially true for large metropolitan areas such as Santo Domingo, Santiago and Puerto Plata. Not only the street alignments in these cities lead very often to confusion, but also motorway accesses and an unbalanced ratio of traffic signs create confusion for all traffic participants. Just the typical Dominican and Latin American daily chaos.

Apart from the often questionable behavior of Dominicans in traffic …

If you are traveling in the big Dominican cities, then you have to expect all possible scenarios as a driver when the traffic lights are red.

… the Dominican cities are hardly worth a serious visit either. The older the districts, the narrower, more winding and more complicated the scenarios that occur in daily Dominican traffic. You should only do this to yourself if you really want to invest a lot of patience and time in your holidays. Otherwise, you will lose valuable vacation time on street corners like this one in the historic Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo:

Just one of the examples of the daily traffic chaos in Santo Domingo


But if we are honest, these cities should only be visited briefly for the cultural and historical highlights or avoided completely for your road trip in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican cities, as in almost all major Latin American cities, you’d find yourself quickly in hopeless traffic chaos …

Rush hour traffic at 6pm in Santo Domingo (filmed from the rooftops of Agora Mall)

… and you wouldn’t be able to see the really beautiful and authentic landscapes of the country either. And they are worth visiting!

What are the road conditions like in the Dominican countryside?

However, the further you get distant from big cities and touristy areas around Punta Cana and Samaná, the more challenging the road conditions become. But this can be also observed in several other examples worldwide. It probably happens in every country that the road conditions outside the metropolitan areas deteriorate and become a challenge for the driver.

  • Way to Salto Yanigua
  • Traffic sign to Salto Yanigua
  • Presa de Valdesia
  • You need a motorized vehicle to go to Salto Yanigua
  • Street to Laguna Redonda, Dominican Republic
  • Carretera Constanza - Guayabal

Driving in the countryside is relaxing and problem-free due to less traffic, you should focus more on other things. Potholes are increasing, the nocturnal street lighting is virtually non-existent and some animal encounters can happen at any time. Be aware of these numerous occasions.

In addition to these exotic creatures, there are also enough examples of farm animals that can also cross your path while driving. Or even go with you in the same direction. Sounds strange, but it has happened to me often enough myself.

It is not uncommon to come across a bunch of cows on a roadway. This video was recorded on the streets of Pedernales on the way to Eco del Mar.

Wild critters can affect road conditions even in the most remote places.

Overall, it can be said that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are relatively good. Almost all major road networks are sealed and paved and stable enough. It is anywhere possible to stop and take short breaks, shoot some photos, visit small sights or try many local specialties and exotic fruits of street vendors along the roadside.

Or simply step on the pace on a deserted street:


Even if the road signs are missing on the surface in the most remote areas, they are hardly needed for normal driving. The streets are wide enough to accommodate multiple lanes. The fact that a bit was saved on the street painting is not a direct disadvantage for the driver.

I’ve always had a lot of fun exploring the country by car. As often as I have the opportunity, I travel through the Dominican Republic to the most remote corners to discover new and exciting travel destinations and the Caribbean nature. Until today, there has not been an accident in which I was involved. And I’ve already driven several thousand kilometers in the Dominican Republic. However, that does not mean that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are consistently good and that the car can be steered completely safely.

The further you move away from the big cities and road networks, the higher the chance of actually going off-road. In bad weather conditions, THAT is a real challenge for a normal driver and should be enjoyed with caution. But even here, even in the most remote mountain villages, nothing happened to me on muddy stone paths. For example, here on the way back from Playa Bergantin in Puerto Plata:

Playa Bergantin in Puerto Plata. Where the paths are not paved, it can be exhausting to drive.

Suddenly, the rain was coming down in sheets. The roads were unpaved and the deep potholes on this path were quickly filled with water. In addition to the restricted view, it was also difficult to follow the path and not to lose the vehicle because of aquaplaning.

Heavy rains in the Dominican Republic are seasonal and not uncommon. Nevertheless, they can cause certain damage to the roads here and there and make the journey difficult. This must be taken into account when planning your trip.

Doing round trips in the Dominican Republic on your own is therefore very recommendable from my point of view and a nice adventure. Discovering the Caribbean with your own eyes from a completely different perspective is just the thing for adventurers, nature lovers and all other curious travelers who do not want to spend their time in the all-inclusive resorts of Punta Cana.

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Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic – Facts, statistics, possible effects and some scenarios

Dominican Republic, English

Approximate reading time: 15 minutes


I am not a journalist, neither a virologist or really firm about the corona virus. What I know, is of course not more than just what others know about the recent situation. But I like to report a little bit about the daily life in Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic. Maybe people are interested about how things are running here and what people do.

But first I would like to thank the Chinese government for the recent development. You made all that possible because of these strange eating and hygiene habits. All of our lives are potentially affected and theoretically in danger because they like to eat this weird type of animal and made medicine out of it:

Did you ever heard before of a Pangoline ?!

Whatever crank and perfidious gourmet phantasies they were trying to satisfy for themselves, now everyone turns insane because of that and freedom worldwide is or will be limited gradually. There’s no court of justice to hold China or Chinese for all of that responsible. How to sue and penalize China for that?

Probably, people worldwide will at least boycott for a few weeks the Chinese imports and low-quality Made-in-China labelled products to create at least a little backlash. I can remember the same happenings for the UK and the British Beef industry with BSE problematic decades ago. A poor consolation, but other than that there won’t be any international penalties possible. China is a too heavy and dependent player and definitely won’t take responsibility for that. Personally, I can live for a couple of months without buying new and useless plastic junk anyways.

About the Dominican way of with dealing problems

But a more interested question was for me IF people from the Dominican Republic do something. The Dominican mentality is very distinct and laid-back. I think, it could be described as the following:

“What should I care about other people’s problems? I am doing just fine, I enjoy my life and I have no worries as long as I am sufficiently supplied and have enough to eat and to drink. Gracias a Dios!”

Dominican understanding of life

A good example might be the following video:

A guy sleeping in his car with a started engine to run his A/C

This careless and maybe ignorant attitude for others and themselves is of course be put to the test when it comes to extreme situations. Situations become extreme for an individual, when they are exceptional, unforeseen and if there are no experience values to benefit from. What is even more complicated and delicate at the same time, is when these extreme situations become a collective problem.

However, the Dominican Republic is actually quite lucky when it comes to extreme situations or natural disasters. The huge earthquake was 2011 in Haiti and affected the Dominican Republic only in minor cases. All types of Caribbean tornados regularly hit other countries. The country is politically relatively stable and there aren’t any supply shortages, because the agricultural conditions of the country allow a rich variety of food. At least that’s my own perception.

Gracias a Dios!

The Dominican Republic decides more or less like a laggard

Due to its geographic and historic situation, the Dominican Republic is an ideal spot for tourism and functions as a connection anchor in Latin America. Santo Domingo (where I live at the moment) is considered as an important air hub on the American continent and has two international airports.

Santo Domingo is literally an air hub in Latin America.

And they are connecting the biggest country of the Caribbean with many other countries. Of course. Because people from these countries are planning their vacations in the Dominican Republic.

In fact, there is an extreme high dependency on other countries because these tourism reasons. The Dominican Republic waits for the customer to show a reaction before they will themselves do actions.

This laggard type of behavior slows down a country. Not to suppress the facts with the ongoing problematic with corruption. According to the World Corruption Index 2019, the Dominican Republic ranks 137 of 180. Not a surprise, that this is quite bad scoring.

Politics and bigotry is more important than collective measures to protect the population

All these reasons reflect on the situation with the handling of the Coronavirus a well. Inefficient and corrupt politicians don’t really know what to do in this case. In this emergency situation, it’s of course difficult to have a Plan B, if you don’t even have a Plan A.

But the Dominican Republic is compared to many other countries worldwide and in Latin America extremely slow and hesitating to do some actions. Other countries shut down transport systems, lock down some social structures or even recommend to limit down social activities at all. The Dominican Republic didn’t do anything so far.

Why you want to ask?

2020 is a very important election year for the Dominican Republic. On 17th of May there will be for example the general elections of the country. It’s because of that very convenient from the perspective of the running leaders of the Dominican Republic to keep the population quiet and controlled.

In times of these aforementioned extreme situations, the Dominican politicians show a lack of decision making. It would be actually the perfect moment to show some character and profile for the upcoming votes. It seems to me, that they more scared to do something wrong than make a clear statement to prepare the population for what’s about to come.

But there aren’t only general elections in the Dominican Republic. The municipal elections were supposed to happen on February 16, but were due to an embarrassing error of the automated voting system suspended to March 15.

That’s exactly tomorrow! Millions of Dominican people will try to vote tomorrow again. Now that’s quite a delicate moment and situation. Suspending it again will cause protests and unrest. But holding the elections will spread the Coronavirus rapidly amongst the population.

And after the looooong introduction, I will gladly start now the actual topic of this article. The Coronavirus.

Next page: Facts about the Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic

Is it still safe to take vacations in the Dominican Republic in 2020?

Dominican Republic, English, Insider Report

After the mysterious deaths of several US-American citizens within a short period of time in 2019, many vacationers highly doubt that the Dominican Republic is still a safe country to go on holiday. Is their perception correct or is it maybe only collective hysteria created by the powerful US-American media manipulation? What are the causes? Even more interesting: What are the effects of all the incidents? I encourage you to read this article if you are curious about the opinion of a regular guy like me and how I can contribute to this topic with a little research and without being part of the mass media.

First things first, let me please introduce myself, and explain why I want to write this article. My name is Phil and I have lived for 6 months in Santo Domingo, the oldest capital on the American continent and at the same time the most heavily populated city in the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. Although I live in the same country where all these incidents happened, I can’t claim that I have insider information. The only thing I can do is analyze the given information and compare them with the regular tourism statistics. I can’t do magic or unravel the deaths of the US-American citizens. That’s not my goal, neither my task to play Sherlock Philmes here. It should be actually the job of every journalist to reveal all the information to create an objective article with high quality. But the media nowadays…

Let’s forget about this. I might be neutral enough to write about it. Neither am I Dominican, nor a US-American. That gives me a little distance from the hot topic. But I am not unconcerned either. I work for a Dominican DMC (destination management company) and the company suffers as well from several cancellations from US-Americans. Major fears are: “I don’t feel safe anymore” and “What if that also could happen to me?”.

This is a general risk which no one can take away from another person. Nearly every day, tragic accidents can happen to you. Most accidents happen at home, some on the way to work, several when you exercise and go to the gym and even during your working time you’re not spared from them. But if you visit a county that you didn’t know before, surely everyone has his/her concerns. Same with me – And I came to the Dominican Republic to stay for longer, not only for a ten-day all-inclusive vacation in a hermetically sealed resort. I need to live in this country and with all the circumstances of Santo Domingo (e.g. cleanliness, order, medical care, etc.) are even worse than in paradisiac appearing Punta Cana where international visitors encounter a highly modern and neat looking area.

US-Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic

To directly counteract against the negative news propaganda, it would be worth it to watch a powerful video with interesting content:

CNN writes, that Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic. Stunning information! For everyone who is too lazy to click on the link and read the article fully, I highlight the most important outcome:

The odds of a US visitor dying unnaturally in the Dominican Republic in 2017 was about 0.82 per 100,000. Those odds dropped even further last year to 0.58 unnatural deaths per 100,000 American visitors.

Source: CNN


If you take a closer look at the death statistics…

In this video, you will hear the Dominican minister of health speaking about the deaths. The US embassy in Santo Domingo says, that they have no proof that these deaths are related.

Sure…That’s what a minister of health has to say to defend his country in this situation, aight? But what, if he and the US-embassy in Santo Domingo would be right? What, if the death US-tourists are not related?

I found a very interesting article on the American Council on Science and health. They basically tried to answer the two questions I asked before: “Is It Safe to Go To The Dominican Republic?“ All data about US citizens who died out of the United States can be found publicly here:

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 9.46.56 PM.png
Non-natural US-American deaths in the Dominican Republic: from 2018 – 2018

What are non-natural deaths? According to its definition, non-natural causes of death include motor vehicle accidents, falls, suicides, homicides, drowning, poisoning, complications from medical or surgical treatments, and exposure to smoke and fire. These deaths are in total responsible for less than 10% of total all-cause mortality.

Source: American Council on Science and health

From these numbers of 2017, you can make a comparison between the Top-5 tourism destinations for US-American citizens.

Keeping in mind the caveats that (1) the non-natural death data includes not only tourists but business travelers and expatriates; (2) the non-natural death data includes accidents and suicides; and (3) the calculated mortality “rate” is just a rough estimate since Americans don’t generally spend an entire year in a foreign country. The numbers are pretty clear. Among the top five most popular tourist destinations for Americans, Mexico is by far the most dangerous (in 2017, anyway).

Source: American Council on Science and health

Well, 6.12 deaths per 1 million US-visitors – Is that now a good or a bad statistical result?


The coherence of African killer bees, shark attacks and the Dominican Republic

For me, this information is very interesting to see and shows – of course – the general failure of the US-American media. Whenever something produces interest to be able to create supreme hysteria to the US-American population, the effects on that related topic is drastic. Whether speaking about the African killer bees from the ’90s or – as mentioned in the video – Summer of the sharks from the early ’00, the US-American media created a class enemy, a major scare and anxiety because they were bored to death during their silly season in the summer. Nothing to report about? Let’s create something!

Unfortunately, this media frenzy continued for a long time and solidified in the perception of the US-American civilization. It took several years before US-journalists lost their interest and looked out to terrify the population with other topics. Instead of reporting in a dedicated and critical manner about these incidents, journalists speculate and try to force an opinion. Still, nowadays, sharks are seen as a major threat. Although we know the urban legend, that coconuts are more dangerous than sharks.

I hope, that the US-media doesn’t try the same with the Dominican Republic, what they before succeeded with bees, sharks and other topics. Bees and sharks can nothing do than continuing living their feral lives. Dominicans can’t. They are dependent on tourism as one of their major GDP sources.

Heavy losses for the Dominican economy due to US-cancellations

The following statistics made by CREES are from 2015, I couldn’t find a more recent comparison. Although these statistics aren’t up to date, they show significant data about the dependency of tourism for the Dominican Republic. We can be of course sure, that these figures raised until 2018.

Dominican Republic counts 6,118.0 million USD income thanks to tourism
This statistic shows the total Income of tourism in Latin America
Dominican Republic has $581.10 income per capita thanks to tourism
This statistic shows the tourism income per capita in Latin America.

Both income per capita and the total amount shows the dependence of tourism for the economy of the Dominican Republic. Tourism itself exceeds 20% of the country’s GDP. Approximately 12% of the whole Dominican GDP is coming from US-American tourists.

That means (in 2017) US$7,177.5 million!!

The United States are the masters of marketing, the media circus, and mass manipulation. These three ‘Magic M’s’ are responsible for a jab into the Dominican economy. I’m curious about the final statistics for 2019 and which impact it all had on the economy.

From all the tourism in the geographic region, the Dominican Republic accounts for 20% of all tourism in the Caribbean. In 2018, the tourism statistics noticed a new all-time record:

The Dominican Republic announced a 6.2 percent increase in 2018 for overall tourism to the country, welcoming a total of 6.5 million tourists. This growth exceeds the world average growth of 6 percent and solidifies the Dominican Republic as the top destination in the Caribbean, representing 20 percent of all travel to the area in 2018.

Source: Global News Wire

Followed by these good statistics from 2018, the first two months in 2019 looked appealing as well:

In the first two months of 2019, Dominican Republic welcomed 604,977 tourists, an increase of 8 percent compared to this time last year. In that timeframe, 65 percent of those tourist arrivals came from North America, specifically the United States which continues to be a key market for the Dominican Republic.

Source: Global News Wire

But then, the slump started to affect the statistics due to the US-American casualties. With only having data from the first six months of the year, it is too early to inference whether or not 2019 is going to be an overall bad year for the Dominican Republic. According to ForwardKeys, a good reliable source for references to tourism trends, the cancellations from US-citizens exceeded 70% in June compared to the same months in 2018:

Source: ForwardKeys

Even more distinct and obvious are the statistics of the cancellation without comparing them to the prior year. Taking a look at the cancellations since April 2019 shows the real impact and power of the US-American media hysteria:

Source: ForwardKeys

Not only mass media has worsened the situation with the cancellations to the Dominican Republic. Now, air carriers like Delta Airlines aggravate this situation and hysteria and inspire US-citizens to cancel their trips to the Dominican Republic for free.

Fortunately, the new reservations seem to come back to a ‘normal level’ and raised by 2.8% of the two previous, difficult months.


Can other Caribbean countries produce the same tourism quality like the Dominican Republic?

What we learned earlier from CNN was that Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic. Consequently, US-American citizens still want to spend their vacations in a country with sunshine, palms, rhythmic music, and fruity cocktails. Hence the people shift to other Caribbean destinations which might provide comparable holidays:

Source: ForwardKeys

One remaining question is if these destinations can fulfill the customers’ expectations regarding quality and excellence experiences. Due to statistics, the Dominican Republic offers the highest quality for travelers in the Caribbean. As a result of eight sub-rankings (culture, entertainment, sightseeing, sports and adventure, culinary, lodging, safety and connectivity), the Dominican Republic ranks number one here. 21 out of 25 of the region’s highest-rated hotels are in the Dominican Republic.

Source: Caribbean&Co
Source: Caribbean&Co.

Although it might seem, that the safety level is low according to these statistics from Caribbean&Co., the Dominican Republic is perceived much safer by its foreign visitors than its adjacent competitive tourism destinations:

heat map of crime in the Caribbean
This heat map shows the crime index of the Caribbean in 2017. Source:
According to the Caribbean Crime Index from 2017, the Dominican Republic was the safest country in the Caribbean
The Dominican Republic has the lowest crime index and the highest safety index of the Caribbean

But…What if I get killed in the Dominican Republic?!

Another statistic shows the Top 25 countries by Americans killed per capita. These statistics exclude any country that received fewer than 100,000 American visitors between 2009 and 2016.


The chance to get killed for a US-American is highest in Pakistan. But where is the Dominican Republic?

Other Latin American countries (e.g. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, etc.) and such from the Caribbean (e.g. Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada, Barbados) could be seen here as direct competitors for a tourism destination. Even they are likely to represent a higher danger for US-American citizens. The Dominican Republic doesn’t come off badly in this ranking, particularly if you consider the mass of people who are traveling to that country.


Is the Dominican Republic still safe to visit?

Soooo, what did you learn from this article? You learned about the coherence amongst killer bees, killer sharks and killer Dominicans thanks to the US-American media hysteria. You learned about the importance of tourism for the Caribbean island. And you learned that the Dominican Republic produces the highest tourism quality in the geographic region.

Is the Dominican Republic still safe to visit? The best answer should be: That depends on your own perspective and what you do during your vacations. It’s safer for US-American tourists to visit Mexico than the Dominican Republic, but more unsafe than visiting France. Does this help? Of course not. But it replaces ‘panic thinking’ with ‘rational thinking if you consider soberly the statistics and keep emotions far away from decision making.

A beach is a beach. No matter if it’s in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Brazil, Dubai, Thailand or Australia. And people die everywhere in the world during their vacations, regardless of their nationality. Not only US-Americans.

You can still visit the Dominican Republic and have a good time, fun and what is most important: a safe feeling. Even if you are a US-American. But please don’t binge-drink at an All-Inclusive resort all day in the sun at 100°F if you suffer from heart failure and are currently on meds. I don’t want to see yourself included either into these or in Jamaican, Cuban or Barbados statistics. Have a long, successful and healthy life!