There are many ways to get around once you're in the country and settled in your particular town, city or village.

They range from expensive long distance taxi rides (they are stupidly over the top here) to affordable in-city taxi cabs, coach buses and motorbikes. Each comes with its pricing and its risks. But all of them offer great insight into Dominican day to day life, and make for memorable experiences.

Note that a few words of Spanish will go a long way–the majority of public transportation drivers don't speak English (unless you find yourself in Punta Cana).

GettingAround_LG_6585
Getting around the DR is an adventure.

 

BY RENTAL CAR

Be warned: driving in the Dominican Republic is tricky, even though the roads and highways are some of the best in the Caribbean. You'll need to drive defensively and constantly be on the lookout and alert for obstacles–motorbikes, cattle, dogs, pedestrians, or anything that could leap from the side, the back or the front! And many times, the road rules don’t apply. Defensive driving and speeding leads to a high number of road accidents, one of the highest in the world.

Of course you could also go at your own pace on highways (not in big cities) and let them all whizz by you.

If you are unsure or lack experience driving in the Caribbean then this option isn’t for you.

But if you do decide you can handle it and are only going from one big region to the next, along highways and passing through small villages then it's worthwhile. The international rental companies such as Hertz, Alamo, Dollar, among others, have outlets here at the international airports, as well as in the tourist areas. Get a solid sedan, a good map and know useful Spanish phrases for when you are lost (likely to happen the more you go off the beaten track).

BY TAXI

Taxis abound all over the Dominican Republic, and you will soon realize that not all cabbies are created equal in terms of the quality of the ride. Some are shiny white vans with a tourism logo (often parked at airports), others are beat up Toyota Corollas with missing seat belts (often in-city), and still others are comfy air-conditioned sedans from a 24-hour taxicab company.

The most important thing when it comes to taxi drivers is to know the rates to the destination where you’re headed and agree on a fare before you board, because there are no meters.

In-city taxis are affordable at under US$5 a trip (or RD$150 to 200). Rates are slightly higher after 5pm. Central taxi companies abound in each major city or town.

In Santo Domingo, Apollo Taxi has a wide network with 24-hour dispatches (tel, 809/537-0000). Rates are set by the taxi association, so ask when you tell them your destination. They speak super fast Spanish (Dominican style)–ask them to speak slowly if necessary or ask your hotel/guesthouse to make the call.

When it comes to long distance roadtrips (say, over 30 minutes) to another area, negotiate ahead of time, particularly if you've already befriended a local driver. The "tourist taxis" tend to charge an arm and a leg–but if you're a big group, it could be more affordable.

BY BUS AND GUAGUA

The bus service in the DR is impressive in that there’s always a bus or a guagua (as the locals call the small, shared minivans) that will take you to your destination, even if you have to connect.

There are three general types of bus service in the Dominican Republic.

1. Coach Buses for Long Distance Travel

The three major coach bus companies are Caribe Tours (tel. 809/221-4422, wwww.caribetours.com.do), Metro Tours (tel. 809/227-0101, www.metroserviciosturisticos.com) and Bávaro Express (tel. 809/682-9670, www.expresobavaro.com). Caribe Tours offers more destinations than Metro, and more frequent departures. You can expect comfortable seats, air conditioning at full blast (wear layers), Wi-Fi (hit or miss) and bathrooms on board. Tickets can be purchased at the terminal at least an hour before departure. For Bavaro Express, you'll need to arrive even a little over an hour early because they tend to sell out quickly.

2. Minivan Bus Services for Long Distance Travel

The privately-owned minivan bus services hold about 25 (no being squashed like sardines), offer the same perks, complete with colorful curtains and the latest music blasting at a reasonable volume. They also have express services. Their departures are frequent, usually every 15 minutes. The various companies bear different names and serve specific areas. For example,  Javila Tours in Puerto Plata offers runs between Puerto Plata and Santiago, with stops in Imbert.  Another is Expreso Quinto Patio, with runs between Santiago and La Vega.

Guagua bus
The guagua attendant or "cobrador" looking out and calling for passengers.

TIP: When riding on public transportation, always have small change (pesos) ready when paying the driver, because he likely won't have change for large bills or may tell you he doesn't. Inquire around the area (or from fellow passengers) on fares before boarding.

3. In-city or in-town guagua, carrito or motoconcho

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Excerpt from Moon Dominican Republic (Moon Travel Guides, 2016 edition).