Santo Domingo is served by Aeropuerto Internacional de Las Americas (SDQ).
The airport ride from Las Americas to your hotel in the Colonial City or on the Malecón, for instance, will cost approximately US$40 if you catch one of the official taxis parked outside arrivals (though it’s cheaper for locals and residents). Fares are usually standard from the airport to the city and more flexible when it’s the reverse.
When out of baggage claim walk straight towards the exit and do not opt to go with anyone who randomly solicits you for a taxi ride as you’re walking. Close to the exit doors, you’ll see an official taxi booth with dispatchers (in uniform) ready to direct you to the right cab according to your destination. Fares are indicated, but confirm before you get in and before they grab your bags. Insist if you don’t get an immediate answer, so there’s no confusion at the end of your ride.
Catching an Uber from this airport is tricky, as drivers are aware of this service and will make a big fuss when they see you waiting for it at the curb with your phone in hand. I recommend you support the local taxi association instead. After all you’ve just arrived, and that’s what travel is about.
Most hotels also offer rides, either included or at extra cost, and they’ll have their trusted driver pick you up–that should be your first option.
GETTING AROUND SANTO DOMINGO
It isn’t as difficult as it might seem to explore the sprawling capital, as chaotic as it might seem on first glance.
- Guaguas or public buses
First, unless you speak Spanish and are rather street savvy, I recommend you steer clear of the guaguas (shared buses) and carrito conchos (shared taxis) in the Capital. They are the most chaotic, crammed, and beat up in the country!
- Rental cars
I don’t recommend driving or renting a car to get around in Santo Domingo. The way they take over other cars, speed, burn lights and drive aggressively is a whole other level of stress that is best avoided when on vacation and best delegated to a local.
If you’re just landing at the airport and heading to another part of the country on the highways, then it’s more sensible. Book the car before arrival to get the best rates. All of the major rental car companies have an outlet at Santo Domingo’s international airport or in the city. A valid driver’s license and major credit card are required, and you must be at least 21 years old.
Approximate driving times (depending on traffic and time of day):
Santo Domingo to Boca Chica: 30 minutes
Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata: 4 hours
Santo Domingo to Punta Cana: 3 hours
Santo Domingo to Samana: 2 hours (toll road)
In-city taxis are your best bet for getting around. They are relatively cheap–a base rate of RD$200 (200 Dominican pesos) generally applies during the day to go from point A to B within the city limits (say from the Colonial City to the Piantini District).
The most popular cab company in the city is Apollo Taxi (tel. 809/537-0000) and Aerotaxi (809/686-1212). They have 24-hour dispatch service anywhere in the city. They do speak fast on the phone so prepare to quickly say where you are, where you’re headed and listen to the car color and number they give you. There might be times when you have to call back because the taxi didn’t show; but most of the time they are on point. When the car shows up, it will have a square Apollo or Aerotaxi Taxi sign on the interior front windshield.
Some of the taxi drivers might even give you their personal cell phone and business card when you get off, encouraging you to call them when you need another taxi. If you liked their driving, it’s not a bad idea.
Tip: Even if you’re staying at a hotel in a tourist frequented area–whether on the Malecon or in the Colonial City–you can feel free to ask your hotel to call Apollo or Aerotaxi for you. You can also use the Wi-Fi to request an Uber. If you grab a taxi that sits outside the hotel or in the Colonial area, know that you’ll pay almost double.
Uber arrived in Santo Domingo in 2015. It has become extremely popular in the Capital for its slightly cheaper fares (for short distances) and the nice cars that show up on time. But know that if you’re headed a distance, you could hit traffic and then the fare goes up the longer you’re in the car–not always the best deal!
- Underground Metro
Clean, sleek, and air-conditioned, Santo Domingo’s metro (www.metrosantodomingo.com, 6am-10:30pm daily, US$1.30 for a rechargeable metro card, US$0.90 roundtrip)—the only one in the Caribbean—opened in 2008 under President Leonel Fernandez and an initial US$700 million investment. It now consists of two lines, with more on the way. It’s one of the most impressive aspects of this city.
Before you get excited: it doesn’t yet connect all of the areas that are relevant to tourists (just one or two), and is mostly useful to daily workers commuting from their suburbs to the city center. It’s still a fun way to experience this large city and get a sense of just how much more modern it is than its Caribbean counterparts.
The first line consists of 16 stations, named after historical Dominican figures, and begins at Centro de Los Heroes, passes through downtown and ends in Villa Mella, with an exit along the way at the National Theater and Plaza de la Cultura. The second line has 14 stops. Rides cost 20 pesos one-way (approximately US$0.50) and no food or drinks are allowed.
GETTING AWAY FROM SANTO DOMINGO
Ready to leave the capital or explore other parts of town?
—>To the North Coast (Puerto Plata, Sosua, Santiago, Jarabacoa)
- Both Metro Tours (Av. Winston Churchill, tel. 809/227-0101) and Caribe Tours (Av. 27 de Febrero, corner of Leopoldo Navarro, tel. 809/221-4422) are reliable coach bus companies that offer daily departures between Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata, with stops in Santiago and sometimes Sosúa. Check online for their respective schedules.*Note that Caribe Tours has one or two additional stops along the way, but also has more frequent departures during the day. The Caribe Tours bus terminal is also closer to the Colonial City than Metro Tours’ terminal.
—>To the Northeast (Samana Peninsula)
- Caribe Tours has daily departures to Samana Town. Buses leave throughout the day–check the interactive website for updated times.
—>To the East Coast (Punta Cana, Bavaro)
- Expreso Bávaro (Calle Juan Sánchez Ramirez #31, tel. 809/682-9670, www.expresobavaro.com, 6:30am-4pm daily, approx. US$9 one-way) takes you to the Punta Cana region, more precisely to the Punta Cana Airport first, then to the Bávaro area hotels, north of the airport. The trip takes just 2.5 hours along a new highway, with three departures in the morning and three in the afternoon.
—->To the Southwest Coast (Barahona)
- Caribe Tours has four daily departures to Barahona (first depature at 6:15am). It’s a three-hour journey with a stop in Azua.
—>To other points around the country (Bani, San Francisco de Macoris, Higuey, & others)
- Parque Enriquillo Bus Terminals
The hub for all long distance, privately run minibuses or guaguas to points all over the country is Parque Enriquillo (Avenida Juan Pablo Duarte), a short 10-minute drive from the Ciudad Colonial. This large square has buses departing around its various streets to locations such as Boca Chica and Juan Dolio, La Romana, or southwest to Bani and San Cristobal, for instance. Many of these also pass along major highways in Santo Domingo–including along the Malecon if that’s where your hotel is-but your best bet is to head to their main terminal at Parque Enriquillo (to get a seat, and not to stand in the sun waiting). Buses have frequent departures–either every 30 minutes or hour.
Wherever you’re off to, call a taxi driver to pick you up–the drivers know the right parada or stop at Parque Enriquillo for every destination.
Make sure you have small bills before heading out. You’ll need it for the taxi RD$150, or the bus fare, from RD$50. Don’t rely on the drivers having change.