To travel responsibly is to travel not just to enjoy a place, but in doing so, realizing that your presence has an impact on every person, thing and place you encounter or visit, and wanting to make that impact as positive as possible. This is particularly key when traveling in developing countries with heavy tourism, such as the Dominican Republic, where the majority of the population lives in poverty. All that tourism wealth helps, but it still doesn’t trickle down far enough.
So how can you travel responsibly while in the DR? Here are a few suggestions:
- Shop at the neighborhood colmados–these Dominican owned corner stores–slash bars–slash snack shops are the crux of Dominican culture and help sustain entire neighborhoods. Not to mention, they are fun to hang out in with a cold beer and merengue or bachata music blasting. Look for what you need here, whether snacks, rum or a phone card. Next are the locally owned supermarkets–try those before heading to the foreign-owned, larger ones (such as La Sirena).
- Pick Dominican-owned businesses–from local restaurants to guesthouses–as much as you can.
- Learn a few phrases of Spanish and interact with Dominicans–they are a hospitable people and will gladly interact with you.
- Hop on tours organized by local community tourism organizations (such as UMCP in Puerto Plata, www.popreport.com/turisopp) or licensed Dominican tour businesses. See the various chapters for my referrals. Not only will you get a more authentic look at the Dominican countryside life, but your tourism dollars will go directly to the communities you’re visiting.
- Shop from local artisans and artists and purchase handmade products. Be careful not to buy any prohibited products such as turtle shells or red coral.
- Use public transportation where feasible, or hire a local driver. I’ve recommended names in each chapter of this book.
- Attend local festivals, where you’ll get insight on the culture as well as find shopping options for local food and arts.
- Pollution and recycling have a long way to go in this country. Try not to contribute to the issue by reducing the amount of plastics and other such containers. Eat inside the restaurant rather than take out, and try to use the same water bottle to refill.
- While in your hotel room, be conscious of your electricity and water usage. Turn off the lights and air conditioning while out exploring. Stay in hotels that are eco-friendly and environmentally conscious.
- Last but not least, go with the flow and appreciate the people and culture that are receiving you.
Do you have more responsible tips that could be added to this list? Feel free to get in touch.