Updated 6 months ago

Here is some useful information on the Dominican society and lifestyle which will guide you if you are planning to move there.

Regardless of the country you come from, traveling to the Dominican Republic will undeniably be an enriching experience. In fact, you are likely to discover a society which is very different from what you are used to. It is best to get an overview of what to expect and learn about what life in the country is all about before moving there.

Your stay in the Dominican Republic is very likely to be rich in emotions and experiences, not least of which will be seeing the level of poverty, the joy and friendliness of the people, the fabulous countryside and beaches, and the warm Caribbean weather.

Climate

Being in the tropics, the Dominican Republic enjoys an excellent climate. In the summer, the maximum temperature revolves around 32°C at noon while the lowest is around 23°C in the morning. June, July, August, and September are known to be the hottest months. In winter, temperature falls to 19°C at night although, in the mountainous areas such as Jarabacoa and Constanza, temperatures can even go down to 5°C. The rainy season produces some spectacular storms and is from May to September, but the north coast also has a second rainy season from November to January, although not as severe.

Cuisine

Dominican cuisine focuses on rice and is not very hot or spicy. The main herbs used are oregano and cilantro. In addition, the plantain is the main vegetable and is eaten often with salami and onions. The main protein is chicken, cooked in a stew or fried. However, you can also find fast food such burgers, pizzas, etc., across the country and several international restaurants. Vegetarians should not be disappointed either as there is a wide variety of different vegetables – some of which you may not have heard of before!

Currency

The Dominican peso (RD$) is the country's local currency. A peso is divided into 100 centavos. Hence, you can have 1, 5, 10, and 25 pesos coins. You are also likely to handle 2,000, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, and 50 pesos banknotes.

Exchange and ATMs

The Dominican peso is linked to the American dollar with the exchange rate being around RD$48 to the dollar. Dollars are only widely accepted in tourist areas, but most prices are in pesos. Hence, you are required to exchange your foreign currency either before or when you are in the country. Exchanges can be made at Bureau de Change outlets, at banks, or at hotels. In addition, all ATMs will take foreign debit or credit cards as long as they are affiliated to Cirrus or Maestro. The money from the ATMs is always given in pesos. Credit cards are accepted in the country, but American Express is not widely accepted. As credit card fraud is not unheard of, if using a credit card you should check your statement regularly.

Electricity

The electricity in the Dominican Republic operates at 110 volts. The country is divided into four areas A, B, C, and D, and each receives a different amount of electricity per day. Circuits A operate 24 hours, but the D circuits only have around 8 hours of power a day. Even A circuits do have outages for maintenance, or during or after hurricanes, so it is vital to have an inverter or generator as a backup system.

Food safety

You are advised to not drink the tap water, and five-gallon bottles of drinking water are the alternative. Costing less than US$1, they are widely available. Fruit should be peeled before eating, and salads washed in drinking water. You should avoid eating salads outside the home unless you are sure it has been properly washed. You should also ensure that chicken and pork have been thoroughly cooked, especially if they were barbecued, and wash your hands regularly.

Language

Spanish is the Dominican Republic's official language, and English is not widely spoken apart from in the tourist areas. If you are planning to make a long stay in the country, you should try and learn Spanish – even a little will go a long way.

Social conventions

Dominicans are very proud of the way they dress. Shorts and flip-flops are only meant for the beach, and they would never dream of wearing them outside the house in town. It is important to respect the local traditions, and when visiting churches, hospitals, or any government offices such as the Immigration office, you must have your shoulders covered and wear closed shoes, and men must have long trousers.

When in any business meeting, there is always some small talk that occurs before getting down to business, and you should always be courteous and polite in all situations, no matter how frustrated you might be.

Telecommunications

There are three country codes, 809, 829, and 849, and these are preceded by the number 1 when dialling from overseas. Mobile phones are easily available, as are Sim cards for any unlocked phone purchased abroad. Internet, both fixed line and wifi, are also present throughout the country.

Routine

Dominicans lives seem to be perfectly balanced between work and relaxation. In fact, after a long and tiring day at work, they generally enjoy a pleasant and vibrant afternoon after office hours. Dance and music remain an essential part of the Dominican lifestyle. Lunchtime, for its part, is longer than what you are probably used to in your home country, and all Dominican eat at noon on the dot. Many shops, especially those in tourist areas, will close at noon until around 3 pm.

Sundays are for going to the beach or river, and for visiting family and friends. Bars and convenience stores are open until midnight during the week and until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays, except during the Christmas period when the hours are extended. The drinks of choice are the local beer, Presidente, or local rum, Brugal or Barcelo, which can be mixed with Coca-Cola (a cuba libre) or Sprite (a santa libre).

Society

In general, few Dominicans get legally married, apart from those in the upper and upper middle classes but they will live together which is considered to be the same as marriage. Given the lack of pensions, children are expected to support their parents; hence many have large families although this is slowly changing. Given the fact it is a Catholic country, abortion is illegal and there are several teen pregnancies.

Dance, party, and good humour are an essential part of the Dominican lifestyle, along with sharing everything they have, and they are very welcoming to foreigners to join them in family celebrations.

Finally, it is to be noted that Dominicans have preserved the tradition of living with extended families under the same roof, especially in the countryside and in the mountains, or each part of the family will have a home on the same plot of land. It is also common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren while the parents are at work or even while the parents go overseas to work. When a couple splits up it is usual for the woman to take care of the daughters, and the man to take the sons, who are usually given to the grandparents to raise.

Cost of living

The average salary in the Dominican Republic is around 6,000 pesos, which is around US$120. As a foreigner, you might choose to live according to your own standards which will need significantly more income, with the minimum being around US$1,000 a month to allow for some eating out, entertainment, rent, along with internet and satellite television.

Religion

Freedom of religion is a constitutional right in the country. 80% of the Dominican population is of Roman Catholic faith. Hence, you will have the opportunity to experience vibrant festivals such as the Virgin de las Mercedes which is celebrated on September 24th, and the Virgin of Altagracia, held on January 21st of each year. During Easter week, life in the Dominican Republic goes into slow motion with most of the Dominicans leaving the cities and going with their families to the beach.

There are also several Evangelical churches as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 Good to know:

Voodooism is very much present in the country due to Haitian influences.

Drugs

Drugs are illegal even for personal consumption or medical use (e.g. marijuana). The penalties are severe with long jail sentences.

 Useful links:

Godominicanrepublic
Expat forum

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.