Area Code -- The area code for the Dominican Republic is 809.

Business Hours -- Most shops and businesses are open Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm. Those serving the tourist industry are also open on Saturday. Government offices are open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 2:30pm -- that is, officially. In reality, you shouldn't bother showing up until after 9am. Most banks are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.

Drinking Laws -- The official drinking age in the Dominican Republic is 18, but the law is not enforced very well.

Electricity -- The country generally uses 110-volt AC (60 cycles), so adapters and transformers are usually not necessary for American appliances.

Embassies -- All embassies are in Santo Domingo, the capital. The United States embassy is on Calle Cesar Nicholas Penson at the corner of Leopold Navarro (tel. 809/221-2171). The embassy of the United Kingdom is located at Hotel Santo Domingo, Ste. 1108 (tel. 809/472-7111). The embassy of Canada is found at Calle Capitán Eugenio de Marchena 39 (tel. 809/685-1136).

Gasoline (Petrol) -- This could be a problem if you're outside Santo Domingo or the major tourist areas such as Punta Cana or Puerto Plata. Most stations close at 7pm. Gasoline supplies are unreliable, and many stations will unexpectedly run out of gas. Try to drive with a tank at least half full.

Holidays -- January 1 New Year's Day; January 6 Epiphany/Three Kings Day; January 21 Our Lady of Altagracia; January 26 Duarte Day; February 27 Independence Day Carnival; March/April Maundy Thursday, Holiday Friday, Easter Sunday; April 14 Pan-American Day; May 1 Labor Day; July 16 Foundation of Sociedad la Trinitaria; August 16 Restoration Day; September 24 Our Lady of Mercedes; October 12 Columbus Day; October 24 United Nations Day; November 1 All Saints' Day; and December 25 Christmas.

Hospitals -- Medical care is limited, especially outside Santo Domingo, and the quality of care varies widely among facilities. There is an emergency 911 service within Santo Domingo, but its reliability is questionable. Outside the capital, emergency services range from extremely limited to nonexistent. Blood supplies at both public and private hospitals are often limited, and not all facilities have blood on hand, even for emergencies. Many medical facilities throughout the country do not have staff members who speak or understand English. A private nationwide ambulance service, Movi-med, operates in Santo Domingo, Santiago, Puerto Plata, and La Romana; its telephone number is tel. 809/532-0000 in Santo Domingo and tel. 1/200-0911 outside Santo Domingo. Movi-med expects full payment at the time of transport.

Legal Aid -- Getting into legal trouble in the D.R. is to be avoided at all costs. You wouldn't even want to go near a local jail. You can be jailed for the possession of such drugs as marijuana and cocaine. If you're arrested for possession, try to contact your embassy -- although many countries do not have embassies in the D.R. (visit to see if your country is represented). Your hotel may be of help in getting you connected with a lawyer licensed to practice in the D.R. There are no private agencies to appeal to.

Mail -- A disaster! It's recommended that you not rely on D.R. postal services unless absolutely necessary. It is estimated that the chance of your letter reaching its intended destination is about 50%. International courier services such as United Parcel Service or Federal Express are the way to go.

Pharmacies -- If you're on medication, it's best to bring an adequate supply with you. Don't always count on the local pharmacy being able to fill your prescription.

Police -- Dial 911 in an emergency. If you've lost something or you've been robbed, chances are in a poverty-stricken country you'll never recover your valuables. Stay alert. Be on guard. Never leave any item such as a camera or cellphone unattended on the beach.

Taxes -- A departure tax of US$10 is assessed and must be paid in U.S. currency. The government imposes a 13% tax on hotel rooms, which is usually topped by an automatic 10% service charge, bringing the total tax to staggering heights. A 12% sales tax on food and drink is assessed.

Time -- Atlantic Standard Time is observed year-round. Between November and March, when it's noon in New York and Miami, it's 1pm in Santo Domingo. However, during U.S. daylight saving time, it's the same time in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. East Coast.

Tipping -- Most restaurants and hotels add a 10% service charge to your check. Most people usually add 5% to 10% more, especially if the service has been good.

Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or "restrooms" on the streets, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars or heavily visited areas may reserve their toilets for patrons. Note: You can't enter the precincts of an all-inclusive hotel unless you're a guest.

Useful Phone Numbers -- U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202/647-5225 (manned 24 hr.); U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202/647-0518; U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's Hotline: tel. 404/332-4559.

Visitor Information -- In the United States, you can contact the Dominican Republic Tourist Information Center at 136 E. 57th St., Ste. 803, New York, NY 10022 (tel. 888/374-6361 or 212/588-1012); or 848 Brickell Ave., Ste. 405, Miami, FL 33131 (tel. 888/358-9594 or 305/358-2899; fax 305/358-4185). In Canada, try the office at 2080 Crescent St., Montreal, Quebec H3G 2B8, Canada (tel. 800/563-1611 or 514/499-1918; fax 514/499-1393); or at 26 Wellington St. E., Ste. 201, Unit 53, Toronto, Ontario M5E 1S2, Canada (tel. 888/494-5050 or 416/361-2126; fax 416/361-2130). Don't expect too many specifics.

In England, there's an office at 20 Hand Court, High Holborn, WC1V 6JF (tel. 020/7242-7778).

On the Web, check out

Water -- Stick to bottled water.

Weather -- The average temperature is 77°F (25°C). August is the warmest month and January the coolest month, although, even then, it's warm enough to swim.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.