Getting around the Dominican Republic is not always easy if your hotel is in a remote location. The most convenient modes of transport are shuttle flights, taxis, rental cars, públicos (multi-passenger taxis), and guaguas (public buses).
The quickest and easiest way to get across a difficult landscape is on one of the shuttle flights offered by Air Century (tel. 809/826-4222; www.aircentury.com), flying from Santo Domingo to Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana, Samaná, and Santiago, among other towns. The only catch is that flights are not regularly scheduled, but depend on demand. The airline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
By Rental Car
The best way to see the Dominican Republic is to drive. Note: Motorists drive on the right here. Although major highways are relatively smooth, the country's secondary roads, especially those in the east, are riddled with potholes and ruts. Roads also tend to be badly lit and poorly marked in both the city and the countryside. Drive carefully and give yourself plenty of time when traveling between island destinations. Watch out for policemen who may flag you down and accuse you (often wrongly) of some infraction. Many locals give these low-paid policemen a RD$100 regalo, or gift "for your children," and are then free to go.
The high accident and theft rate in recent years has helped to raise car-rental rates here. Prices vary, so call around for last-minute quotes. Make sure you understand your insurance coverage (or lack thereof) before you leave home. Your credit card issuer may already provide you with this type of insurance; call to find out.
For reservations and more information, call the rental companies at least a week before your departure: Avis (tel. 800/331-1084 in the U.S., or 809/535-7191; www.avis.com), Budget (tel. 800/472-3325 in the U.S., or 809/549-0351; www.budget.com), and Hertz (tel. 800/654-3001 in the U.S., or 809/221-5333; www.hertz.com) all operate in the Dominican Republic. All three have offices at the Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata airports, as well as in downtown Santo Domingo. Avis and Hertz also have offices in La Romana and Santiago, and Avis has one in Punta Cana.
Although the cars may not be as well maintained as those of the big three above, you can often get a cheaper deal at one of the local firms, notably MCAUTO Rental Cars (tel. 809/688-6518). If you want a car with seat belts, you must ask. Your Canadian or American driver's license is suitable documentation, along with a valid credit card or a substantial cash deposit.
Maps -- Maps of the Dominican Republic are not of good quality for the most part. However, unless you're planning to make detailed visits to remote areas (highly unlikely), you won't need the type of Michelin maps available in, say, France. The D.R. government distributes free maps to visitors, and they are available at airport terminals upon your arrival, at hotels, tourist offices, and other places frequented by visitors. They are called Mapas Turísticos, and they highlight not only Santo Domingo but all the major resorts covered in this guide, including Puerto Plata, Samaná/Las Terrenas, Punta Cana/Bávaro, and La Romana/Bayahibe.
Unless you're planning specialty travel, these detailed regional maps should suffice. On one side is a general overview map of the D.R. itself, where you can determine the location of your resort in the country as a whole. For motorists, the overview map also highlights the major routes of access to your resort.
By Public Transportation
Públicos are unmetered multi-passenger taxis that travel along main thoroughfares, stopping often to pick up people waving from the side of the street. A público is marked by a white seal on the front door. You must tell the driver your destination when you're picked up to make sure the público is going there. A ride is usually RD$20.
Public buses, often in the form of minivans or panel trucks, are called guaguas (pronounced "gwa-gwas"). For about RD$10 to RD$15, they provide the same service as públicos, but they're generally more crowded. Larger buses provide service outside the towns. Beware of pickpockets onboard.
Warning: Don't get into an unmarked street taxi. Many visitors, particularly in Santo Domingo, have been assaulted and robbed by doing just that. The minimum fare within Santo Domingo is RD$150. In Santo Domingo, the most reliable taxi company is Tecni-Taxi (tel. 809/567-2010). In Puerto Plata, call Tecni-Taxi at tel. 809/320-7621.
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.