Most flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Las Américas (tel. 809/947-2225; www.aerodom.com), lying 13km (8 miles) east of the city center. This is not a good introduction to the Dominican Republic. Customs officials are often hostile, and retrieval of suitcases from the luggage carousels is cramped, neurosis-inducing, and, if you trip over any of the wheeled carts that passengers push up to the edge of the carousels, fraught with hazards. Once you've survived your arrival, you have to face an array of hustlers waiting to steal your money, grab your luggage (and disappear with it), or else hawk dubious deals on everything from hotel rooms and gypsy cabs to cheap car rentals. Not only that, but if you're a single man traveling alone, you might be offered a woman for the duration of your trip. If you express no interest, a boy might be offered instead.
Expect a lot of hassle and aggression. It's better to have everything reserved in advance, including your hotel and your car rental, before you face these touts trying to separate you from your money.
At the exit to the baggage reclaim area, you'll see a branch of Banco de Reservas, where you can change your currency into Dominican pesos. And once you exit from the security-controlled area inside the terminal, you'll find a handful of ATMs dispensing Dominican pesos. Note: Although virtually everyone in the D.R. accepts U.S. dollars as payment for virtually anything, it's hard to actually lay your hands on dollars once you're inside the country. We tend to bring $200 or $300 in U.S. cash into the country, safely tucked away, for tips and for the purchase of handicrafts -- just because it's easier than calculating everything in pesos and because locals seem to genuinely appreciate the receipt of U.S. dollars.
If you don't rent a car, you'll need to take a taxi. Count on at least 45 minutes to an hour to get from the airport into the center of town. The local taxi union is powerful enough to prevent bus service from operating here. Taxis, available 24 hours, cost about RD$1,225 for one-way transits for up to four passengers and their luggage into town. Always negotiate and agree on the fare before getting in.
If you're flying into the capital from somewhere else within the Dominican Republic, perhaps Puerto Plata or La Romana, chances are your plane will land at the smaller Aeropuerto Isabela (tel. 809/826-4019, ext. 112; www.aerodom.com) in the city's northern suburb of Higüero. A taxi from there to any point within the center of Santo Domingo costs around RD$1,050. Always negotiate and agree upon the fare before getting in, and be aware that if your hotel is on or near the Malecón, the traffic, especially during rush hour (usually 4:30-6:30pm) is likely to be horrendous.
Motorists who arrive from one of the popular resorts will find it easy to access the central city. If you're coming from the north on Autopista Duarte, the highway becomes Avenida Kennedy at Luperón, which will take you into the heart of Santo Domingo. If you're driving from a resort in the east, follow the signposts marked CENTRO CIUDAD until you come to the Puente Duarte, a bridge over the Río Ozama. The road at this point becomes Avenida 27 de Febrero. Follow this road to the intersection with Calle 30 de Marzo, at which point you turn left and head for the Zona Colonial (Colonial Zone).
Chances are you won't be arriving from elsewhere in the Dominican Republic by bus, although the major towns and cities of the D.R. maintain bus links with Santo Domingo. Buses let passengers off at the terminal at avenidas 27 de Febrero and Navarro (tel. 809/221-4422), at Av. Máximo Gómez 61 (tel. 809/221-4422), behind the Plaza Central, or at the terminal at Guarocuya 4 (tel. 809/544-4580), across the street from Centro Olímpico. Taxis are found at all bus terminals to take you to your hotel within the city itself.