Punta Cana Travel Tips. Things to Know Before Visiting Punta Cana in 2020
1. What should a traveler not do in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic?
Punta Cana is comparatively a quiet and secure area. However, to make sure you stay safe and comfortable here, find lodging in secure gated residential complexes, such as Punta Cana Village or Los Corales, located in the neighboring Bavaro area. Try to have your personal car to move around. Public transport does not cover the entire area of Punta Cana and some districts have no public buses at all.
Moreover, pickpockets consider public transport the best option for petty theft. Never drink tap water and never eat unwashed fruit. Try to wash fruit with boiled water and peel fruit if possible. Do not buy excursions and tour from not licensed providers. Make sure excursion providers have a valid license and insurance. To learn more about what a traveler should not do in Punta Cana, check this article: https://everythingpuntacana.com/what-not-to-do-in-punta-cana/
2. What do you think is the best hidden gem in Dominican Republic that not many people know about?
The Dominican Republic features lots of attractive places and touristic sights. However, not many people know about the Eagles Bay (Bahía de las Aguilas) – a long beach along the southwestern coast, that forms part of Jaragua National Park.
Many Dominicans consider it the most beautiful beach in the world. Not many people go to the Eagles Bay, prioritizing Saona and Catalina Islands that are also worth visiting. That is why one may say that the Eagles Bay is actually a hidden gem of the Dominican Republic.
3. What is the strangest thing you have seen or heard while in Dominican Republic?
The strangest thing ever that I have heard during my more than 10-year stay in the Dominican Republic is that one should not go for a walk with newborns after 6 p.m. because of the dew that will do them harm (clothes won’t save them neither!).
4. What can I bring back from Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic is a paradise of rum, cigars and tropical fruit. It also boasts high quality natural oils: coconut, macadamia, almond and others. Cocoa butter is also a must-have for women. Please check how much alcohol and cigars you can bring to your country from the Dominican Republic: rules vary from country to country.
5. What are the differences between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana?
Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are different like day vs night, like black vs white. Santo Domingo is a large capital with over a million people living there on a permanent basis. Punta Cana is a small touristic area with a population of about 50 thousand people. It features the largest inflow of tourists than any other province of the country.
Punta Cana boasts the best beaches and a couple of top best beaches in the world, for example Juanillo. Santo Domingo does not have beaches at all. In Punta Cana, there are many secluded areas – ideal for romantic dinners and private getaways. Santo Domingo features many shopping malls and touristic sights. It is an attractive destination for shopaholics.
6. What are some activities for a family to do near Punta Cana?
Attractive places for families in the surroundings of Punta Cana are Manati Park and Scape Park. They feature multiple attractions and activities ideal for families. Hacienda Park is also a divine ranch with many cute animals and interesting activities for kids and adults. For more information about them, check this page: https://everythingpuntacana.com/product-category/excursions/
7. What strikes first time visitors as special or unusual when they arrive in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic?
A Colonial spirit of the Colonial Zone where you feel like if you travelled back to the 16th century. A mix of historical sights and modern buildings. A contrast between slum areas and luxurious skyscrapers. All these things undoubtedly astonish everyone who visits the great city of Santo Domingo.
8. What are the major stereotypes people have about Dominican Republic and to what extent are they true?
Many people believe that due to its location by the ocean, the Dominican cuisine should feature many seafood and fish. It is not true. Although Dominicans love seafood and have some traditional dishes with fish (like fish in coconut milk), their traditional food is rice with chicken and beans.
Another stereotype is that the climate everywhere in the Dominican Republic is hot and sunny. However, there are some areas where the temperature can descend to 5C degrees (for example, in Constanza). Anyway, the weather in the coastal areas is always perfect and ideal for vacation.
One more stereotype is about polygamous nature of the Dominicans. It is true that both men and women here are passionate and change partners often. Young people may even have several girl/boyfriends at the same time.
9. Is it safe to eat the local food in the Dominican Republic?
It is not always safe to eat the local food in the Dominican Republic. Hygienic and sanitary rules are not always followed. Avoid street food and junk food cafes. Make sure your meat and fish are well-done. Take precautions when eating fresh fruit – it must be washed and preferably peeled.
10. What are some misunderstood aspects of the culture of Dominican Republic?
One of the most common misunderstood aspects of the Dominican culture is the excessive courtesy and kindness of the locals. Most tourists take them for granted and believe in honesty and sincerity of the Dominicans who call all tourists “mi amor” (from Spanish – “my love”), “mi corazón” (from Spanish – “my heart”) or “mi vida” (from Spanish – “my life”). One should know that these forms of addressing a person mean no more than “Hey, guy/gal” in English. Moreover, the courtesy sometimes hides some interest (in money most often). So, when an excursions vendor or a gift-shop salesperson calls you “mi amor”, it only means that he or she wants to sell you somethings and probably at a too high price.
Another misunderstood aspect concerns religion. The Dominicans are often considered to be very close to God. According to the statistics (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/dominican-republic-population/), of the entire Dominican population, 57% of people are Catholic, 23% are Protestant, 2% are Muslim, and 18% of people are unaffiliated with any religion. However, during the last years, many people only claim to be faithful, although they do not follow religious canons. However, in their daily living, the Dominican often use such phrases as “si Dios quiere” (literally from Spanish – “if God wants”), “con ayuda de Dios” (literally from Spanish – “with God’s help”) which show that the concept of God traditionally does play an important role in the Dominican culture.
11. What is the significance of the Dominican Republic's national dish?
The Dominican national dish – La Bandera (from Spanish – “The Flag”) – consists of rice, meat and beans. The colors of these components are associated with the colors of the Dominican flag: rice for white, beans for red and meat for blue (activate your imagination).
12. What is the cheapest way to spend holidays in Punta Cana?
To save money during your stay in Punta Cana, try the following:
- Instead of booking a touristic package (that often includes some services you will never actually use during your stay), consider renting an apartment via vacation rentals platforms (Airbnb, Homeaway) or on websites specializing in properties in Punta Cana (for example, Everything Punta Cana).
- If you travel with a friend or friends, divide the cost of lodging equally between you. Thus, you will be able to rent a spacious apartment or villa and pay of around $50/person per night if you divide the cost between 8-10 people, for example.
- Compare prices on excursions and transportation services on websites of different official licensed providers. Feel free to negotiate the price – it is often done in Punta Cana.
- Try to cook at your place. If you eat in restaurants or cafes, browse the internet to find the most budget-friendly and recommended local cafes. There are many of them and they are much cheaper than restaurants of international cuisine.
13. What is the best beach in punta cana?
It depends on what you mean by the best beach. If you are a surfer looking for big waves, welcome to wild Macao beach. If you are a parent who cares about the safety of their offspring on the beach, go to Playa Blanca beach. If you want to enjoy a refreshing swimming pool on the beach and luxury, try Api beach in Cap Cana. All of them are different and nice and are worth visiting during your stay in Punta Cana.
14. Can I bring/use my drone in Punta Cana? If so, what are the restrictions?
Yes, you can fly a drone in Punta Cana. You do not need a permit or a license if it weighs less than 2 kilos. Flying drones is regulated by the Dominican Civil Aviation Institute (Instituto Dominicano de Aviación Civil or IDAC).
Follow some recommendations before bringing your drone to the country. It is recommended (but not obligatory) to request a permit from IDAC (http://www.idac.gob.do) before bringing your drone to the Dominican Republic – it will facilitate your entering the Dominican Republic and going through customs clearance.
If your drone weight is above 4.4 pounds, you will need a permit issued by IDAC. Start applying for a permit at least one month before your trip.
15. What are some suggestions for a first trip to Punta Cana?
Before your first trip to Punta Cana, make sure you have booked lodging in a secure gated community such as Los Corales or Cocotal. When buying excursions or tours, always check a license of an excursion provider. They should have an official license issued by the Ministry of Tourism and an insurance for travelers. Avoid eating fresh fruit in the street without washing them. Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly, peel them if possible. Do not drink tap water. Make sure you visit the most remarkable attraction during your first visit: Saona Island, Santo Domingo and Samaná waterfalls.
16. I’m traveling to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic next Summer. What excursions/trips would you recommend?
There are many amazing excursions in the surroundings of Punta Cana. Your choice depends on your interests and preferences. If you are a lover of history, make sure you visit the capital of the country – Santo Domingo. If you like adventures, visit Scape Park or Zip-lines. If you are looking for a nice family day, go to Hacienda Park. Beach lovers must see Juanillo beach and Macao beach. Macao beach also has a surfing school.
17. Are there gated communities in Dominican Republic?
Yes, there are many gated communities in the Dominican Republic, especially in the touristic areas of Bavaro, Punta Cana and Cap Cana. Pay attention to Los Corales, Cocotal, Playa Turquesa, Punta Cana Village, Cap Cana and other secure gated communities of this touristic zone.
18. What are the best restaurants to try when visiting Punta Cana, Dominican Republic? What should you try while you're there?
If you wish to try high quality local food, visit La Casita de Yeya (https://www.facebook.com/casitadeyeya/). This restaurant features typical Dominican dishes, such as fried plantains with fish or meat, mashed plantains with shrimps, rice and meat, traditional soups and desserts.
If you look for a cheaper option, go to Delicias de Bávaro (https://www.facebook.com/ladeliciadebavaro/) – it also offers traditional Dominican food at a reasonable price. Gourmet food lovers must visit Gourmet Market restaurant in Punta Cana (https://www.facebook.com/gourmetmarketdo/). It boasts delicious international dishes.
To explore the Dominican cuisine, try “La Bandera” (from Spanish – “The flag”) – a traditional Dominican lunch consisting of rice, meat or chicken and beans. There are also many delicious dishes of green and yellow plantains.
19. How are Dominican Christmas traditions celebrated?
The Dominicans spend the Christmas Eve with a family, usually gathering in one place and enjoying a traditional dinner. Relatives and family members from all around the country gather on that day. On the Christmas day, some people go to church, while others continue spending their time with the nearest and dearest.
Over the recent years, some young people have not followed this family gathering tradition anymore. They prefer going out with friends at night. Anyway, all Dominicans start preparing for Christmas 2 months in advance decorating their apartments and houses. The streets are adorned with Christmas lights already in October.
20. My wife and I are traveling to the Dominican Republic. What type and style of clothes should we take so as not to look "touristy" but be comfortably fashionable?
In the Dominican Republic, both tourists and residents prefer light clothes not to feel hot under the sun. Opt for T-shirts and shorts of natural fabric. Women usually wear light summer dresses. Residents also wear light jeans or trousers with shirts. There are not stereotypes about specific “tourist” clothes.
21. Do I need a plug adapter for when I go to the Dominican Republic?
If you travel from the USA or Canada, you do not need a plug adapter, however, if you travel from Europe, yes, you do need one. You can also buy it right in the Dominican Republic. Most gift shops sell them.
22. What are the best places for a cheap vacation in the Dominican Republic?
A good vacation in the Dominican Republic is not so cheap. Lodging in secure areas costs quite a high price. However, you may find cheaper vacation rentals in Airbnb or for example, on our website where you get a guarantee of security and 24/7 support during your stay in the Dominican Republic. If you are travelling to Punta Cana, opt for lodging in Bavaro instead of Punta Cana or Cap Cana. In Bavaro apartments and villas are cheaper than in Punta Cana or Cap Cana. Besides, in your rented apartment, you will be able to cook and not spend money in restaurants.
23. What are some major social faux pas to avoid when visiting Dominican Republic?
There are not social faux pas characteristic exclusively of the Dominican Republic. However, it is important to note that the Dominicans are religious and you may see people in clothes typical for some religions. Please, do not pay special attention to that.
It is also a common rule to greet all people when you get on a public transport or enter some office even if you see them for the first time. The Dominicans are very sociable and friendly. Even if you do not need advice and someone is trying to give it to you, try not to be rude and just say thank you.
24. What is the cheapest method of using my smartphone in the Dominican Republic?
Buy a local chip card and an unlimited Internet package (for 1, 3 or 5 days). Wi-Fi is also available in most cafes and restaurants.
25. What are some things that Dominican people say vs. what they actually mean?
Most Dominicans may call you “mi amor” (my love), “mi hermano/hermana” (my brother/sister), “mi amigo/amiga” (my friend) – it is a common form of addressing anybody, even strangers. It should be considered an act of politeness.
When a Dominican says that he or she will do something “mañana” (tomorrow), they will probably never do it. The word “mañana” (tomorrow) is often used in situations when someone does not want to do something and just puts it until tomorrow. But tomorrow the person will already forget about the promise. Be careful with this.
26. Do you believe that the tourists who recently (spring 2019) died in the Dominican Republic were poisoned?
It does not matter what one believes or not regarding those cases. What matters is the result of legal investigation and medical expertise. You can find more details about them in this article: https://everythingpuntacana.com/incidents-in-the-dominican-republic/
27. Is Punta Cana good place for road cycling?
Punta Cana is hardly a good place for road cycling. Traffic may be crazy on public roads. We do not recommend riding a bicycle on Dominican roads.
28. Punta Cana is hardly a good place for road cycling. Traffic may be crazy on public roads. We do not recommend riding a bicycle on Dominican roads.
Most tourists who do not leave their all-inclusive resort area rarely encounter unexpected or shocking things in the Dominican Republic. However, if you go outside the hotel and explore different neighborhoods, you will find some poor districts with shocking things typical of them. In such areas, you will see shops and markets where meat is kept outside the refrigerator for days and sold this way. You may also see toddlers in the street on their own or with their elder siblings.
29. What are some music traditions of Dominican Republic?
Traditional national music and dance of the Dominican Republic is merengue. Bachata, salsa and reggaeton are also very popular. Feel free to read more about the Dominican music here: https://everythingpuntacana.com/where-to-go/punta-cana-activities/dominican-music/
30. What is the price of a nice meal in the Dominican Republic?
It really depends on what you mean by a nice meal. A traditional Dominican lunch in a street restaurant will cost about $US5. A traditional lunch in a luxurious restaurant will cost about $35-50. Anyway, know that a quality meal will hardly cost less than $25/person.
31. What is the best way to experience the culture of the Dominican Republic if you don't speak very much Spanish?
The best way to experience the Dominican culture without speaking Spanish is to go out and dance! Enjoy the Dominican music at one of the discos or street bars and communicate with others through dance and Latin rhythms.
32. What are some examples of Dominican greetings?
Typical Dominican greetings are “¡Hola, amigo!” (Hi friend!) or simply “¡Hola!” (Hi!), “Buenos días” (Good day), “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon) and “Buenas noches” (Good night).
33. What are unique experiences not to miss in Dominican Republic?
When in the Dominican Republic, don’t miss trying fresh coconut water. Piña Colada cocktail in a fresh pineapple is also a delicious drink to try. Explore the most beautiful Dominican beach in the Eagles Bay (Bahía de las Aguilas), and Montaña Redonda mountain with the most impressive views. Try surfing on Macao Beach or do rafting in waterfalls of Samaná.
34. How widely accepted are credit cards at small businesses and restaurants in Dominican Republic?
Most restaurants in Punta Cana and Bavaro accept credit cards, but street stores and small kiosks (fruit stalls, for example) do not accept them. We recommend always having some cash on you.
35. What are good gifts for a foreign visitor to bring when they're invited to someone's home in Dominican Republic for the first time?
The Dominicans will be grateful for any gift you try, but some typical things from your native land will be much appreciated. Bring some traditional souvenirs from your country if you plan to visit a Dominican home.
36. Is it safe to drink water in the Dominican Republic?
Tap water is not potable and is not safe to drink. Drink only bottled water. Use bottled water for preparing tea and coffee and cooking.
37. What is the situation of a woman in the Dominican Republic? Is the Dominican society very machinist?
Cases of tough manliness are still very common in the Dominican Republic, especially in poor areas. Public authorities and social groups fight against machismo and open special centers for women where they can find shelter and report abuse. However, this issue never concerns the tourists.
38. What is the average price of a cup of coffee in the Dominican Republic?
A cup of coffee in a “colmado” (street product kiosk) costs about 20 cents, and in a coffee shop – from $US2 to $4 dollars.
39. Does Uber operate in Punta Cana Airport?
Not yet. Uber does not operate in Punta Cana Airport. Taxi and car rental agencies do operate there.
40. Which excursions offered in Punta Cana aren't super touristy? Are there any good cultural experiences?
All excursions in Punta Cana are quite touristy. If you want to avoid crowds and have a private cultural experience, opt for VIP excursion options for small groups. They are a bit more expensive, but if you have a group of 6 people and divide costs, the price per person will be almost like the price on a regular not VIP excursion. Consider some VIP offers here: https://everythingpuntacana.com/?s=vip&post_type=product
For cultural experiences, visit Altos de Chavón (https://everythingpuntacana.com/product/altos-de-chavon-vip-tour/) or Santo Domingo (https://everythingpuntacana.com/product/santo-domingo-city-tour-safe-private/).
41. What is the best currency to take to Punta Cana, Dominican pesos or dollars?
Both currencies are accepted. You can bring US dollars and change some to pesos already in Punta Cana. Check the currency exchange rate before changing the money. It is better to do it at bank offices or official currency exchange agencies.
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