Things To Know When Traveling to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
My husband and I traveled to Punta Cana, Domincan Republic for our 10 year anniversary during the summer of 2010. We stayed at the Cayena Beach Resort, which we loved and highly recommend! The people there were wonderful! This entire trip was a new adventure for us. Here were some of the highlights of traveling to this country that we hope will help you with your experience:
* We first arrive on the island, walk into the palm leaf roof airport only to be whisked to an area where our photos are taken with women wearing fruit on their heads. Interesting... From there, we go through Customs, which takes about .2 seconds. I'm not exactly sure they cared that we were coming to their island. I think they were thinking, "please, come spend money here". As we walk through the next area, there are men playing mandolins wearing interesting costumes with baskets for money in front of them. Two men suddenly appear from nowhere and grab our hands and lead us to the luggage area. They are looking for a tip. We tip them a dollar each, then two more men ask our names, find our luggage immediately then they lead us outside and wait for a tip. We we are then handed off to someone else who is holding a sign with our last name on it. I have always wanted that to happen. It was very cool! We are then whisked away by a man who barely knows any English, who takes us to our condo. (See below for driving recommendations) At the condo, there are people asking to take our luggage (and a tip). We are told to go out through the grassy area to our room, where we are confronted by tables and tables of jewelry, artwork and wooden hand-carved boxes. Men with thick Spanish accents bombard us from all directions. I am then guilted into buying some things because of the story told by one of the men talking about how poor his family is. This entire ordeal was quite a shock to me, being whisked away time after time for nearly an hour. I was happy to finally make it to my room. Luckily, we had read online to bring a lot of dollar bills and to tip everyone!
* There are virtually no rules of the road here. If there is space to fit between two cars to pass, go for it. There is a lot of honking horns to let you know someone is passing you. There are accidents, but not as often as you might think. We would not recommend driving in the Dominican Republic if you are from Europe or the United States. It is just to crazy!
* We speak just a little Spanish, and the Dominican Republic is mainly a European travel destination. Many of the waiters, desk clerks and others knew far more German, Italian, French and Spanish than they did English. They knew enough English and I knew enough Spanish to get by. We were amazed by the ones from the front desk who knew up to nine languages fluently. We would still highly recommend this friendly country to anyone wanting to travel there, no matter how much Spanish or other languages you know.
* Since Dominican Republic is mainly an European travel area, there are nude sunbathers hanging out in the chairs on the beach as well as walking up and down the beach. Being from Wyoming, United States, I had not been around this and was a little disturbed at first, but by the end of the week, I rarely noticed it anymore. In fact, I was jealous of the tans those women got that week!
* We did travel to an orphanage in a town about an hour away. A lady from our timeshare went with us. We took the kids school supplies and stopped at a grocery store on the way and bought a large amount of groceries for the orphanage. We played basketball, sang songs and had fun with the kids for an afternoon. What a great experience! I highly recommend it. We saw more of the island doing this trip than we could have on any tour. The timeshare worker gave us a great tour and answered all of our questions about island life. Many families have water and electricity, just not consistently. They may have electricity in the morning and late evening, but not throughout the daytime. They have to have tanks with water on the roofs of their homes and have them refilled every few days. We saw men with donkeys headed to town, chickens running free and beautiful countryside that we would not have otherwise seen!
Dominican Republic is a fantastic place to travel. The people there are the most friendly I've met anywhere! I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to go there. It is a great way to see other cultures. We loved it!