Today is May 9th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic as I pursue my goal to travel the world.
I’ve officially settled in at my next destination, Cabarete, a tourist beach town off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. However, getting to this point didn’t lack drama. My original plan for leaving Las Galeras was to take the Puerto Plata shuttle bus from Samana that I discovered on my first day there. Though, it would mean I would have to spend several hours waiting for it to leave at 2pm. Luckily, I told my hotel owner about my plans and he informed me that there were two earlier buses that left from Samana and passed through Cabarete which left at 8:30 am and 10:30 am, respectively. Given that it would take at least an hour to get back to Samana, the 10:30 am bus seemed like the ideal choice. I woke up yesterday and left the hotel at 8:20 am. However, for reasons I can’t figure out, the gua-gua didn’t leave Las Galeras until 8:50 am. What’s worse was the driver started to leave at 8:40 am but then doubled back to wait another ten minutes. Combined with the tortoise like speed at which the gua-gua runs, I didn’t arrive in Samana until 10:05 am. At that point, I had 25 minutes to go to the ATM (I only had $150 DPO ($3 USD) in cash) and find the bus based on my recollection of the owners’ instructions which had been in Spanish. After getting more cash from the ATM, I figured I’d ask for directions inside the bank. That ended up being a bad idea as I got three answers from three different people. One lady was trying to direct me to the bus stop for the 2 pm bus, while another man told me I could just wait on the street. I ended up listening to a customer who gave me similar instructions to the hotel owner but couldn’t tell me an exact location. At this point, I had 15 minutes to find the bus stop. I started walking towards the location where I believed the bus was when I remembered that there was a tourist office along the main strip. I decided to go to the office because I expected to be able to get clear and specific instructions in English. Although the girl working at the desk didn’t speak English, she gave clear instructions in Spanish and I knew exactly where to go. Carrying my 25lb rucksack, I ran about 1.5 km to the Central Park arriving at 10:27 am. It turned out that all my effort was for naught as the bus didn’t actually leave until 11am. Nevertheless, for $325 DPO ($7 USD) I was on my way to Cabarete.
The drive to Cabarete was done on a relatively new coastal highway that was dominated by beach towns and scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the bus did fill up, I was able to have my own seat as locals are hesitant to invade the personal space of an extranjero. I’m also glad that I conserved my phone battery as the bus didn’t make an “official” stop in Cabarete and I had to jump off based on the tracking pin from Google Maps in relation to my hotel.
The hotel that I was staying at was about 2 km outside the central area of Cabarete and it was called The Diamond Hotel Cabarete. It was about 300 meters from the main intersection, and as I was walking back to it, I noticed that soldiers from the Dominican Republic military were posted on one of the corners. I got to the hotel and saw that it was heavily fortified with c-wire on top of the concrete wall. Assuming that the door was locked, I rang the doorbell and stood outside for 5 minutes. After no one answered, I discovered that door had been open, and I could just walk right in, which was ironic given the outer appearance of the hotel. Inside the hotel was extremely modern and upscale. It also had everything that the place in Las Galeras lacked such as hot water, fast Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a queen size bed. There was even a television, but I haven’t figured out how to get it to work. I booked a reservation for 7 nights, and while expensive by Dominican standards, the $9500 DPO ($190 USD) would have only gotten me three nights in a Motel 6 had I been in the United States. Another reason I booked the hotel was the ability to pay for it with my credit, meaning I didn’t have to make yet another trip to an ATM. However, trying to pay with my credit card ended up being problematic. There were only two employees at the hotel when I arrived, a maid and a bartender, and neither spoke English. I gave my card to the bartender, who put the card in an old credit card machine. After I saw him pull the credit card in and out for a third time, I decided to check my account. It turns out that there were two charges on the card from the hotel, one for the full amount and one that was zeroed out. In addition, after connecting to the Wi-Fi I received the dreaded text message from my bank asking me to verify the last 3 charges. I verified the charges, but it turns out that the charge for the full amount was actually declined. With that information in hand, I gave him my card to try the transaction again. After 5 more minutes of fiddling with the machine, yet another transaction for the full amount appeared on my account. At that point, I told him to stop and called my bank. My bank informed me that the first transaction was reversed but the second transaction was “stuck”. However, they assured me that it was approved, and the hotel’s bank should have the money. I told him to call his bank and see if they had the money. After about half an hour, he told me the bank hadn’t received the money. His manager ended up telling him (to tell me) that we should wait until this morning to see what happens. I went to sleep assuming that the transaction went through but by the time I woke up, Bank of America had cancelled both transactions. As luck would have it, I happened to see the same employee on his way to the hotel this morning as I was flagging down a moto driver after my morning run. Upon his arrival, we tried the card again and after about 5 minutes it FINALLY worked. So now I have a home for the next 7 days and I look forward to exploring the cities of Cabarete, Sousa, and Puerto Plata.