Once you’ve traveled to several different countries, especially those within the same region, they start to blend together. For example, when I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, it seemed every country had the same temples and statues. This is why every country I go, I’ve tried to find 5 unique places or things that make that country stand out from the rest. This list is solely based on my experience and may not cover certain well-known traditions or tourist sites.
Gua-Gua- While cheap transportation can be found throughout the underdeveloped world, no one tries to squeeze every penny out of a trip like a Dominican gua-gua driver. Gua-gua are passenger vans that run pre-determined routes picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. A trip on a gua-gua will cost between .50 cent to $1 USD for longer trips. However, don’t get too excited because while the rides are cheap, in no way are they comfortable. During peak hours (9 AM or 5PM) a gua-gua will likely hold 20 people with the driver looking for space to fit another person. Riding in a gua-gua, I’ve done everything from sit on a woman’s lap to hang out an open door.
Los Tres Ojos- Nestled deep in the heart of urban Santo Domingo is probably the best kept national park in the country. Translated as The Three Eyes in Spanish, this park is tucked away in East Santo Domingo about 20 km away from the tourist hangout in Zona Colonial. The worse thing about the park is trying to get there as you will either have to take a relatively expensive taxi or navigate your way through Santo Domingo’s complicated public transportation system. Once there you pay $200 DPO ($4 USD), and you get access to several caves filled with several crystal blue tidepools. For an additional $25 DPO (.50 cents) you can take a ferry across the cave and take a picture of the natural marsh at the center of the park. Because it is off the beaten path, you won’t find this park filled with tourist as you would in other parks throughout the country.
Las Galeras- Located at the northern tip of the Samana peninsula, Las Galeras is the textbook definition of a place you can get away. The towns center is positioned along one intersection that directly leads to a beach. Don’t bother bringing a credit card because none of the businesses or hotels accept them and bring plenty of cash because you can only withdraw $2000 DPO ($40 USD) a day from the one ATM in town. While Samana City has everything you need, it is an hour drive south. For what it lacks in infrastructure, Las Galeras makes up in beauty as it is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world including Playa Rincon.
El Comedor- While the Dominican Republic has its fair share of international cuisine and fast food restaurant chains, there is nothing that captures the local experience like eating at a local comedor. These restaurants are usually open-air cafeteria style establishments that have local Dominican music blaring instead of the traditional dinner bell. For about $150 DPO ($3 USD) you can order the Plato Del Dia which includes chicken (fried/baked), rice (white/fried), a bowl of beans, and a small salad. Comedors can be found throughout the country whether in modern tourist towns or in rural neighborhoods.
La Banca- Throughout the country, you will notice little shacks that have the word’s La Banca on them. You will probably get excited if you are looking for a cajero to get more cash but will soon be disappointed when you realize it’s not an actual bank. It is actually a place where people can go buy lottery numbers for the Dominican National Lottery. With the risk of stereotyping, they are always small shacks with a computer staffed by a young bored Dominican woman. They make this list because they are EVERYWHERE. In a city you will find 3 on the same block. In the country side, you will find one before you find a supermarket or restaurant. While I don’t know much about how the countries lottery process works, I would assume playing the lottery has rivaled baseball as the national pastime.
Today is May 21sh, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic in pursuit of my goal of world travel. I’ve started this blog in order to document my experience.
My trip has gone full circle and I am back in Santo Domingo where my journey began a little under a month ago. I’m also staying in the same hotel that I stayed in when I arrived, Santo Domingo Bed and Breakfast. However, instead of looking for things to do in Zona Colonial, this time I am biding my time until tomorrow when my flight leaves for the United States.
Going back to the rest of my time in Punta Cana, the beach (called Playa Bibijagua) next to the White Sands Bed and Breakfast turned out to be pretty solid. There was actually free beach chair available for people to use and a certain portion of the water was roped off so that people could swim without the fear of getting run over by a motorboat. I spent a few solid hours bathing in the sun during my last day in Punta Cana. I also explored the downtown village where I found a nice Indian Restaurant where I ate dinner. However, the $20 check cost more than a week of eating dinner at the local comedors. As I was leaving yesterday, I almost got in a second physical altercation with a moto driver. It happened when I went back to Fruisa to catch the bus back to Santo Domingo. I had bought my ticket at the bus station and realized I had about half an hour before the bus left. I had an issue in that I had about $700 DPO ($140 USD) that I would eventually need to change back over to US dollars. However, if I waited until I got to the airport, I would be forced to pay the unfavorable exchange rate. I decided to walk up the street about 600 meters to the money changing place across my first hotel, Hotel 2 Bavaro, and take care of it there. After successfully changing my money out, I was aggressively approached by a moto driver as I walked out. Normally I just ignore them, but I had 10 DPO (.15 cents) in my hand and I offered it to him if he gave me a ride back to the bus terminal. It was an easily walkable distance, but I had my backpack and I needed to catch the bus. Well, it turns out the offer offended him and he kind of pushed my backpack in an aggressive manner. There’s a lot of things that people do to me that I can overlook such as being scammed, not giving me the correct change, and being constantly catcalled. However, the minute someone puts their hands on me, the gloves come off. I turned back and asked if he meant to push me or if it was an accident. When he didn’t answer, I asked again as I walked towards him. The guy around him must have since something was up because he started to get between us. The only thing that stopped me from putting his face into the cement was the fact I already paid for my ticket for a bus that was going to leave in 10 minutes. I walked away and caught my bus.
Although it was on the exact same bus, this bus ride was a lot more comfortable than my last one. I intentionally sat in an aisle seat and put my bag in the overhead compartment so that, when the bus did eventually fill up, I had plenty of leg room. I arrived back in Santo Domingo about 1 PM and unloaded my stuff at the hotel. Later that afternoon, I walked to the boardwalk where I came upon what looked like a street racing gathering from a Fast and Furious movie. There was music blaring and people were gathered around several cars while were revving their engines. It wasn’t the cars that attracted me to this gathering but actually the food trucks as I was looking for dinner. I ended up settling for a burrito and french fries. I was able to sit at a table that was set right at the edge of the cliff and while the weather wasn’t great, it still provided a decent view of the Santo Domingo Coast. After dinner, I went back to the hotel and settled in for the night. I really don’t plan on doing anything else as far as traveling goes. Today, I will reactivate my Facebook account and officially launch the blog.
I hope you enjoyed reading the blog as much as I enjoyed being in the Dominican Republic. But as the popular saying goes “all good things must come to an end” and so must this trip. It certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility that I may return here one day. However, there is so much more to see and do, that day won’t be anytime soon. I’m not sure when I will go on another trip like this but be sure to check out the other content I have posted from past trips. Thank you for taking the time to follow my experience.
Today is May 19th,2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic in pursuit of my goal of world travel. I’ve started this blog in order to document my experience.
Since my last blog entry, not much has happened as far as adventure goes. The public transportation in Punta Cana didn’t turn out to be terribly complicated as $40 DPO (.75 cents) got me anywhere I wanted to go in the regions surprisingly efficient public transportation system. My first run was a little rocky as I attempted to go to the beach and ended up at an outlet mall. However, once I got familiar with the area, I was able to go about wherever and whenever I wanted. Although the hotel wasn’t terribly impressive, the neighborhood that it was in, Fruisa, had pretty much everything I needed. There were two gyms, an internet café, and several ATM’s within walking distance to my hotel. There were also several juice and empanada stand within a two-block radius. Had it been closer to the beach, it would have been an area where I could see myself staying long term. I did finally make it to Playa Cortecito, one of the main beaches in Punta Cana. While it did have white sand beaches and aqua blue water, 95% of the beach was either closed off to the resorts or had motorboats zipping through the water. There was really no place to lay a towel down without being hassled by a security guard or an excursion salesman. However, I did eventually manage to find a bar where I bought a non-alcoholic Pina Colada for $200 DPO ($4 USD) which secured my access to one of the restaurants beach chairs. I ended up staying at the beach for a few hours before calling it a day. In between relaxing at the beach, I continued to do extensive work on the travel website which is getting more detailed and refined by the day.
To say I survived the three days in the outskirts of Bavaro would be overexaggerating, nevertheless I was glad to finally be able to move out of the Hotel 2 Bavaro to the White Sands Bed and Breakfast closer to beach. I left the hotel yesterday at 11:30 AM. I hate traveling with my backpack because it automatically identifies me as a tourist and puts a target on my back for locals to hassle me or try to swindle me out of my money. I would face this problem not even 5 minutes after I left the hotel as I stopped to get lunch at the local empanada stand. I went to same place that I had been frequenting the last few days where the empanadas cost $20 DPO (.40 cents) a piece. I ordered two and gave the guy a $50 DPO bill. With my empanadas in hand. I sat there for about three minutes and waited for my change of $10 DPO (.20 cents). When it became obvious that he wasn’t going to give it to me I called him out on it. Even though there was a sign that clearly stated the prices, he (and his mother) tried to claim that there was a “tax” on the purchase. I might have believed him had I not come to the same stand at least five times in the last two days. I told him there was no tax and asked if $10 DPO (.20 cents) was worth getting the police involved. At that point he knew he was wrong and went to give me my change. I let him keep it because it was never about the money, it was about the principle and I had made my point.
I caught the local bus from the central plaza to my new hotel. However, halfway through the drive, the bus pulled over and we were told to get off. It turns out that the bus caught a flat tire, and I would have to wait for the next one. As a result, I stood for about half an hour on the side of the road with my big touristy backpack. After turning down every moto driver in the city, the next bus finally arrived. I got to the stop and knew I was in the right place when I had to help 2 girls communicate with a moto driver because they didn’t speak Spanish. I walked about 800 meters when I arrived at the hotel building. I walked into a lobby and told the lady that I had a reservation. She was adamant that I didn’t and when I showed her the receipt, she said that was for the OTHER hotel located in the same building. After trying the “other” hotel, I found out that the building actually had four hotels in it and I didn’t find my hotel until the last stop. Despite the difficult in finding it, the owners seemed to be fairly nice people. The husband was an American white guy that spoke perfect English while the wife was Hispanic (not sure if she was Dominican). They actually gave me an “upgraded” room with a bigger bed. After settling into my temporary home, I spent the next few hours working on my website. The hotel was fairly close to the beach and while there was a nice comedor with cheap food, the beach itself was designed for day tourist groups and there weren’t many chairs for lounging or relaxing.
So here we are. Today is my last day in Punta Cana before heading back to Santo Domingo in preparation to my flight back to the United States. I will write again once I’m back in Santo Domingo and provide my final thoughts on the trip.
Today is May 16th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic in pursuit of my goal of world travel. I’ve started this blog in order to document my experience.
I’m officially on the final leg of my trip. Two weeks ago, I accepted a job for the International Trade Administration with the US Department of Commerce which I begin at the end of the month. As much as I want to continue traveling the world, I have to put my ambition on hold and take care of my finances. I will be leaving the Dominican Republic on May 22nd and fly back to Los Angeles via Fort Lauderdale. After spending a few days in Los Angeles picking up the rest of my stuff from my storage unit and cashing my security deposit check from my former apartment, I will head off to official begin my new job. However, before that happens I still have about a week left in the Dominican Republic which I plan to take advantage of.
My last few days in Cabarete were fairly uneventful as I feverishly worked on getting this blog off and running. Although I wanted to stay off Facebook for the entirety of this trip, I was forced to log back on in order to retrieve all the travel videos that I had posted so that I could transfer them over to the website. I was able to successfully do so, and my blog has at least some interesting content on it now. In between working on my blog, I hung out in the beach in Cabarete. For $200 DPO ($4 USD), I was able to get a beach chair right off the ocean. In addition, because the chair was located at the expensive restaurant that I ate at during my first night, I still had access to the Wi-Fi on my phone. During the last 2 days I must have spent 12 hours in the same chair taking in the sun. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do so forever and had to check out the hotel yesterday.
For my final destination, I decided that I would head down to the Punta Cana area. It wouldn’t feel right if I came to the Dominican Republic and didn’t go see Punta Cana and it was also fairly close to Santo Domingo making it easy for me to get back there for my flight out. However, getting to Punta Cana from Cabarete would prove to be exhausting. The day of my check-out, my goal was to be out of the hotel by 7:30 AM. I told the guy working at the desk I would, and he was willing to wait half an hour past the end of his shift to collect my key. That goal was almost in jeopardy as I woke up at 7:10 and was in no hurry to get out of my bed. It was only because I had to go to the bathroom that I got up, which afterwards, I took a quick shower and was ready to go at 7:35. After thanking the employee for the hotels hospitality and turning in my key, I walked to the main highway to catch a gua-gua going toward Sousa. Unfortunately, the three vans that passed were so packed that I wouldn’t be able to fit given I had my travel bag with me. Luckily, as the third van passed, there was a taxi who was letting out a passenger right behind it. I jumped in the cab not knowing what time the next bus would leave from the Caribe Tours bus terminal in Sousa. While the trip only cost me $50 DPO ($1 USD), both me and my travel bag were crammed with three heavy set Dominican men in the back seat. After arriving in Sousa, I went to get in the front seat. The person getting out turned out to be a Dominican police officer. I knew it because as he was getting out, he was carelessly swinging his pistol around like it was his wallet and it was actually pointed at me for about 20 seconds. While I imagine it wasn’t loaded, it was still startling. I eventually arrived at the bus terminal about 20 minutes before the next bus would leave for Santo Domingo. The ticket cost me $350 DPO ($7 USD). While fairly comfortable, the bus ride ended up being 5 hours because it had to pass through Santiago, a city at the base of the “Dominican Alps”. However, I was able to knock out some blog entries and work on my website because the bus had Wi-Fi. I arrived in Santo Domingo at about 1 PM, and because traveling isn’t always simple, I had to go to another bus terminal across town to catch a bus to Punta Cana. After arguing with several taxi drivers, I gave up and eventually called an Uber to take me to the Expreso Bravaro bus terminal. It turns out that I was able to catch the second-to-last bus that was leaving for the day for $400 DPO ($8 USD), and had I not woken up when I did, I would have probably been stuck in Santo Domingo for the night. I celebrated my good fortune with three Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
The bus ride started off extremely comfortable as it was a double decker bus that had the air condition on full blast. It seemed like there would be enough space for everyone to have one or two rows for themselves. However, as luck would have it, we ended up stopping at a bus station right outside Santo Domingo and the bus filled up really quickly. I went having a seat for my bag to having my bag uncomfortably stuck in between my feet. I ended up being stuck in this position for the next 4 ½ hours. It was worse because the guy sitting next to me didn’t move even when rows were opening up from people getting off. In reality the trip itself should have taken 2 ½ hours but once we got inside Punta Cana, the bus became a local city bus in that it stopped to drop people off every 500 meters. Driving through Punta Cana was an interesting experience. Unlike Cabo, where there was a clear separation of the developed touristy part and the local housing, it was blended together in Punta Cana. There would be 2 miles of international shopping, upscale resorts, and American restaurants followed by a mile of local comedors, abandoned buildings, and rundown houses. Then it would go back to being upscale resorts and trendy night clubs. It turned out the hotel I had reserved was in the town of Bavaro which was another resort town right outside Punta Cana City. Getting off the bus at 7:30 PM, Bavaro was extremely busy. However, the center of town was pretty rundown, and this was the first time in my traveling where I felt like I could get robbed. In the 500-meter walk to my hotel, I got solicited to buy drugs twice. The hotel I booked was called the Hotel 2 Bavaro in which I thought I found an incredible deal for 5 days that would have cost me only $69 USD for a private room. I thought the deal was too good to be true…….and it was. I knew I wouldn’t like the room, when the girl at the desk asked if I wanted to see it first. The “room” was a closet, that barely fit a bed and a night stand. To be honest, it was one of those rooms where guys that can’t bring prostitutes back to their resorts use to hook up for two hours. I may be cheap, but even I have standards. I ended up booking a full-size king room for $25 a night. Even though I wanted to leave the next day for something closer to the beach, I had to book three nights to cover the $69 non-refundable reservation. The room wasn’t bad, outside the fact that the lights have to be on for the outlets to work. I was able to find a nice gym a block away that let me work out for $200 DPO ($4 USD) a day. Right now, I’m going to figure out how the public transportation works and see if I can make my way to the beach. I will let you know how it goes in my next entry.
Today is May 12th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic as I pursue my goal to travel the world.
My first few days in Cabarete have been both exciting and busy which is why I haven’t had much time to update my journal. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Cabarete was your prototypical tourist town as I paid $600 DPO ($12 USD) on my first night when I decided to eat at a modern restaurant in the center of town. The funny thing was that $600 DPO ($12 USD) was on the LOW end of prices for food. Despite the sticker shock, I could describe Cabarete as being busy enough without going overboard. The beach itself was picturesque and there was plenty to do in order to stay entertained. Getting around the area didn’t prove to be much of a hassle as there were two possible methods. For shorter trips, I could negotiate with moto drivers and pay between $20-50 DPO (.40 cents-$1 USD). For longer trips, such as to Sosua, I could catch a gua-gua for $30 DPO (.60 cents).
On May 10th, I decided to catch a gua-gua to Sosua to both check out the town and find the bus terminal, so I would know where to go when it was time to leave. Sosua was about 10km north of Cabarete along the main highway. There was a few private resorts and bars scattered in-between, but it was evident when I arrived in Sosua as it was about 3 times the size of Cabarete. I was dropped off next to a Texaco in the center of town and wondered around aimlessly for about 15 minutes. It was by complete accident that I discovered the entrance to the boardwalk along Playa Sosua. While it certainly wasn’t as clean as the beach in Cabarete, it was busier, and prices seemed to be cheaper in the restaurants. It had the resemblance of a flea market as local venders were selling everything from mural paintings to Dominican Republic themed shot glasses. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the walk along the beach and I was rewarded with arriving at the Caribe Tours bus terminal just outside the exit. The terminal itself was small but I was able to obtain plenty of useful information about the buses. Given my next destination is Punta Cana, I will have to take a bus back to Santo Domingo and transfer over. It turns out that there are about 12 buses that leave for Santo Domingo daily for about $325 DPO ($7 USD). After completing my recon, I walked back to the point where I was originally dropped off. On my way, I actually found a modern gym that was above a casino which would have charged me $600 DPO ($12 USD) to work out for the week. I also stumbled upon a grocery store called El Supermarcado Playero which turned out to be similar to a Safeway or Albertson’s back in the United States. I ended up returning to Sosua later that night for dinner and paid $200 DPO ($4 USD) for chicken, rice, beans, and salad at a nice comedor on the beach.
Yesterday, I did something that I normally don’t like doing……. I booked a reservation for a guided tour. I have travelled enough to know that these “excursions” are basically attempts to solicit as much money from European and American tourists as possible whether it is through sympathy or constant sales pitches when passing through several local gift shops. Nevertheless, I ended up paying around $80 USD online through Viator for an 8-hour tour that was advertised as getting to explore the local Dominican country side. It included hotel pick-up and lunch and I thought it would be a worthy investment for getting to learn more about the country. The company was called Outback Adventures, and it turns out I had already seen several of there tour trucks when I was on the Samana Peninsula. I was picked up at exactly 8:45 am, and after picking up an American couple in Sosua we ended linking up with the main truck at a resort compound near Playa Dorada. As we were driving through the compound, I was amazed by how much people pay to NOT take in the local experience as everything was very modern and there was basically everything someone would need within walking distance of a given resort. There were about twenty people on the tour. However, I was the only single person and also the only one who could speak Spanish. Most of the others were cool, but there were a few stereotypical American tourists (the kind that talked to the locals in a loud tone because they can’t speak the language) which kind of annoyed me from the start.
My favorite part of the tour was actually the beginning as our tour guide Manny gave us a lot of useful information about the Dominican Republic as we drove out to the country side. First, we stopped at a “typical Dominican home” that also had a fruit garden. We walked inside the home which was nothing more than two small shacks (one for cooking and one for sleeping). The fruit garden was very interesting as it not only had fruits such as bananas, pumpkins, and pineapples but also had the plants that were used to make spices such as cinnamon, cilantro, and oregano. We got to try the various fruits and smell the various plants. From there we learned how both Dominican coffee and cocoa was made which ended in more free samples. Of course, we also ran into the first sales pitch of the day as they were selling bags of the “best coffee in the Dominican Republic” for $15 USD. It was after this, that something happened that I was not expecting, they start offering us free alcohol. The choices were beer, rum, or rum and coke. I don’t drink alcohol but many of the other tourists decided 10 am was an ideal time to partake in such activity. We ended up at a Dominican school, which I immediately could tell was nothing more than a sympathy tactic used to sell more company merchandise. According to the guide, “some” of the profits from certain company apparel were used to fund the school. The children basically were pawns in convincing people to buy baseball caps and t-shirts which it worked because several people did it. We then went to a river to swim. I didn’t read the actual tour description and forgot my swimming trunks, so I had to settle for putting my feet in the water. After about an hour, we went to the company headquarters and had lunch. Many of the guest were amazed by the Dominican cuisine of rice, beans, and fried chicken failing to realize that it’s the same food available for $4 USD at any local comedor. For what it was worth, the food was actually really good.
Throughout the day I had wondered why the tour guides seemed hyper aggressive when it came offering people alcohol. I got my answer after lunch as we went to the official company gift shop where they were selling that same alcohol. After taking a shot of pineapple wine, the floodgates were open. I have to give it to them, it turned out to be a genius business strategy as people were spending hundreds of dollars on stuff that probably won’t make it past customs. Frankly, it was pretty sad seeing how these people were being played. Regardless, it’s their money so I don’t judge. For our last activity, we visited a private beach where I once again regretted not bringing a swimsuit. I was able to get a quick massage that had been included in the tour package. We stayed at the beach for about an hour and then were shuttled back to our hotels. Overall, the tour was a mix bag. While it turned out to be one giant sales pitch, I did learn some interesting things about the Dominican Republic and kept myself busy for a few hours. From here on out, it’s relaxing on the beach for free.
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.
The beaches of the northern Dominican Republic coast. Video taken during my bus journey from Samana to Cabarete.
After spending the week in Las Galeras, I caught a local bus for the three hour journey to Cabarete. While many people opt to rent their own car to drive throughout the Dominican Republic, I prefer the simplicity of public transportation. This particular bus ride cost $325 Dominican Peso ($7 USD).
Today is May 7th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic as I pursue my goal of world travel.
As I have eluded to before, I normally don’t like recording journal entries on back to back days. However, I am currently sitting through a power outage in the common area of my hotel and have nothing else to do. For what its worth, these types of things are to be expected when traveling throughout the developing world especially in such a small fishing village such as Las Galeras. Despite such issues, the last two days have allowed me to really appreciate my decision to take a trip to the Dominican Republic. Up until yesterday, I had my mind set on visiting Playa Rincon. It is supposedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, something that the locals continued to remind me of. While the experience would be expensive by Dominican standard, costing $800 DPO ($20 USD) just to get there and back, I was originally willing to pay the cost. As I was doing further research online, I felt that Playa Rincon COULD be a “tourist trap”. My definition of a tourist trap is a place where all the tour companies in an area funnel their groups causing a pristine location to be overwhelmed with tourists, gift shops, and expensive restaurants. Yesterday I decided to visit the local beach in Las Galeras known as La Playita. As I was telling the hotel owner my intentions, he made La Playita sound like the slums. Nevertheless, it would only cost me about $100 DPO ($2 USD) to get there which made it worth checking out. The beach turned out to be about 5 minutes outside of the central area. Despite many run-down buildings prior to getting to the entrance, La Playita turned out to be one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen which is a strong statement from someone is that’s lived in Miami, Hawaii, San Diego and has traveled throughout Central America. As luck would have it, since so many people were being steered towards Playa Rincon, there were hardly any tourists on La Playita. I was able to rent a beach chair under an umbrella that was 5 feet from the water for $200 DPO ($4 USD). I also bought a bottle of Sprite for $50 DPO ($1 USD) and lounged out in the sun. For about 3 hours, I rotated between reading my book (Understanding Contemporary Latin America), listening to music, and swimming in the Caribbean ocean. I don’t know what heaven is like but that had to be close.
Ironically, I wanted to still go check out Playa Rincon but because no place in Las Galeras accepts credit cards and it would have cost me another $6 USD to withdraw up to $2000 DPO ($40 USD) at the local ATM, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of throwing most of the cash that I had left to go to a beach that I wasn’t too sure about. I was perfectly content to go back to La Playita for another 3 hours this morning and was able to find a better spot to lounge that turned out to be cheaper. Despite the limited infrastructure (i.e. slow Wi-Fi, no credit card machines, power outages) I enjoyed my time in Las Galeras and understand why people would want to come here to get away from the chaos of modern society. After speaking with the owner of my hotel, I should be able to catch a bus tomorrow morning at 10:30 from the bus station in Samana to my next destination which is Cabarete.
Today is May 6th, 2018. I am currently traveling through the Dominican Republic as part of my goal to travel the world.
I must resist the urge to write daily given the happenings and adventures I constantly encounter. My last few days in Las Galeras are no exception. Although I have planned to stay five nights here in Las Galeras, I have never been the type to procrastinate and my first goal was to find out how I would be getting to my next destination which was Cabarete. After finding little information via the internet, I decided to head up to Samana City to do my own reconnaissance mission. It took only a 2.2 km walk to the center of town to find the cheap public transportation that would get me there. There was an old shack by the central beach where camionetas (vans) called gua-gua’s went to Samana City every half an hour for only $100 DPO ($2 USD). My first impression of the gua-gua was skewed because it turned out to be a modern large air-conditioned van with plenty of leg room. The ride itself was extremely slow (about 15 mph) as the driver was attempting to pick up more passengers. However, the scenery along the way can only be described as majestic as crystal blue beaches gave way to mangrove forests. I finally reached Samana and the ride ended at the gua-gua parking lot which was a mix of broken down camionetas and street vendors selling everything from bath sponges to packs of gum. My original plan was to walk back to the Caribe Tours bus station but before I could get there I saw a more worn-down bus station that advertised cheap buses from Samana to Santo Domingo. Figuring that they could at least point me in the right direction, I went and asked the lady in the main office. It turns out that this was the bus station that had the one bus that would get me to Cabarete on the way to Puerto Plata. The bus itself was a big blue bus that left daily at 2pm with the trip taking 3 hours. Having that information immediately put my mind at ease and I went to explore Samana. To it’s credit, Samana was a clean city with modern buildings that had everything Las Galeras was missing. There were plenty of restaurants and there was also a nice boardwalk along the pier with plenty of benches and scenic outlooks. After about an hour of walking around, I decided it was time to head back to Las Galeras. Rather than making the walk back to the original drop off point, I figured that I would wait along the main road for a gua-gua to pass and hop on. That turned out to be a bad plan, as only two vans passed in an hour of waiting and both happened to be filled. It was only after it began to rain that I bit the bullet and paid $20 DPO (.40 cents) to have a moto take me to the gua-gua stop. Unfortunately, the ride back provided me a more “authentic” gua-gua experience as I was crammed in the back of a cattle car with 6 other people and several bags and boxes. Nevertheless, I made it back to Las Galeras having accomplished my mission.
Knowing that I needed to pace myself, yesterday I didn’t really plan to do much. Even if I wanted to go to the beach, there were scattered thunderstorms throughout the day that would dampen the experience. I woke up and was did several Spanish exercises on my computer. I also decided to try the breakfast that the hostel served for $250 DPO ($5 USD). It turned out to be a good decision because it was a 5-course meal that included fruit, cheese, fried eggs, toast, yogurt, crepes, and passion fruit juice. After eating all of that, I had no choice but to retire to my bungalow and take a siesta. Later that day, I went to visit the only cajero automatico in Las Galeras. Expecting to be able to withdraw 10,000 DPO ($200 USD), I was disappointed to find that the daily withdraw limit was $2000 DPO ($40 USD). Given that it cost around $8 in fees to get money internationally, it meant that I would have to make another trip to the ATM before I got to Cabarete. After eating at the local comedor for the third night in a row, I had another issue upon my return to the hotel. After being in Las Galeras for three days, I accepted the fact that a trip from the center of town to the hotel would cost me $50 DPO ($1 USD) via a moto. I had gotten complacent and stopped asking the drivers for the price before hopping on. After leaving the comedor, I assumed that anyone that was cruising along the streets of the central area was a moto driver. I ended up flagging down the first one I saw and hopped on without asking for the price. After making the 2 km trip, I got off and gave him $50 DPO ($1 USD). However, he wanted $100 DPO ($2 USD) for the trip. While it would have been easy to give him another dollar, I’ve learned in these situations that if you let one person take advantage of you then it will be easier for others to follow. I told him that I would only give him the $50 DPO ($1 USD) for the ride as that was the “official” rate amongst the drivers for the trip. The owners of the hotel ended up backing me up on that. After about 10 minutes of arguing, I gave him an ultimatum. I told him to either take the $50 DPO ($1 USD) or he would get nothing, and he could call the police. It was only after I was almost back to my room that he realized I was serious and begrudgingly took the money. Another day down with another lesson learned…………