LEAVING THE BEACH TO GET A TASTE OF DOMINICAN CULTURE
Spring semester of college let out and we took off on our honeymoon to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. It was two long months after our beautiful wedding. It was a tiny bit hard to wait but I had to finish my semester.
The Dominican Republic has amazing beaches. They have white sandy beaches and beautiful blue water. I absolutely love the beach, I can do that for days at a time but that isn’t the only thing I do on vacation. I want to see the real country we’re in. Learn the history, of course, take thousands of pictures and meet locals. We won’t get this just hanging at the tourist places.
We tried the tours through our hotel, after disappointing experiences we decided to venture on our own. When we travel, I go prepared with a list of must-see places. My number one place on my list for the Dominican Republic was Santo Domingo. Well lucky me, it was only 4 hours away. Of course, I am being sarcastic. We didn’t know what to expect at all when we went to the Dominican Republic. I assumed people would be friendlier and it would be easy to move around. Yeah, I was very wrong and Punta Cana is far away from any attractions. Either you go to the beach, Punta Cana or you decide to see culture and history and you stay in Santo Domingo. I know this now for next time and now you do too.
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN
It was three days before we had to go back home, I looked at my husband and told him we were going to save the money that they were charging us for yet another tour (that we did not trust anymore) and go to Santo Domingo on our own. I got on my laptop, did a little research and found out that there was an express bus (like the greyhound) that took us straight to Santo Domingo. Twenty dollars took both of us there with no stops in a comfortable air-conditioned bus. If you want to go cheaper there’s the bus the locals use to get around but it takes a long time since it makes many stops. I just was not that adventurous and we were out of time.
The next morning, we woke up super early, made our exit out of our huge resort and waited for a taxi to take us to the central location for the bus. None came, yet one of their popular moped “taxis” came by, charging the same as the taxi would $5. I was doubtful but I also didn’t want to miss our bus. Off we went the driver, me in the middle and my husband behind me. Yup all three of us on that tiny bike! It must have been a sight and I wish we had a picture. We had to experience it. This is how the locals get around, with small babies and more than just three people on it.
People were already at the bus station and we must look like tourists because they kept staring at us. The guy that dropped us off on the bike came back and told us to please be careful, that Santo Domingo was not as safe as we thought. I thanked him for the warning and promised we would be careful. I started to get worried because of the warning. We only carried a small backpack for my camera and some water. We wore very casual clothing and comfortable shoes. We met a Swedish man waiting there too. Yet he looked more confident about the trip because this was not his first trip to the Dominican Republic. We kind of attached ourselves to him and asked him questions, since he seemed to know where he was going. This eased our minds. He told us it was simple, the bus would drop us off at a central location, which was the same place we would come back for the return trip. He made me feel so much better.
SANTO DOMINGO, AT LAST!
Four hours later we made it to Santo Domingo and it wasn’t what I expected, at all. Very dirty and overcrowded, at least the entrance of it. Some people got off, it’s not our stop though and some vendors hop on the bus. We were sitting closer to the middle of the bus, yet one of the vendors comes directly to us, looks straight at my husband and tells him that he can take us to the Colonial Zone for a good price (which is where we were going). Yet how did he know?! The Swedish man who was sitting in the next seat looked more like a tourist than us and no one approached him. We looked around and figured it out, all the other men in the bus were locals and had curly hair. My husband, although has a Latin look, has straight hair. Still baffled as to why the Swedish man didnt get approached.
Tip: wear a hat
We arrived at the bus station in the middle of the city, we decided to go into their office and purchased our return tickets ahead of time. No lines and we had our ticket so we knew what time we had to be back. There are only a number of departing times, so we picked the last one which was 4 pm. We had a couple of hours and felt confident that we could see all the attractions and make it back.
Tip: Buy return tickets ahead to avoid the lines later
There were plenty of taxis there waiting for business. So we took one, $10 to the Colonial Zone. (That is what they all charge no matter the distance). We get dropped off and realize that walking in the Colonial Zone was easy. All the attractions are close by and there are signs pointing them out to you. The best way to explain it is that it reminds me of New Orléans, the French Quarter. It is very cute streets, boutique hotels and a lot of history all in walking distance.
We had a map and we had already marked all the places we wanted to see. This made it so much easier to get around. You will have to make a few stops for some drinks since it is so hot and there are many souvenir shops. I asked prices to compare when we got to the Mercado. Everyone on reviews made it sound like it was somewhere we HAD to go, I don’t understand why. Every shop had the same thing, no exaggeration. Finally, I got tired of being bombarded with people asking me to come into their shop that I asked one lady for the item I wanted which was a cross, she took me to the only vendor that had something different. This is where we spend all our money, different pays off people!
Tip: You can skip this, it’s not worth the walk or taxi ride there.
We visited every place on our must see in Santo Domingo with time to spare. So we stopped at one of the boutique bars in the main plaza. Just enjoyed people watching and realizing that we did everything we wanted to do in a few hours.
Overall it was the best part of the trip besides our time on the gorgeous beach. Are we ready to go back? Not any time some soon. But if we did I would pick one or the other, beach or sightseeing.
LET’S BE FRIENDS