Travel to the Dominican Republic
The frequently asked questions below will cover many of the questions you might have about the Dominican Republic.
A Brief History
The island of Hispaniola was explored and claimed by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. It became a springboard for Spanish conquest of the Caribbean and the mainland of America. Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island in 1697, and it became Haiti in 1803. The eastern two-thirds of the island, by then known as Santo Domingo, sought independence in 1821. However, it was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years. In 1844, it attained independence as the Dominican Republic (D.R.).
The Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire in 1861. Two years later they launched a war and restored their independence in 1865.
Decades of unsettled, mostly non-representative rule followed, capped by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who ruled from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Juan Bosch was elected president in 1962, but was deposed in a military coup the following year. In 1965, the U.S. led an intervention during a civil war sparked by an uprising to restore Bosch. Joaquín Balaguer defeated Bosch in a 1966 election. For the next 30 years, he maintained a tight grip on power. International reaction to flawed elections forced him to end his term in 1996. Since then, there have been regular competitive elections in which opposition candidates have become president.
There are approximately 9.8 million people living in the D.R. The country suffers from marked income inequality where the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of the GDP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40%. High unemployment and underemployment remains an important long-term challenge. It is reported that there are over 1 million illegal Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola and is bordered by Haiti on the west. It is about twice the size of New Hampshire and has over 800 miles of coastline. There are rugged mountains and extremely fertile valleys. The Children of Christ Orphanage is located in the south eastern portion of the country in the town of La Romana.
Currency, Credit Cards, ATM’s
The Dominican Peso is the official currency of the Dominican Republic. The exchange rate fluctuates but is generally pegged to the U.S. dollar. In 2013 the exchange rate was about 40 pesos to one US dollar. U.S. dollars are easily accepted for most transactions, as are traveler’s checks.
Credit Cards are widely accepted, including at grocery stores. Before you leave for your trip, your credit card company can tell you the rate of exchange and you can compare it to using dollars or traveler’s checks.
Several airlines service the Dominican Republic from around the world. The closest airport is La Romana, which is 15 minutes from the Orphanage. It is serviced primarily by American Airlines out of Miami, but Jet Blue also services the La Romana airport from New York a couple of days per week. Santo Domingo Airport is a one hour drive to the Orphanage and the Punta Cana Airport is 45 minutes. Several airlines have direct service to these airports from major metropolitan airports around the world.
Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. The children at the Orphanage are taught English and also use Rosetta Stone in the computer lab. However, not all have mastered the language. Most of the staff speak English.
The weather in Dominican Republic remains tropical year round, with only slight variations in the months. The average annual temperature is around 85° F (25° C.)
November to April is considered pleasant, warm weather, relatively low humidity and low precipitation.
May to October the average temperature rises to 87° F (31° C) during the daytime and drops to about 72° F (22° C) at night. It does rain a bit more often during this season, especially from May to August, but usually this turns out to be no more than a 30-minute tropical shower.
Your mobile phone may work in the Dominican Republic. Check with your carrier before departure if you need it activated for your trip.
Requirements for U.S. Citizens to Enter the Dominican Republic
A valid U.S. Passport is required to enter the Dominican Republic. A visa is not required, but a tourist card must be purchased for US$10 upon arrival. Tourist cards may be purchased on line to avoid a line at the airport.
Electric service is provided at 110 volts (same as US.)
It is recommended that you don’t drink the water. All the hotels and restaurant, as well as the Orphanage, have bottled water.
Santo Domingo is about a 1-½ hour drive from Casa de Campo. You may want to take the trip for a look back into history, shopping or restaurants. Santo Domingo is the oldest European-settled city in the New World with the first cathedral, the first hospital. No other city in the Caribbean has a greater variety of restaurants and nightlife. There are so many restaurants in this city that it is practically impossible even for those who live here to have visited them all.