Society

Dominican People

People

Racially, the population of the island (more than 7 million) is a mixture of black, white, and mestizo. The African and African-Cuban influence is deeply present in the song and dance of the island, with merengue the dominant beat, typically played by a three-person group. There are festivals throughout the year, and international merengue celebrations that attract music lovers from all over. Due to political unrest and an unstable economy 7(not to mention high unemployment) there is, sad to say, a level of violence that underscores society here; in the last few years, unruly demonstrations and strikes have marred the island’s equilibrium. Because of the hard economic conditions, great care should be taken with your valuables (from luggage to camera to purse) at all times. Crime is quite prevalent, and tourists are often conned into various compromising situations (big and small). About a quarter of the population is employed in agriculture, and the further you go from the main city, the more simple and less harried will be the people you meet. Almost all profess Christianity and 80 percent are Roman Catholics. There are small Protestant and Jewish communities.

The official language is Spanish, so do as much as you can to bone up on Spanish before you go. Officially, nearly everyone involved in tourism speaks English, but in fact many people have trouble understanding English. Waitresses in coffee shops may simply drop their jaws when you speak to them in English. In the outlying areas, it is absolutely necessary to speak Spanish. Do bring along a phrase book and keep it handy in your bag.

Population

Estimated 7,998,766 million (1998).

A multi-racial and multi-cultural society of Spanish predominance. (European 16%, African origin 11%, Mixed 73%).
Population Average annual growth rate: 1.7% (1988-1997)
Rural Population: 33.6% (1996)
Density (Population per Km2, 1997): 167.2
Life Expectancy: 66M/70F
Health: Infant mortality rate–37.2/1,000.

Major cities

Santo Domingo de Guzmán is the oldest city in the Caribbean and the second largest after Havana, Cuba, with a land area of 230 square kilometers and a population of over 2.5 million (1998).

Other major cities are Santiago de los Caballeros (500,000), La Vega (225,000), San Francisco de Macorís (175,000), San Cristóbal (160,000), San Pedro de Macorís (150,000), La Romana (140,000), Puerto Plata (130,000), and San Juan de la Maguana (130,000).

Territorial Divisions

There are 29 provinces and one National District (Santo Domingo).

The provinces are: Azua, Baoruco, Barahona, Dajabón, Duarte, Elías Piña, El Seibo, Espaillat, Hato Mayor, Independencia, La Altagracia, La Romana, La Vega, María Trinidad Sánchez, Monseñor Nouel, Monte Cristi, Monte Plata, Pedernales, Peravia, Puerto Plata, Salcedo, Samaná, Sánchez Ramírez, San Cristóbal, San Juan, San Pedro de Macorís, Santiago, Santiago Rodríguez, and Valverde.

Government

The government of the Dominican Republic is a representative democracy governed by a President and Congress formed by 30 senators and 149 House Representatives elected directly. Though both presidential and parliamentary are held for four years, they are held on different years. The 29 provinces and the capital district above mentioned, each has its own civil government. Currently, the President is Hipólito Mejía and Milagros Ortiz Bosch is the first woman to be elected Vice President in the country’s history.

Main political parties (# of seats in Senate/House of Representatives)

Partido Revolucionario Partido (PRD): 24/83.
Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD): 4/49
Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC): 2/17.

Education

There is a dual system of private and public education, with an enrollment of approximately two million children. The public education system includes grades from first through 12th grade, and is free. 90% of Dominican children enroll in grade school. Private schools include from K-12. Nursery care is rendered only by private schools. Higher education is the responsibility of both public and private universities. Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, the state university, is the first university in the New World. It dates back to 1538. Approximately 17% of the population is illiterate.

Religion

Catholicism is the official religion of the country, however, the Dominican Constitution provides for freedom of creed. Other religions actively worshiped are the Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, and Mormon.

Workforce

According to independent surveys conducted by investors, the Dominican labor force is the nation’s principal economic asset. Employers characterize workers as diligent, highly trainable, dexterous and capable of integrating new technologies. Services and government employ 35% of the work force, while agriculture employs 21%, and industry outside of the duty free zones employs 12%. Unemployment is estimated at approximately 15%.

The revised Dominican Labor Code, enacted in June 1992, is a comprehensive piece of legislation which establishes policies and procedures dealing with employer/employee relationships. The standard workweek is 44 hours. The minimum wage is RD$2,412 for companies with a capital of more than RD$500,000. Other minimum wages have been established for specific labor classifications.

Economy

The predominant economic trend is to move towards the services sector, among which the most dynamic is tourism, and light manufacturing from the industrial free zones.

The country’s Gross Domestic Product in 1997 grew 8.2%, in real terms, up from 7.3% in 1996. Dominican economy experienced the highest growth in the region during 1997, according to figures of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). It is important to note that it was the highest growth rate registered during that decade.

The following are the sectors with the best performance: communications (19.2%); construction (17.1%); hotel, bar and restaurant industry (16.7%); energy and potable water resources (10.1%); commerce (8.9%); transportation (8.1%); manufacturing (7.9%).

In current terms, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), expressed in Dominican currency as RD$212.6 billion, grew by 17.2%, which, in US dollars (US$15 billion) represents an expansion of 11.4%. The population increased by 2.3% at the time, for a per capita GDP of RD$26,620.6 and US$1,882.60 respectively. In constant terms, per capita GDP rose 5.7%. This means that the economy grew at twice the rate of the population. Inflation in 1997 was 9.9%.

Principal exports

The Fernández administration had measures implemented to reduce red tape and create favorable internal conditions for an enhanced export activity. The majority of the items exported items in 1997 include were clothing and other goods manufactured in the duty free industrial zones. Other major exports were cigars, gold, silver, ferronickel, sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, fertilizers, beer, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, flowers and tropical plants.

Principal imports

Foodstuffs, petroleum and byproducts, industrial and agricultural raw materials, capital goods, vehicles, wood and pharmaceuticals.

Tourism

Tourism is the country’s major industry. City, mountain and beach resorts and hotels offer a wide range of accommodations, featuring palm-fringed beaches, adventure sports, casinos, year-round events and a rich history and culture, amid the renowned hospitality of Dominican people, all of which make this country a prime vacation spot for tourists from all parts of the world. Tourism activity is concentrated on the coastal beach towns on the north, east, southeast, southwest and in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Ecotourism, however, is a current trend in the interior of the country, with a wide variety of excursions offering hiking, caving, biking through mountains and countryside.

Over two million tourists visited the country in 1997. 38,000 rooms are behind the country’s claim as the largest hotel plant in the Caribbean. The pace of construction of hotel properties has been sustained over the years with an estimated 10% in room inventory to be added by year’s end of 1998, or some 41,000 hotel rooms. By the turn of the century an estimated 3 million visitors had been to the country.

The Central Bank reports that the tourism industry generated US$2,103 million in 1997, up 18% from 1996, when receipts were US$1,782.4 million. The same source places average hotel occupancy at 76.2% in 1997, up 4.7 points from 1996. The total number of visitors grew 14.5% compared to 1996. According to the Central Bank, 2,539,781 visitors arrived by air in 1997, up 10.1% compared to 1996. European tourists made up 57.8% of the total arrivals, up from 54.8% in 1996. U.S. visitors market share was down from 34.7% to 32.1%. The United States, nevertheless, is the largest source of visitors with 22.9%, followed by Germany, 18.8%; England, 12.4%, Canada 8.7% and Italy 6.8%. The source markets that grew the most last year were United Kingdom, with a 78% increase, France, with 77.1% and Mexico, up 43.8%.

The 1997 Central Bank Report on the Dominican Economy further comments that “great variety of services offered by renown hotel chains and local investors, together with marketing strategies implemented by the public and private sectors, has brought about a great dynamism to the tourism sector.”

Since 34.4% of the country’s lodging (13,285 hotel rooms) is located along the North Coast which includes the destinations of Puerto Plata, Sosúa, Cabarete, Costa Verde, Cofresí, Costambar, Luperón, (among others), bt the end of 1997, the North Coast ranked first as a tourist destination..

The East Coast -comprised by Punta Cana, Bávaro, and Hig¸ey with 26.67% of the total, or 10,293 rooms is second in total number of visitors. The National District (Santo Domingo-Boca Chica) follows with 5,108 rooms, or 13.23%; and Juan Dolio/ Guayacanes, with 9.09%, or 3,510 hotel rooms. Other important tourism destinations are located in the northeastern province of Samaná, with 1,279 rooms in Las Galeras, Las Terrenas and Samaná city. Costa Verde, a newly developed area, on the north of the island, already has 1,855 rooms or 4.8% of the total inventory located in Nagua, Cabrera and Río San Juan. In the central region of Cibao, there are 1,161 hotel rooms mainly located in the provinces of La Vega and Santiago, for 3% of the total inventory. La Romana offers 1,044 rooms, or 2.70%. Other zones are Barahona in the Southwest and Monte Cristi in the Northwest, both with less than 300 rooms each.

Light Manufacturing

At the closing of 1997, there were 40 industrial free zone parks in operation, four under construction, two more scheduled to start that same year, and several others under construction in 1998. Some 446 businesses operated in free zones in the same period, providing employment for more than 182,000 people. Exports to the United States surpassed US$2.3 billion in 1997, up from US$1,917.8 billion in 1996. Free zone industries manufacture apparel, footwear, electronics, sporting goods, pharmaceuticals and furniture, among other goods. Others provide data entry and telemarketing services.

Apparel makes up 60% of the total production of Dominican industrial free zones. The Dominican Republic was the fourth largest supplier of textiles to the United States after Mexico, Hong Kong and Taiwan in 1997. Last year the country recovered from the negative effects on export volume suffered in 1996 as a result of Mexico and the United signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, which provided for duty free and quota free apparel exports. In 1996, Dominican textile exports grew only 1% because contractors of pants and other apparel moved to Mexico seeking the new tax advantages. Free zone apparel production shot up 21% in 1997 as foreign contractors brought their business back to Dominican manufacturers when the novel Mexican textile industries did not meet production standards.

Despite the negative effects resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the reluctance of the US Congress to approve a textile parity bill for the Caribbean and Central American region, free zone industries in 1997 grew because the country was perceived as a safe alternative for plant production and foreign investment, there is enhanced skilled labor force, and the textile sector strengthened due to the implementation of modular technology, total quality and timely delivery of orders. Textile exports in 1997 were up 30%, compared to 1996, the year of the impact of NAFTA on the industry. The Dominican industrial free zone sector and the Government, in 1999, endeavored to lobby in order to secure a facility to export to the United States under parity conditions with Mexico to the United States. Once the US Congress recognized the devastating effect that hurricanes Georges and Mitch had in Central America and the Caribbean, the DR supported new US congressional efforts that may lead to the enactment of a textile parity bill afterall.

Free zone exports also grew in general, up 16.6% in 1997 compared to 1996. This growth is due to the boom experienced by tobacco manufacturing.

Industrial survival and growth depend on permanent diversification of industries, which seems to be the current trend in the free zone sector, especially that of companies that are now being installed. Although 50% of the companies formerly installed were in the textile sector, now assembly operations installed include production of cigars, jewelry, luggage, services, metal mechanics and handicrafts in addition to apparel manufacturing. Furthermore, companies that already operate in Dominican free zones are expanding their operations, thus evidencing the trust of investors in the country’s investment, social and political climate. The free zone sector should grow 15% in 1998, for a total of 195,000 jobs. Exports are forecast at over US$2,500 million.

The good news is that Dominican companies outside the free zones are beginning to integrate with the free zone operations. This factor, in addition to industrial diversification, should be the basis for the continued growth of the free zone industry.

The sector contributed US$700 million to the Central Bank reserves for payment of personnel and services, up 28% compared to 1996. Economists indicate that every week some RD$110 million is paid in salaries, or RD$5,280 million a year. Free zone purchases on the local market are more than RD$400 million a year.

The Dominican Republic offers Special Free Zone Status to exporters whose production must be located outside of the existing zones. Ship-repairing, agribusiness and other firms take advantage of these special provisions.

Outside of free zones, products manufactured for export are beer and rum, canned and processed fruits and vegetables, and cocoa butter. Major non-food export items include clothing, leather purses, chemical fertilizers, furniture and dry batteries.

Agriculture

The sector has been consistently diminishing its importance within the GDP. Sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, bananas and tobacco are the most important agricultural money crops. Fertile land is being reallocated for increased production of non-traditional farming crops such as winter vegetables and fruits (avocados, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, bananas, pineapples, limes, strawberries). Other crops are rice, corn, potatoes, tubers, beans, spices, peanuts, cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts, coconuts, plantains and citrus fruits. Cattle is raised for local consumption.

Mining

The country has commercial deposits of gold, silver, ferronickel, bauxite, copper, marble, salt and gypsum. Falconbridge Dominicana is the country’s largest mining firm, exploiting ferronickel from nickel laterite deposits in the central Bonao area. The companies foresees continuing mining operations well into the year 2000. At present, Rosario Dominicana is in the final stages of contracting the company that will develop the project to extract gold and silver from sulfide ore in the Cotuí area Pueblo Viejo mine, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Proven sulfide ore reserves are estimated at more than 100 million tons, which would generate an estimated US$2 billion during the well over 30 years life span of the mine.

The country is believed to have commercial deposits of oil and the government has already granted several concessions for exploration and exploitation. Explorations are presently underway in Azua, Bonao and Salcedo, where the government has granted concessions to private companies.

Semi-precious stones such as amber and blue-colored larimar are mined to be converted into jewelry for sale primarily to visiting tourists.

Trade

When exploiting its potential with both the United States and Europe, the Dominican Republic’s excellent geographic location offers a definite comparative advantage. The principal trading partner with the U. S. under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the DR is the fifth largest trading partner of the U.S. in Latin America and the Caribbean, behind Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. In 1997, it exported US$6.9 billion and imported US$7.5 billion, according to ECLAC stats.

The DR still enjoys duty-free access to U.S. markets for about 3,000 manufactured and semi-manufactured goods under the Generalized System of Preferences which benefits developing countries. In addition, the country’s growing textile industry takes advantage of U.S. tariff schedules known as 807A and 809 that provide for reduced duties for U.S.-origin products assembled or processed outside of the United States.

Dominican exports also have duty-free entry to the 320 million affluent consumer market in the European Union (EU), the world’s largest consumer market. Under the LomÈ IV Accord, Dominican products which meet certain requirements have duty-free access to Europe. The DR has been the Caribbean nation to most efficiently use the development programs available under the LomÈ IV Convention.

Keeping with the times, the nation signed in April 1998 a free trade agreement with Central America. In August of 1998, the nation signed another similar free trade agreement with CARICOM English-speaking Caribbean nations. The DR is spearheading a strategic alliance between the Caribbean and Central America that would represent a market of 60 million consumers and the political pull of 20 votes in leading international organizations.

Money and Banking

The official monetary unit is the Dominican peso (RD) divided into 100 centavos. Minted in 1947, it maintains a floating exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and other international currencies. Around RD$15.50 = US$1. (December 1998). Exchange houses and commercial banks are authorized to trade with foreign currencies.

The banking system is governed by the country’s Central Bank, which is controlled by the Monetary Board and supervised by the Superintendency of Banks. The Central Bank regulates the country’s credit, money supply and the official foreign exchange rate. Private banking is conducted by 14 commercial banks including major international institutions such as Scotiabank and Citibank. The Stock Market of Santo Domingo is a definite option for business development.

Power Infrastructure

The failure of previous governments to invest in installed capacity of power generators in order to respond to the soaring demand has resulted in that the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad (CDE), the state-owned electrical utility does not have enough capacity to supply the country’s electricity demand. The previous Balaguer administration signed privileged contracts with private producers that added over 450 megawatts of capacity. The energy generation by these independent producers, that have suffered more than their share of installation and maintenance problems, was not enough to resolve the problem, and rather added to the problem because of the above-market and concessions made to the producers that convert the contracts into an obstacle for competitiveness of the sector, as well as a burden for Dominican productive sectors.

The Fernández government also inherited a legacy of poor maintenance of the CDE’s power plants, transmission and distribution facilities, a lack of incentives for energy conservation among Dominican consumers, and around a 50% default on payment situation on behalf of consumers. Note that the government does not pay for the light consumed and indigent consumers believe that “poor people shouldn’t pay for light consumed.”

Throughout the years, in order to overcome the situation, Dominican companies and residencies have installed back-up power with capacity in many cases to act as primary power sources. Some large firms maintain completely independent electricity supplies. The Fernández government re-submitted legislation to the Congress to reform the electricity sector, but the bill has encountered individual interests in Congress that have delayed its passing.

In the meantime, on June 10, 1997 Congress passed the Law to Reform Public Enterprises, which would permit the privatization of CDE as well as other state enterprises. Under this law, the government is in advanced stages to privatize the processes of commercialization and production of power.

The Commission of Reform of Public Enterprise (CREP) is in charge of the privatization of the CDE. Debts of more than RD$1,500 million of the CDE, accounts receivable amounting to RD$3,700 million are among some of the major obstacles to the privatization of the state electricity utility, the Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad. Meanwhile the government has chosen to install 1,400 megawatts mostly in turbogas units of less than 60 megawatts, seeking a short term solution, albeit costly, to the deficit in production.

The government is investing RD$7.4 billion in new turbogas plants as well as in the rehabilitation of the present CDE power plants. The new plants and those that will be repaired are scheduled to contribute 333.91 megawatts to the system by 1998, 303.8 megawatts in 1999 and another 364 megawatts in year 2000. Another 380 megawatts are programmed to go on line in year 2001. It is expected that the installed capacity will be enough to end the present power deficit by the end of 1998.

The Commission of Reform of Public Enterprise (CREP) continues its capitalization program with the assistance of Salomon Brothers which is assisting in the organization of a tender to choose the companies that will participate in the privatization of the CDE. On December 3, the administrative board of the Dominican Electricity Corporation (CDE) announced the immediate reorganization of the company into seven distinct operating units in order to prepare it for the upcoming capitalization. Decree 428-98 creates the following units:

Southern Electricity Distribution;
Northern Electricity Distribution;
Eastern Electricity Distribution;
Hydroelectric Generation;
Itabo Electricity Generation (includes Itabo plants I and II, gas turbines Itabo I, II and III, and Santo Domingo plants V and VIII);
Haina Generation (Haina plants II, III and V, the Haina gas turbines, and plants Puerto Plata I and II);
Electricity Transmission System. Also created was a Corporate Unit, which includes centralized services such as overall administration, auditing and legal counsel.

Communications

The Dominican Republic is probably the Latin American nation with the most advanced telecommunications system. The principal companies, Codetel, Tricom y All America Cables and Radio carry out efforts to stay at the vanguard of technological developments and continuously implement aggressive marketing programs to introduce new products and services to the Dominican market. As a result, the nation enjoys the latest in cellular mobile phones, beepers, facsimile, national paging services, telenet, email, 800 lines, prepaid calling cards, residential and commercial telephone systems, data transmission, wireless Internet, videoconferencing, electronic commerce, webTV, and other state of the art technologies. It is expected that the digital cellular telephone segment will be one of the fastest developing in telephone communication within the next years.

The larger of the companies, Codetel recently announced it will invest RD$15,000 (US$1.5 billion) in the DR in the next five years. Tricom announces that by the year’s end it will have installed a digital telephone system with an investment of RD$1,875 million (US$125 million).

The Dominican Republic has the highest telephone use rates in the world, being the eighth in minutes talked between persons in the DR and in the US. In 1996, Dominicans made 540 million minutes of long distance telephone calls to the United States.

The telecommunications sector consolidated itself in 1997 as that of the most profitability of all productive sectors of the nation, with global receipts of RD$ RD$32,500 millions (more than US$2 billion).

Roads and Highways

The Dominican Republic has a well developed road network. The government has invested heavily in the reconstruction and expansion of several of the main highways. These include the Santo Domingo-Santiago highway (South-North), the Santo Domingo-San Cristóbal highways (South-West). Under construction are new highways connecting the capital city with the East. The improvements are cutting travel times by 30 to 50%. The government also has underway major improvement programs of city and rural roads all throughout the nation. Cargo transportation is carried out in the DR primarily by truckers, who in many cases belong to syndicates that regulate prices, increasing the price of haulage.

Ports

There are seven international airports in the Dominican Republic; they are in Santo Domingo (Las AmÈricas and Herrera), Puerto Plata, La Romana, Punta Cana, Santiago, and Barahona. A new international airport in Samana is under construction.

Major maritime ports: Santo Domingo and other major cities are serviced by modern port facilities. Haina, located just outside the capital city, has a 2,600 foot long, 35 foot draft wharf, a 40 ton container crane and a 60 acre container yard. Transportation to more than a dozen U.S. ports is available on a weekly basis. There is also daily freight service to Puerto Rico. Other ports are located in the cities of La Romana, Boca Chica, San Pedro de Macorís and Puerto Plata.

Media

There are five local Spanish-language morning newspapers and three afternoon dailies. The daily newspapers are the Listín Diario, Hoy, El Siglo, El Caribe and El Nuevo Diario. The afternoon dailies are El Nacional, Ultima Hora and La Nación. Internet news and travel information service in English is available at Dominican Republic One: http://www.dr1.com

Foreign magazines and newspapers are readily available in the major cities and tourist destinations.

There are over 200 radio stations, many of which play music in English. Aside from the six television stations (five are private), cable provides access to over 50 U.S., Latin American and European channels including the major U.S. networks.

Passport/Visa Requirements

These requirements are subject to change. Check with the embassy or consulate in your home country before you depart.

Australian and New Zealand citizens: A passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of departure, a return or onward ticket, and a tourist card are required for visits of up to 60 days.

Canadian citizens: A passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of departure, a return or onward ticket, and a tourist card are required for visits of up to 60 days.

EU citizens: A passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of departure, a return or onward ticket, and a tourist card are required for visits of up to 60 or 90 days.

U.S. citizens: A passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of departure, a return or onward ticket, and a tourist card are required for visits of up to 60 days.

Others: Nationals of countries not listed above may or may not require a visa; check with the nearest Dominican Republic embassy or consulate for further details about entry requirements.

Note: Tourist cards may be purchased upon arrival or from a Dominican Republic consulate in one’s home country.

Phone Code

The international telephone access code is 809. There are no city codes, and phone numbers are seven digits long. To place an outgoing international call, dial 011 plus the appropriate country code and number. To reach directory assistance, dial 1411.

Time Zone

The country operates on Atlantic standard time year-round. Dominican Republic time is 4 hours behind Greenwich mean time, 1 hour ahead of New York and MontrÈal, 4 hours behind London, 5 hours behind Berlin and Rome, 12 hours behind Beijing, and 14 hours behind Sydney.

Business Hours
Banks are open 8 AM-4 PM Monday-Friday.
Shops are open Monday-Saturday from 8 or 8:30 AM to 6 or 6:30 PM, with a 2-hour closure at midday. Few, if any, stores are open on Sunday.

Holidays

Banks and most businesses close on New Year’s Day (1 January), Epiphany (6 January), Our Lady of Altagracia (late January), Duarte’s Birthday (26 January), Independence Day (27 February), Good Friday (March or April; date varies), Pan-American Day (14 April), Labor Day (1 May), Foundation of Sociedad la Trinitaria (16 July), Restoration Day (16 August), Our Lady of Mercedes (24 September), Columbus Day (12 October), United Nations Day (24 October), All Saints’ Day (1 November), and Christmas Day (25 December).

Weather

The Dominican Republic has a semitropical climate, tempered by the prevailing easterly winds. Temperatures of more than 23° C (74° F) are registered in the lowlands throughout the year. During the summer months, temperatures range between 27° and 35° C (81° and 92° F) in these regions. The highlands are considerably cooler. Annual precipitation averages about 153 centimeters (60 inches), but considerably more moisture is received by the mountainous areas of the north. The wet season is from June to November. Tropical hurricanes occur occasionally.

Money

The basic unit of currency is the Dominican Republic peso (P) which is divided into 100 centavos. Bills are available in denominations of P1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000, coins in 1 centavo, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos, and P1. For current international exchange rates, see the Currency Converter.

Credit cards are accepted by most hotels and restaurants, but not all businesses.

Tipping

Hotels and restaurants add a 23 percent government tax to all bills. Although this includes a 10 percent service charge, it is customary to leave about 15 to 20 pesos per day for the person who cleans the room. A service charge also is added to restaurants bills, but an extra 10 to 15 percent above the bill is appreciated by the wait staff. Taxi drivers generally receive about 10 percent as a tip. The usual tip for porters is at least 10 pesos per bag.

Customs

The following goods may be imported into the Dominican Republic duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars and 454 grams of tobacco; 2 bottles of alcohol (opened); and a reasonable amount of perfume (opened).

Prohibited items include all perishable items such as food, animal products, and plants.

Taxes

The hotel tax in the Dominican Republic is 23 percent, which is added onto the bill rather than included in the price.

Anticipate a departure tax of approximately 126 Dominican pesos when you leave the country.

Measurements

The metric system is standard throughout the country; however, some units of weight are quoted and measured in pounds.

Electricity

Current is 110 volts AC, 60 Hz; two-pin plugs are standard. Visitors from abroad who wish to operate personal small electronic items should bring a plug adapter and a transformer.

Driving

There are numerous car-rental agencies in Santo Domingo, and traffic proceeds on the right. You must be at least 25 years old to rent a car, and you’ll need a valid driver’s license from your home country or an international driving permit. For further details about traveling in the Dominican Republic, see Transportation.

Emergencies

Throughout the country the number to dial for all police, fire, and medical emergencies is 911.