Travel to Punta Cana
May 17, 2007 10:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I become a culturally courteous traveler in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic?

My wife and I are spending two weeks in Punta Cana. In the past when I traveled to other countries I always tried to learn basic phrases in the native language and cultural do's/don’ts. This time I am having a hard time finding cultural examples and I am hoping the power of the Green can come through for me.

Basically I am trying to make sure I remain culturally sensitive while I am there. For example in Thailand you don't want to show the bottoms of your feet or put your feet up on a table because it is considered very rude.

Does anyone have similar examples for the Dominican Republic? I am looking for good things as well as things I should avoid doing.

Plus, if you have any general comments on how to "behave" while we are there please feel free to post them.

posted by birdlips to Travel & Transportation around Dominican Republic (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been to the DR yet but my go to place for these types of things is the Lonely Planet guide.
posted by birdherder at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2007

The D.R. is very Americanized, culturally, and Dominicans are very laid back people. I doubt you will run into any trouble.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2007

Punta Cana is also pretty Americanized beacuse its really based around the resorts there, and very isolated from the rest of the country. If you get a chance to get to other parts of Hispaniola, take them - the rest of the country is amazing and most people never leave the resorts.

I found the Lonely Planet guide to be lacking (and horribly misinformed in some cases) - the Rough Guide to DR was much much better.

In terms of behavior - nothing really different, especially if you're familiar with Latin American culture (in the US for example)

Caribbean Spanish is also somewhat different (in terms of slang and is much faster) than the standard classroom Spanish you learn, so just be aware of that too.
posted by jare2003 at 11:15 AM on May 17, 2007

Best answer: I was in Punta Cana in March. I speak Spanish fluently, so I didn't have any problem engaging the local employees in conversation. But it was amazing how happy they were when a tourist would thank them in Spanish or greet them with "Hola." They really appreciate your taking the time to speak a little bit of their language.

Apart from that, it really depends on whether you'll be at a resort. My experience with Punta Cana is that that's all there was - resorts. If that's where you're staying, honestly the best thing you can do is bring lots of single bills (American dollars preferably) and tip well. The local employees are not paid well, and it was amazing how far a couple dollars (pretty meaningless to us) went in making the employees happy.

Our experience there was wonderful. The people were really friendly and always happy to chat about their culture and country. If you want any specifics about activities, weather, etc. in Punta Cana, let me know!
posted by elquien at 12:03 PM on May 17, 2007

Oh, and a great resource for all things Caribbean is Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews. There's all sorts of information about specific resorts.
posted by elquien at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2007

Response by poster: elquien: Thanks for the heads up on tips. I was not quite sure what would be enough of a tip. We are staying at the Bavaro Princess for the duration of the trip. My wife and I are fairly adventurous and would love a couple ideas on must see attractions or anything else you found to be a great experience while you were there.

Thank you for taking the time to help!
posted by birdlips at 12:55 PM on May 17, 2007


if you're going outside Punta Cana to other parts of the country, let me know. I spent two weeks in DR, but all over the place (was there visiting my then-gf's family and seeing parts of the DR)
posted by jare2003 at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2007

Response by poster: jare2003: we will probably do some domestic travel for sure. We really want to visit Santo Domingo. Because we are there for two weeks we have the flexibility to do a little more travel. Any must see advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!!
posted by birdlips at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2007

As far as activities, we were only there for 7 days, so we did a whole lot of sitting on the beach. We did do the PADI scuba diving course, which was fun. If you're not certified, there is an all-day certification course (kinda boring because you're in a classroom part of the day), and they take you out for a dive that day. They also give you a free local dive to use in the future (can be later on your trip). If you're there for long enough, you could probably get your open water certification, which is transferable and can be used anywhere in the world.

Otherwise, there should be people at your resort offering activities. We heard good things about the ATVs in the jungle excursion, and not so good things about the dolphin island. You have so much time, you might as well spend some of it in Santo Domingo and other parts of the country.

RE: tips...we brought about $125 in singles and spent it all, so use that as a guide. Again, while $2 is nothing to us, it makes a huge difference to the workers down there. If your resort is all-inclusive, a $5 tip at the bar at the beginning of the night (or day, if you're so inclined) will get you great service for the rest of the night.
posted by elquien at 2:31 PM on May 17, 2007

We've been to Cabarete (close to Puerto Plata) DR 3 times... we like it alot there - great windsurfing!

We were initially struck a bit by how these people get by on relatively little (by our standards), but we found them to be courteous, helpful, and generally fun-loving. even the many vendors on the beach were polite; you simply greet them, give them 30 seconds for their pitch, and smile and say no, gracias. By the 3rd day they'll know you aren't a buyer and won't pester you. Do buy fruit from the fruitlady, though, it's worth it. I've seldom had fresher fruit.

DR is a hispanic, Roman-Catholic country. Be courteous and respectful yourself. Don't wander around the town in a bathing suit or bare-chested; that's for beach only.

In general, just don't be a loud, ignorant self-indulgent tourist. Don't talk down to them. A friendly smile, Hola, Gracias, and whatever else you can crib from a Spanish phrasebook will serve you fine.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:52 PM on May 17, 2007

Well, if you do get away for a bit - I frankly found Samana to be one of the most beautiful parts of the country - incredible beaches, not a lot of tourists, waterfalls, etc. You can take a look here, rather than having me rehash the stuff in the article. Playa Rincon (accessible only by a very rough road or by boat from the nearby town) is quite possibly one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to and pretty empty of people as well.

Santo Domingo is worth going to as well - simply for the museums and historical sights.

There's a lot else to see in the country, but I'm not sure if you plan to spend most of the time on the resort, or in the region where you are (which is far from the rest of the DR, and not super-well linked by road either)
posted by jare2003 at 4:58 PM on May 17, 2007

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