Friday, April 8, 2011

Dominican Republic Trip Review

As promised, here is my review of the trip I took to the Dominican Republic in July of 2010. Expectations were, honestly, pretty low after reading some TripAdvisor comments. However, I was willing to give it a guarded chance.

I went for a work trip (a conference at which I was speaking) for four days. I flew into Santo Domingo (Las Americas Int'l. Airport) via Miami, then got shuttled to the town of Boca Chica (about a 20-minute drive). I stayed at the Oasis Hamaca Hotel, which is an all-inclusive resort.

Aerial view of Oasis Hamaca Hotel
The Room: It was huge. I don't know if they gave me a double bed room because they were out of single rooms or if I just paid the single rate for a double bed room. Whatever the case, it was very spacious. The room in the photo below is a pretty good representation of the room I stayed in. There is a bathroom and separate sink area near the door. Oh, and you have to use a card for the power to kick on.

A room similar to the one I stayed in
 Food: The food was pretty good at the buffet, which was semi-outdoors (it was under a pavilion). They had a few exciting items, like cassava and paella, so I tried those (when the paella line wasn't a mile long), but I mostly stuck with rice, beans, and vegetables. I'm sure they had plantain, but I just haven't been able to stomach it since childhood. There were also "restaurants" with themes like Tex-Mex and Italian. I tried the Tex-Mex place. It was alright, but I don't think it was their forte. I really wanted to try the local fare restaurant, but it was packed the whole time.

Beach: The "beach" area was very small (it wasn't much of a beach). And you have to pay to use certain areas of it. I'm not much into beaches, though, so that was negligible to me. I hear, however, that the northern coast of the Dominican Republic is where to go if you want good beaches. I did make it to one of the pools, which was nice (except for the fact that someone needed to take a net to it and there were children in it).

One of the pools
Language: There really wasn't much of a language barrier. Only one time did I have to get someone to translate, and that was conference-related. I did wish I could speak better Spanish, though (I use the term "better" loosely--I have a VERY limited vocabulary and don't know much grammar in Spanish).

The Good
  • The hotel staff were overall very nice and courteous.
  • No bed bugs (at least, not in the room/bed I used).
  • The weather was pretty good.
  • The only TV channel I found in English was Fox News, which I was happy with, since I didn't bring a laptop to keep up with what was going on in the world. It was also entertaining watching some Latin-American music videos.
  • I didn't get dengue. I consider this a huge success, since mosquitoes love me. I actually only got three mosquito bites.

The Bad

  • Ed wasn't there.
  • It took FOREVER to get checked in (at least two hours), but that was most likely because of the conference attendees.
  • I had a post-trip gastro-intestinal issue, and I'm not sure what I ate that did it. For all I know, it could've been the airport food in Miami.
  • It would have been nice to go into Santo Domingo and see some sights, but I didn't really have time.
  • The customs process was a little confusing (both entering and leaving the DR).
  • I didn't take a camera.

The ???

  • I don't know exactly what all I could have been doing if I were only there for recreation. I was mostly inside at conference sessions every day.
  • I think there may have been some local/Caribbean celebrities there one night. I don't know for sure, but I was eating at the buffet and suddenly a crowd of girls started screaming and swarming around these two oddly-dressed guys who walked in. So I assumed they must be famous.
  • The guy who was coordinating shuttle rides at the airport kept jokingly asking me if I was Jennifer Lopez when I told him my name so he could make sure my ride had been pre-paid. I don't know if that's some sort of common joke or what, but it's actually not the first time. Do I look Hispanic? Or is that just the most clever thing they can think of when I say my name is Jennifer?

Cost Breakdown

Airfare round-trip from Raleigh-Durham to Santo Domingo: $525
Hotel stay for three nights (single room rate): $354 (this may have been a conference rate)
Conference registration: $280*
Transportation to/from airport/hotel: included in conference registration (don't know how much)
Postcards: $0.50 each (2/$1)
Stamps: $2.50 EACH!
Tips/Miscellaneous: ? (negligible)
Total: approx. $1200**

*If this was a non-conference trip, one would have to pay for transportation, tips, and maybe a few other odds and ends. Even though this wouldn't be a factor for a non-work-related trip, I included it to make up for any other costs not accounted for otherwise. This may even be a bit higher than necessary, since the only thing they said it covered that wasn't directly conference-related was transportation.
**I tipped a few people, but I don't remember how much. I literally only bought postcards and stamps, for non-essential items (i.e., souvenirs).

The Verdict: Overall, it wasn't bad, but I personally wouldn't spend money to go on a vacation there. In my experience, you get a better "all-inclusive"-type vacation on a cruise. However, if you want to try a new place and like this sort of scene (or maybe you don't have sea legs), the price is pretty reasonable.

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