Earth > Americas > Caribbean > Dominican Republic
|Currency:||Dominican Peso (DOP)|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='do' />|
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The Dominican Republic is the eastern part of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
Hitchhiking in the Dominican Republic is - like in many countries in the Caribbean - farely common.
In the early morning and after work in the evening, you can see a lot of locals waiting for a lift on the side of the road. They gather at bus stations or just wait at the road until they are picked up. Sometimes they hold out their hand or stick out their thumb, but usually they are just standing there as people know what they are waiting for anyway.
Hitchhiking in DR means "una bola"
The most important word to know for you to make people understand your intention is "una bola", pronounced like "una vola" which means a ride in Dominican Spanish and also a ball.
If you don't say "una bola", many people will just try to find a public or private bus or taxi for you or try to bring you with a motoconcho in exchange for money.
How to hitchhike in DR
1. Stand by the side of the road.
2. Lift up your arm if a car or moto arrives.
3. If the driver stops, say "una bola" to him and your destination.
4. If it's a motorcycle, only get on from the left side. On the right side, there is a hot exhaust pipe. Be careful. If you touch the exhaust pipe with your leg, you will get a Dominican tattoo, a lasting burn injury.
Alternative: Cheap and crowded "guaguas"
The public transportation system in the country is called guaguas. Guaguas are either pick-up trucks where you sit outside on a wood construction or round and white vans with an open door and 4 people sitting on 3 seats in 4 rows. Occasionally, chickens, bags of rice, clothes and crying children also find their place into the guagua.
In every city there are several guaguas leaving every day and connecting to all possible destinations. The guaguas are really cheap. They cost between 50 and 150 Pesos for one ride.
Why hitchhiking is part of the Dominican culture already
As there are no bus schedules, the majority of people also hitchhike as long as the next bus to their destination might come by. An unknown driver of a car or motorcycle may stop, if a bus can't because it is already full.
Everyone in the Dominican Republic hitchhiked once. Many people don't own cars or motorcycles and hitchhike to work every morning.
Many people with empty space in the car will pick up hitchhikers. As a white person you get lifts very fast, locals can wait longer, but the atmosphere is nice. Hitchhiking is a normal thing to do in the country.
How to find the perfect hitchhiking spot
1. Walk along the road until you find shadow.
2. Look out for a bus station. Bus stations are commonly used hitching spots and waiting spots for people who try to move to a different place in DR. Bus stations are directly at the side of the road and often in the shadow of some palm trees or buildings. There are these kind of perfect spots all over the country. The buses who are passing by and shouting out their destination, tell you if you stand at the right road. And if you are unlucky hitchhiking, you can still take the next bus or public guagua.
In the middle of the day, its possible to wait longer, as less people are driving long distance when it's really hot, and as it's also not too comfortable waiting in the sun (at least in the hot season), morning or evening hitches are recommendable.
People will tell you it's very dangerous, but the fact is the Dominican Republic is a comparable safe country of Latin America. Keep a low profile and don't show off expensive smartphones, watches, sunglasses or clothes.
Check out a hitchhiker's personal experience [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhcXDTZ2iJA&index=1&list=PLKvXdnK3gVW0p4OmRNlCnh2v14Xv4vIO_
here on YouTube.]
Dominicans are very friendly and hospitable people and they'll probably invite you by times.
There are a lot of private beaches and areas you can't enter next to the sea, so it's hard to find a nice spot to sleep and camp there, but possible. There are good places to find in the countryside. Usually, there are no problems with the police.
It seems hostels and guest houses are relatively expensive, in Punta Cana a girl recommended me a cheap hostel and it was 20 USD per night.
Couchsurfing works super well, also last-minute, you don't have to send too many requests (more than 5), as kind of everybody will invite you who sees the message in time. Dominicans are easy-going and they usually don't mind that you don't know your exact arrival time or date. You'll be welcome.
There are a lot of empty houses and apartments. "Se alquila" means for rent and "se vende" means for sale. At some places, also along the coast, it's possible to just use them as a shelter for a few days. There is mostly a broken window to find somewhere around the house. Some of them though are already used by Dominicans as a sleeping place. A wooden plate behind an empty window frame is an indicator for an entrance.
In local restaurants, ask for "plato del dia", which means plate of the day. You will be provided a typical dominican meal for a cheap price of no more than 150 or 200 Pesos. It's usually rice with beans and meat, and a lot. If you're on a tight budget or not too hungry, ask for a smaller portion, which is still a lot, and it's only 100 Pesos. If you just want to get 100 Pesos of rice at a restaurant or a public market for example, you can just ask "Hola, dame cien pesos de arroz, por favor."
If you smell the taste of food somewhere in smaller towns or the countryside, people eating together in the garden, you're lucky, as you can easily join (just ask for the way, etc.) without being supposed to pay, that's part of the culture and a reason why I wanted to visit this country. Although, it won't happen too often.
If you arrive at a place in the noon around 12 - be it with your lift in a town, with a person you met at a house, or at a friend's place - people will always invite you for lunch without asking.
Boats out of here
There are car ferries three times per week leaving from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. Once in Puerto Rice there are from the state subventioned ferries to Culebra and Vieques, also there are connections to the american virgin islands St. Thomas and St. John. Departure Santo Domingo Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m., arrival in Mayaguez (Puerto Rico) 8 a.m. the next day. Departure Mayaguez (Puerto Rico) Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8.p.m., arrival Santo Domingo 8 a.m. the next day. (www.ferriesdelcaribe.com, (809) 688 4400 for Dom. Rep.)
It's very expensive. 163 USD one-way, 391 USD roundtrip, 172-202 one-way with car. It's worth a try to see if it's hitchable.
It´s possible to hitchhike sailing boats to get around the Carribean. Two good ports for that are in La Romana and Boca Chica. From May till November nobody´s sailing cause of the winds. You can find the first boat out beginning of November. Recommendable is Boca Chica as it's the bigger port, but if you don´t find any there, La Romana is very close.
The right port in La Romana is, if you go from the Jumbo Supermarket (kind of a cultural centre for this city..) across the river. If you stand on the end of the bridge, you can see the sailing ships already under and left of you, now you just have to find the way down there (it´s a bit longer than it seems).
Ask for "el puerto/la marina de veleros (=sailing boats)".