PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – Planning a trip to Punta Cana? Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Can I drink the water?
The resorts use filtered water in the preparation of food and ice cubes. I ate and drank all beverages and fruits and vegetables during my stay, and didn’t have any stomach trouble.
Upon arrival, we were advised to brush our teeth with bottled water. Numerous bottles were left in our room every day.
During excursions to Santo Domingo and Saona Island, we were also told that all food and drinks were safe to consume. Of course, the farther off the beaten path you go, the more precautions you should take.
Do I need vaccines?
The Centers for Disease Control website recommends several vaccines for travelers to the Dominican Republic, depending on one’s itinerary. The one most relevant to Punta Cana is the vaccine for hepatitis A, a liver disease that is typically passed via contaminated food or water. (Note: The CDC recommends a hepatitis A vaccine for all travel to the Caribbean and Mexico.)
Other vaccines that might be recommended: typhoid, hepatitis B, malaria, cholera and rabies. (Check with a travel medical professional for advice.)
An embarrassing admission: It did not occur to me that I might need shots before for my trip until two days before departure. I didn’t get any, and I was fine (which doesn’t mean that you will be).
Is it safe?
Safety, of course, is a relative term. Is Cleveland safe? I think so; others might disagree.
I never felt unsafe in the Dominican Republic, though I took common-sense precautions. I didn’t carry large amounts of money around (there was no reason to). We were advised to be careful with our credit card – so we limited its use.
I didn’t wander around off-resort at night, but I did explore Santo Domingo a bit, as well as the beach town of El Cortecito, in the Punta Cana region. I felt perfectly fine during the day.
The State Department advises travelers to “exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime” (a level 2 advisory). Read more here: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/dominican-republic-travel-advisory.html
Should I exchange money?
It depends on your itinerary, but if you’re not venturing far from the tourist zones, you probably don’t need to. Local stores and restaurants all (seemed to) take U.S. dollars. The Dominican peso is the local currency, by the way; $1 U.S. equals about 50 DOP. You can exchange money at the airport if you decide you want to.
How much should I tip?
Tipping is not mandatory at most all-inclusive resorts, though it is appreciated. At the suggestion of our travel agent, we took $50 single bills and distributed them over our five-night stay (to housekeeping, bartenders, wait staff, etc.) We also tipped tour guides and drivers. Americans always seem to tip more than other cultures, here and elsewhere.
To be honest, I tipped not entirely based on excellent service (though I did receive it), but based on my knowledge of how little the staff gets paid (about $100 a week, according to one source).
Do I need an outlet converter?
Good news — the Dominican Republic uses the same two-pronged flat power outlet and the same 110 volts as we use in the U.S. Not all outlets have a third grounding prong, though, so depending on what you’re taking and where you’re staying, you may need an adapter. My hotel room at the Iberostar Punta Cana did have a three-prong outlet, which I used for my computer.
Read more: Cleveland to Punta Cana in 4 hours: New Frontier flight offers easy access to island paradise
Day trip from Punta Cana: Columbus history and more in Santo Domingo’s stunning colonial zone