Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Stein Travel
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Santo Domingo

If any city in the world could be declared the perfect holiday destination, then Santo Domingo would probably be a prime candidate, with its modern sophistication, old world charm and Latin charisma, not to mention its position on the tropical southern Caribbean coast of the Dominican Republic. The only blight on the landscape is the crime rate: robbery, muggings and petty theft are common, so guard your belongings with care.

Santo Domingo is used to being first: it was the first European settlement in the New World; it boasts the western hemisphere's first cathedral, first monastery, first hospital, first university and first law court. This rich colonial heritage, sparked off in the 15th Century by legendary Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, has been turned into a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of the city. Known as the 'Colonial City' it is now a delightful area of cobblestone streets and 16th-century buildings, interspersed with cafes, bars, small hotels and restaurants.

Visitors don't need to stray from the Colonial City to enjoy a great time in the city, but it is advisable not to ignore the modern part of Santo Domingo. The superb shopping, delicious dining, dazzling casinos, seductive parks and vibrant nightlife all beckon enticingly, from the monumental Columbus Lighthouse right down to the depths of the Guácara Taina nightclub, with its multi-level dance floors housed inside a real cave. And an opportunity to visit to the Estadio Quisqueya, to watch a game of the Dominican Republic's adored national sport, baseball, shouldn't be passed up on by any visitor to the city between the months of October and February.

Information & Facts

Climate

Santo Domingo enjoys a typically tropical climate, the heat tempered somewhat by sea breezes. The average annual temperature is 77°F (25°C). The rainy season is between May and November, but consists of heavy showers of short duration after which the sun shines brightly once again.

Getting Around

There are several ways to get around in Santo Domingo. The city is serviced by large buses, as well as minibuses, which are cheaper than taxis but can be very crowded. Taxis are plentiful and radio-taxis usually respond quickly, with helpful and accommodating drivers who are used to dealing with tourists. Fares must be negotiated before leaving. Another option is a publico, or multi-passenger taxi; fares depend on length of trip. Santo Domingo is relatively easy to negotiate, though roads can be in poor condition, and car rental agencies are available. These usually require a valid drivers licence and credit card, with a minimum age of 21.

Language

Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken in the main tourist centres.

Money

The currency is the Dominican Republic Peso (DOP), divided into 100 centavos. Many of the hotels and restaurants in the main tourist destinations display their prices in US dollars as well as in Dominican Pesos, as US dollars are widely accepted and some places will also accept Euros. The peso cannot be exchanged outside of the Dominican Republic. Major currencies can be converted into pesos at Central Bank approved bureaux; only 30% of the pesos bought can be re-converted and this only if the original receipts are produced, so it is best not to buy more pesos than you are likely to need. Major credit cards are accepted everywhere, but a commission is usually charged and it is recommended that you only use your credit card at your hotel as fraud incidents have been reported. The best exchange rates are paid on US travellers cheques and secondly on US dollars cash and are best exchanged at exchange bureaux ( casas de cambio). Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm; some banks also open on Saturday. ATMs are widespread.

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