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  • Writer's pictureCindy Van Dyck

FAQ: Is it safe to drive in the Dominican Republic?


How safe is it to drive in the Dominican Republic?
Picture Credits: Cindy Van Dyck

When you book an all-inclusive hotel, your transportation to and from the airport is most likely included for you. But have you planned your trip on your own and want the freedom to drive anywhere? Then you've probably already considered renting a car and driving yourself. But how safe is it actually to drive in the Dominican Republic? And what do you need to know before renting a car and getting into the car yourself? Today we give you the most important tips and information.


If you love action and adventure, you will love driving here.

Renting a car

First things first: you obviously can't go driving without renting a car. And this is where websites like Booking.com* come in handy. In addition to booking a car along with your stay through Booking.com*, we personally recommend renting from EuropCar*. Before we invested in a car ourselves, EuropCar* was always our number one dealer. They have excellent insurance, good quality cars and are very helpful.

But what do you pay attention to when renting a car?


First of all, the type of car. The roads in the Dominican Republic are sometimes tremendously rough. Mainly in inner suburbs you can encounter one pit after another and "lying police" (politica acostada they call it here), you find everywhere. These are actually speed humps. Only they are not always marked or low. They can surprise you!


So a low car is not recommended, even for driving through the lush countryside. Opt for some kind of Jeep like a Hyundai Venue, Tucson or Cantus A KIA Sorento is just as good.


Beware: a low car can cause damage at the bottom or front of the car due to pits and deep sewers. We don't recommend a jeep-like car for nothing. We speak from experience! Also, when a tropical squall passes by, you are safer in a high car.


In addition to the type of car, it is always best to pay attention to the insurance you choose. You can often choose a full option, take it as well. People drive enormously carelessly in the Dominican Republic. And even if you're super careful, it happens quickly that a moped hits your mirror, a shopping cart hits your car and then you have to pay for that damage. Or think of a stone falling on your windshield from a van. Yep, been there done that! Take that insurance so you can fully enjoy your vacation.


Tolls Costs

Once you pick up your car you can hit the track. With Waze you can really get anywhere in the Dominican Republic. Of course, you need to have internet for this. At Claro and Altice you can go directly to the airport with your passport to get a sim card. And at Claro (our favorite) you pay RD$145 (about 2.30€) for 5 days of internet (5GB).


On the main runways it is quite easy, these are also often well laid out and provide a straight route to any major city. On these lanes you also pay tolls and depending on where you go this is between RD$60 and RD$1000. Since you can only pay these tolls in cash, it is recommended that you always have plenty of cash in your pocket. A budget of RD$10,000 (about 150€) is more than enough for a week of sightseeing).


Samana from Santo Domingo, for example, is close to RD$1,000. From the capital to Punta Cana, in turn, you pay RD$320.


Do you travel often and don't like queuing at the toll booths? Then you can also purchase a "Paso Rapido" at a Shell, Total Energies or Next gas station. This card costs RD$ 500 once and afterwards you can recharge it digitally (also at the gas station). For the "Paso Rapido" they have special counters where you can drive straight through with your car and often there are no long traffic jams. After all, the majority of the population here always pays with cash. And that way you also don't have to worry about change....


Every month we charge it, for example, with RD$ 1500 for driving mostly to Punta Cana and back to Santo Domingo.


Beware: This pass doesn't work in the northern part of the island. If you travel to Samana, Cabarete, Santiago or Puerto Plata, you will still have to pay in cash! If you only travel around Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, the Paso Rapido is very useful.


Ps: This Paso Rapido is not "obligated" to stick to your window. They will tell you to do this, however when you rent a car, this is not convenient at all. Neither with your own car. Because when the window breaks, it means you need a new card (sticker). Just keep it at the front of the window so the scan can recognize it easily. And if you travel often to the Dominican Republic, you can just keep it with you and your passport. And trust us: this works perfectly.


Gas Costs

In the Dominican Republic, you will find a huge number of gas stations. On highways, inner suburbs, major lanes in major cities,... in every neighborhood you can pretty much go and fill up. Well-known brands are Texaco, Shell, Total Energies and Next.


As in other countries, you can choose between Diesel, Regular and Premium gasoline. And the price is calculated per gallon.


When you arrive at a gas station, a gas station attendant will fill your car with gasoline. With this, make sure that your screen is always at 0 when you start and that you never hand over your card to prevent fraud (scanning your card).


Since they provide the service of refueling for you, a small pocket money/tip is always appreciated. We often hand over our leftover coins. Every little bit makes a big difference to them!


Want to fill up safely? As previously recommended, choose a REVOLUT* bank card. This way you can protect your card from scanning and track everything directly on your app. Read more about REVOLUT* and the safe use of your money/bank cards in the Dominican Republic here.


How safe is it to drive in the Dominican Republic?
Picture Credits: Cindy Van Dyck

Tips for driving in the Dominican Republic

Meanwhile, we have been driving the roads in the Dominican Republic for more than three years and we are lucky that nothing bad has ever happened to us. Even if you are enormously careful, reckless driving is not uncommon here. You have cars without lights, people crossing the lane at random, barely any street lights and motorcycles squeezing in between everything.


Now if you can drive in Paris, Brussels or other big cities, you can too. And our very first and most important tip: go with the flow. Never try to go against traffic and follow the madness, as crazy as that may sound. But if you let the traffic take you along, things will go much more smoothly and you will avoid accidents.


Extra tips:

- Because some cars do not have (good) lights and drivers like to crawl between other cars, it is recommended to keep enough distance between the car in front of you. Better a little too much distance than an accident!


- Never drive behind a truck with cargo. They often do not have a protective net for the cargo they are carrying. This can cause a stone to fall out and this will cause a huge crack in your window (been there done that).


- When parking, always fold in your windshield wipers and never park your car in an unsafe spot. It is better to pay a few euros extra in a secure parking garage, than to come back with a car full of scratches or stolen mirrors. Because yes, cars in neighborhoods know this problem unfortunately.


A parking garage costs about RD$50 or RD$75 (between a euro or a euro and a half) per hour. So much cheaper than replacing a mirror. And you find these everywhere: in front of the supermarket, at shopping centers and so on.


Do you park on the street? Often there are parking "boys" from the neighborhood who watch your car. Give them a small tip (RD$100) and they will take care of your car.


- Is there any damage to your rented car? If so, contact the rental company itself first. Often they have a workshop or the damage is insured. If you still want to have it fixed yourself: be sure to go to a licensed auto garage. There are a huge number of small car shops but they often do not work with original parts.


Finally, there are three different instances that could possibly stop you on the job and are important to (recognize).


1. MOPC: They drive around in white trucks often with orange traffic poles in the back. They are the ones who will help you in case of breakdown. They always drive up and down major roads and help when a car breaks down.


2. National Highway Police DIGESETT: They wear a green uniform with safety vest and a logo on the back showing a "road." And are the ONLY ones who can and may issue you a fine. You can often recognize them by their motorcycles parked on the side of the road. Or by the red light in town.


3. National Police recognizable by their gray uniform: they are often out with DIGESETT or with MOPC. They are there more to maintain security and perform general checks. You often see such employees also on a motorcycle, but often they are not on duty! On duty, they also ride in white trucks with the logo of "Politica Nacional." And they sometimes dare to stop you for a so-called check. However, here they are just trying to receive a tip. Always stay friendly at these times. These people from the government agencies are grossly underpaid and just want a little extra for their families.

Often a few pesos are enough to satisfy them, because you really don't want it to come to an escalated situation.


4. In some neighborhoods you also have military personnel doing patrols. For example, when you are parked somewhere for a long time they may come and hear "why" you are there. Don't be put off and just kindly explain why you are on the job (especially in the evening/night). They are just maintaining security here.


Note: Never get out of your car or let them do a control check without you being with your car. Stories of police placing drugs in your car (and stopping you at the next check) or taking something from your car are not unknown.


We personally have never experienced this in all these years, but corruption exists all over the world and we would rather warn you with the necessary tips than hear new stories afterwards. Always follow your gut feeling! If something isn't right, do NOT put your window down, you also don't stop for strangers and in case of an emergency call 911.


 

Driving in the Dominican Republic is no more or less dangerous than in any major city. And reckless drivers exist everywhere. So make sure above all that you are careful, do not make crazy maneuvers and do not just stop or get out of the car for every unknown person. If you focus on your safety, everything will go well! Enjoy your roadtrip and the beautiful nature you will come across while driving here.



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