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THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

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The Dominican Republic shares the island with neighboring Haiti. One side of the Dominican Republic confines of the many resort hotels along the beautiful coastline, tourists languish in luxury, sipping cocktails under the palm trees and bathing in beautiful blue lagoons. The other face of the Dominican Republic can be found along the country roads, among the sugar cane, coffee and cocoa bean fields, where people labor in the sun and men play dominoes outside tumble- down shacks. For the local people tourism is an important source of income.

The South Coast contains some of the country's bigger cities and national parks. The capital, Santo Domingo, was the first Spanish settlement in the Americas. Christopher Columbus initiated the first European New World settlement here in 1496. His legacy is preserved in the bricks and mortar of the historic old section of Santo Domingo, which has been turned into an entertaining and interesting Colonial 'theme park'.

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Language: Spanish is the official language, but English is spoken in the main tourist centers.

Currency: The currency is the 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 Pesos. The peso cannot be exchanged outside of the Dominican Republic.

Time: Local time is GMT -4.

Electricity: Electrical current is 110 volts, 60 Hz. American-style two-pin flat blade plugs are standard.

Communications: The international access code for the Dominican Republic is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 809 or 829. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom); the outgoing code is not required for calling North America.

Emergencies: 911.

Climate: The Dominican Republic is hot and tropical, with little seasonal variation in temperatures, which average about 77F (25C). October to April being the rainy season on the north coast, while May to November is the wettest month in the south of the country.  Cooler temperatures and less humidity are generally experienced between November and April. Hurricanes occur on average once every two years on the island, most striking the south of the country and most happening in August and September.

Tipping: Hotels and restaurants generally include a 10% service charge as well as tax, but additional tips should be given for good service. For other services including taxi drivers, tipping is discretionary depending on the service provided.

Getting Around: The Dominican Republic 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. Motoconchos are motorcylces that take you from place to place for a few pesos, although you are safer taking taxis or publicos.

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.

Amber Coast
The Amber Coast, named for its rich deposits of lustrous semi-precious amber found throughout the region, runs along the northern Atlantic coast from Cofresi to Nagua and boasts an assortment of seaside towns and resorts. Forests, mountains and miles of golden beach provide a playground for adventure sports seekers with activities such as mountain biking and horse riding available, as well as a host of watersports like diving, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The port city of Puerta Plata is the region's capital and the main tourism enclave. On the outskirts of Puerto Plata is the major Playa Dorada complex of low-rise hotels in a country club setting of gardens and beautiful beaches, centered on the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones designed golf course. Seaside towns and communities that are also popular with visitors include Sosua and Cabarete to the east of Puerto Plata, and Cofresi to the west.

East Coast
The East Coast boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic and is the ideal destination for a beach vacation. Miles of powdery white beaches lined with palm trees, and aquamarine waters beckon those intent on kicking back and doing not much more than relaxing on a beautiful beach. Large, all-inclusive resorts ensure that all holiday details are taken care of.

There are no towns of interest in the area, but resorts act like mini self-contained cities offering different dining and nightlife options, a variety of watersports, and good facilities for deep-sea fishing and golf. However those looking for a more cultural and varied vacation will come away disappointed.

La Romana
Once known as a sleepy sugar-cane town, most previous visitors to the Dominican Republic didn't bother venturing to the southeast city of La Romana. At least not until a luxurious tropical paradise resort was opened just over a mile (2km) from the town, making this region synonymous with exquisite turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and some of the finest golf courses and holiday resorts the country has to offer.

These days La Romana is one of the most visited regions of the country and many of the world's rich and famous make this relatively secluded tourist destination their summer playground. Couple that with plenty of markets selling exotic foods, trinkets, clothing and souvenirs and you've got the perfect recipe for a holiday paradise!

With crystal clear waters lapping these Caribbean shores, there is no shortage of water activities for visitors to enjoy such as deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. Visit one of the cigar factories, explore the colorfully housed neighborhoods or sit under the tropical fronds and people-watch in the beautiful city park. Keen golfers will think they've died and gone to heaven with four championship ranked 18-hole golf courses to choose from and hopeless romantics will be able to ride horses along the beach as the sun dips below the horizon.

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Punta Cana International Airport
City/Region: East Coast
Airport Code: PUJ (Punta Cana International Airport)

Location: The airport is situated within 30 minutes of most hotels in the Punta Cana resort area.
Phone Number: Tel: +1 809 668 4749.
Car Rental: Car hire is available.
Airport Facilities: Facilities include a varierty of shops and stores, snack bars,restaurants and bar, duty-free shopping and ATMs.
Car Parking: There is short and long-term parking at the airport.
Departure Tax: US$20 (for stays of up to two weeks), US$25 (for stays of more than two weeks).

Las Americas
City/Region: Santo Domingo
Airport Code: SDQ (Las Americas International Airport)

Location: The airport is situated 18 miles (29km) east of Santo Domingo.
Phone Number: Tel: +1 809 542 0160.
Car Rental: There are several car rental companies at the airport.
Airport Facilities: Airport facilities include a duty-free shop, post office, a bank with 24-hour exchange facilities, restaurants and bars. Wireless Internet access is also available.
Car Parking: Short and long-term parking is available.
Departure Tax: US$20 (for stays of up to two weeks), US$25 (for stays of more than two weeks).

Puerto Plata Airport
City/Region: Amber Coast
Airport Code: POP (Gregorio Luperon International Airport)

Location: The airport is located 11 miles (18km) from Puerto Plata.
Phone Number: Tel: +1 809 947 2225 or 586 0408.
Car Rental: Car rental is available.
Airport Facilities: Airport facilities include duty-free shopping, banks, bureau de change and ATMs, restaurants and bars, gift shops, first aid and a tourist help desk.
Car Parking: Short and long-term parking is available.
Departure Tax: US$20 (for stays of up to two weeks), US$25 (for stays of more than two weeks).

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