Your Guide to Punta Cana
When visiting an international destination for the first time, lots of questions come to mind. Do I need vaccinations for the Dominican Republic? Is the water safe to drink? What kind of money does the Dominican Republic use? What airport do I use? Here’s all the information you need to travel to the Dominican Republic.
How to Get to the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the second largest island in the Caribbean. And it offers several international airports.
Santo Domingo International Airport (SDQ)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines and Spirit Airlines.
Santiago International Airport (STI)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines and Spirit Airlines.
Puerto Plata International Airport (POP)–With service from the U.S. on American Airlines, United Airlines and Jet Blue Airlines.
The Punta Cana International Airport
The Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ)–With service from several international carriers, including direct flights from Britain, France and South America. For U.S. travelers, find American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.
The PUJ arrivals area is open air and the lines to clear immigration can take an hour or more. WiFi is available and restrooms are located near the immigration line.
A valid passport that doesn’t expire for six months before your trip is required. An advance visa and a visa fee isn’t required to entry the country. A 30-day tourist visa will be stamped into your passport upon entry.
Arrange for a hotel transfer before you arrive in Punta Cana. Make hotel or resort reservations before your trip as well.
On departure, U.S. residents can opt for the automated immigration lines. You will just scan your passport and pass through a gate.
The Punta Cana Airport features enhanced security measures with pat-downs. A TSA pre-check line isn’t available.
The departure area is fully air-conditioned and features a duty-free shop and another shop specializing in Dominican Republic products, like rum and cigars.
Find American fast food in the departures area, like Wendy’s, Sbarro, Nathan’s, Cinnabon and Baskin-Robbins. Also find a bar for pre-departure cocktails.
Find a small play structure for younger kids. The Punta Cana International Airport also features a nursing room.
What Language is Used in the Dominican Republic
The Dominicans speak Spanish though most understand and speak some English. Knowing some basic Spanish is helpful, especially the basics.
Hola = Hello
Buenos Días = Good Morning
Buenos Noches = Good Night
Si = Yes
No = No
Muchas Gracias = Thank you very much
What Money is Used in the Dominican Republic
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso (RD$). Though the U.S. Dollar is widely accepted and change will most likely by given in U.S. dollars. Find ATMs in hotel lobbies as well as the airport.
Credit Cards are widely accepted throughout the Dominican Republic. And it’s advised to use a credit card for large purchases like lodging. Though use currency for souvenirs and tips.
Phone Service in the Dominican Republic
Since I travel internationally, I have a global plan through my U.S. carrier. When I land I just switch over to the local service provider. I just use my data to check email and messages. The provider I used throughout my trip to DR was Altice.
Most all inclusive resorts offer extensive WiFi for its guests, and most of the time this service is included.
Where to Stay in Punta Cana
All inclusive resorts offer everything from luxury relaxation for adults to jam-packed family fun. Some resorts are divided into an adults-only side with an adjoining family side, each with separate restaurants, pools and gathering places. Other resorts offer buildings dedicated to adults or families. And some resorts are strictly 18+.
La Romana—This area is less popular and offers a quieter resort experience. It’s located west of the Punta Cana International Airport and along the Chavón River.
Find fewer resorts that boast lush, tropical landscaping. Also get easy access to Bayahibe, the departure point for trips to Isla Saona, part of the Parque National del Este.
Bávaro—This area offers a large concentration of all-inclusive resorts. It’s north of the Punta Cana International Airport and on the Atlantic Ocean.
Find resorts connected almost shoulder-to-shoulder along the white sand beaches. This area is quite busy and the resorts tend to be louder and the beaches busier.
Cap Cana—Another area near Punta Cana with all inclusive resorts and white sand beaches. It’s located just south of the Punta Cana International Airport.
A new development, lots of exciting properties will go online in the coming year.
What to do in in Punta Cana
Arrange for a tour during your visit to the Dominican Republic to learn more about the agriculture, animals and the national park of DR. Read all about: the top excursions in Punta Cana.
Take acatamaran cruise to Saona Island.
Feed a Spider Monkey.
Learn about the chocolate production.
Watch a cigar rolling.
Walk through a sugar cane field.
Take a Zip line through the tree canopy.
Learn about coffee production.
What to Wear in the Caribbean
Need some help with what to wear? Here’s all the best tips and products for your trip.
Beach Packing List
Is the Water Safe in the Dominican Republic
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stay away from the following:
- Tap or well water
- Ice made with tap or well water
- Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
- Unpasteurized milk
The tap water is NOT safe to drink. So drink bottle water exclusively during your visit.And stay away from ice since the water source might be contaminated. I even brush my teeth with bottled water or mouthwash.
Complimentary bottled water should be available in your room during your entire stay. And your resort should replace your bottled water throughout your stay. Water fountains are not the norm in the Dominican Republic.
Practice some basic precautions during your stay. The drinking age in the Dominican Republic is 18.
- Make sure all bottled beverage are sealed with its factory seals in your mini fridge.
- Don’t drink from open liquor bottles in your room.
- Watch bartenders make your beverages.
- Before drinking, smell your cocktail.
- Drink slowly.
- Eat before and while you are drinking.
- Drink bottle water while drinking alcohol.
According to the CDC, stay away from the following:
- Food served at room temperature
- Food from street vendors
- Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
- Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
- Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- ”Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game)
Insect Safety in DR
According to the CDC, protect yourself by doing the following:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent (see below).
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
- Stay and sleep in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
I recommend the following product to treat your clothes before departure, available from Amazon.
Make an Appointment at Travel Clinic
I headed to CDC.gov for Caribbean travel information, including required immunizations. My family practitioner advised me to make appointment at a travel clinic.
At the travel clinic, my nurse practitioner advised a Typhoid vaccine, along with hepatitis A and a booster vaccine for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussissince it had been five years since my last. I was covered for MMR vaccine, or measles, mumps and rubella.
The nurse practitioner also discussed mosquito safety since dengue fever is sometime an issue for the Caribbean. I packed a 3 oz. container of insect repellant and used it when I walked through a shady area and in the evenings.
Along with vaccines, she discussed traveler’s diarrhea (TD). She advised I start taking probiotics before and during my trip. I also drank a dose of Emergen-C daily, especially after long international flights. I packed some over-the-counter medications for TD symptoms since it’s the most common illness during travel.
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Fear of TD–Traveler’s Diarrhea
I have a fear of TD, who has time for that. I didn’t want to find a Dominican pharmacy so I packed all the supplies I might need. Here’s what the CDC recommends.
- Antiacid—like Tums
- Pepto-Bismol tablets
- Imodium tablets
- Oral Rehydration Salts—available at REI
- Prescription Antibiotics—prescribed by a doctor or nurse practitioner based on your itinerary.
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First Aid Supplies
Accidents happen so pack a basic first aid kit to be prepared, even for minor scrapes and blisters.
- Pain Reliever
- Motion Sickness pills, like non-drowsy Dramamine
- Cough Drops
- Cold Medication—I prefer a separate Day and Night version.
- Anti-Histamine—like Benadryl
- Triple antibiotic cream—like Neosporin
- Anti-Itch Cream
- Anti-septic wipes
- Inspect Repellent
When traveling in developing countries, pack some restroom supplies. You will need them outside restaurants and hotels.
- Toilet paper, off the roll in plastic bag
- Hand sanitizer
- Bleach wipes
Note: I left all medications in the original container to avoid issues with security or customs.
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