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When considering a tour, make certain that you're aware of how much time is involved. For example, local tour companies sell city visitors excursions to La Catalina. They typically leave at 6:30 am and return some 12 hours later! It can take you three hours just to get to where the boat disembarks, because you will usually have a long stop in at least one area all-inclusive resort. You arrive back in the city, exhausted, at nearly 7 pm, and you will pay about $130.
The Audio Guide is a self-guided walking tour of the Zona Colonial. For US$30 you get information about 25 historic sights, admission to three museums, and a nonalcoholic beverage at the Hard Rock Cafe. The company targets cruise-ship passengers with its booth at the cruise pier, but anyone with a major credit card can rent the audio tour.
DomRep Tours, a European-owned travel agency, specializes in individual tours and eco-adventures—even to Jarabacoa and Barahona. With an office in the Zona Colonial, the company offers city-breaks of two or three nights that include airport transfers, hotels, tours, and lunch. Guided private tours of the historic sights in the Zone are available, as are tours to nearby beaches and sights, including some multiday trips.
EcodoTours, as the name implies, specializes in eco-adventures, but also brings groups into the capital for city tours and will pick up individual travelers at their hotels. One excellent option is a "Santo Domingo Night Tour." Included is a drink, two disco admissions, and time at a casino for $49, a good deal, since taxis to all these places can easily cost $40.
The well-established Prieto Tours, an agent for American Express, gives tours of the city and surrounding area in English. For the latter, these large bus tours usually include guests from the all-inclusive resorts outside the city. The company offers a good three-hour tour of the Zona Colonial for about US$25. If you have the stamina for it, a six-hour tour takes in the Zone, El Faro, the Aquarium, and "modern" Santo Domingo, including lunch, museum entrances, and an hour of shopping time for $50.
Tours, Trips, Treks & Travel specializes in educational, adventure, and company programs for groups. Although based in Cabarete, it operates all over the Dominican Republic, including Santo Domingo. The company is especially good at helping to organize cultural excursions. One recent project had TTT&T setting up remote camps for volunteer workers who came to build a community center. They will also help plan creative, non-cookie-cutter weddings.
Private tour guides are another option, and you'll have to pay approximately $125 a day for a guide (more if the guide uses a private driver). Your hotel concierge will know the good English-speaking guides, though you may pay more than if you organized the tour yourself. Dré Broeders is a multilingual, licensed tour guide with 16 years of experience in the Dominican Republic who can give a customized tour for two people or a group. His late-model car is clean and well maintained, and he is very reliable. He will also pick up passengers from any of the area airports and bring them to any destination on the southeast coast. Although he lives in Juan Dolio, he's an expert on the Colonial Zone and runs a great tour.
Kate Wallace, a recognized birding authority who leads tours in various parts of the country, will lead private bird-watching tours in the Jardin Botanico Nacional Dr. Rafael M. Moscoso.
DomRep Tours (Calle Padre Billini #405, corner Calle Espaillat, Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, 10210. 809/686–0278; 829/367–7421 cell. www.domreptours.com.)
Dré Broeders (809/526–3533; 809/399–5766 cell. email@example.com.)
EcodoTours (809/815–1074 or 809/852–0572. www.ecodotours.com.)
Kate Wallace (809/686–0882. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.todytours.com.)
Prieto Tours (Av. Francia 125, Gazcue, Santo Domingo, 10204. 809/685–0102.)
Tours, Trips, Treks & Travel (Cabarete, 57000. 809/867-8884 in Cabarete. www.4Tdomrep.com.)
Dominican Shuttles (Las Americas, Santo Domingo. 809/738–3014; 809/481–0707 cell. dominicanshuttles.com.)
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