Bad Experience Driving in Dominican Republic

Old Dec 9th, 2001, 06:12 PM
Teunis Gaelbhain
Posts: n/a
Bad Experience Driving in Dominican Republic

I recently returned from a vacation to Juan Dolio, in the Dominican Republic. It was my first time just parking my tush on a beach for several days. The resort I stayed at (Occidental Playa Real) was fine, all-inclusive, and incredibly cheap. I guess that's why people go.

BUT, I had wanted to explore some of the rest of the island, and check out Santo Domingo, so I rented a car.
BIG MISTAKE. For your own safety, DO NOT RENT A CAR IN

The roads are in terrible shape. There is a divided highway between the airport and the resort in Juan Dolio, yet traffic would move in both directions on both sides of the median. The local drivers are very aggressive and traffic moves very fast. Motorcycles are ubiquitous and they weave in and out of traffic. There was road construction everywhere, yet signage is poor. A lane closure is usually announced by a pile of rocks.

One day, I made it into Santo Domingo, and was pulled over by "police". They were dressed in uniforms, and they appeared to have guns, but there was something fishy about them. They insisted I ran a red light (not true), and said I had to pay a $100 fine. The big irony is, if there are rules of the road in that country, nobody follows them. I should have driven back to where I saw some army personnel patroling, but not wanting to find out if the guns these guys had were real, I played their game, and ended up paying them $50.

I was very angry, particularly since Santo Domingo is a disgusting pit. Had I known that before hand, I would have never bothered making the trip.

On the drive back to my resort, another "policeman" on a motorcycle tried to pull me over. I ignored him. I had done nothing wrong, and was not paying out another bribe to him, whether or not he was a cop. He eventually gave up and turned around.

Besides for this safety issue, I found the local population to be generally unfriendly and resentful of tourists. With so many other Caribbean islands to visit, you can definitely leave the Domincan Republic off your list and go where you'd be more welcome.

Old Dec 11th, 2001, 05:24 AM
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Was this a last minute trip decision? Im just wondering because when I travel to a destination I have never been, I do some research. I have worked in the travel industry and I realize there are alot of people who just want to go and experience. Thanks for letting others know your experience.
Old Dec 12th, 2001, 07:40 AM
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I find it somewhat unnerving that each time a trip goes wrong or you didn’t like it, you’re blamed for not doing research. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, but you can't always assume. Even the most dedicated researcher can experience a bad vacation -- something the books and / or boards don’t always tell you about. For example, Teunis is the only person on this board that I’ve read who said the locals were unfriendly in the DR. Everyone else seems to rave about them. And, I consider this board to be a form of research.
Old Dec 12th, 2001, 09:22 AM
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Teunis, what a horrible experience! When we rented a car in Playa del Carmen last month, we were told by the rrental agent to bribe the cop if we were pulled over (luckily this didn't happen). Another guest was complaining because her license plate was taken by the police (she had turned in the car without even realizing it) because "they claimed" she had illegally parked. She also said that this was not the case, and intended to fight the charge. I've rented cars on lots of islands (never DR or Mexico though) and have encountered terrible road conditions, but never the bad cop thing.

I guess graft is pretty common in both DR and Mexico...disappointing -- such gorgeous countries.
Old Dec 12th, 2001, 12:40 PM
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Where do you think Playa del Carmen is. That IS Mexico if Im not mistaken.
Old Dec 13th, 2001, 08:09 AM
Posts: n/a
Unfortunately, this is the case for Most Caribbean Islands and Mexico.
I never book cars for my clients in these places.
The roads are awful, too narrow, full of pot holes and Dangerous.
If you get stopped by Police, your fine is whatever you have in your pocket.
The only client I rent a car for in Mexico, he goes 3 times a year, gives all of his money to his wife when he is driving and she hides it.
Old Dec 13th, 2001, 01:34 PM
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Hey Homer, be nice! What I meant to say was: I've never rented a car in DR and other than the story I related, never before in Mexico...

Joyce, I have rented lots of other places: Eleuthera, St. Lucia, St. John, St. Vincent, Aruba. Never a bad experience, except for picking up a hitchhiker in St. Lucia. So I don't think you can lump the whole Carib & Mexico together...
Old Dec 14th, 2001, 04:51 AM
Teunis Gaelbhain
Posts: n/a
Actually, this was indeed a last minute trip, and I didn't have much time to do research. (And for me, the research is half the fun. I learn about points of interest, the culture, the language, etc.) I had a free ticket on USAirways to St. Maarten, but in November, they cut back their daily flights to many Caribbean destinations. My only remaining options were Santo Domingo and San Juan.

As for the friendliness of the locals, I travel outside the US quite a bit, and this was the first time I've ever felt unwelcome in a foreign country.
Old Dec 14th, 2001, 05:05 AM
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Joyce, you are doing a great disservice to your clients. I have driven on many Carib islands and in Mexico and have not encountered the problems you describe and have had no problems however there are some that I possibly would not drive (but they would be the ones I wouldn't go to anyway). Even the road between Cancun to Tulum is a wonderful drive now but we leave our drivers' license at the hotel so it could not be taken if stopped. To expeience the island or location rather than in a sterilized air conditioned taxi is not the way to visit a destination! The local agencies will tell you where to go, what to avoid and how to deal with local law enforcement. It's a shame that you lump all destinations together as a backwards third world county set up to mirror those places in our own country where "police" abuse and misuse the tourist. Some do, I am sure, but I haven't had that experience.
Old Dec 14th, 2001, 09:01 AM
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I did not say I advise them not to rent a car. I advise them to take the transfer included in the package and see if they would feel safe driving there. Many of my clients are inexperienced travelers, who would not feel comfortable driving on narrow roads on the left hand side.
I also find the Rates in the Agents booking system is usually higher than they would pay renting locally.
My main focus is saving my clients money and avoiding them having a bad experience.
They should rent or not based on their own comfort level. I do rent cars for my experienced travelers, who know what the conditions are.

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