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totallykyle Feb 6th, 2013 04:04 PM

Concerns About Dominican Republic Trip
Hey guys, I have a planned upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, and I have a few questions about the country. I'll explain the trip a little more first.

I'm an 18 year old American. The trip is sort of a "mission" trip, but it's with a school club rather than a church. We will be flying in to Santo Domingo and then driving to La Romana, or more specifically, some batey in or around La Romana. I'm not really sure of the specific location. My main concern is the fact that I have a severe life-threatening allergy to all tree nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.), peanuts, and a more mild allergy to shellfish (crabs, lobster, shrimp, etc.).

The trip sponsor, my teacher, has been there before, and says that he feels that our hotel food in the morning will be okay, but that he is concerned about lunch and dinner because "cooks" cook that food and we aren't really sure what exactly is used in it. Obviously, the language barrier may prevent conveying the severity of my allergy, even though I am conversational and my teacher is fluent.

TLDR, my main questions are as follows:

1. Does common DR cuisine include lots of nuts? Shellfish? I expect shellfish in La Romana, it being near the sea and all.
2. Could I potentially buy some safe food at a grocery store? Like buy a few loaves of bread and some cheese? It wouldn't be good, but it could get me through the week.
3. What would you do in my situation?

I have medication that could help me if I did have a reaction, but understandably it's kinda scary anyway. Thanks!

RoamsAround Feb 6th, 2013 04:28 PM

I'll try to answer your questions:

1) DR cuisine does not normally contain nuts. Some dishes will have shellfish but these will be clearly described on the menus and easy to avoid. You should have no difficulty finding dishes without shellfish in most restaurants, even in La Romana.

2) There are plenty of grocery stores in the DR and they will have many of the same food products you are use to finding in grocery stores were you live in the US. No problem buying bread and cheese but you don't have to restrict your diet to just those items unless you want too. You'll have plenty of food items to choose from.

3) When in doubt just ask the server or chef if anything on the menu has nuts or shellfish. If so, order something else. that doesn't have nuts/shellfish. If necessary, you can let the chef know you have sever allergies and ask him/her to prepare a simple meal for you. Make sure you always have your medication with you. Lastly, use the same common sense and take the same precautions you do when dining out "back home" and you should be just fine.

JeanH Feb 7th, 2013 04:18 AM

Even though you speak Spanish, I'd take the time to do an internet search for food allergy notifications in Spanish. Then print out the ones that are relevant to your situation.

Even being fluent in a language might not be good enough when it comes to things like allergies and life threatening anaphylaxis.

Make sure and take several unexpired epi pens with you.

doug_stallings Feb 7th, 2013 07:29 AM

I don't think you'll find more problems traveling in the D.R. than anywhere else in the world. I'm allergic to crustaceans and have had no problems traveling anywhere in the Caribbean. I just avoid dishes with them. Nuts are harder to detect but not at all common in Dominican or any Caribbean cuisine.

In the worst of all possible worlds, you could live on whole fruit, rice & beans, bread, and eggs for a week. Chicken is very common in Dominican cooking, and you'll always find chicken on a menu in every restaurant in some preparation without seafood. Yucca is common as well, and you'll likely find burgers on most menus. If you are not also allergic to soy, I think you'll be fine, but if you are, then avoid all ground beef.

Having said that, definitely carry a couple of epi-pens and do create a wallet card in Spanish explaining your allergy.

I'd also recommend bringing a few safe, shelf-stable snacks from home in case you can't get to a supermarket when you're hungry.

Travellisa13 Dec 12th, 2013 01:32 PM

So happy I found this thread, I'm heading with my very allergic son in two weeks’ time to the Dominican Republic for New Year and would love to hear more how things went for you during your visit. Did all go well? We will need to avoid dairy, egg, fish, seafood, nuts and peanuts. Any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! tx

lelee092 Jan 21st, 2014 02:47 AM

Hmm...I'm Dominican and lived in the country for 6 years, just warning for future travelers, many of the "Dulce" candy from street vendors DO contains a wide variety of nuts, most are pretty blatant to spot, but some are not so I'd avoid street candy.

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