People often ask me “What is it like to live in the Dominican Republic?”
I lived in Santo Domingo full time from 2018 – 2020, led multiple retreats for Americans to the region of Samana, toured the country extensively, and have been traveling back and forth from the United States to the DR for the last five years. Based on my experience, I’ll answer the following questions:
- What is the cost of living?
- Can a US citizen live in the Dominican Republic?
- How much money do you need to live comfortably in the Dominican Republic?
- Where do expats live?
- What’s the food like?
- What are the best restaurants in Santo Domingo?
- How do I get around?
- How hard is it to find housing?
- Where are the best places to go out?
- How hard is it to make friends?
- Where are the best places to visit?
- What have I learned from living in the Dominican Republic?
What is the cost of living in the Dominican Republic?
It depends on the lifestyle you want. It was quite expensive for me — someone who works remotely and wanted to spend my first few months living in an upscale, furnished apartment in Santo Domingo.
My rent was about $1200 per month for an apartment in a nice building with a doorman. The apartment was located in Piantini, an upscale area of town (although there’s still quite a bit of noisy construction that happens there…). Because the internet was not always reliable, I also joined Chez Space — a co-working spot. That ran be about $150/month for use of the shared area. A private office runs about $1000/month.
For food, you can go grocery shopping at Supermarcado Bravo, La Sirena, Carre Four, or Nacional. Prices and selection there are comparable to grocery stores the United States. Bonus: You can get cool things like soursop, giant avocados, passion fruit, and other tropical foods there for cheap.
As a dancer, nights out were also factored into my budget (I’ve created a map of where you can go out dancing in Santo Domingo if you’re a dancer like me!). This is not very pricy, but I did always put aside some cash for an ice cold Presidente beer or two ($10/night to be safe).
Can a US citizen live in the Dominican Republic?
While I’m not sure about laws and regulations around residency, US citizens are able to stay in the Dominican Republic for very extended stays (we’re talking years, not months). You simply pay an overstay fee when you leave.
How much are these fees? As an example, you’ll pay $100 if you choose to stay for 9 months – 1 year. This website gives a more detailed outline of cost.
I traveled back to the United States about once every three months for work (I am a life and business coach who offers private coaching, a business mastermind program and virtual coworking). This meant, I paid a fee each time I left. I also opted for a passport with more pages (since I got two immigration stamps for each of my trips there).
How much money do you need to live comfortably in the Dominican Republic?
See the note above about the cost of living. If you want to go see different parts of the country, have a nice apartment, and otherwise keep a lifestyle similar to yours in the United States, I would reserve $3,500 – $4,000 a month.
Where do expats live in the Dominican Republic?
The United States embassy is near the neighborhood Arroyo Hondo, so many expats live there. That said, it’s pretty out of the way. If you want easier access to downtown or the Colonial Zone for movie theatres, nightlife or a more lively atmosphere in general, I would opt for one of the following expat-friendly areas:
- La Zona Colonial
- Bella Vista
Outside of Santo Domingo, popular expat towns are Punta Cana, Las Terrenas and — increasingly — the region of Samana.
What’s the food like in the Dominican Republic?
Delicious!!!!! My hot tip is to visit the food court in the Acropolis Center and eat at the buffet with Dominican Food. You can get chicken breast, rice, avocado and beans for less than $5.
Traditional Dominican foods include love morro (rice with beans), ropa vieja (shredded beef), pasteles en hoja (it’s like a Dominican tamale) and sancocho (a delicious, hearty stew made with meat and tubers).
That said, there are many excellent and diverse options for places to eat in Santo Domingo. Restaurants offer Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Peruvian and many other types of food.
What are the best restaurants in Santo Domingo?
Some of my favorite restaurants include:
- La Dolcerie: A good mix of nice dishes with a gorgeous atmosphere
- Fresh Fresh Cafe: Fresh, healthy food
- Laurel: A good mix of delicious offerings
- La Locanda: Delicious Italian
- Falafel Zona: This may be the best falafel I’ve ever had
- Forno Bravo: Tasty Italian food
- LuGa: High-end burgers and truffle fries
How do I get around in the Dominican Republic?
I recommend Ubers or — if you’re very adventurous and have a helmet — motor Ubers. That’s right: You can order a motorcycle to come and pick you up. Is it dangerous? Extremely. Is it fun? YES!
How hard is it to find housing in the Dominican Republic?
Initially, I booked places through Airbnb, which is wonderful. There are many great spots available in Santo Domingo at various price ranges. After my initial stay, I moved in with my boyfriend’s family. Now, when I go back, I stay there, with friends or in Airbnbs.
Where are the best places to go out in the Dominican Republic?
This is the question people ask me most often, so I created a map that has my favorite music venues, places to dance and a lot more. Check it out here.
How hard is it to make friends in the Dominican Republic?
In the Dominican Republic, I found my friend groups through the local dance community (click here to see my favorite places to dance), as well as through the International Women’s Club in Santo Domingo. I loved this group, as it was an awesome mix of ladies from all around the world. Most of the women are there temporarily because their husbands work for a large international company.
Where are the best places to visit in the Dominican Republic?
For cooler weather: Head to Jarabacoa or Constanza
For beautiful waterfalls: Jarabacoa, 27 Waterfalls
For wild terrain: Samana — and stay at the Dominican Treehouse Village if you can!
For the coolest shade of water you’ve ever seen: Barahona. Stay at Casa Bonita if you have the cash.
For kitesurfing and dinners on the beach: Cabarete
For all-inclusives (not my jam, but they might be yours!): Punta Cana
For dancing: Santo Domingo (check out my map of where to go dance)
What have I learned living in the Dominican Republic?
<<The below was written around January 1, 2019>>
January 1 will mark ONE YEAR since I moved here… and it’s been a hell of a lot harder than I imagined.
Just because you’re called to something doesn’t mean the journey will gracefully unfold. The universe may invite you to a situation where you have to struggle, fight, and endure. Our destined experiences are meant to teach us something, and sometimes learning those lessons isn’t easy.
Being in the Dominican Republic showed me my inherent right to massive self-expression, that I can succeed as a business owner in any environment, taught me to love my body more deeply, demonstrated that self-love is my birthright (and has nothing to do with money or accomplishments), and reminded me how lucky I am to be from the United States. For all of the troubles in our country right now, we still have so, so much to be grateful for.
My favorite part about being here? How Dominicans sing and dance so freely. It doesn’t matter if they’re any good at it. They relentlessly express themselves, and can laugh at themselves and one another with pure love.
There are other things I hate about being here. I hate the negative attention I receive as a white woman, all the mosquitos, and the pollution of the downtown area of Santo Domingo (there’s a reason I run my annual retreat in Samana, and that I only take travelers to one part of the capital city). I hate the gossip and I hate the crime.
This is just life, right? There are pros and cons. The term “double edged sword” exists for a reason. I believe all I can do is follow my intuition, listen to my heart, and accept the imperfection of every experience as perfect.
I am so grateful to have spent my year here, and for all of the DR’s challenges and joys that gave me an opportunity for massive learning.
What was the choice that led to your biggest learning this year? Comment below.
Embrace the Adventure,