• Anwuli Anyah

Dominican Republic - A Sketchy but Fun Day in Puerto Plata.

Although the beach was beautiful and we had a good time, I would not recommend sailing into the Dominican Republic unprepared. Our day started out with the most expensive cab ride I’ll ever take. We spent about $250 on this cab ride.

My husband's and my previous experience traveling to this part of the world was when we visited the Bahamas. The port there was very commercialized. There were ATMs with American dollars, coffee shops with WiFi, tons to do on the port and beautiful beaches within walking distance. I made the mistake of assuming this would be the case at the Dominican Republic. We sailed into the port at Amber Cove, unprepared for what awaited us.

Having run out of cash at a previous stop, our plan was to visit an ATM at port. Upon disembarking, we found that there were no atms dispensing American dollars at this port. To make matters worse, we soon realized that this port was designed to take advantage of the arriving tourist. There was one taxi cab company with inflated prices. A taxi ride to the nearest beach was $75 to $90 round trip, depending on how far your beach of choice is. There were no public beaches close to this port. There was basically nothing to do at this port. You had no choice but to take a cab. And guess what? The cab was cash only! American dollars or the local currency was acceptable. I know, we should have been more prepared.

We explained to our cab driver that we didn’t have cash and he all too eagerly said it wasn’t a problem and he was going to help us get to an atm or bank. Being a skeptical person who grew up in Nigeria, I was suspicious of him. But he was our only option at that point so we got in the taxi.

The taxi ride itself was fine. We got to see the vegetation, street life, etc. It was a good way to experience the Dominican Republic. The most shocking sight was parents holding babies on motorcycles, totally unprotected. Check out my video below. It’s funny how something that was part of every day life in Nigeria is now shocking to me after living in the United States for 10 years. I definitely do not recommend transporting your child this way.

So our cab ride was supposed to be to the beach, but our driver decides to stop at his buddy’s souvenir shop. This shop was in the middle of a random neighborhood. We didn’t ask him to do this or suggest interest in shopping in anyway. I could tell from how his friend, the shop owner, immediately started trying to sell us things, that he and his cabbie friend have an agreement to divert tourists here. I was not happy. We asked our driver to take us to the beach, we weren’t interested in shopping. We were instead, interested in an atm stop. He agrees to take us to the beach and says he will stop by an atm on our way back to the seaport.

We make it to the beach, approximately a 15 minutes drive from the seaport. I expect our cab driver to leave after dropping us off. He doesn’t. Instead, he hangs with his fellow cab driver buddies at the beach restaurant. I find this really odd that he isn’t out there making money but then realize that the cab fares are so expensive for a reason. These guys essentially make one trip to the beach, chill all day, then drive their customer back. They can afford to do this because they grossly overcharge. The whole thing seems like exploitation to me.

Thankfully, the beach at Puerto Plata is beautiful and has a decent restaurant. The clear blue waters and cozy chairs and umbrellas erases my crabby mood from the morning’s mishaps. We are able to rent beach chairs and umbrellas with a credit card. We are also able to buy food and drinks with a credit card. I was so happy. We spent all late morning and most of the afternoon soaking in the sun. Tobe played with the sand for hours on end. He has a lot of fun doing this. Patrick and I have some local beer. The actual beach stay was great and if you are ever in the Dominican Republic, I highly recommend this beach.

Soon, it was time to go. We find our driver, he takes us to an atm but we have issues with it. He doesn’t take us to a bank. Not sure how this happens but again he takes us to his shady friend’s souvenir shop. Turns out his friend works for a boss lady who tells us that we pay the cab taxi driver with a credit card through her. She makes us buy a certain amount of souvenirs we didn’t want. I ended up with an ugly t-shirt, a pair of Amber earnings, a toy drum for Tobe. All poor quality and overpriced. She also informed me that she was adding a 25% fee that also included taxes. At the end, our bill was $250 dollars. It was so hot, I was tired, Tobe was hungry, I just wanted to go home. I let this lady know that I knew she was taking advantage of me and that it was unfortunate. I let her know how displeased I was but I paid because in the end, it was my fault for traveling without enough cash. You would think that for all the traveling I do, I would have this down. But no one is perfect.

We made it back to our port safe and on time. Although it was unnecessarily expensive, we had a great time and the beach was beautiful. I would probably not be returning to the Dominican Republic. But you never know. In my experience, it was not a tourist friendly place. Thank you for reading and I hope this helps you somehow. I hope this serves as a reminder to you to always be prepared with cash for every trip.

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