So, you’ve settled on the Caribbean for your next holiday. Which of the many and varied islands is on your shortlist? There are the usual suspects: the Bahamas, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Lucia. You may also consider the British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Grenada or Aruba – all of which frequently appear on ‘Top Ten’-style holiday wish lists. The Dominican Republic is perhaps not such an obvious choice for UK tourists, but it is a good one.

 

That being said, the number of tourists travelling to the DR has grown massively in the last few years, with 6.18 million travelling there last year, and 177,534 of those coming from the UK. So why are people flocking there? And is there anything you need to do before you go? We have put together a handy guide that covers the preparations you need to make before arriving, the suggested precautions to take for the duration of your stay and some of the sights and experiences that are not to be missed.

 

Why go?

Whether you are a dedicated sun worshipper or like to start your day with a hike, the Dominican Republic has it all. One of the most diverse of the Caribbean islands and home to four of the highest mountains in the region, it boasts a savannah, rainforests and deserts as well as stunning white sand beaches that slope into turquoise seas. The culture is exuberant and inviting and visitors are likely to encounter carnivals and fiestas in the towns and villages covering the island.

 

Head to Punta Cana for Instagram-ready palm trees and azure seas – no filter required – or to Isla Saona in the southern swells for pure white sands. The rainforests of Los Haitises in the north are bursting with life while the Santo Domingo ‘Colonial Zone’ is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in all of the Americas.

 

What to do

Punta Cana

Although by far the most obvious entry on the list, its beautiful beaches and five-star resorts make Punta Cana on the far-eastern shore the most popular tourist destination on the island. Bavaro, Macao Beach and Arena Gorda are some of the best in that area and will have you cancelling your flight home.

 

Altos de Chavon

 

Located on the southern shore, not far from the city of La Romana, is the small town of Altos de Chavon. This eccentric little enclave is full of Italian-style houses, gorgeous churches and a Roman-style amphitheatre. The twist? It was conceived and built in the 1970s and 80s by an Italian architect to mimic a 16th century European settlement. A must-see oddity.

 

Playa Rincon

If you love reading about beautiful, far-flung destinations, you probably recognise Playa Rincon’s name from round-ups of the best beaches in the world. It lines the stunning Samana Bay, a stone’s throw from the rainforest of Los Haitises, meaning that jungle transforms into sandy beach just before the waterline. One end features a shallow lagoon and a few beach taverns serving up fresh fish, while the other is a little less tamed and boasts breath-taking views of the Cibao coast.

 

Samana Bay

There are few things as majestic as watching humpback whales in the wild. Samana Bay is the final destination for one of the largest migrations of these marine mammals on the planet. You have to visit in the winter to catch this incredible sight – although you won’t be alone. Tourists take to the seas in droves, hiring boats for the day or joining longer expeditions that take you a little closer to the action. Either way, once you see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, everything else will just fade away.

 

Coco Bongo

The only entry on our list that isn’t a natural wonder, Coco Bongo is nonetheless impressive. DR’s biggest club, it is an enormous arena that is by no means limited to dance music. Think laser shows and plumes of smoke, electric-infused flamenco dances, multi-coloured explosions of confetti, memorable tribute acts, cabaret and gravity-defying trapeze performances. Not your average night out.

 

Before you go

  • Make sure you are not visiting during hurricane season. This usually runs from June to November and you can check for approaching storms here. If you do encounter a storm during your stay, you should follow the advice of local authorities.
  • If you are pregnant, you should be aware that there is a moderate risk of Zika in the Dominican Republic and non-essential travel is discouraged until after pregnancy. You can find out more information about this here.
  • In terms of vaccinations, the CDC and WHO recommend the following for the Dominican Republic: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies and influenza. If you want to know more, this handy website has all the information you need.

 

While you are there

  • As the DR has reported cases of chikungunya virus and dengue fever, both of which are transmitted through mosquito bites, it is important to minimise the risk of being bitten. You can find tips here.
  • Crime and violence are not very common but, as with many destinations, you should take steps to protect yourself. uk advises travellers to “take particular care in remote areas, especially at night. Don’t wear expensive jewellery or carry large amounts of cash or expensive items like smart phones or cameras on the street. Use a hotel safe whenever possible. Don’t leave your bags or other possessions on chairs or tables in restaurants or bars.”
  • Carrying cash is recommended over credit or debit cards and if you ever need help, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

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