The Dominican Republic is a superb spot for a family vacation and many of the resorts will offer high chairs, cots and baby and toddler friendly meals
The beaches are sandy and ideal for toddlers to play on and there are loads of activities which are fun for the whole family. There is a remarkable range of accommodations on offer including chain hotels, guest houses, self catering accommodation, exclusive boutique hotels and amazing mega resorts that have brought the all-inclusive hotel to the next level of luxury. The beaches are sandy and ideal for toddlers to play on and there are loads of activities which are fun for the whole family.
Trendy restaurants, art galleries and, boutique hotels make Santo Domingo a superb urban vacation destination. Food prices are higher, which means prices at all-inclusive resorts can be expensive; however, there are plenty of bargains to be had. Even the new boutique hotels are still well priced for the Caribbean.
When to go
The Dominican Republic has a tropical maritime with little seasonal temperature variation. Temperatures average 82°F/27°C year-round, ideal for those travelling with babies and toddlers. It can rain a lot during the summer months and there can be tropical storms. The best months to go are between December and April.
When you are going away for just a week, the length of time it takes to get there makes a difference. The Dominican Republic has seven international airports, and at least two of them have regular flights to/from major U.S. hubs.
The driving distance between the Punta Cana airport and the area’s accommodations is short.
You can get flights from Europe at least via Madrid (MAD), Paris (CDG) and Munich (MUC). From the US, you can fly from New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Philadelphia, San Juan, Atlanta or Charlotte. Most European and Canadian cities have charter flight connections, which operate seasonally.
You will be charged USD10 for a tourist card. This can be purchased on arrival or in advance through the government’s web portal, which delivers the tourist cards via PDF download immediately. This must be paid in US dollars or euros. Local currency, sterling, or other currencies will not be accepted. A departure tax of USD20 cash is payable on most charter and some scheduled flights.
Taxi fares to nearby hotels are posted just outside the airports. From the airport to Santo Domingo (Ciudad Colonial) it’s about USD40.
At the airport, you can change your US dollars and euros in Dominican Pesos. Note that you may not be able to exchange back local money to US dollars and euros, so do it before leaving.
There is a ferry that travels between Mayagüez in Puerto Rico and San Juan in the Dominican Republic. The website says the journey takes 12 hours, leaves Puerto Rico on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 20:00, and arrives in the Dominican Republic at 08:00 the next morning. For prices and bookings, visit the Ferries Del Caribe English language page.
Navigating the cities can be challenging for parents (particularly if you are using a stroller) and exhausting for children as they are hectic and not very stroller friendly. If you can manage it try to bring a stroller and a baby carrier/sling if you are going to be travelling around and sightseeing. Also, bring a fold away high chair and travel changing mat if you will be travelling outside of your resort as you may find it difficult to find restaurants with high chairs and changing facilities.
Child safety seats are not common, even in private cars, and are almost unheard of in taxis or buses. You could opt to bring your own child safety seat and most airlines will carry two items of baby equipment free of charge.
Options for getting around the country include bus service, ‘gua-guas’ (pronounced “Gwa-Gwas”: small battered vans or trucks that serve as a collective taxi running fixed routes that are very cheap but can also be very overloaded), domestic air flights and charter air service.
There is no rail system in the country. Most towns and cities have regularly scheduled bus service, if not by one of the big bus companies, then by gua-gua. The bus lines are most often simple, independently run operations, usually only connecting two cities within a region (Southwest, East, North) or between one city and the capital (with stops made for any towns on the route). Because of the geography of the country, to get from one region of the country to another you have to go through the capital.
Taxi services are available but potentially dangerous when dealing with unlicensed drivers. In all cases, it’s a good idea to go with a licensed driver and negotiate a price for your destination before you leave. Another way to get out and about is to book an excursion with one of the many representatives at most local hotels and resorts.
Cars may be rented through Hertz, Avis, Prestige Car Rentals or other agencies in Santo Domingo and other major cities.Gasoline/ petrol is expensive. Road conditions on most major highways are roughly similar to road conditions in the United States and western Europe. However, potholes and rough spots are not rapidly repaired and drivers must be aware that there are a significant number of rough spots even on some major highways.
Baby & Toddler Essentials
Breastfeeding babies in public is not common. It is definitely not done in restaurants. Nursing mothers are recommended to find a private park bench and use a shawl or other covering.
Remember to use bottled water when giving your child liquids or preparing bottles (make sure the water has less than 200mg of sodium per litre). Major grocery stores sell many of the same brands of baby food and nappies (diapers) are as in the US however, it is always better to bring your formula and food with you just in case you cannot find the brand that your baby is used to. You may be staying some distance from a large supermarket and prices are very high for US brands. If you are staying in a resort there are usually some excellent soft food options in hotel buffets. At breakfast you can try feeding your little one fruit, yoghurt or cereal and for lunch and dinner there will generally be a potato option or some fish or chicken and vegetables.
Hep B and malaria are two concerns for parents when travelling to the Dominican Republic with young children. Make sure that you visit your GP preferable before booking or at least 2 months before travelling to discuss the risks and options. Hep B can be avoided through hand washing and ensuring that you eat in clean, hygienic establishments. The area bordering Haiti has the highest risk for malaria but it is present in resort areas and the NHS and CDC does recommend preventative measures such as antimalarial tablets. Think carefully about taking young children, as anti-malarials can have some pretty severe side-effects. Avoid “jungle” excursions and tours if you are travelling with little ones who are not taking anti-malarials and bring a mosquito net and repellent.
Food in the Dominican Republic is typical Caribbean fare, with lots of tropical fruits, rice, beans, and seafood. Most restaurant meals will cost an additional 16% tax plus 10% service: for very good service, it is customary to leave an additional 10%.