Several companies offer internal air taxi or charter services, all based at Dr Joaquín Balaguer International Airport at Higuero/La Isabela, Santo Domingo.
Air Santo Domingo, Av 27 de Febrero 272, esq Seminario, T8096838006, has regular flights between Santo Domingo (Dr Joaquín Balaguer, T8096834535, and Las Américas, T8095491110) and Puerto Plata (US$56, daily, T8095860385), Punta Cana (US$56, daily, T8092211170), Arroyo Barril and El Portillo, Samaná (US$55, Mon-Sat, T8092406571); also flights from Puerto Plata to Punta Cana (US$66, daily). Fly drive available from US$100.
Caribair, T8095426688, http://www.caribair.com.do, has offices in all national airports and a fleet including air ambulance and helicopters. They fly to Barahona, Constanza, Dajabón, Higuey, La Romana, Monte Cristi, Pedernales, Puerto Plata, Samaná (El Portillo), Samaná (Arroyo Barril), San Isidro, Santiago, Santo Domingo (Joaquín Balaguer), Santo Domingo (Las Américas). If there isn’t a proper airport they will get you there by helicopter. They also fly to Port-au-Prince twice a day and to Aruba twice a week.
Air Century, T8095676778, http://www.aircentury.com.
AERODOMCA, T8095671195, http://www.aerodomca.com. Charter flights by plane or helicopter all over the country and 3 daily flights from Santo Domingo to El Portillo, US$75.
Vol Air, T8095488686, http://www.volair-dr.com, flies between Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, El Portillo and Cap Haitien.
Coturisca, T8095677211. Operates a fleet of helicopters and planes.
Services between most towns are efficient and inexpensive. In rural areas it can be easy to find a guagua (minibus or pick-up) but they are usually filled to the point where you cannot move your legs and luggage is an uncomfortable inconvenience. There are also cars (carros/públicos) on some of these routes, which are equally dilapidated and crowded. It is possible to buy an extra seat in a carro or guagua to make yourself more comfortable. Long-distance bus services are very good, with a wide network and several different companies. The three most comfortable and reliable are Metro, Caribe Tours and Terrabús.
A valid driving licence from your country of origin or an international licence is accepted for three months. Dominicans drive on the right. Many of them do not have licences. The Autopista Duarte is a good, four-lane highway between Santo Domingo and Santiago, but dangerous. It is used by bicycles and horse-drawn carts as well as motorized vehicles, while drivers switch from one lane to the other without warning. Lots of shopping opportunities by the roadside contribute to the hazards, with vehicles swerving on and off the road. The Autovía del Este is an excellent road from Santo Domingo out to the east, with good access roads to Higüey, Punta Cana Airport, Hato Mayor and Sabana de la Mar. A new road is being built from Santo Domingo to Samaná, which should be completed by end-2007 and cut driving times dramatically. Minor roads and many city streets are in poor condition with lots of potholes. The speed limit for city driving is 40 kmph, for suburban areas 60 kmph and on main roads 80 kmph. Service stations generally close at 1800, although there are now some offering 24-hour service. Gasoline prices are around US$4.30 for super unleaded, US$3.15 for diesel. Most police or military posts have ‘sleeping policemen’, speed humps, usually unmarked, outside them. In towns there are often ‘ditches’ at road junctions, which need as much care as humps. At night look out for poorly lighted, or lightless vehicles. Many motoconchos have no lights. There are tolls on all principal roads out of the capital: RD$30 (US$0.90), exact change needed. The toll (peaje) is paid once for a round trip. Road signs are very poor: a detailed map is essential, plus a knowledge of Spanish for asking directions. Expect to be stopped by the police at the entrance to and exit from towns (normally brief and courteous), at junctions in towns, or any speed-restricted area.
Avoid the cheapest companies because their vehicles are not usually trustworthy. Prices for small vehicles start at US$40 per day but can be as much as US$90. Weekly rates are better value. Credit cards are widely accepted; the cash deposit is normally twice the sum of the contract. The minimum age for hiring a car is usually 25, although some companies will rent to 20 year olds; maximum period for driving is 90 days. Mopeds and motorcycles are everywhere and are very noisy. Most beach resorts hire motorcycles for US$15-35 a day. By law, the driver of a motorcycle must wear a crash helmet; passengers are not required to wear one.
If travelling by private taxi, bargaining is very important. In Santo Domingo, Apolo Taxi, T8095370000, is recommended, cheap, friendly and efficient. Motorcyclists (motoconchos) also offer a taxi service and take several passengers on pillion. In some towns, eg Samaná, motoconchos and cyclists pull four-seater covered rickshaws. During the day a short distance costs US$0.45 for one passenger. For longer journeys negotiate fare first. During the night fares double. There are usually fixed público rates between cities, so inquire first. They can take two passengers in front and four on the back seat, regardless of the size of the car, so the ride is often uncomfortable, but friendly.
Berndtson & Berndtson publish a good road map, 1:600,000, with detail on Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and Santiago, available locally for US$5. Scheidig publishes the Mapa Geográfica de la República Dominicana, which is approved by the Instituto Geográfico Universitario and available for US$7 at Gaar Arzobispo Nouel esq Espaillat, Santo Domingo, Mon-Fri 0830-1900, Sat 0930-1500.