You’ve booked a perfect family vacation to Punta Cana in the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. Everything is going smoothly – you’ve booked a great hotel (probably the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts), you bought your flights and you upgraded your swimming suit from last season. You might have read up brochures, websites and contacted your resort about what to do and what to see in Punta Cana, but are still wondering if you will be making the most of it. If you’re still worried, here are Exotic Traveler’s top eight tips to make the most of your family vacation in Punta Cana.
The Dominican Republic Peso (DOP or the USD Dollar?
It’s the million dollar question (pun intended). Should you convert your dollar bills to DOP or can you pay with US currency there? Truth is, most action takes place within the all-inclusive resorts, and more often than not, dollars are widely accepted – it’s an unofficial currency of sorts. Unless you plan on venturing off the beaten path, you should be fine with American currency. Bring enough cash. While the USD is accepted in Punta Cana, they are still hard to come by in terms of exchanging. We recommend brining one-dollar bills for tipping, also.
Arrange ground transportation prior to arrival
If you’re staying at a top-tier resort, such as the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts, you are most likely offered ground transportation from the airport to the resort and back (you should, however, check this with your Pre-Arrival Services Concierge). However, if your resort is not offering this service, or you want to arrange your own transportation, we suggest you do so ahead of time. Nothing beats the stress-free feeling of deplaning and hopping onto your awaiting transportation. FYI – and this is a BIG ONE – stay out of transportation trouble. This means, if you forgot to arrange transport and want to take a taxi (which is safe and available at the arrival gates), flux through those trying to pull you into their intricate web of ‘pirate transportation’. Those are not licensed drivers and, more often than not, will charge you overpriced rates that they make up as they go.
Have your Visitor Fee ready
Just like many people need a visa to enter US soil, foreigners are expected to pay an entrance fee at the airport upon arrival. US dollars are accepted and the fee is set at $10 per person. It is due to be paid before arriving to immigration, so make sure you’ve got enough on your carry-on luggage for you and your family as you will find no ATMs. There is no way around this.
Plan ahead if you want to visit Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic is a very small island; however, there is no denying that moving from one point to the next requires time and organization. Punta Cana is located on the eastern side of the country, and there are not any small towns worth visiting nearby. Santo Domingo – the capital – is a big, lively and colorful city worth visiting but keep in mind that it is a 2.5 hour drive from Punta Cana. If you and your family want to visit, we recommend contacting your Concierge prior to arrival to book a tour or transportation for you. Don’t wing it.
Yes, you are going on vacation to relax, lay back and take it easy (and maybe even get a Nick Sliming for the whole family); however, more often than not, big city folks get frustrated with what is known as ‘island time’. Most Caribbean countries tend to operate at a much slower pace than we are used to. Nothing goes by fast, nothing happens right away and people take their sweet time – even just counting the change! Before boarding the plane, switch off your rushed agenda and take a deep breath. Just relax and enjoy yourself. Patience is a virtue that pays off in the Dominican Republic.
Eat local, Be local
Most destination resorts make a real effort to serve local cuisine to their guests; however, not all quite get there. There are a few exceptions, serving delicious sancocho, tostones and, of course, a wide variety of rums (jump to the next tip for this). Before booking your resort, make sure they have a selection of traditional Dominican dishes – after all, what’s the point of visiting a country if you won’t be trying their food? The Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana has a wide variety of eateries serving different traditional foods.
Drink rum (but give none to your children!)
You’re in the Caribbean – let go a little bit. You are in rum heaven, and you cannot leave the island without trying some. Whether it is rum and coke, a coco loco or a piña colada, you have got to try it one way or another. There is a unique preparation of the rum known as Mama Juana which is a mixture of rum, red wine and honey left to soak in a bottle with tree bark and other herbs. Disclaimer: this last rum is known as an aphrodisiac and has been passed on from generation to generation – don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Sit back and enjoy
Do you really want to make the most of your family vacation in Punta Cana? The best advice we can give you is to sit back and enjoy the ride. The beautiful azure Caribbean waters, the astonishing blue skies, the year-long summer and the friendly people will do everything to make it perfect. This will grant you and your family a real #ExoticExperience!