Every adventurous and curious individual tourist will sooner or later come to a crucial issue when planning a vacation: Should I go on a round trip in a rental car? Driving around an unknown country on your own for several days or weeks? Is the whole preparation, organization and implementation really worth it or far too complicated and error-prone for relaxing vacations? With a series of articles I would like to help all interested travelers from my own experience with my knowledge.
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The first article is about one of the most crucial topics. In all of our imaginations, we would expect the road conditions in a developing country like the Dominican Republic are challenging to drive.
Is it safe to drive in the Dominican Republic?
We would probably all assume that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are in bad condition and dangerous to drive. A road trip on the streets of the Caribbean dream island is far too risky and wanders over hill and dale. Fortunately, these assumptions are only true in exceptional cases.
The road conditions in the Dominican Republic are relatively good for a Latin American developing country. In recent years, many new highways have been added to the national transport network. Even if this is more interesting for travel planning, it not only shortens distances but also saves fuel costs. As a consequence, you can get to your desired destination across the island much faster, cheaper and safer.
Of course, there are also dangerous moments when you are driving a car in the Dominican Republic. However, this risk is usually less due to the nature of the road itself. Rather, the Dominican people are the ones to blame for a lot of traffic accidents. But that should not be the topic of this article and rather be addressed in another article.
How are the road conditions like in the Dominican cities?
Driving in the cities is relatively chaotic and disorganized. This is especially true for large metropolitan areas such as Santo Domingo, Santiago and Puerto Plata. Not only the street alignments in these cities lead very often to confusion, but also motorway accesses and an unbalanced ratio of traffic signs create confusion for all traffic participants. Just the typical Dominican and Latin American daily chaos.
Apart from the often questionable behavior of Dominicans in traffic …
… the Dominican cities are hardly worth a serious visit either. The older the districts, the narrower, more winding and more complicated the scenarios that occur in daily Dominican traffic. You should only do this to yourself if you really want to invest a lot of patience and time in your holidays. Otherwise, you will lose valuable vacation time on street corners like this one in the historic Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo:
But if we are honest, these cities should only be visited briefly for the cultural and historical highlights or avoided completely for your road trip in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican cities, as in almost all major Latin American cities, you’d find yourself quickly in hopeless traffic chaos …
… and you wouldn’t be able to see the really beautiful and authentic landscapes of the country either. And they are worth visiting!
What are the road conditions like in the Dominican countryside?
However, the further you get distant from big cities and touristy areas around Punta Cana and Samaná, the more challenging the road conditions become. But this can be also observed in several other examples worldwide. It probably happens in every country that the road conditions outside the metropolitan areas deteriorate and become a challenge for the driver.
Driving in the countryside is relaxing and problem-free due to less traffic, you should focus more on other things. Potholes are increasing, the nocturnal street lighting is virtually non-existent and some animal encounters can happen at any time. Be aware of these numerous occasions.
In addition to these exotic creatures, there are also enough examples of farm animals that can also cross your path while driving. Or even go with you in the same direction. Sounds strange, but it has happened to me often enough myself.
Overall, it can be said that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are relatively good. Almost all major road networks are sealed and paved and stable enough. It is anywhere possible to stop and take short breaks, shoot some photos, visit small sights or try many local specialties and exotic fruits of street vendors along the roadside.
Or simply step on the pace on a deserted street:
Even if the road signs are missing on the surface in the most remote areas, they are hardly needed for normal driving. The streets are wide enough to accommodate multiple lanes. The fact that a bit was saved on the street painting is not a direct disadvantage for the driver.
I’ve always had a lot of fun exploring the country by car. As often as I have the opportunity, I travel through the Dominican Republic to the most remote corners to discover new and exciting travel destinations and the Caribbean nature. Until today, there has not been an accident in which I was involved. And I’ve already driven several thousand kilometers in the Dominican Republic. However, that does not mean that the road conditions in the Dominican Republic are consistently good and that the car can be steered completely safely.
The further you move away from the big cities and road networks, the higher the chance of actually going off-road. In bad weather conditions, THAT is a real challenge for a normal driver and should be enjoyed with caution. But even here, even in the most remote mountain villages, nothing happened to me on muddy stone paths. For example, here on the way back from Playa Bergantin in Puerto Plata:
Suddenly, the rain was coming down in sheets. The roads were unpaved and the deep potholes on this path were quickly filled with water. In addition to the restricted view, it was also difficult to follow the path and not to lose the vehicle because of aquaplaning.
Heavy rains in the Dominican Republic are seasonal and not uncommon. Nevertheless, they can cause certain damage to the roads here and there and make the journey difficult. This must be taken into account when planning your trip.
Doing round trips in the Dominican Republic on your own is therefore very recommendable from my point of view and a nice adventure. Discovering the Caribbean with your own eyes from a completely different perspective is just the thing for adventurers, nature lovers and all other curious travelers who do not want to spend their time in the all-inclusive resorts of Punta Cana.