When foreigners visit the Dominican Republic, they flock in hordes to all-inclusive resorts by the beach. Getting picked up from the airport in chauffeured cars and staying inside these resorts for the duration of the visit, this ensures that the trip becomes about the weather rather than the culture. But, if you’re one of many who can’t afford the all-inclusive resorts, there’s a surprising number of things to do in the Dominican Republic on a budget that’ll ensure you get a good taste of the local culture.
1. Enjoy the downtown of Santo Domingo, the capital
There’s no better way to invest your time in Santo Domingo than walking through the beautiful downtown. With market stalls at every intersection, and an abundance of street performers, you don’t need to spend a cent as you stroll through with a drink in hand (under 1 USD), people watching. There’s a variety of food stalls selling local delicacies like empanadas, stuffed bread or baked pastry, (1 USD); drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are available at almost every corner store; and with stalls selling all kinds of knick-knacks (usually under 5 USD), you’ll find yourself spending the better part of the day and night here. Just ensure that your valuables are safely on you at all times as this is pick-pocket haven.
2. Get a view of the busy night markets from rooftop restaurants
Once you’re done checking out the downtown of Santo Domingo, exploring its Chinatown and seeing all that it has to offer, have dinner at a local restaurant (under 10 USD for a three-course meal and drinks) or settle on the streets to watch the city transform. Most nights of the week, Santo Domingo’s main downtown strip will convert into a hectic night-time market area. Full of stalls selling odds and ends (negotiate and it’ll be under 5 USD), drinks on offer at around 2 USD, and even more delicacies available than during the day, you’ll be surprised how much you can buy while keeping your wallet fat. Tip: Make sure you go to one of the rooftops or restaurants with a balcony that overlooks these night markets to see the true extent of how busy they are.
3. Ride horses for cheap in beautiful Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas, in the province of Samaná, is a beautiful tourist destination where most people idle around without any purpose. But, if you want to explore the true beauty of the place, take a horse-ride. Negotiate a price and you’ll find yourself paying less than 20 USD for a day trip on horseback. You’ll not only get to see the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the area, but also get a once-in-a-lifetime experience swimming or visiting the famous waterfalls that the trip ends on. The horse goes through rivers, jumps over rocks and climbs the steep hills, and with an experienced guide to show you the way, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Las Terrenas.
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4. Discover Munoz, the Dominican Republic's hidden gem
Most visitors to Puerto Plata, a city in the Dominican Republic, choose not to explore Munoz due to its location on the outskirts of the city. But, chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely to stay in Munoz or at one of the cheaper hostels in Puerto Plata. This would allow you a unique opportunity most don’t get when traveling in the Dominican Republic: a gorgeous hike up the surrounding hills of Munoz. One can do this themselves (with the aid of a hired car), or pay under 50 USD for a trip that includes a meal, water and the safe knowledge that an experienced, versatile guide is showing you the way with a guaranteed pick-up and drop-off instead of the apprehension of possibly hitchhiking back home.
5. While away your day at the beaches
If you’re looking to stick to a budget or are running out of money while traveling in the Caribbean, the best way to not spend any money is by heading to the beach. Bring a bottle of water, some fruits or snacks, a book, a towel and some sunscreen and while away the day lounging on the beach. Get into an impromptu frisbee game or a beach-baseball game that the locals will ask you to join. Or spend your time just sunbathing and enjoying the pristine, crystal-clear, warm Caribbean waters.
Dominican Republic has a lot to offer apart from resorts
If you’re traveling in Central America or the Caribbean on a budget and arrive in the Dominican Republic, don’t fret. Despite the preconceived notions that all the country has to offer are all-inclusive resorts, there’s a lot to do for the backpacker looking to save a few dollars. Take a horseback ride, spend your time on the beaches - you can never have too many beach days - enjoy the capital, an often overlooked city, and just immerse yourself into the local culture. Live like a true local and you’ll find yourself having spent next to nothing on your day-to-day living while creating some unforgettable memories.
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