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Welcome to Expat FAQs – Moving to and Living in the Dominican Republic, a site that complements the book of the same title.

Expat FAQs – Moving to and Living in the Dominican Republic can be purchased online from Amazon and other booksellers, in both print and e-book formats.

The book, which was written with my late friend Ginnie Bedggood who passed away in July 2010, covers the following areas:

Why?
Why the DR?
• General background
• Pros and cons: is this country for me?
• Culture shock
• Quality of life

Where?
Geographical areas
• North Coast
• Samaná
• East Coast
• East/South East Coast
• Capital – Santo Domingo
• Santiago

Other cities/regions
•Cotuí
•Bonao
•San Juan de La Maguana
•Moca
•Salcedo
•San Francisco de Macorís
•Higuey
•El Seibo
•South West
•Mountains (Jarabacoa, Constanza)

What?
Practical information
• Cost of living
• Health care
• Education
• Immigration and visas
• Finance and taxes
• Real estate
• Safety and security
• Politics and legal
• Consular and Embassy assistance
• Transport and driving licences
• Telecommunications
• Employment
• On being an expat employer
• Leisure pursuits
• Animal companions
• Voluntary work
• Shopping
• Weather
• Environmental issues

Who?
The Expat as a:
• Single person: male/female
• Couple: expat couple, bi-national couple
• Family with children and single parents
• Retired person
• Student
• Lesbian/gay
• Disabled
• Freedom seekers

How?
DR cultural context
• History
• People: customs, beliefs, traditions
• Culture: music, dance, art, food, sports
• Language

What The …? AKA ‘Only in the Dominican Republic’
True life anecdotes

Resources/links
Photography by Pedro Guzmán.

This coming Sunday, 26th May is Mothers Day in the Dominican Republic. The day before, Saturday 25th May, a group of locals and expats in the Bávaro and Punta Cana area are holding their fortnightly bazaar. One of the stalls is selling Expat FAQs along with several other books about the DR, including Lindsay de Feliz’s What About Your Saucepans? Aunt Clara’s Dominican Cookbook and the Culture Smart Guide to the DR.

Bávaro Bazaar 25 May

Cédula renewals – important news


If you’re a resident of the Dominican Republic, you’ll probably know that your ID card, the cédula, expires in the year stamped on the card in pale blue, on your “día de nacimiento” – your birthdate. At least that’s what it says, and this was the case until recently.

 

cedulas

According to new information from residents who renewed in the last few weeks, it actually expires on the anniversary of your last renewal, so if your cédula has 2013 stamped on it and the anniversary falls before your birthday, your cédula may have expired, and there is a penalty charge for each month since expiry. For example, my birthday is in October so I was not planning to go and renew until later this year. When I checked on the JCE website, I discovered it had already expired, because my last renewal date was two years ago in March.

To find out the actual expiry date, enter your details into this site: http://consultacedulados.jce.gob.do/web/Default.aspx?alias=consultacedulados.jce.gob.do/web/extranjeros

Thanks to DR1 forums poster dv8 for the heads up. http://www.dr1.com/forums/legal/132711-renovating-permanent-cedula-updated-info-04-2013-a.html

 

 

Riveting expat memoir with a sting in the tail

Review of What About Your Saucepans? By Lindsay de Feliz

Readers will recognize the familiar elements of a good expat memoir – the triumphant sense of liberation at escaping from the greyness and cold rat race to the warm, slow-paced tropical idyll, the baffling experience of culture shock, the author’s perceptive and witty observations about her adopted country’s quirks as well as a good dose of self-deprecating humour at her own expense when recounting her initial misadventures and misunderstandings as a ‘gringa’ in a strange land.

The sting in the tail in this book is that unlike the expats we’ve read about in Tuscany and Provence, Lindsay’s Dominican dream-come-true suddenly turns very sour: not just once but twice. In both cases, in very different ways, the sequence of events is truly nightmarish in that every time it seems as if things are finally getting resolved, another unforeseen and unbelievable complication arises.

And in contrast with what one would imagine most people doing in her situation, Lindsay doesn’t seriously consider the option of packing it all in and leaving for the safety, predictability and comfort of her home country. She was determined to stick it out and that’s what makes the reading so absolutely riveting.

WAYS cover

Lindsay endured the most incredible adversities with zero self-pity and happily is with us to tell the tale. In fact, the writing of the book is what has helped her make sense of it all. Although it’s clear that her love and respect for her adopted country hardly wavered in the process, she never particularly idealises the Dominican Republic nor is sentimental about its people – she acknowledges and understands the complexities of poverty, injustice, corruption and their consequences, as someone who has had to tackle them head-on.

At times, readers will shake their heads at the frustrations and laugh at some of the absurd situations and statements the author recounts. But more than anything they will marvel at Lindsay’s remarkable resilience and positive spirit. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

You can buy it online from Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/What-About-Saucepans-Lindsay-Feliz/dp/1909193313

Housing expenses

In today’s post from my guest contributors, a retiree from the US living in Bávaro, we look at housing costs.

Our monthly housing cost (mortgage, condo fee, water, sewer, trash removal, landscaping, weekly outdoor pesticide spraying, building & pool maintenance, security guards in our gated golf course community) is US$1,500 per month. Not including electricity.

For comparison, our US$1,500 per month housing cost provides us with a nicer home than, well, pretty much all of our friends’ homes. It’s big (1,700 square feet), 2-bedroom, 2-bath (plus a small maid’s bedroom & bath) with a really beautiful view, a great location and very upgraded finishes. US$1,500 is the cost to own. We could have rented a place similar to ours, unfurnished, for probably US$750 or US$800 per month.

Most of our local friends are renting modest little condos in the local community for under US$500 per month, but that’s not what I envisioned for my retirement years.

Anyway, most people THINK we’re rich Americans, although we are not, and we constantly TELL them that we are not. A rich American would not drive the old beat-up car (2000 Honda Accord, pretty badly scarred) that we have here, and truthfully, it’s all the car that we could afford to buy.

More about cars in the next installment!

 

Guest post 2 – Cost of Living

In this second guest post, our US retiree tackles one of the burning questions asked by almost every prospective expat – how much will it cost to live in the DR?

Last night we went to the cinema and watched the new Bruce Willis flick, in English, with Spanish subtitles (we get all of the new USA movies here, screened in a 7-plex, USA-like cinema in English, with Spanish subtitles). The admission price (on Mon-Tue-Wed, the discount days) = 125 pesos = US$3.14 each. Regular price on other days is 225 pesos = US$5.65. At the cinema’s snack bar, 100 pesos (US$2.50) buys the small popcorn & beverage combo (we select bottled water instead of sugar sodas). So a trip to the movies, with snack, costs the two of us about US$8.65.

We were out running errands yesterday, and we stopped at Burger King for lunch. 1 Whopper with cheese, 1 Whopper Junior with cheese, 2 onion rings. Total 500 pesos = US$12.56.

Image for illustrative purposes only – Photo: Pedro Guzmán

Groceries
We spend US$600 per month on groceries (we buy a lot of fresh fruits & vegetables, and we drink a LOT of juices). We budget US$250 per month on restaurants.

More to follow soon on housing and transport costs.

Note that our guest blogger is based on the east coast, where the cost of living is slightly higher compared to other parts of the country.

Prices quoted are accurate for November 2012.

Change to car import rule

From today’s dr1.com news summary

Ten-year old cars to enter DR

The Chamber of Deputies has approved a legislative proposal that seeks to extend the limit on the age of vehicles imported into the country to 10 years. The proposal, declared to be urgent and approved after two readings, was introduced by Deputy Jose Altagracia Gonzalez Sanchez, and will modify Law 21-01. It now goes to the Senate for approval. The current limit on the age of vehicles coming into the country is five years. Some four months ago the Association of Used Car Importers argued for this ten-year limit on the age of vehicles as a way of increasing revenue and providing a broader section of the population with the option of acquiring a vehicle.

Guest Post – Expat Experiences – Golf

This is the first in a series of guest posts by an expat from the United States. He and his wife recently retired to the east coast of the DR and he is kindly allowing me to share his insight and experiences on the Expat FAQs DR blog.

The first post focuses on golf, a popular sport for expats and one of the main reasons many choose to retire to the Dominican Republic.

Golf

The golf courses here are seldom crowded. My wife and I always play alone, or with our friends, and are never forced into a threesome or foursome with strangers. We play casually. Often there’s nobody ahead of us or behind us when we play, so we can mulligan all we want. We don’t spend more than 10 or 15 seconds looking for a golf ball. If we cannot immediately find it, we drop another ball where we THINK the original SHOULD have been.

Photo: (c) Pedro Guzmán (file photo for illustrative purposes).

We can play 9 holes on our home course (we live inside Cocotal Golf & Country Club, a 27-hole resort golf course) after 3 PM for US$21.00 each (including a power cart). That fits my fixed pension retirement budget. We start at 3 PM and finish at 5:15 PM. Darkness falls around 6 PM in mid-winter. Cocotal 18 holes is US$40.00 including power cart, but no freebies on the service food cart (and the food cart is pricey, so we bring our own drinks & snacks). Oh, and those are Cocotal resident rates; the tourists pay US$120.00 for 18 holes in high season (Nov-Apr), US$90 in low season (May-Oct) according to the information on their website. http://www.cocotalgolf.com/rates_polices.html

Sometimes when our friends want to play 18 holes with us, we spring for US$50.00 each (greens fee at Iberostar Resort, a nicer golf course, only 10 minutes north of our home), and the US$50 includes FREE unlimited service cart drinks & snacks, and it also includes a hamburger lunch at the clubhouse (we are required to purchase a beverage for US$5.00 each to receive the free lunch). So an outing there costs us US$110.00 for the two of us, but dollar-for-dollar it’s a good value.

But that’s why we prefer more frequent 9-hole, late afternoon rounds of US$21 + US$21 = US$42. Besides, we can get a lot of pleasure out of 9 holes, four or five times a month, and it doesn’t break our budget of US$300.00 per month, including US$6.00 buckets of range balls, plus $$ tips for the golf club attendants = 50 pesos (@ US$1.25).

Oh, and we can also play Barcelo Resort’s (only 10 minutes south of our home) “The Lakes” golf course — the “local residents” rate for 18 holes is US$39.00 in the off-season months. (Again, the tourists are paying US$160.00 or something like that). We’ve played it several times, but there is a lot of water on that course, and I always lose 5 or 6 balls in the lakes. It’s a nice course, but more difficult, and so we prefer to play Cocotal or Iberostar.

Some background information on Golf in the Punta Cana – Bávaro area from Expat FAQs – Moving to and Living in the Dominican Republic

The DR has more golf courses than any other country in the Caribbean and new ones open every year. Golf can be played throughout the year and because most rain showers are of brief duration, even these do not interrupt the games of the majority of players. Some of the DR’s courses have been designed by golf legends such as Pete Dye, PB Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Robert Trent Jones, Gary Player, Tom Fazio and Nick Faldo. Many of the courses incorporate spectacular views to distract from the game.

On the east coast perhaps the best known and highest rated course is Punta Espada Golf Club, Cap Cana, which has hosted the PGA’s Champions Tour every March since 2008. Click on the View Punta Espada Hole By Hole button here: www.capcana.com/site/index.php/en/punta-espada-golf-course

La Cana Golf Club, Punta Cana Resort has a similarly high reputation but fees are less expensive. A Course Diagram can be downloaded in PDF format from this site: www.puntacana.com/assets/File/Map-LaCana-Golf.pdf 

Also in Punta Cana, the Tom Fazio designed Corales course opened in 2010 and PB Dye’s Hacienda opened in 2011.

Punta Blanca Golf Course was designed by Nick Price who won the British Open in 1994. Further information is available at www.punta-blanca.com  

 A downloadable list in PDF format of all east coast golf courses with contact details is available at: www.godominicanrepublic.com/system/activities/attachments/17/original/GolfDigestDRInsertGuide.pdf.

Prices quoted are correct at the time of posting, November 2012.

Migración has a new-look website

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Same url, but with a new look and new information http://migracion.gov.do

The list of fees goes some way to explaining the confusing new rules. http://migracion.gov.do/servtarifas.html

Renewal of provisional and permanent residency is now more expensive and complicated than before. Everyone needs to take the medical tests and pay for them – in the past this only applied to first time applicants for residency.

Initial applications for residency need to be made at the Dominican embassy/consulate in the applicant’s country of origin.

Coral highway opens

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The new Autopista del Coral linking La Romana with Punta Cana and all points east is now open to traffic.

The new Coral Highway

Driving times from Punta Cana to La Romana are now down from over an hour to about 35 mins, while the trip to Punta Cana – Santo Domingo is reduced from three to two hours.

Expreso Bávaro, the only direct bus service to and from the capital, has a new timetable: 7:00am, 9:00am, 11:00am 1:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm (Departures in both directions.) All buses from Santo Domingo now go to Punta Cana International Airport. Journey time reduced from 4 to 3 hours.

Migración opens east coast office

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Excellent news for east coast expatriate residents: a new branch of Migración has opened at Cruce de Verón, in Plaza Velero – the large shopping centre opposite the Police Station. This means we no longer have to go all the way to the capital for residency renewals, etc.

http://www.puntacana-bavaro.com/index.php/noticias/item/614-inauguran-en-b%C3%A1varo-una-nueva-delegaci%C3%B3n-de-la-%C2%A8direcci%C3%B3n-general-de-migraci%C3%B3n%C2%A8

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