Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic’s bustling capital. It has a fine position on the south coast and boasts plenty of sights for all types of visitor. Much of it is in the Colonial Zone where the first Europeans originally settled, although the real joy of a visit here is getting out and seeing the country. There are beaches near town, but the best of them is a drive away to the east and along the north coast. The Dominican also has a hilly and cool interior with opportunities for activities.
Who to Book With
Visitors will find most main American car hire firms at Las Americas Airport, such as Budget and National, plus there are local firms. It is worth sticking with the main ones however, as fully comprehensive insurance isn’t always a given. Use our comparator site to check rates and get the best value for your money.
Best Time to Go
The climate is tropical and although most rain falls in the north during the May to November deluge, it is best to avoid visiting at this time as already unsteady mountain roads become trickier to navigate. Hurricanes may make an appearance at this time of year, too. February to April has the best weather, but is the busiest time, while winters are fair.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting car rental, be sure to have the following documents:
- A United Kingdom driver’s licence (valid here for up to three months)
- A passport
- The credit card used to book the car
- A printout of the confirmed reservation
For more info, please read our FAQs page.
While you can get so much more out of your trip here when driving yourself, it is best not to drive in downtown Santo Domingo or at night. Local drivers are unforgiving, parking is tight and police are quick to pull over offending foreign drivers. Maps should be downloaded as signage is poor. The drive from the airport to city hotels takes around 30 minutes (18 miles).
Our Guide to the Dominican Republic contains more detailed driving information.
Avoid driving in town as many streets are one way and/or poorly marked, and traffic is heavy. The town is difficult for tourists to navigate, with a limited metro network and cranky buses that mainly do radial runs to the suburbs. Private and shared taxis are on hand, but if you’re walking in the Colonial Zone be sure to have a good map. For daytrips, it’s best to have a car.
The Santo Domingo Metro operates a couple of lines in the city centre—north-south and east-west. It runs quite far out, serving Villa Mella in the north to the Malecon on the coast (near Maximo Gomez Avenue). You can see both the Centro de los Heroes and the National Theater by Metro, and tickets are cheap.
Buses are also cheap but are a hassle to use as most of the time you won’t know where they’re going unless you ask the driver. In addition, many routes head out of town to suburbs and are packed, with little in the way of options for the humble tourist.
There are private taxis and shared taxis; the latter are cheap but uncomfortable. These cabs are known as carro de conchos and ply main streets, while the larger versions, guaguas, are like minibuses and really cram people in. You stick your arm out and then shout when you want to stop. It is best to use the standard ‘tourist’ taxis.
Santo Domingo can become stifling, so many visitors decide to head out for daytrips by car rental to see the real Dominican Republic. There are mountains to the north, beaches to the east and historic towns and villages all around. It’s best not to rely on public transport to see these sights.
San Cristóbal - This historic city is a worthy stop if you’re heading along the highway to the west of Santo Domingo. The constitution was signed here back in the mid-1800s and there are plenty of old buildings to check out. If you have kids, be sure to head for the pools at La Toma de San Cristobal.
Constanza and the Cordillera Central - Lying at altitude a couple of hours’ drive to the northwest by car hire is this striking hilly region and pleasant town. There’s not much in Constanza, but it makes a great launch point for visits to the Cordillera Central, which has fun mountain roads and great hiking. Avoid it in the wet season.
Jarabacoa - Not far away and also within the Central Mountains is activity-central, Jarabacoa. It is also nice and cool here, and the surrounds are strewn with rivers and waterfalls, along with great hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Take the Autopista Duarte north from Santo Domingo.
Las Américas Highway - For a fun and scenic drive, head east along this highway which leads to La Romana, a couple of hours’ drive away. There are beaches en-route, such as Juan Dolio and San Pedro, while beyond La Romana is stunning Punta Cana. The best way to get the most out of this trip is by car.
Amber Coast - If you have the time and love beaches, head to the north coast to this stunning stretch of Dominican coastline. Though touristy, there are some beautiful beaches and charming towns with bags of local ambience. Puerto Plata is the main resort.