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Going shopping
Most people will agree that you can find almost anything in Santo Domingo. Indeed the main problem these days is sorting through the many new shopping malls that have gone up in the affluent neighborhoods and commercial areas of the city, and even in the populous eastern side of Santo Domingo. Despite the many new malls, hundreds of specialty shops still are dotted around the city and discovering them can be a shopper’s headache or delight. One big plus about shopping in the DR is that most stores will gift-wrap for free.

Can you give me some advice to get started?
Be observant while out and about in Santo Domingo, take different routes to known locations and pay attention to what you see along the way. Some of the most interesting shops, with excellent services and products, may be found in unlikely places. Take advantage of the fact that new shops and discoveries are popular topics for conversation among Dominican people. Ask everyone you meet about where they shop. There will be a number who reply, “ I know a woman who...” Perhaps they will be willing to introduce you. Bear in mind that many Dominicans obtain mysteriously acquired goods from friends or neighbors. The current explosion of new shops, new services, and new restaurants makes it very likely that you will find places with which even seasoned residents are not familiar. The sheer volume of commercial activity does mean, however, that it may be challenging to keep track of what is happening. In many areas of Santo Domingo, single homes are being converted into apartment buildings. The new residential density is bringing about a surge in commercial centers with a diversity of small shops.

What are standard shopping hours?
Shopping malls are usually open from 9 or 10 am to 7-9 pm. Smaller shops open at 9 am and will usually close 6-7 pm. Some of these smaller shops may take a two-hour lunch break. It may be a good idea to telephone before going to avoid the frustration of a trip made in vain. The hours, however, during which almost any shop is certain to be open, are from 10 to 12 pm and from 4 to 6 pm. A straight working day without a lunch break is called a ‘horario corrido’. On Saturdays, many shops close by 1 pm, so if you must do your shopping on this day, it is best to be out and about early. All the city’s large supermarkets except for Bravo are open on Sundays up to until 8 pm, but otherwise most establishments are closed on Sundays.

How can I find the best prices?
Shop around. There are many discount houses that manage to sell items at prices equal to or lower than abroad. Check your local area for these, or ask your acquaintances to share their secrets. Wait for sales. Most of these are advertised in the Listin Diario, but during sales time, DR1 will publish listings of the main sales that are being advertised. Even the most exclusive shops have sales, when goods are reduced by as much as 60%. The best months for clearance sales are March and October. If you are concerned about the prices, do not hesitate to ask for a discount. These may be available if you pay in cash, rather than with a credit card, if you buy a large volume of items, or just because you asked. Be aware that it is often only the manager who can authorize a discount.

Is it advantageous to shop in Puerto Rico, Miami, or by mail?
While it used to be the better alternative 20 years ago, now more and more Dominicans who used to travel abroad for shopping are buying locally because of the diversity and quality of goods found in Dominican shops. If you prefer to shop on the internet or by catalog mail order, you would need to use a courier service, which provides you with a US address (usually in Florida), charging you by weight for the mail which they forward to you in the Dominican Republic (a process which usually takes less than 10 days). While this alleviates your Customs difficulties, there can be a hidden cost. Once you have ordered something by mail, you may receive dozens of additional catalogues, for which you may have to pay the freight.
It is possible to stop this by requesting that the traders do not send you such mailings, or to register on the US mail preference service, which removes you from mailing lists. Several couriers, such as EPS, accept returns or charge reduced rates for unsolicited mail, but it may be simpler just to shop locally.

How can I find out where to buy specific items?
AAsk your acquaintances and make a complete list of possibilities before venturing out. Shop assistants may be aware of who else stocks a related item and may be kind enough to share this information, even though they send you to a competitor. The Yellow Pages (Paginas Amarillas) are invaluable. If your home does not come equipped with the requisite telephone directories, call Verizon at 809 220-3125 and ask for ‘Directorios’ or send a fax to 809 541-0902. Include your name, address, telephone number, etc., as well as the quantity of directories you need. There is also an online version of the DR Yellow Pages.

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