You mean it costs money to live in paradise?
You’ve made up your mind to relocate to the Dominican Republic. You have seriously thought about it and talked and talked about it. You are ready to pack your furniture, sell the cars and give away shelves and closets full of accumulated items all in the name of adventure, or a safer
place to raise the children. And, why not admit it, you look forward to the endless days of warm weather.
The big question is, just how much does it cost to live in the Dominican Republic? While there are endless variations, this article seeks to guide newcomers in developing a budget to fit each individual lifestyle. Notice the focus is on a four person family that in the United States was living comfortably on a US$50,000 a year budget.
The foremost consideration is to accept that there will be more you cannot control than what you can control in the Dominican Republic. Thus it is important to leave reserves for the unpredictable, unless your job permits you to work more and earn extra when you need the additional income.
How do Dominicans manage? Thousands sell something to their fellow workers, run some kind of business at home, hold multiple jobs, or are fortunate to have a relative who sends a check from abroad every month. This may not be your case.
While this is not as much a consumer society as the United States, you will be constantly tempted to shop or travel within the Dominican Republic. Thus, the road to budget control is rough, taking into consideration the small amount that disappears in all of a hundred magic ways… ice cream for the kids, pesos for the supermarket boys, daily fruit and vegetable purchases and much, much more.
It is also possible to reduce considerably the expense levels mentioned here by living austerely and enjoying more the intangible pleasure of many friendships, year round warm weather and tropical splendor.
Unfurnished one bedroom apartments in a desirable neighborhood are available for RD$6,000-RD$7,000, two bedrooms for RD$10,000-RD$13,000. And a three bedroom apartment will go for around RD$13,000-RD$20,000. Actual rental costs will depend on what comes with the apartment (all day or scheduled power plant, appliances, furniture, telephone, cable TV, watchman, elevator, air conditioning, central propane gas), where it is located and who is renting. Note that you could pay for rent nearly the same monthly installments you would pay towards purchasing the apartment. Expect to pay at least 50% more if the apartment is minimally furnished.
Normally those renting will request two deposits, and a third for the realtor. You will also be required to have a local guarantor, that is a person who will pay the rent if you default. If you do not have a guarantor, you may be asked to pay four to six months advance rent.
Try to find a home near your place of business and in the area where your children will go to school to simplify your life, especially given the current traffic bottlenecks occurring at almost all hours in Santo Domingo.
Stick to Dominican products, eating lots of fruits ad vegetables to keep your food expenses down. This is easier said than done as Dominican supermarkets are extraordinarily well-stocked with imports from around the world. A five person household (four family members and maid) can easily spend upwards of RD$8,000 a month on food.
The lifestyle her makes having a maid imperative. First, if you have children who do not go to cocktail parties, you will find that baby-sitters are almost unheard of in this country. Most Dominicans have relatives who from time to time will take care of the kids, but they, too, have a busy social life, so Dominicans hire a live-in maid.
Second, cleaning must be done daily because of the dust and pollution resulting fro the thousands of generators in use, due to a deficient electricity system.
A maid costs about RD$2,500, with trained personnel going for about RD$3,500-RD$4,500 a month. In addition, you should budget an additional RD$1,000 for personal hygiene items and extra food for the helper. It is common for upper middle class households to have more than one maid, or to have a person who comes in for major cleaning once or twice a week, or to do the ironing. Save by using a washing machine, but note you will need a reliable alternative source of energy or your maid will not last long if she has to wash at odd hours when the power is on. It is possible to hire a person to come in once a week to clean the hose and another person to do the ironing. This will cost you about RD$150 each plus breakfast and lunch per day (up to 4 pm).
Clothing is reasonably priced here. Note every neighborhood has its seemstress, and cost for material is reasonable. Discount shops sell top brands at 50% of their original price in the US. Take advantage of the many sales in leading stores advertised in the Listin Diario, the best selling daily newspaper. A man’s shirt in a leading brand, will sell for about RD$350 on sale. Budget about RD$2,000 a month for a family of four.
Considering that you already own your vehicle, budget about RD$2,000 in monthly maintenance costs and repairs (including minor accidents) and another RD$1,000 for fuel for city driving. A gallon of unleaded gasoline currently costs RD$30.00 but fuel prices fluctuate every week. A second hand, 10-year vehicle in good condition can be purchased for about RD$60, a new can will run as low as RD$180,000 (Renault Clio). Public transportation busses that cross the city charge RD$3.00 one way. And you can comfortably travel to Puerto Plata from Santo Domingo on a Metro Bus for a mere RD$125, for the 225 kilometer trip. Many people get around using taxis they call up and that will take you within city limits for RD$50-RD$60.
Entertainment expenses can be higher here than abroad. There is a much greater need for socializing here than in Europe or the United States. It is common for friends to gather for dinner at home. Depending on the group, it may be the custom to show up with a bottle of wine, flowers or the dessert. It is also common to dine out at one of the seemingly hundreds of restaurants in the country, where dinner can easily cost upwards of RD$300 per person. The bill is split amongst the couples and single women do not pay, or one party will pick up the tab. Cable TV is available at about RD$420 per month, videos rent for RD$50 and movie house charge RD$80. Factor in an additional RD$15,000 a year for two long weekend vacations at a resort.
Education in Spanish will cost under RD$4,000 a month. Bilingual schools cost upwards of RD$5,000 per child. English language schools can cost even more. Seek a school near where you live to keep your gasoline expenditures and stress levels down. Monthly afternoon classes may add another RD$1,500-RD$2,000 per child.
The great mystery – lights. Your electricity bill will fluctuate, depending on where you live, on the electricity consumption of the previous occupant if you are using the same meter, and on your consumption. If you do not use an air-conditioner, you could pay about RD$800 a month for electricity in a two bedroom apartment. If you use air-conditioning, add an additional RD$1,000 per unit. Save by choosing an apartment with cross ventilation. You may need to factor in the fuel you will use for you generator at RD$18 per gallon of diesel.
A 100-lb. tank of propane gas costs RD$185 and can last about two months, depending on usage. Telephone bills are at least RD$200 a month, with unlimited calls at a monthly rate of RD$600. If you are living in an apartment you will pay a maintenance fee that could range from RD$800 to RD$3,000, depending on the services provided.
Medical and dental costs
If you have medical insurance coverage, a visit to the doctor should cost about RD$100. Most children’s vaccinations are covered by the better local medical insurances. If you do not have medical insurance, be prepared to pay about RD$600-RD$1,000 per visit. Medical insurance for a family of four can cost under RD$12,000 a year, and is worthwhile. This sum will not cover major illnesses such as cancer, or surgery for breaking a hip. You can purchase supplementary insurance and US medical insurance coverage from Dominican brokers. The better dentists charge about RD$600 for a cleaning. dental work is one of the best values in the Dominican Republic. There are many dentists that will perform excellent work for half of what it costs for the same in Europe and North America.
An automatic car wash costs RD$100, the Listin Diario, the leading newspaper, costs RD$10 daily, and five gallon drinking water bottles cost upwards of RD$15.00.