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  Useful information

Culture & Politics
   Native Indian tribes of the Caribbean and South America were the first inhabitants of this island. Spanish settlers followed on the heels of Admiral Christopher Columbus after his landing on 5 December 1492. The French ruled the island for two brief periods, as did the Haitians. The European conquerors imported African slave laborers in large numbers, a fact that defines an important part of Dominican culture. Subsequently, the country has become home to migrants from countries around the world, attracted by the natural hospitality of those who have preceded them and creating forth a most rich cultural heritage.
   The nation celebrates its independence on 27 February. President Leonel Fernandez was elected in 2004 for a four-year term.
   The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of La Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti, and is the second largest country in the Caribbean, comprising an area of 48,198 square kilometers (29,948 square miles). It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the Caribbean Sea. This is a big island by Caribbean standards and care should be taken to arrive at the one of seven international airports that may be closest to your final destination to avoid long car trips, sometimes of up to eight hours - for example if you land at Punta Cana International and are headed to Puerto Plata.
   Approximately nine million people live in the Dominican Republic. Of these, one third lives in the capital city.
   Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic although English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas and large cities. Knowledge of German, Italian and French is also common in resort towns. Traffic signs are in Spanish, although menus in tourist regions are usually available at least also in English.
   The Dominican Republic is on Atlantic Standard Time all year long. Clocks are one hour ahead of those on the US eastern seaboard in the fall-winter but keep the same time in the spring-summer. The Dominican Republic is four hours ahead of GMT time.
Entry Requirements
   The Dominican government requires that US and Canadian citizens have a valid passport or an original birth certificate, along with a valid photobearing official document (driver’s license or voter registration). The US has announced that as of 8 January 2007, passports will be required of US citizens for re-entry to US territory. In addition to the passport, US and Canadian citizens and residents must purchase a US$10 tourist card for a stay of up to 30 days. Fees vary for longer stays. A departure tax of US$20 is also collected, although it may be included with the airline ticket. Citizens of other countries should contact their carrier or the closest Dominican consulate to reconfirm travel documentation requirements. For updates, see http://www.dr1.com/vp/documentation.shtml
Ports of Entry
   With few exceptions, most Dominican tourism destinations have an airport within less than an hour’s drive. Tourists should be sure they are choosing arrival at airport nearest their final destination. Be warned that some airports are eight driving hours distance between one and another.
   The airports regularly receiving international flights are: Las Americas International Airport (SDQ), La Isabela International Airport (SLI) in Santo Domingo, La Romana International Airport (LRM), Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), Samaná International Airport (AZS) at El Catey near Samaná, Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP) in Puerto Plata and Cibao International Airport (STI) in Santiago.
   Other airports of entry primarily serving domestic flights are: Portillo (EPS) and Arroyo Barril (ABA) in Samaná, Constanza (COZ), Maria Montez (BRX) in Barahona and Cabo Rojo (CBJ) in Pedernales.
   Maritime ports regularly receiving tourists are the Santo Domingo Port (Don Diego and Sans Souci terminals), the Casa de Campo cruise port and Marina de Casa de Campo in La Romana, and the Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata
Business Hours
   Government offices, as well as foreign consulates and embassies, open at 8am and close at 2pm Monday through Friday. Some offices stay open for meetings by appointment until later in the afternoon. Businesses typically operate from 9am to 5pm, five days a week. Shops open on weekdays at 9am and usually stay open until 7pm on weeknights and until 2pm on Saturdays. Major stores remain open until 10pm and on Sundays will close at around 8pm.
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