If I can do it, anyone can

wrldruler

New member
Jun 19, 2020
3
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Maryland, USA
I took my first trip to the DR (Peurto Plata) back in March 2020 (sorry, forgot to post this trip report earlier).

I'm a 39yo white, obese, American guy who does not travel, does not enjoy "new things", and does not enjoy people. My wife has dragged me to a few places over the years, but I've never been away from the East Coast of the US, and have only flown a few times. I learned un poco of Spanish in High School 25 years ago.

After my boss got back from a Punta Cana resort and told his stories, I decided the DR may be a good place for a future early retirement. I spent almost a year reading sites like this, watching Youtube videos, etc. Finally, in a mid-life crisis sort of moment, I decide to visit the DR...by myself.

I wanted to avoid the resorts, so I stayed with Diane at SunCamp DR in Puerto Plata. She had someone pick me up at the POP airport, and I arrived late in the evening, hungry/tired, and with no local money (I know airports have expensive exchange rates, but if you are going someplace away from tourists, I suggest having more than zero pesos when you leave the airport). I went to bed that night hungry, questioning my life decisions.

In the morning, I was relieved to hear….English! Diane’s place is filled with very nice Canadians. I went down to the table near the river, and found folks very willing to help me get oriented. From there, I simply asked to tag along with anyone that was leaving the compound….…so I quickly experienced rural taxis, money exchange, grocery stores, etc.

Once I got the basics of transport, money, and food there wasn’t anything to hold me back much. Over the next week, I simply explored the Munoz and Puerto Plata area, often by myself. I even took an Uber up to Caberete. I brought my Google 360 camera and took a ton of pictures of the Munoz area, which you can find on Google Maps.

On the topic of Uber….yeah DR Uber doesn’t work like American Uber. You bring up the app, put in the to/from, Uber gives you a price, and you select the desired driver. The driver will text you back and tell you to abandon the Uber app and switch over to WhatsApp. The driver then negotiates a new price, always higher than the Uber price, and then you have to pay the driver in cash. This happened to me with like 6 drivers, so its not a one-off thing. I finally found a young kid with a nice car, fair prices (still way cheaper than a private taxi), and I just texted him anytime I wanted a non-rural route ride. This kid took me all the way to Caberete, and said “Don’t let any fool drive you back, text me instead.” At the end of my day, he drove all the way back to Caberete just to pick me up. I don’t regret the Uber experience, I just want to warn folks that it doesn’t work in the DR as designed, so be prepared as it complicated the plans I had made.

I walked a lot by myself through the rural streets of Munoz and the city of Puerto Plata. I pretended like I knew what I was doing, and I had zero problems. I just made sure I was inside the compound before dark. So I can’t offer any insight into DR after dark. I also did not do any touristy things; I avoided anything that looked like it was priced only for rich American tourists.

I made mistakes, I got lost, I screwed up counting money, I screwed up the Spanish language, but whatever .., 99% of the people I met in DR were very patient. My favorite screw up story is when I asked the local shop for ojos (eyes) instead of juevos (eggs). Lady about fell out of her chair laughing when she eventually figured out what I was talking about.

I’ll stop writing now. If you have specific questions, I’ll be happy to answer. The reason I am posting is to give folks confidence: If I can travel to rural DR by myself, anyone can. I was way out of my comfort zone, but nothing bad happened. I can’t wait to visit Diane again once this pandemic thing eases up. I'll be bringing my 11yo daughter next time, to get her out of her comfort zone.

And thank you to the DR1 community. Your posts helped a lot in getting me ready for my trip.
 

drstock

Silver
Oct 29, 2010
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Cabarete
Good for you for breaking the habits of a lifetime and I hope you will be back soon. Of course it's a bit more difficult now with Coronavirus, but as you weren't going out after dark anyway it shouldn't be too different apart from the requirement to wear a mask in public. It's good to have a trusted driver, but be prepared - he may soon start asking for additional financial help with a car problem, or even a relative in need of urgent help.
 

Andre14615

HOW BOUT DEM COWBOYS!
May 31, 2019
471
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I'm hearing a lot about these uber scams in Santiago and Puerta Plata. You guys have to start reporting these drivers in the app or the service will no longer be useful. BTW, awesome trip report.
 
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wrldruler

New member
Jun 19, 2020
3
10
3
Maryland, USA
I forgot to mention my food experience. I only shopped/ate at the same places the locals do. I usually made my own breakfast, typically eggs and fruit. For lunch, Diane had a longterm tenant that made home cooked DR meals and would share her meal for like $2. For dinner, I tried someplace new every night as long as it was cheap and local. I had zero stomach problems. Perhaps it was risky, but (as an obese American) experiencing the local food was one of my top priorities and I was willing to risk illness to do it.No regrets.
 
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NY2STI

Active member
Mar 22, 2020
187
242
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Great report! Glad to hear you didn't regret taking the plunge. I've lived in and visited D.R. a number of times so I'm not quite a newbie, but I always find an interesting new experience. I was thinking about a few days at SunCamp for my next trip so I'm happy to read your review. With regard to Uber, the only problem I had was getting to the STI airport at 5 a.m. The driver took the fare, tried to hold me up for more money, and then refused to cancel. Luckily my friend was with me and used her phone to get another driver. I left the other guy hanging and he eventually cancelled the ride himself.

My account is tied to a credit card. A few others told me that some drivers play these tricks because they don't want to wait until next month to get paid. Also, they don't have to pay Uber. I don't know if anything came of it but I did report the driver to Uber.
 

wrldruler

New member
Jun 19, 2020
3
10
3
Maryland, USA
I was thinking about a few days at SunCamp for my next trip so I'm happy to read your review.

A few others told me that some drivers play these tricks because they don't want to wait until next month to get paid. Also, they don't have to pay Uber. I don't know if anything came of it but I did report the driver to Uber.
Diane's accommodations are basic. It reminded me of camping in a log cabin. Room was clean, bed was comfy, stove and fridge worked, toilet worked, internet was great, we lost electricity only once in a storm, the water stopped once but was fixed within an hour....but the shower was old and almost useless. Oh, and the room comes with some basics like pots/pans, but there was no toilet paper, paper towels, etc. Maybe I could have asked for them, but just plan on buying your own. The rural area is beautiful, and the people are super friendly.

I understand why the drivers play the Uber game. The quoted Uber price from Puerto Plata to Caberete was ridiculously cheap. Like $10-$20 American, and that's before Uber takes their percent cut. There is zero way those guys would make a profit on that Caberete trip, up and down those hills. I think my final price was $30 cash, which I still found to be cheap by my American standards, and I was fine paying .... just the Uber game caught me by surprise and complicated by trip to Caberete.
 

NY2STI

Active member
Mar 22, 2020
187
242
43
Diane's accommodations are basic. It reminded me of camping in a log cabin. Room was clean, bed was comfy, stove and fridge worked, toilet worked, internet was great, we lost electricity only once in a storm, the water stopped once but was fixed within an hour....but the shower was old and almost useless. Oh, and the room comes with some basics like pots/pans, but there was no toilet paper, paper towels, etc. Maybe I could have asked for them, but just plan on buying your own. The rural area is beautiful, and the people are super friendly.

I understand why the drivers play the Uber game. The quoted Uber price from Puerto Plata to Caberete was ridiculously cheap. Like $10-$20 American, and that's before Uber takes their percent cut. There is zero way those guys would make a profit on that Caberete trip, up and down those hills. I think my final price was $30 cash, which I still found to be cheap by my American standards, and I was fine paying .... just the Uber game caught me by surprise and complicated by trip to Caberete.
Thanks for the additional info. I've taken more than a few bucket showers so that's not a problem!

I agree with your Uber assessment. The rates are quite low and I always tip in cash for that reason.
 
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