Semana Santa 2013 - Random Thoughts

leromero

Bronze
May 30, 2004
613
4
0
web.mac.com
Some random thoughts on my latest visit to the Dominican Republic. These are particular to me, so YMMV. 

This trip was primarily to visit family and friends during Semana Santa, March 23 to April 2.

Whoever is paying US$40 to the taxis at the SDQ airport needs to be taken out and shot. I can?t believe how insistent the drivers are in a minimum of US$40 to go into the city and paid in dollars. I did what I normally do and go up to the second floor, insist in only paying in pesos, and get a rate of DR$1,300. Still a little high, but a better rate in any case.

Hotel
During past stays I?ve used my points to either stay at the Hilton or stay at the Jaragua. I think these hotels are way overpriced even if using points. I?ve also stayed at Maison Geautreaux on other trips. I stayed at MG once again on this trip. This is a nice little hotel which is easy to get in and out of. When I go to the Santo Domingo I only need a hotel for a bed, shower, and coffee in the morning. This place fills those needs very well and at a very good price point. I think I ended up paying US$40 a night. I also like that a block away is Hermanos Villar for a nice cheap lunch menu and a full line of pastry items for a late breakfast if needed. Great location. Obviously I will stay there again on future trips. I?ll save my Marriott points for a grander trip at some point. Oh, one other thing, there is a ?comedor? just a couple of houses down from MG towards the Malecon. I didn?t eat there, but I heard that this is also a good place for a cheap lunch costing about US$5 or so.

Rental Car
I rent enough cars every year for the past few years to stay Executive with National. I wasn?t 100% sure if I wanted to rent a car since I?ve never driven here before. So I left myself an out by not reserving a car before leaving for the DR. I walked the mile between the hotel and Maximo Gomez to the National office on Independencia. By the way, just about every rental agency has an office on this stretch of road in case you want something different. So, I got to the agency and sure enough there are no cars available. The gentleman behind the counter takes note of my status and calls the main office. He manages to get me a Nissan Versa (4 door, 4 cylinder) for US$360 for 5 days including full insurance. I agreed and got the car after about a 45 minute wait while they transferred the car over. I ended up calling back and getting another 2 days added to the rental bringing the total up to US$475 for a 7 day rental.

By the way, this was a great car. I put a lot of miles on it driving to Azua and back twice, along with several trips to the beach and other miscellaneous locations.

One thing of note, when bringing back a car make sure to vacuum it out first. If they have to do it they can charge up to DR$1500. Of course, I got out of it. Did I mention my several trips to the beach? 

Driving in the DR
I have never really driven in the DR before so I was slightly apprehensive. Being so used to driving in the US and Canada I was thinking that the loose interpretation of the rules of the road here would get me nervous. However, that did not happen. Once I got behind the wheel of the car it was go, go, go, the whole time. I actually enjoyed driving. I used my iPhone and Google Maps on a couple of occasions to get my bearings, but that was it. I was very surprised that Google Maps was as complete as it was for the DR.

The drive between Santo Domingo and Bani was very straight forward. This is a four lane divided highway which makes travel very easy. Once inside Bani make sure to follow the rest of the traffic and you will get through town without a hassle. Once you make the right hand turn to enter Bani, go up two blocks, make a left, and go straight through town. Then the pain starts. Two lane highway between Bani and Azua with many ups and downs. Remember all those busses you passed between Santo Domingo and Bani? Well you?ll find several more here going about 5 mph up the hills. Be very careful passing them as those coming down the mountains are flying. If you do not have confidence that you can pass them, don?t! There are enough little white crosses on the side of the road reminding you of the ones that didn?t make it. My little Nissan though was plenty powerful enough. Of course, I wasn?t loaded down either.

Here is a track for Azua to Santo Domingo:
MotionX? | MotionX-GPS Maps

Cell Phones
I took my iPhone 4S, factory unlocked, to the DR. I went to the Claro office in the Blue Mall and got a SIM card for it with minutes and internet for about DR$600 maybe DR$700. This should have given me enough internet use for my whole stay until my little sister and her friend got ahold of it. About 2 days before I left they had managed to leave me at 0. I put another DR$300 on it which lasted me till I left. The process of getting a SIM card for an unlocked phone was painless. I highly recommend it. Make sure to take your passport with you.

Beaches
The local beach for Azua is Playa Monterio. It?s an OK beach. Nothing like Punta Cana, but it has its own flavor. Very easy to get to. Just take the road that is on the west side of the main military checkpoint and follow it south all the way to the beach. You can?t miss it. There are restaurants and local food kiosks if you need to get something to eat.

A beach that used to be one of my favorites was Playa Caobita. Here is a track of how to get there:
MotionX? | MotionX-GPS Maps
Unfortunately the last hurricane left a layer of mud that made it lose its attractiveness. Also, don?t go there unless you are driving an SUV. The road sucks big time. Took me an hour just to get there in the Nissan. An SUV can probably get there in 20 minutes.

Funny Story
So, I came into possession of a neat little stone statue that I wanted to bring back with me to the US. I had a bottle of rum and some coffee in my suitcase too. In order to avoid a broken bottle I made sure to wrap the statue in my dirty clothes while packing my suitcase. Well I got to the airport, went through security, had a couple of beers, and then walked over to the gate. While waiting they called my name. I was wondering what it was for since I already had my boarding pass and was already upgraded for the flight.

So, I walk over to the counter and they tell me that security ran my bag through the x-ray machine and found something strange. They wanted to open the bag in my presence. I said no problem let?s go. This cute lady maybe all of 5 feet, 100 lbs, comes over to me and says she will escort me. I was like sure, wherever you want. We walk over to the adjacent gate and through a security door. Down a couple of flights of stairs and into this hallway with a long table, an x-ray machine, and about 10 security all sitting around looking bored.

They run the bag through a couple more times and let me see what is showing up on the monitor. Sure enough, everything shows up accept for this black spot which is the statue. They open the bag and inspect the statue. I guess they were worried I was taking some kind of national treasure since they started asking where I got it, how much I paid, etc. I answered that I got it in Azua before I left and that the statue looked like the x-ray machine operator. This caused them all to laugh and joke with the guy that he was a model in Azua for tourist stuff. They inspect it once more then wrap it up and place it back in the suitcase. While it was still open I turn to my escort and say that if she wants the bag is still open and I can take her back to the US with me. Another series of chuckles and I?m led back up to my gate. I should have gotten her number while I was at it. Well, maybe next time.

Thanks for reading. If you would like for me to expand on anything here just let me know.
 

Crytonb99

Member
Jan 25, 2010
92
2
8
Nice. I really enjoyed your little trip report. Whats the scene like in Azua? What hotels are there? Did you only visit the capital and Azua?
 

leromero

Bronze
May 30, 2004
613
4
0
web.mac.com
Azua was pretty full of people due to Semana Santa. I stayed with family there so I don't really know anything about the local hotels. I would check Trip Advisor and see if anything shows up. Unless you have friends or family in the area already it might be a little boring. Most of my time was either in Azua or Santo Domingo.
 
Dec 26, 2011
8,071
0
0
Good report.

Keep shopping on your car rental. I pay 30$/day to a guy in PC. All taxes and insurance included. Not saying you'll do as well, but I'm sure you can beat 68$/day with a little effort.
 
Dec 26, 2011
8,071
0
0
I answered that I got it in Azua before I left and that the statue looked like the x-ray machine operator. This caused them all to laugh and joke with the guy that he was a model in Azua for tourist stuff. They inspect it once more then wrap it up and place it back in the suitcase. While it was still open I turn to my escort and say that if she wants the bag is still open and I can take her back to the US with me. Another series of chuckles and I’m led back up to my gate. I should have gotten her number while I was at it. Well, maybe next time.

Great story.
 

Kipling333

Bronze
Jan 12, 2010
2,528
830
113
Really has nothing to do with la semana santa which is a disgrace now in the DR.. It is supposed to be holy week but especially the days of maundy Thursday , Good Friday , Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday but now it is just days away from work to get drunk , take a holiday in a guest house or hotel and to make as much noise as possible,The entire principle of the holy days has been taken over by simply having a big party for days on end, I would now eliminate holy week as a public holiday in this country ,,as it has already been eliminated in most other christian countries and only have Good Friday , Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday as holidays..I would also bring in noise restrctions with penalties and try to educate the people about the days...but I think all that is contrary to the Dominican way of life
 

leromero

Bronze
May 30, 2004
613
4
0
web.mac.com
True, but then you can say the same about the crass commercialism of all other holidays. The true meaning of Christmas, Thanksgiving to a smaller extent, Easter, and such have been lost. Now the days are there IF you as an individual wish to partake in the religious celebration. You can worship and pray to your hearts content during those days or any others. However, when you say that the holiday should be canceled based on your perception of how the general public uses it is it because others tend to have more "fun"? It's a slippery slope to take something away from others just because of ones own perception of what is right. This is not a slight against you, I don't know you, but these types of generalized comments should be preceded by a profound introspection of the thought process behind it. Are you saying this for others or for yourself?
 

LTSteve

Gold
Jul 9, 2010
5,449
23
38
When will Brugal finally make it official and just buy the commercial rights to Semana Santa? Dominicans love a good party and there is nothing wrong with that but just like New Years Eve, Samana Santa has turned into amatuers week and it gets crazy with all these fools running around drunk. It's your country but it is also your funeral. I could not believe the statistics on how many people have to go to the hospital because of over indulgence. Driving while intoxicated, has become common place and although supposedly not tolerated by the DR Gov I don't think there is much they can do about it. People get killed during this week and it is not in the name of salvation but rather intoxication.

LTSteve
 

leromero

Bronze
May 30, 2004
613
4
0
web.mac.com
LTSteve, just a matter of time for Brugal to become a sponsor. Amateur hour is definitely more pronounced in the DR, but you should see Atlanta during major holidays. The amount of people caught drinking and driving is incredible. The difference? The government and lawyers make a lot of money off these idiots. Just wait until the Dominican government and lawyers start to realize this. Then there will be a drastic change in what is permissible and what is not.