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Insider Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your Vacation Money
How Much is a Banana Worth?
An American friend of mine who was visiting here in DR went out alone for a walk around Santo Domingo one afternoon, when he came back he was eating a banana (which looked very tasty by the way) but I could tell there was something in his mind. ” Is everything ok?” I asked. To which he replied with another question “How much is a banana worth?”
He had bought the banana from the fruit vendor down the street and paid with a 100 pesos bill from which he only got 10 back. Just like that he had just purchased the most expensive banana in the history of mankind (a little over 2 dollars). I went back with him to talk to the fruit guy and easily got the rest of his money back. The banana actually costed 5 pesos (about 11 cents of a dollar). Had my friend had any idea of the current exchange rate this never would’ve happened.
Always Assume you Are Being Overcharged
Don’t get me wrong, Dominicans are very friendly by nature, especially so with foreign visitors but as soon as they see you are from out of town the prices automatically go up. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic but oftentimes, because of the way I look, I get mistaken for a tourist and am given the “special” price to which I just smile and say “hey, I’m dominican” and magically the price goes down (don’t try this unless you speak perfect dominican slang!).
Learning how to haggle (this article might come in handy) is a necessary skill when visiting the Dominican Republic if you don’t want to be overcharged. Keep in mind though that some things like your hotel, tours, excursions and restaurants may have already fixed prices and you won’t be able to bargain your way down to a better price.
Official Currency and Other Accepted Currencies
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the DOMINICAN PESO. It has been devaluating steadily over the last few decades and every passing year the Dominican Republic becomes a cheaper tourism destination since you get more pesos for the same amount of dollars, euros and other types of currencies.
Different currencies (dollars, euros) are usually accepted in popular tourist destinations within the DR (such as Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Samana) the dollar being the most widely accepted type of currency after the peso. Many places have their prices listed un US dollars (to keep up with inflation) so you can go ahead and pay in USD without a problem. Many other places however, accept payment in dollars but they exchange your money at a VERY unfavorable rate for you so you are better of paying in pesos.
Foreign Exchange Rates
I will not publish any exchange rates on this guide since the market changes on a daily basis but you can visit the official site of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (click here) to check what the current exchange rate is between the dominican Peso and your local currency. Another quick way to find out what’s the current exchange rate is to type “your currency to dominican peso” in the google search bar (i.e. dollar to dominican peso).
You can also go to this website to print out an accurate cheat sheet comparing your home currency to the Dominican Peso and carry it on your wallet for easy access.
Bills & Coins: Basic Tips
Highlights from the Video:
- The smallest coin used in DR is the one peso coin (RD$1.00). Cents are no longer circulating.
- Try to convert your coins to bills by the end of your trip. It’s very difficult to exchange coins back to your currency.
- Coins are useful when paying at highway toll booths.
- Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 25 pesos.
- Bills come in denominations of 20, 50 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000
- The 20 pesos bill is made out of plastic. This bill will have a different look and feel than all the other bills.
- It can be easy to mix up the 50 and 200 pesos bills since they have very similar coloring.
- Avoid the 2,000 pesos bill when exchanging your money. Many places do not accept this bill to avoid running out of change and to reduce the risk of getting counterfeit money (the 2000 pesos bill is the most counterfeited bill).
What About Tipping?
By law a 10% tip is included on your bill but it is customary to leave an extra 10% or so in cash to the person who provided the service (i.e. a waiter at a restaurant). Not al businesses actually give lower end employees the tip % that was included in your bill (circumventing the law) so by leaving them cash you are making sure they actually get a tip.
Be advised that, different from europe for example, you are expected to leave a tip and not doing so may be interpreted as if the person providing the service didn’t do a good job.
*Tipping is not expected at your resort (except for bellboys).
Paying cash will land you the best deals when shopping around the Dominican Republic. It is not unusual to get a discount for paying in cash (rather than credit card) because store owners are charged a processing fee for every purchase made with a credit card so they encourage customers to pay cash. Paying cash will also give you the opportunity to bargain the price of almost anything.
As I said before many places will accept US dollars as a form of payment but be prepared to get your change in pesos at a very unfavorable rate so if you’re paying in a currency other than pesos make sure to pay as close to the exact cost amount as possible. Travel experts recommend making large purchases with a credit card for security purposes; most places will accept major credit cards but will most likely increase the price about 5%.
Paying For Your Tours & Excursions
We offer more than 30 hand picked and high rated excursions and tours 100% online bookable via paypal with a credit card. Many excursions you will find only through iHeartDR and our partners while others you are able to book at your hotel (at a higher price) once you get there.
Paying for your tours in advance will ensure you don’t miss out on the most popular ones just because they are sold out by the time you get to your hotel.
We recommend taking some cash with you on your tour for smaller purchases (such as souvenirs or pictures). Some tours will take you to national parks (such as the Santo Domingo Tour and the Los Haitises Tour) which have government appointed guides for portions of the excursion and you might want to tip them at the end.
Debit Cards and ATMs
Debit cards are treated the same way as credit cards here in the DR by most establishments, especially if they carry the Visa or MasterCard logo. Debit cards offer a secure way to make payments but lack the flexibility, as do credit cards, that cash money offers. You can use your card to withdraw money from the many ATMs in the entire country and secure a more standard exchange rate but keep in mind that both your bank and the local bank which owns the ATM may charge a fee for each transaction and may have a daily limit on how much money you can withdraw.
There are more than 1,000 ATM machines around the country so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find one. Chances are that your card issuer is either a member of the PLUS system (operated by VISA) or the CIRRUS system (operated by MasterCard), or the Europay system. So your card should work.
As I always say CASH IS KING. It offers the greatest flexibility, gets you the best prices, gets you out of a jam in case of an emergency and it is the universal language.
I recommend you ALWAYS carry some cash with you if you are not in your hotel, it is up to you to carry pesos or a foreign currency (US dollars will be accepted almost everywhere) although I strongly advise exchanging at least some of your money to pesos to have just in case.
A good tip is to exchange your money little by little that way you don’t have a lot of pesos left at the end of your trip since it might not be as easy to exchange back to your home currency when you’re ready to go back home.
Can I exchange my leftover pesos back to my home currency?
You can purchase a limited amount of dollars at most commercial banks and exchange houses. Expect to lose some of your money on this transaction since the rates from pesos to other currencies will benefit the buyer. The national bank “Banco de Reservas” will, by law, exchange up to 30% of the foreign currency you cashed in the DR giving you the official rate.