"Flying In" Dominican Republic Travelogue by grandmaR
Dominican Republic Travel Guide: 3,022 reviews and 6,817 photos
We flew out of Miami on Monday January 9, 2006. We started out at a little before 8 am and it took us about an hour to go the 10 miles to the airport. Then it took another 35 minutes to check in at the ticket counter (no self check or curb check for international), and a few more minutes to hand the checked baggage over to the X-ray person.
Bob got some currency changed. They were selling it at 0.034733 and he got 1030 pesos for $39.70 minus the commission of $3.95. There was almost no line at security though, so we went through as fast as I could hobble. We got to the gate at 9:56 - eight minutes before boarding started at 10:04. We pushed away from the gate on time, and then waited to take off. Neither I nor the person behind me could get the shade that was between us to go up. So I had to crick my neck around to look over the one a little forward of my seat.
The plane flew right over Virginia Key, Rickenbacker Marina and the Marine Stadium. There are still boats anchored there although I had heard that wasn't allowed anymore. After Key Biscayne, the pilot said he was going south of Nassau, and we probably went over Andros before we flew over Hispanola and out into the Caribbean and turned back to the airport. We were now in the Atlantic time zone, so I changed my watch and my camera and later my computer to the new time - we lost an hour on the way over. They gave us the customs and immigration forms to fill out.
We did not get any lunch of course - just a bag of pretzels and some juice. I brought water to drink, but did not bring food because of possible problems with customs.
We got into Santo Domingo airport a little later than scheduled about 2:05pm. The airport was a zoo, and it was hot and humid. There were a lot of lines for immigration and before you checked in, not only did you have to have your form that they gave you in the airplane filled out, but also you had to buy a tourist card which was $10. I saw no directions that stated this, and I'm usually pretty good about finding signs - you were expected to know.
I went to an airport information booth and asked for a map, and they said they didn't have any information at all except a booklet in either German or French. They gave me the French one plus a CD also in French. I can still read a bit of French and the book actually proved very helpful as a supplement to the AAA book I had. Apparently for many years, most tourists to the DR were from Europe - French, German and some Italians.
I had called the resort before we left and the girl on the phone told me that they couldn't send someone for me and to just to get a taxi. As we were walking out there were people with signs with names on them, and I saw a man with a Hotel Acuarium sign with someone else's name on it. I showed him our RCI sheet with our names and the name of the hotel, and he asked if we were the people whose name was on the sign and I said no and gave our name. He said OK, and took us in tow. I found out later that we had hijacked someone else's transportation - they were a young couple coming in on a much later USAir flight.
Anyway the driver stowed us into a maroon sedan (after he took stuff off the seats including some kind of car alarm and rearranged stuff in the trunk which had a propane tank in it), and shoved his car into the line of cars waiting to exit the airport. No drivers wait their turn here - it is who backs down first that has to wait. I didn't think much about it at the time, because our daughter drives a little bit the same in Miami under the adage "if you snooze you loose", but this was even more aggressive than that.
The car had A/C in it. After he paid to go out of the parking lot, he drove at great speed for some time, including a toll road, going on unpaved roads and around some strange interchanges. I was beginning to be afraid that we had been hijacked. But just about panic time, we turned unto an unpaved potholed road and after one block, there was the hotel. The driver asked for $20, which we gave him. The other couple had to pay $50.
We were about half an hour early for the check-in which is supposed to be after 4 pm. So they said we had to talk to Gloria. Gloria turned out to be the RCI rep and not connected to the hotel. They went to check if our room was ready, and gave us our room key which was attached to a 3.5"x 2" block of wood. Our driver (who spoke almost no English) took the bags up to the room for us and Bob tipped him 10 pesos, not being used to the system yet.
Before we went up to our room, we asked Gloria about a city tour for the next day, and she said she would see us at breakfast the next morning.
For a complete description of the hotel see the Hotel Acuarium tip
Food: the first night, we both ordered off the ala carte menu instead of waiting for the buffet which didn't begin until 8 pm - we were hungry because we missed lunch. The menu had categories for appetizers, first course (pasta), main course, fish course, side dishes and dessert. We were told on the meal plan we could order something from each section except that the fish course (lobster, shrimp, snapper etc) all had an extra charge over an above the meal plan.
For appetizers we got Caprese Salad (190 pesos) which proved to be a large plate of tomatoes and molded cheese. For first course, Bob got Lasagna (240 pesos) and I got Linguine Acuarium Style (200 pesos) which proved to be large tube pasta with a nice sauce. Both very big helpings. For the main course, Bob got Fried chicken and I got Chicken criolla style - both 240 pesos. Bob got a side dish of mashed potatoes which he said were real potatoes and he also got a little tree of brocolli, and I got tomatoes - both 65 pesos. My tomatoes were cross sections around heap of lettuce with grated carrot in the middle.
Desserts were 85 pesos, and Bob got chocolate cake which was more like a brownie only pie shaped, and I asked for Jam cake, but they didn't have any of that so they brought me pineapple ice cream (or maybe it was ice milk) which was excellent and refreshing. This was almost more food that we could eat even though we were hungry and added up to 840 pesos each which would be about $28. Plus of course, tax and service charge.
None of the drinks were included in the meal. You have to buy them extra. We asked for tea and got a couple of 3/4 full cups of luke warm water and some tea bags for which we had to pay. We asked for more 'hot' water and to the astonishment of the waiter, we reused the tea bag. We bought a bottle of water and soon learned to buy a large bottle of water and bring part of it (in a smaller bottle) down to the table with us at dinner time to drink.
Next: Gloria's City Tour.
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