Hi,

So you’re going to visit in Las Galeras. Wonderful! You should have a fabulous time while here. Nuris and I will work hard to make sure that our guests in the Seaview Bungalow make wonderful memories.

Here is some information that may help you get here and orient you once you arrive. Much of it you may find useful. Feel free to overlook the remainder.

Travel Arrangements

Over the years I’ve tried many airlines and many points of departure in the US and several points of arrival in the RD. I keep returning to the same American Airlines flights out of National Airport in Washington, DC connecting through Miami and arriving in Santo Domingo a little after noon. Your results may vary.

If you’re departing the US from Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Newark, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or San Juan there are direct flights to the Dominican. Otherwise, you’ll have a connection.

Puerto Plata or Santiago can be other arrival options, although public transportation from there will involve transfers.
The International Airport at Punta Cana has more arrivals than any other airport in the country, but those arrivals are mostly tourists headed to a nearby all-inclusive resort with 24 hour buffets and unlimited drinks with funny paper umbrellas. You didn’t book through there, did you? On the off-chance that you did, please realize that it is a six or seven hour drive to Las Galeras. If you’re coming through Punta Cana anyway, maybe you’ll look into taking the ferry from Sabana de la Mar across the bay to Samaná. It can be an adventure.
So, you’ll probably arrive in Santo Domingo or in Santiago–it’s nearly a wash if you’re going to rent an auto or be picked up at the airport. The drive from Santiago is perhaps the more interesting of the two.

If you intend to travel to Las Galeras by bus (this is very easy to do), then Santo Domingo is certainly the better option. If arriving from Europe or Canada or, at certain times of the year New York City (JFK: Jet Blue) you may have the option to fly into El Catey in Samaná. Consider taking that option. We’re only an hour and a half from El Catey, but public transportation and car rental options may be more limited at El Catey.

At certain times of the year (holidays, and August, for some reason) some airlines (American, certainly) impose an “embargo” on big boxes checked as baggage. The weight restrictions remain the same, but those big rigid plastic boxes that are exactly at the maximum allowable size are prohibited during the holiday season as the ramp crew tries to smash as much stuff into the cargo hold as they can.

Always ask if a luggage embargo is in effect during the period when you are traveling and select your luggage accordingly. We missed a flight the day that we discovered this phenomenon, and once again one summer morning in August. Now you won’t have to.

Keep your passport number and a pen handy on the flight. You’ll be asked to fill out forms to present to Migration and also Customs on landing in the RD. It will expedite your exit from the terminal if you’re prepared upon arrival.

The airport in Santo Domingo is changing rapidly and will probably feel similar to other airports in developed countries. File past the nice official who will take one of your forms, and then proceed on to collect your luggage.

When you get to the baggage claim area, make a beeline for one of the free luggage carts–they’re to the side as you enter the hall. Cart and baggage claim tickets in hand, pick up your checked baggage and proceed to the customs inspection. It’s routine. If you’re bringing weird things for me–and I thank-you for that–you may be asked what’s up. If asked for “show and tell,” you can simply explain to the inspector that any suspect items are for me and that I live in the RD. They’ve heard it before.

After passing through customs inspection, continue to the exit (“Salida”). Eventually you’ll a find yourself in a large hall facing a gauntlet of people waiting for passengers. Perhaps I, or one of my neighbors will be among them if we’ve arranged to pick you up. If you expected us and we’re NOT there, don’t worry. Life in the RD is full of flat tires and other delaying surprises. Your cell phone will work here (premium rates), so call and find out where in the hell I am. 809.840.4150. (But we haven’t missed an arrival yet.) 🙂

Since your bathing suit is close to the top of your carry-on (!), and since you arrived good and early in the day(!) perhaps we’ll stop for a swim under a waterfall off the toll road to Sanchez on the way to Las Galeras. Vamos a ver, we shall see.

If you’re planning to go into the Capital from the airport a taxi awaits you outside. Negotiate the rate clearly before getting in. That guy will probably want to do business in Dollars or in Euros. Your call. I can recommend a few hotels in or near to the Colonial Zone, if you’re of a mind.

The bus to Samana is always a convenient, and cheap option if you’re heading directly to Las Galeras, unless you’re arriving a day or two before some big Dominican holiday, in which case there’s not a seat to be had for love nor money as the population of the Capital heads to the beaches.

If you’re continuing on to Samaná or Las Galeras by bus, a taxi awaits you outside the terminal also. Make it quite plain to the dispatcher at the curb that you are going to the CaribeTour bus stop at the autopista de Samaná (Juan Pablo II), and not to the main CaribeTour station in downtown Sto. Dom. ?
The taxi fare to the bus stop from the airport is more or less RD500 pesos. Confirm that before getting in. The bus stop is maybe 5 kilometers from the airport, the city is more like 25 or 30 km.

The CaribeTour bus fare from the Autopista Juan Pablo Duarte II to Samaná is more or less RD400p, about half of which seems to be invested in air conditioning. Glad you packed that light sweater or long-sleeved shirt next to the bathing suit near to the top of your carry-on, aren’t you? Brrrr. Welcome to the Caribbean.

There’s also a small bus departing from a stop right next door to the CaribeTour station. Many of the small busses also go to Samaná and a few each day actually continue right on in to Las Galeras. The fare is about the same as CaribeTour, although the small bus may try and charge you for additional baggage if you have a lot. Your taxi driver may favor the small bus. Your call.

The gua-gua from Samaná to Las Galeras is 100p per person. A motoconcho (motorcycle taxi) is 100p per person from the center of Las Galeras to our gate. Tell the motorcycle driver you’re looking for the house of “Memo,” or Bill and Nuris on la loma, above the house of Vitalina Reyes.

Or if you prefer, give me a call when you’re on the bus or gua-gua and I’ll meet you when your bus or gua-gua arrives in Las Galeras. 809.840.4150

Renting a car will of course give you complete flexibility while here.

Enter “Seaview Bungalow, Calle Vista Mar, Las Galeras” into the WAZE application or into Google Maps on your smartphone and the APP will deliver you right to our gate.

Communication

While your cell phone will certainly work here, the rates are truly impressive, even if you have an international data plan of some sort. Perhaps it’s best to keep it turned off or in “airplane mode.”

If you wish, we’ve a pre-paid Dominican cell phone for you to use. It’s not expensive and you can pay us only for the pesos you actually use. Trust me–this is not a bad idea. You can also receive local and international calls on that number, which is: 809.843.2948, so go ahead and give the number to whomever you can’t live without. Let them know that there is rarely, but sometimes a bottleneck with calls getting into the RD by telephone; it’s occasionally necessary to dial two or three times before getting a connection. If there’s an earthquake or a hurricane or other natural or civil unrest it can take more than several tries to get a connection. Just like where you live.

I do have a (not very robust, but entirely functional) Wi-Fi connection at my house. So you can connect to the Internet from the Seaview Bungalow.

You can also feel free to pass along my cell phone number: 809.840.4150. You can’t tell, perhaps you’ve misplaced your own Dominican phone in the hammock when someone’s trying to reach you…

Your correspondents can also reach my e-mail at: mail@elotrowa.com That address is forwarded to my inbox automatically, and is generally a pretty good way to reach someone staying here.

Critters

We’ve got ‘em, but they’re nothing to fret about. You’re OK with bugs and amphibians and reptiles, right? Some of them are quite impressive and proximate but they are generally harmless and want even less to do with you than you with them. Denise used to say that wherever you rested your gaze, something was moving. She wasn’t wrong.

For an hour or two in the morning and evening at certain times of year we may have mosquitos. At those times the ambient tropical breeze up on this hill is normally enough to discourage mosquitos. In the Bungalow you have a complete kit, including a big net over the bed fans, mosquito repellant coils and DEET, if you’re personally attractive to mosquitos.
Malaria, Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya all exist in parts of the Dominican but have not been a serious consideration in this area. Nevertheless, if you’re pregnant you may wish to think twice about visiting, or be especially vigilant. As an aside, when last I checked, the American Red Cross would still not accept my blood donation because I live here. Their loss.
We do have a couple of dogs. They will quickly figure out that you’re OK by us and they will follow our lead and mostly leave you alone.

There’s not much in the way of wildlife here: a couple of pretty cool varieties of small snake and the seldom-seen boa constrictor. None of them are poisonous. The rare tarantula is quite impressive but peaceable, the frogs can be startling and noisy on occasion. The geckos are charming. And this is the campo, so expect to hear and/or encounter goats and horses and cows and pigs and donkeys and peacocks and chickens (roosters!), and turkeys and dogs and such. It’s all good.

Relax. Enjoy.

Money

Currency in the Republica Dominicana is the Dominican peso, currently at about 49.5 to the dollar. It’s now pretty convenient to exchange Euros or Dollars for Pesos in this country, including right in the airports.

Try not to spend foreign currency if you can avoid it—you’ll pay a penalty for doing so. Many places here—but not all, will now accept credit cards.

There’s not a lot to spend money on here in Las Galeras; you probably won’t need much. Go to dinner; buy a fish or some fruit; take a tour or rent a horse, or ATV or motor scooter or local car if you wish; buy a totsche or some art.

Bling and Other Valuables

Leave it at home. The only ones here who will be impressed are those upon whom you don’t want to make an impression. Ditto for valuables of any sort.

Point-and-shoot cameras are the way to go. Smart phones? Umm, well, OK–but only because it’s also your camera and your WAZE app. At the beach?? Hmmm.

The small and valuable items should be left at home, or at least handled with discretion when you’re here. Really.

Other Thoughts

Big floppy hat. Sunglasses. Casual clothes. Powdered Gatorade. Mosquito Repellant (DEET!!), Old sneakers that you won’t mind seeing tinted Las Galeras Orange. Powerful Sunscreen. Good books. Mail or magazines or stuff from my house, if you’re in the DC area…

Now That You’ve Arrived…

Let’s pretend that you’re arrived and aren’t so whelmed as to be unable to digest any more information. Following are a few of the things that I’ll hope to remember to mention to you.

Perhaps you’ve rented a vehicle and are planning to drive here in the RD. Whooeee!

Driving here is like Boston at rush hour but with worse roads, vehicles that are beyond marginal and with people sleeping on the berm.

Avoid driving at night. Seriously. Many vehicles are entirely unlit and there are no shoulders on most of the roads and so people, both seated and standing, unlit motorcycles (parked or otherwise), dogs, children, chickens and other objects appear unexpectedly in the right-of-way. In fact, you’d be well-advised to discard the whole “right-of-way” concept for the duration of your stay here. Your travel lane is also the annex to someone else’s living room. Don’t expect oncoming traffic to dim their headlights at night, even though you do.

If you’ve flown into Sto. Dom. and you have time, take the longer route from the Capital, through the outskirts of Santo Domingo West and along the Autopista Duarte (I) and to La Vega, then through either Maimon and Cotui or through San Francisco de Macoris and Nagua, on to Sanchez, and Samaná. It’s more interesting than the toll road, if a couple of hours longer. San Francisco is the nearest big super market to Las Galeras, about 3 hours, which is unnecessary but perhaps interesting information. There are now a couple of perfectly modern small supermarkets in Las Terrenas as well, about 70km.

If you’re planning to cook while here you may want to shop in Samaná at the Mimosa supermarket. It’s not much, but is more than we have in Las Galeras. Anyway, it would be difficult to starve here.

Directions from SDQ to Las Galeras: the (long route) highway

Once you depart the airport you will very quickly have the choice of an elevated ramp or remaining on the highway at ground level. Take the elevated ramp, which soon enough returns to ground level. Quite soon thereafter you will approach a toll booth, which is free in this direction. Bear to the right as you pass the toll booth. Continue on this divided highway, the Avenieda de las Americas, towards Santo Domingo, crossing a bridge over the Ozama River before taking the elevated roadway, Avenieda de 27 de Februaro. Pick a major intersection and turn right to intersect with the Avenieda de John F. Kennedy in a quarter of a mile or so. (JFK parallels the AV. 27 de FEB.) Make a left on JFK, and keep your eye out for the shift rightward and the name change to the Autopista Duarte, which highway you will follow towards Santiago. Stay on that highway (Autopista Duarte I) until the exit for Maimon/Cotui or, later, San Francisco de Macoris. Keep an eye out for your exit, or you’ll wind up in Santiago. Continue through Maimon/Cotui (or, in the alternative, through SFdM and Nagua) and then pass the point where the Samaná—Santo Domingo toll road (mentioned below) joins the highway and continue through Sanchez and Samaná to Las Galeras.

Perhaps you’d rather drive the toll road, which saves a few hours from your journey–and makes it possible to get from the US to Las Galeras in a single day without driving at night or laying-over in the Capital.

Directions to the toll road entrance (Carretera Juan Pablo Duarte II)

Once you depart the airport you will very quickly have the choice of an elevated ramp or remaining on the highway at ground level. Take the elevated ramp, which soon enough returns to ground level. Quite soon thereafter you will approach a toll booth, which is free, in this direction. Bear to the right as you pass the toll booth. Very soon after that you will pass a marked exit to the right (OK, it’s not WELL-marked) for the Carretera de Samaná. Take that exit (which may have two-way traffic on it) and parallel the highway for a couple of kilometers before the toll road veers away to the right from the sea and crosses country. This right turn is coincidentally right at the CaribeTour bus stop. The three tolls on the highway total a bit more than RD 500p. At the end of that toll road make a right and continue on through Sanchez and Samaná to Las Galeras.

If you’ve an international data plan and the WAYZ application on your smart phone you can set your destination as Seaview Bungalow, located on the Calle Vista Mar in Las Galeras and let the friendly voice give you turn-by-turn directions from your location. This could be handy if you get turned around in the countryside, although folks are pretty forthcoming with directions in response to your query: ¿Samaná?

The toll road is nearly finished being repaved at this writing; the pavement is nearly intact, but it is incredibly dangerous. People drink. And then they drive too fast. And this road is absolutely unforgiving. The engineering is nowhere near to the standards that you are accustomed to in the US or even on some of the ancient roads in Europe. The radius of a turn can change 2/3 of the way through the turn, as can the banking of the turn. And oncoming traffic will often use the entire road—including the shoulder on your side which, I’m sure you’ll agree, can be as dangerous as it sounds.

They’re pretty good about replacing the smashed guard rails promptly on this toll road, but there is a good chance that you’ll see a demolished vehicle or two in the parking lot of a toll booth, particularly at the one near to the Parc de Los Haitises.

So, slow down. Don’t worry, enjoy the warm moist air blowing in the windows. Relax. Mind the cows on the pavement.

When you get to Las Galeras, my place is pretty easy to find. Really there are only a handful of roads, so how difficult can it be?

Here, I am known variously as “Bill” or, more commonly as “Memo.” Many people can point you to my house on “la loma,” the small hill outside of town and above the property of Sra. Vitalina Reyes, the widow of Sr. Quinengo. Everyone can point you to the home of Vitalina and Quinengo. There’s also a real possibility that a significant percentage of the people you see on the street are related to Nuris. They can point you in our direction.

As you come into town there is only one real intersection of two paved roads, about a block before the highway that you’ve been on (#5) dead-ends at the beach. Make a right turn at this paved intersection (Plaza Lusitania, El Pirata Restaurant, etc.). Continue until the pavement ends at the Hotel Gran Paradise Samaná. Continue straight past the hotel onto a dirt road (which soon may be newly paved…) In any event, don’t take the dirt road to the right of the hotel entrance. Follow the continuation of the road for about one and a half km. at which point you will encounter a pile of nasty trash in the new “Palacio de Basura,” and a “tee” in the road.

Make a right and go up that little slope. See that big white house on the right at the top of the hill? That’s not my house. But I am just next door. That Swiss Chalet-looking place is the Seaview Bungalow. Nearly there!

At this point, you have an option to taking one of two parallel paved roads up the hill. These parallel pieces of pavement are way slippery on foot also, so be advised and be cautious. If it’s dry, or if you have engaged 4wd when the road is wet, take the right-hand option. If it’s wet and you’re restricted to 2wd, the left-hand road is a better choice.

Either way, continue up the hill and then continue straight up the concrete two-track for about 130 meters and then make a right at what’s left of the big tree (see the bench and the nearby flowers? How about the plethora of blue bottles suspended from the trees?). Continue past the stone wall to the end of the road; we are the whitish house with the brown trim. There’s a brass bell out at the gate. Go ahead–give it a ring!

So You’re Here At Last…

All of the concrete floors in Las Galeras are crazy slippery at all times. When they’re wet you should consider treating them as you would glare ice. This is true in my place also. The walks in the garden may also be slick.

Check your bed before snuggling in. I’ve never had a surprise, but neighbors have had. Check those shoes also…

I’ve re-wired everything electrical here and it’s nearly up to US code standards. But the wiring in the RD is typically atrocious. Nothing is grounded, anywhere it seems. Be cautious, especially when wet.
We drink bottled water, and I brush my teeth with it, too–although we cook with tap water from the cistern. The village now has water from an aqueduct that is theoretically potable, but your tap water and mine is from a cistern and rain.
Septic systems here are primitive, but effective. Only material originating within your body should go there. All paper and sundry personal products go to the adjacent wastebasket for burning. Let one of us know if you need additional plastic bags for the bathroom trash. PLEASE, NO PAPER INTO THE TOILET!
Save any waste metal and plastic. There are places for such in the garage. The DR is just making a start at recycling. I’ll cope with the recycling task, perhaps by asking you to amaze and delight the chaps at Customs and the kids at the TSA by taking it home with you in your checked luggage. But probably not.
When shopping in the RD feel free to negotiate prices. It’s expected. But don’t drive too hard a bargain. The Dominicans you encounter here are poor and you’re not. Start your negotiation at 50% off and conclude with 10%–15%. If you buy something for twenty percent less than the original asking price you’re nearly Dominican.
Likewise, be generous with your “propina,” which is Spanish for “tip,” or “gratuity.” By law, restaurants are supposed to include a 10% tip in the bill. It’s not enough.
The Dominican people are friendly, although the recent influx of American and European tourists seems to be fostering a hitherto unrealized reserve in the collective Dominican persona. Your open smile will usually be rewarded by the most incredible smile in response and your smile will go a long way towards making your time here really, really enjoyable. As will your amusing efforts at Spanish. Don’t hesitate to try. Your effort at basic Spanish will be much appreciated.

Just as in your native language, the most important words in Spanish are: “Please” (por favor), “Thank-You” (gracias), “Excuse me” (perdoné mi, or disculpe mi), and “Where is the bathroom, please?” (Donde es el baño, por favor?)

Finally, when we first started coming to the RD, I took a single Pepto Bismol tablet as a preventative once a day. Never had a problem.

That should just about do it. If you’ve any questions don’t hesitate–consider it your contribution to editing this document, which we’ll use again and again.

By the way, we’ve got some kites and a boatload of board games (thanks, Mary, Daniel, and Dominik!)

And we’re looking forward to seeing you. You really will have a wonderful time here.

Bill and Nuris