Ever dreamt about living on the beach, drinking coconut water every day, having fresh fish on your plate, and being surrounded by flourishing nature? Well, I am about to tell you everything you need to know to make this dream come true. Welcome to my Dominican Republic expat guide!
Life Before the Dominican Republic
Just to briefly introduce who I am, my name is Cristina Toscan. I was born and raised in Italy, in the most gorgeous medieval town called Treviso. This town is just 30 km from the romantic canals and gondolas of Venice.
I’ve always been a curious kid with a strong sense of adventure. I would call myself an adrenaline junkie for the unknown. I’ve never been sure of what I wanted to do in life, except for one thing: I could never sit still in an office for eight hours a day with strict time frames, bosses and rules.
I guess no one really is, right? In fact, I have always wanted to avoid the 9-5 office life. When I was young I picked a high school that focused on languages. This introduced me to travel and since then I have never been able to stop. I’ve travelled to 70 countries with more to come in the future.
Dominican Republic Expat Life
Right now I am a freelance photographer, content creator and social media manager. I currently live in the Dominican Republic as an expat and enjoy working remotely from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
How I came to visit this island was pretty random. The clearest factor was that I was kind of broke at the time. I was planning a trip with my dear friend Ally who is an awesome travel blogger, check out www.goseekexplore.com.
The last destination on our two week tour was a small town on the north coast of Samana. I added this spot because there was a great beach for surfing. When we rented scooters and reached the beach, I had this famous click that you feel inside and realised why I was meant to be there.
I cancelled my plans for Puerto Rico and just stayed. I have been living at this spot for over a year with just a few short breaks in between to visit family in Italy and to travel around. Now, let me tell you why this country is not only awesome for a holiday but why it’s the perfect place to live.
Dominican Republic for Tourists
As an experienced traveller, at some point I was scared of not being able to find a place that satisfied me. I was worried that I would always compare places to the most beautiful spots I experienced on my travels. For example: “this beach is nice but the one in Exuma is better”.
Spoiler alert! I think I found the place that has everything I ever wanted. The Dominican Republic is not only full of pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters but it also has mountains, rivers, waterfalls, jungles, deserts, shopping malls and awesome people. My top reasons for visiting are:
Dominican Republic has Got it All
I have lived here for more than a year and have only seen a small percentage of this beautiful country. In two hours drive you can be in the eclectic capital of Santo Domingo – which has a gorgeous colonial city center – and then you can head north where incredible beaches await.
If you need a break from the 30 degree sun you can always plan a weekend in the fresh mountains of Constanza and Jarabacoa. Looking for something different? There are plenty of hikes through the jungle that bring you to rivers with clear water, waterfalls and natural pools.
Immerse Yourself in Island Time
Apart from in the big cities, time flows in a different way. You don’t have to rush to appointments. In all likelihood, you will be waiting for the other person to arrive. The locals don’t know what stress is. For once you will be the one adjusting to their rhythm and not the other way around.
Enjoy the “Buena Vibra” of the Locals
It’s impossible to feel sad or gloomy in a place like the Dominican Republic. What I found most amazing when I arrived was how generous the locals were. No matter how much money they earn, they will always share with you a Presidente (local beer) or some arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans).
When I got here I moved to my favourite beach Playa Bonita in Las Terrenas. It’s located 3km from the town center. I used to walk down to the supermarket and there was always someone willing to give me a lift. So if they ask if you want a “bola” feel free to say yes to the free lift!
Best Attractions in the Dominican Republic
I’ve had the opportunity to visit quite a few of the coolest spots in the Dominican Republic. If you are coming for a holiday I would recommend exploring as much of the country as possible. The roads are good and even if the people drive crazily, it’s easy to get used to.
Below are my top five adventures and attractions that you must experience during your vacation in the Dominican Republic:
1. Discover the Epic El Salto Del Limón
El Salto Del Limón is a wonderful waterfall immersed in nature in the Samana peninsula. You can hike up and down the hills or you can take a horse to access the falls. This waterfall is 30m high and creates a cool natural pool where you can refresh yourself and hang out with friends.
2. Relax at the Beautiful Playa Frontón
Playa Frontón is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You can get there by boat or hike/climb down the rocks that surround the beach. It has epic coral reefs and shimmering crystal-clear waters. If you visit on a tour they will also organise a BBQ on the beach. Totally recommended!
3. Surf and Kitesurf in the Amazing Cabarete
Cabarete is paradise for surfers and kitesurfers. Playa el Encuentro is located 4km from Cabarete and is one of the most popular beaches in the Caribbean. It has waves suitable for surfers of every level. The best time for surfing is early in the morning while kitesurfing picks up after lunch.
4. Go Whale Watching in the Dominican Republic
From December to March on the north side of the island tourists have the opportunity to go whale watching. These mammals come to the warmer Caribbean waters to reproduce. So you might see baby whales too. It’s one of the most incredible experiences on offer in the Dominican Republic.
5. Visit the Tropical Paradise of Isla Saona
If you want to take a detox from your work/phone then Saona Island is the place to be. It’s reachable from the town of Bayahibe. There are only a couple of Airbnb’s on the island and no electricity or fancy restaurants. I can assure you that you will pretty much have the whole island to yourself!
Bonus Attractions in the Dominican Republic
Of course, there are more attractions and places to visit in the Dominican Republic than just the amazing five I mentioned above. I would also recommend the desert next to the beach in Bani, the highest mountain of Pico Duarte and the ancient capital area known as Zona Colonial.
Many destinations are still on my bucket list like the wonderful area of Barahona in the south close to the Haitian border and the beaches of Punta Rucia in the north. Too many places to see and not enough time!
Dominican Republic for Expats – Las Terrenas
I love all of the Dominican Republic but there is one spot that has a special place in my heart: Las Terrenas. This small town has an awesome energy and I’ve enjoyed every moment living here. To me it’s one of the best places in the Dominican Republic to live as an expat. Let me explain more.
Cost of Living in Las Terrenas
Even if it’s slightly more expensive than other places in the country, you can still find two-bedroom apartments for around $500 US per month when staying long-term. Most of the time this includes bills. This makes life super affordable if you are living on a foreign salary or dealing with tourists.
Amazing Food Scene of Las Terrenas
The food scene in Las Terrenas is varied. You can find many fantastic local options but also kill your cravings for international food. I should mention my favorite place called Empanadas y Mas, owned by Pepe and his wife.
This tiny little restaurant is literally part of their home. They make you feel so comfortable and feed you such incredible food that you never leave unsatisfied. If you pass by Empanadas y Mas make sure you try the empanadas with mango and blue cheese, and their ceviche.
To go full local you need to eat at a Comedor – a restaurant on the street. A meal of rice, beans, chicken and veggies goes for 100 pesos – not even two dollars! Another popular food is parrillada (barbeque) at the beach. Luis Restaurant at Playa Coson has the best lobsters!
People and Culture of Las Terrenas
Las Terrenas is an alive and kicking place. If you feel like dancing, making new friends or going out for dinner then you always have options. There is also quite a large expat community of all ages from around the world. Everyone mixes and mingles perfectly with the locals.
After providing this information, I hope you have some desire to move here! I came as a solo traveller first and my only advice would be to learn some basic Spanish before you arrive. This helps you avoid paying “Gringo fees” – aka the price that goes with being a foreigner and having an accent.
I’ve always felt safe living in the Dominican Republic as an expat. I have plenty of solo traveller friends that live here and we never have issues.
How Long Can an Expat Stay in the Dominican Republic?
The good thing about the Dominican Republic is that up until now the government hasn’t been strict on visas. This means that if you overstay your tourist visa (which is normally 1 month extendable to 3 months for most nationalities) you just have to pay a fee when you leave the country.
Just so you understand, an overstay of a year is around US $100. Not bad for a year in paradise! Not to mention the capital of Santo Domingo is well connected to the main eastern US cities like New York and Miami. It’s common to find return flights to the US for around $200.
Words cannot express the beauty of this destination. I hope that you won’t stay in a resort and miss out on all the amazing places in this country. The Dominican Republic has so much to offer. It will always have a special place in my heart. Feel free to reach out if you have questions: @cristinatoscan.
What’s Next in My Life?
I will be working on my goal to be the first Italian woman to visit every country in the world! Next on the list is a break in Italy to see family and then a tour of some European capitals. I’ll be starting in Luxembourg, then Copenhagen, Dublin, and some Eastern Countries like Moldova.
After that, you’ll find me in Iceland and just a few weeks after in Egypt. Travellers never sleep until they’ve seen it all. Thanks for reading my expat guide on the Dominican Republic. I hope you enjoyed it!