We have travelled a lot with public transport in the past, but nowadays we really like to drive around for ourselves when we travel. That is, Jan drives, Mark navigates in addition to Jan’s internal GPS, Ties tries not to get sick and I panic about traffic situations all the time. Before we got to the Dominican Republic we heard stories about tourists getting ripped off and even thrown into jail after traffic accidents. Advise in our (old) Lonely Planet states not to stop when you’re in an injury accident, because you will get blamed for it automatically with no rights for you at all. Okay ….. here we go…..
After some hassling at Santo Domingo Airport (the reserved car was not available and the proposed insurance costs where sky high), we managed to get a car big enough to carry the four of us including kite gear and other luggage. Also took full insurance at a more reasonable (but still high) rate. And we were off! Ready for our trip to Santo Domingo, Jarabacoa and Cabarete.
Yes, traffic is insane in the DR, with cars passing by left and right & making U-turns when they feel like it. Yes, people cross highways on foot and numerous motorcycles drive like crazy. Yes, we did end up in a minor accident leaving the car with some damage. And yes, it did take us hours to get a police statement on this, which resulted in a race to the airport to catch our flight back home.
But thanks to Jan, who is great at finding his way around in new places and is comfortable in whatever hectic traffic situations, we had a great experience driving around the Dominican Republic independently. The main roads are really good and the scenery is of course awesome. Being able to go wherever you want whenever you want without hassling taxis, gua-gua’s or other public transport is a luxury!
Here are my 5 tips on renting a car in the Dominican Republic:
1 When arranging a car rental deal in advance, let full insurance be part of the price offer. We figured insurance costs would be high, but didn’t expect it to be the same amount as the costs of car rental itself. And standing at the car rental booth at the airport you don’t have much of a choice…
2 We signed the rules of the rental agreement, but didn’t receive a copy of it. The scan I made with my IPhone proved to be handy, when we the car was damaged. We could check the rules to see to which we were entitled and obliged.
3 If you need to go to the police, bring a Spanish speaking person with you. A lot of people in the Dominican Republic don’t speak English, and most police officers are no exemption. I got to help out some other tourists, while we had to wait at the police station and got offered a job as a translator by one of the officers ;-).
4 Be prepared to act in a split second. When you see the name of the turn off, you already should have turned off…..
5 Horn a lot ;-). You will fit in.