Moving to the Dominican Republic
Thinking of moving to the Dominican Republic? We don’t blame you..
Known for its pristine beaches and luxury resorts, the Dominican Republic already attracts many backpackers and travellers from all over the world. They come here to discover the life in the various beach towns like Las Terrenas, Puerto Plata, Cabarete and Punta Cana, or to visit the the capital Santo Domingo. People also come here to explore the natural beauty of the island such as coral reefs, secluded beaches, tropical rainforests, waterfalls, and valleys. If you are considering to move here, it probably means that you’ve already visited the island once or more, even rented a property for a few weeks in a row to get a feel or a certain place in particular. If not, then you are a bold one and that’s all right too.
In any cases, moving to another country is an important decision and there are many things to take into account before packing all your belongings and relocating to your new home. If you are not yet decided to which you’ll move to, then you can check our article about the best places to live in the Dominican Republic.
When thinking about moving to the Dominican Republic, we must make sure to gather all the necessary practical information. For example… How to get my visa? How to move my stuff? How is the healthcare system? What about local taxes? How do I open a bank account? How to buy a property? And the list goes on and on… But Let’s start answering the most important questions right now!
MOVING YOUR HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
What do I take with me and what do I leave behind (on top of the stress and invoices)? Well… Make a list of household goods that you want to take with you when you to move to your new home.
It is also important to choose which personal belongings you will actually need at your new home. For example, I am pretty sure that that space heater that you bought at a street auction last winter will come in handy in the Dominican Republic.
Once you obtain an official residence, you are entitled to bring in used household items duty-free. But as we have seen this process is lengthy.
Can I transfer all of my appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, washing machines, and dryers to my new home? Well, you can do that but the transportation can be costly and most of the guarantees on these appliances do not apply in the Dominican Republic. It’s best to purchase new appliances locally and the transportation is definitely more convenient. If you are moving from the United States or Canada, you will be pleased to hear that the electric current is also 110-120 volts. Two-prong outlets are the same plugs as in the US and Canada.
Air conditioners are a bit on the expensive side in the Dominican Republic, but the ceiling and standing fans are quite affordable. You can also consider purchasing a dehumidifier, as high humidity is something that is normal in the country.
In case you have sensitive electronic equipment, make sure to get uninterrupted power supplies and surge protectors. By doing this, you will have enough time to save work on your computer in case the power fails for some reason.
Tools can be expensive in the Dominican Republic, so it would be a smart idea to bring your own tools. When there is no power, rechargeable tools can come in handy.
You can buy pretty much everything in Santo Domingo. They are many big shops with furnitures, kitchen and electronics. We also have 2 IKEA shops where you can find nearly everything and have it delivered to your place as soon as you spend more than a certain amount.
MOVING YOUR CAR
In order to bring your car to the Dominican Republic, you will need to pay for the import duties. The cost of the import duties depends on the suggested retail price. The best case scenario is that you have owned the car for over five years and that you have all of the registration papers. This way, you will get 60% discount on importing your car to the Dominican Republic. There is little corruption involved in the whole process and the taxes can’t be reduced in any way. Of course, you should definitely check with the customs about the price before moving your car to the Dominican Republic.
The truth is that the cost of import duties is usually high, and moving your car to the country is just not worth the hassle. The good news, is that there are many used cars available for purchase here at fair prices. Of course, you can also purchase a new car in the Dominican Republic, but that’s not cheap. If you are thinking of bringing a car or purchasing one here, we suggest a good old SUV. It will give you easy access to all the off the beaten track places that feature dozens of potholes and can seriously damage low-riding cars. Keep in mind that the Dominican Republic is known for having rainy seasons and street floods are frequent. An SUV is a perfect vehicle for these kind of weather conditions and also has a high resale value.
MOVING WITH DOGS AND PETS
Although it is not required by law in the Dominican Republic that the pet is micro chipped, it is advisable that your pet has a chip in case the animal is missing or needs to be identified. Both dogs and cats need to have a health certificate at least 2 weeks before arrival. This certificate needs to be issued by a licensed veterinarian and pets have to be vaccinated against rabies and parvovirus.
VISA & PASSPORT
Depending on how long you plan to stay in the Dominican Republic, there are different visa requirements that are needed. Those who come to the Dominican Republic to visit and want to stay less than 3 months in the country, don’t need a visa. Just to renew their tourist card every 30 days in Santo Domingo, 2 times after their arrival.
However, those who decide to spend more than 90 days in the Dominican Republic are required to obtain an appropriate visa for their time here.
If you are planning to move permanently to the Dominican Republic, you are obliged to apply for a '“Resident Visa”. Getting a permanent residency is complicated and timely for the novices but can be done very simply via a local immigration lawyer. And we strongly recommend to pay the fees to avoid the worries!
There is an option for a fast track visa available for those with the sufficient income or the retired with a minimum monthly pension of US$ 1,500 and 1,750 for a couple. You may also qualify to the fast track process if you make a $US 200,000 investment into the Dominican Republic by purchasing a real estate property.
To have the exact & up-to-date requirements according to your nationality, please contact the consulate of the Dominican Republic in your home country. We’ve written a more in-depth article about it here.
OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT
Opening a new bank account in the Dominican Republic is quite a straightforward process. The details of that process will vary depending on the bank and/or branch. When opening a bank account, you must provide a copy of your passport, letter of recommendation from the home bank and details of existing bank accounts with sources of income. You can open accounts in several USD, EUR and DOP. For real estate transaction, you’ll need a USD account and for the day-to-day living, Dominican Pesos are always welcome.
A Dominican peso account gives you the advantage of having a credit or debit card and a cheque book, while a dollar account can only get you a transaction booklet.
MORTGAGES AND LOANS
Mortgages and loans are available in the Dominican Republic, but expats must be aware that interest rates are high comparatively to other countries. If you want to buy a property, the lowest rates are offered by Scotiabank. In 2018, they were giving loans up to 70% of the value of the property at 5 to 5.95% and up to 25 years. Other national banks such as El Banco Popular Dominicano, Banco Dominicano del Progreso will offer you rates hovering around 8-10%.
The Central Bank offers Certificates of Deposits for different periods of time, with interest paid monthly into the retail bank account. The levels of interest depends on the amount that was invested and the duration. But the rates are usually higher than 6%. For those who dare to put their money, it offers quite a good return on their investment. Many expats actually (partly) live off this income.
Health insurance in the Dominican Republic is readily available. It is essential to have one while living here! There are several providers, although many people will purchase through the banks, especially El Banco Popular and Banreservas. As well as via the banks the other main providers are Monumental and ARS Universal, which are also insurance brokers who deal with all companies, and their policies.
A standard policy will cost around US$ 500 per year, with a discount if the whole family is covered. For elder people and those who want full coverage, it will be around US$ 1,000 to 1,500. Most can be paid monthly or quarterly as well as annually. It is extremely important to check the policy details, because they will all have a cut off at a certain age. Some as low as 65 and may have a maximum limit on each item, whether it be medications, in patient daily rate, doctors’ fees etc.
Motor insurance is compulsory and is also easily available. Everyone has to have Third Party cover which is around US$ 400 dollars a year depending on the value of the vehicle.
Home insurance is available but is rarely taken out. In the case of a mortgage the bank will insist on building insurance, as well as on life assurance. However the vast majority of people do not bother insuring homes as the construction is almost always concrete and less likely to have fire damage. It is possible to have hurricane insurance but this depends on the number of glass windows (many homes have only open shutters with no glass) and given the location of the DR it is expensive. Theft insurance is also expensive.
THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
The Dominican healthcare system has been undergoing reforms since 2001, which is good news for everyone involved. The old system was underfunded, inefficient, low quality, and resulted in a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for the patients — even the poorest of Dominican society. The new system is split into three clear tiers:
* contributive regime — financed by workers and their employers.
* subsidized regime — financed by the state for the poor, unemployed, disabled, and indigent.
* contributive subsidized regime — financed by independent professionals, technical workers, and self-employed persons themselves, but subsidized by the state (instead of an employer).
As an expat working in the Dominican Republic, you are likely to be part of the contributive regime, but it is worth clearing up the details with your employer. Private health insurance or complementary insurance is essential to avoid excessive gaps in coverage costs, i.e. what you have to pay for each visit or treatment. The reforms of the public healthcare system still have a long way to go. In fact, in 2013 only 58% of workers were contributing to the public healthcare system, even though the reforms had begun twelve years earlier.
In terms of medical services, the Dominican Republic is not far behind other developed countries and even offers far better services than other Caribbean nations in some areas. Its excellent reputation in the field of laparoscopic laser surgery and dentistry, for instance, attracts patients from the Virgin Islands, the Lesser Antilles, and other Caribbean countries who wish to take advantage of the high-quality care. However, most of these high-quality services are offered by private clinics which are well staffed and have the newest equipment. Make sure that your insurance covers treatments at these hospitals.
One thing you should keep in mind is that general practitioners and family doctors are, in fact, very rare in the Dominican Republic. This is why you should choose an internist, instead of a general practitioner, who tends to your basic needs and refers you to specialists if needed. You can turn to doctors’ practices or local clinics for basic care; if you are unsure which doctor or clinic to choose, contact your insurance company for help or ask your friends and co-workers for recommendations.
As is always the case when you move to a Caribbean country, moving to the Dominican Republic requires you to take care of vaccinations and immunization if you want to reduce the risks. Aside from routine vaccinations like measles, mumps, and rubella as well as tetanus, there are other health precautions you need to keep in mind. Hepatitis A and B should by now be a standard vaccination for those who travel to lesser developed countries. If you also plan on spending a decent amount of time outside the cities exploring rural areas and smaller towns of the Dominican Republic, typhoid and rabies vaccinations are recommended.
As someone who plans on spending months or even years in the DR, it is likely that you will visit places in the Dominican Republic where the risk of a Malaria is higher than in the main cities. Thus, you should talk to your doctor about taking some antimalarial drugs. However, taking precautions can also be an effective way of preventing a malaria infection: make sure to use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and sleep in well-screened rooms or under bed nets.
When you think of the Dominican Republic, you may associate it with relatively unsafe countries in the region, like Jamaica, Venezuela, or Colombia. Even though the DR is safer than those countries, the threat of crimes remains high, so make sure to be aware of the most common crimes.
The most common crime is drive-by robbery, and criminality is shifting from firearm violence to robbery and theft. However, the Dominican Republic is in the top 20 countries with the highest murder rate worldwide, but violent crime mostly affects poor areas of the country. In Santo Domingo most of the criminal activities take the form of thefts at ATMs, drive-by robbery, real estate scams, or credit card frauds.
Most of the armed assaults happen at night. As a consequence, if you don’t have a car, it is better to book a taxi at night — Apolo, for example, is a trustworthy company. If you do have a car, it is recommended to park it close to other cars to minimize the risk of theft by glass breakage, which happens frequently in the Dominican Republic.
If you have an emergency, call 911. However, this number only works in Greater Santo Domingo, thus if you are elsewhere in the country, they will redirect your call to the unit in charge.
Despite that, the Dominican Republic is considered by many people living here, a safe country. Actually, it is one of the first reason why so many foreigners decided to live or invest in some area of the countries where criminality rates are very low, such as Las Terrenas. Few years ago, the government created a section called "CESTUR" with the goal of protecting tourists and maintain security.
However, it’s always recommended to check for security if you are relocating. Some believe that it’s best to establish residence in a gated community, while others may think differently. You will find large communities expat community in the North coast area, especially in Las Terrenas which is one of the safest place to live in the Dominican Republic. Discover more about the different communities of villas and condominiums in Las Terrenas.
Santo Domingo is the busiest city, so logically more people generally involves more chances of crime. There, it is important to take the necessary precautions that you would in any city, and apply them while coming here. Being alone at night in a dark alley is not recommended anywhere in the world. Of course, it definitely helps to know Spanish and it will get you far with the locals here.
TROPICAL STORMS & HURRICANES
Tropical storms and hurricanes are a serious concern for those living in the Caribbean. These storms can cause important damage and injury and are a threat which is not to be taken lightly.
The main hurricane season is from June to November, with peak times from late August to the end of September. The last hurricane that hit the country was Hurricane Sandy in 2014.
Generally, you will find out if a tropical storm is approaching via different news media. However, make sure to make your home “disaster ready” and to have a “disaster kit” with plenty of canned food and water. The good news is that 90% of all buildings in the country are completely storm-resistant. In comparison to other Caribbean countries, the Dominican Republic is often much less impacted because of two reasons. The “Mona Passage” and its cold water decreasing the strength and the highest mountain of the Caribbean “El Pico Duarte” pushing the storms away from the coast.
SCHOOLS AND THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
Expats who are moving to the Dominican Republic with children will be pleased to hear that there are many great schools in the country. There are also a number of multinational schools where your child can attend classes in various languages, not just in Spanish. The truth is that most of the expats enroll their children in international schools. Santo Domingo is home to schools like Ashton School, American School of Santo Domingo, and Saint George School. If you are planning to move to La Romana, check out the Abraham Lincoln School, and in Las Terrenas you will find the Las Terrenas International School.
Schools which have been accredited by the Dominican Ministry of Education might offer certificates and diplomas allowing your children to study at Dominican, US American, and European universities.
However, we suggest that you gather more information about the type of diplomas that the different schools offer and perhaps lean towards one with an International Baccalaureate curriculum to ensure worldwide recognition of your child’s studies.
ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
You definitely won’t have to worry about your kids being bored in the Dominican Republic since there are many activities suitable for children of all ages. You can spend a day on the beach and go sailing, snorkeling, and windsurfing. If your child is a bit older, he or she can enjoy water activities like kayaking, surfing and kite surfing.
One of the most popular activities here is whale watching and there are various boat tours that offer close encounters with these amazing creatures. On these tours, your kids will also learn a bit about the marine life, since there are licensed guides who provide educational information about the whales. Whale watching is possible from January to March, when whales are migrating to Samana Bay. Spend an afternoon riding a Creole horse or visit the lovely Eastern National Park where you will find hundreds of species of plants and animals.
Moving to a new country is a huge step, but also an incredible and exciting experience! Moving to the Dominican Republic definitely has its challenges, but with many rewards. This country offers so much beauty and culture, and with many expats moving here making it a great place to move to. As exciting as it is, taking everything into consideration before moving and spending a long period of time here before making the big move will definitely help your decision. Where ever and whenever you chose to move here, we hope we helped in making that decision a bit easier.
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