Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic flag

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Dominican mail can take a while and it may not always be safe and/or reliable for packages.

Volunteers should use the following address for receiving mail:

Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado Postal 1412
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic

Telephones/Internet

Keeping in touch with friends and family while serving abroad is extremely important. Likewise, locally, Peace Corps staff will need to communicate with you. Cell phone communication with Volunteers, while convenient for service, is an important safety and security tool for local staff.

Volunteers serving in the Dominican Republic need access to cell phone communication (calls) and internet. While you may not have service in your homes, at minimum, access to service will be within 30 minutes from your home so that you can check your device once a day. You will also need service if/when traveling in the country.

As you prepare for arrival to the DR, we want to provide you with the policies and expectations for communication so that you can make the best decision for you regarding devices.

Policy: Volunteers must have a working cell phone with access to the following:

  • Calls with a local telephone number
  • Internet to access Uber app (in Santo Domingo) and WhatsApp
  • Text messages

While staff will use email at times to communicate with you, WhatsApp will be the main communication tool. WhatsApp is the most common communication app used in the DR and will likely be the way you communicate with local friends and work partners. PC uses WhatsApp for all mass communications including our emergency action plan and weekly updates.

At the same time, you will need access to calls and text messages in the event that you are in a location that does not have internet.

Regarding the Uber app, after dark, Volunteers are not allowed to initiate travel using mass public transportation options such as the Metro in Santo Domingo or buses. At site, this is usually not an issue, however, while in Santo Domingo or other larger cities, Volunteers may want to be out after dark. In such cases, for security purposes, Volunteers may only use private transport such as Ubers or taxis. A taxi may be called using the phone, but Uber requires internet service to access the app.

Options: Post needs to ensure that you have access to regular communication. Please carefully consider the options below, and prior to arrival, choose the best option for you. In some cases, it will require planning stateside and before departure.

Option 1: Use your own personal device with a Peace Corps-provided/Dominican SIM.

This is likely the best option for most of you. If you choose to use your own device, you will need an unlocked phone. You may either purchase an unlocked phone or if you have a smartphone, cancel your plan and have the phone unlocked. Ensure that your personal device uses a SIM card for a phone number.

Advantages/disadvantages: By using your own phone, you will have access to all of the apps of your choice. You will likely have more storage space on your device for photos or documents, and the phone will probably be much faster. The disadvantage is that you will not have access to your US phone number (unless the phone has a dual SIM).

Option 2: Purchase a local generic smartphone upon arrival to the DR.

If you do not have a smartphone or do not anticipate needing access to more apps than WhatsApp and Uber, Peace Corps will provide you with money to purchase an inexpensive phone to meet these needs.

Advantages/disadvantages: This will provide you access to calls, texts messages, Uber and WhatsApp for your basic needs, however, the phone will not have sufficient memory to manage many other apps or store photos, etc. If you choose this option and also want to maintain your personal device with your US SIM, you will likely need to carry 2 phones regularly as you must have on you at all times the device with your DR SIM.

Our experience is that most Volunteers have a strong preference for their own personal device. If this is the case, we recommend that you arrive to the DR prepared. You may consider reaching out to your contacts prior to leaving the US to let them know that you will soon be in touch with your new number. You will also need to ensure that your phone is unlocked so that you can insert the DR SIM once you arrive in country. Please communicate your preference to your CDO one month before departure.

Housing and Site Location

All housing or host family arrangements must be inspected and approved by post staff prior to occupancy to ensure each house and/or homestay arrangement meets all minimum standards as established by the Peace Corps and the post. Housing guidelines are subject to change as necessary to facilitate the health, safety and overall well-being of Volunteers.

PCVs will be assigned to communities that have requested the support of Peace Corps. PCVs will interact with and share time with Dominicans neighbors and families. Spending time with Dominican families allows faster integration into the community and provides a safe environment. All Volunteers living with a host family during Pre-Service Training, and for a minimum of 4 months after swearing-in and moving to their permanent site.

Volunteers typically live in houses with cement or tin roofs, walls of wood or cement block, and cement floors. Many communities have electricity with current running similar to that in the United States (110 volts, 60 cycles), but power outages are very common and in many cases occur multiple times a day. It is not uncommon to be without power for many hours daily. The water supply is subject to the same inconsistencies. Many communities do not have water piped into houses. Rural families, for example, often have to walk to the nearest well, community tap or other source for household water.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in Dominican pesos that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, utilities, basic household supplies, transportation, normal clothing replacement, moderate entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable to that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. For unexpected costs, some Volunteers find it helpful to bring a credit or debit card which may be used in the larger cities. It is suggested that Volunteers avoid bringing cash.

Food and Diet

A typical Dominican daily meal, called la bandera, is a plate of rice, red beans, and meat and/or vegetable. The Dominican diet consists of yuca (cassava), plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, other root vegetables, eggs, salami, and cheese. The national dish is sancocho, a rich meat stew served on special occasions. Most dishes are not spicy. Seasonal fruits include bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas, and avocados. Dominicans generally eat small quantities of meat. Habichuelas con dulce, a sweet dessert made from red beans, is popular during Lent through Easter. Vegetarians will be able to maintain their diet, but they will be offered, and most likely expected to accept, traditional foods, including meat, when visiting people’s homes. Volunteers are encouraged to be open and flexible about eating and enjoying the Dominican diet.

Transportation

As with housing, guidelines for transportation use are subject to change as necessary to facilitate the health, safety and overall wellbeing of Volunteers. Generally speaking transportation is relatively easy to use in the Dominican Republic. Most urban areas are serviced by buses, vans, and carro públicos (a sort of shared taxi). Buses run between cities in the country, while rural travel runs the gamut—from minibuses, motorcycles, pickup trucks, to lots of walking. Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to drive motor vehicles of any type and are not permitted to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle. For security purposes, private taxis or Ubers must be used at night (7pm – 7am). All Volunteers are provided training and information about appropriate transportation methods once in country. Peace Corps Volunteers may purchase bicycles for transportation purposes in their assigned communities, but must receive approval which is based on road safety in the community. If approved Peace Corps will provide you with a helmet, which you must wear at all times while riding a bicycle.

Social Activities

Social life in the Dominican Republic often revolves around the family porch, where people talk and play dominoes, a national pastime. Outdoor tables in front of homes, bars, and neighborhood markets are surrounded by people who play for hours, especially on Sundays. Baseball is the country’s most popular sport, and rarely does a day go by without seeing people playing baseball with anything they can find to use as a bat and ball.

Dominicans also love music and dancing; merengue, bachata, salsa, reggaeton, and dembow are some of the most popular. Social activities in the Dominican Republic vary depending on where you are located

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

In the Dominican Republic, dress reflects your professional status, impacts your ability to integrate into the Dominican culture, and has ramifications for your safety and security. Looking neat, clean, and professional will enhance your image and reflect positively on you and Peace Corps/Dominican Republic.

In Dominican government buildings, people must have their shoulders covered. In professional environments, such as schools, staff use uniforms and close-toed shoes. Many Volunteers use PC polo shirts in their assigned work places and offices, while others adopt the local uniform.

Similar to dress, people in the Dominican Republic will make judgments about you based on your personal hygiene, and this will affect your working relationships and friendships. The following are very basic personal hygiene norms followed by most Dominicans. Adhering to these cultural norms will assist in your integration process.

  • Daily bathing: Most people bathe at least twice a day.
  • Body Odor: Most people regularly use deodorant, and are very conscious of, and offended by, natural body odors. Natural, eco-friendly products are available.
  • Facial hair: Men are usually clean shaven or use a neatly kept beard/mustache.
  • Body piercings and tattoos: Body piercings and tattoos are generally not accepted in the communities where Volunteers serve. Earrings for women are common and considered acceptable. We suggest you cover your tattoos and take out visible body piercings in professional settings.
  • Fingernails: Many Dominicans of all socio-economic classes manicure their nails, whether professionally or with a friend. We suggest that Volunteers maintain clean and cut finger and toe nails.