Dominican Republic

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

All Peace Corps Volunteers must have access to a mobile phone. Volunteers may use their own phones if they meet certain criteria, or they may use the mobile phone provided to them by Peace Corps. If you choose to bring a phone from the U.S., ensure that it is unlocked and GSM capable. You can receive phone calls on your local mobile phone at no charge to you. You can call mobile phones or landlines in the U.S. but it may be costly. Many Volunteers who have Internet access use WhatsApp or FaceTime to make calls.

Internet

Many communities have Internet access, and the Volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps/Dominican Republic office has a limited number of computers for Volunteer use. Bringing a laptop and/or smartphone is highly recommended, if possible, along with purchasing property insurance.

Housing and Site Location

Housing guidelines are subject to change as necessary to facilitate the health, safety and overall wellbeing 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.

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. 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. For security purposes, private taxis or Ubers must be used at night (7pm – 7am). 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. Depending on local health conditions and Peace Corps policies, Volunteers rely on privately contracted transportation services or approved methods of public transportation to get from their communities to the capital. 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.