Dominican Republic

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Letters and packages sent by airmail take from 10 days to several weeks to arrive. Your address for letters while you are a Peace Corps trainee (PCT) is:

“Your Name,” PCT
Cuerpo de Paz Av Bolivar 451,
Gazcue Apartado Postal 1412
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Do not send valuable items through the mail. If you need to have a package sent to the Dominican Republic, it is best that the contents be limited to items that fit into padded envelopes. All packages received in-country are subject to expensive duty fees.

Telephones

All Volunteers are issued cellphones by Peace Corps/Dominican Republic during training. These are issued as safety devices that enable staff to maintain contact with Volunteers and to send messages in an emergency. Your phone can also be used to call internationally or locally by using a calling card; however, not all areas of the country currently have cellphone service. There is no charge for receiving calls or text messages on cellphones, but outgoing calls are at the Volunteers’ expense.

Internet

Many communities have computer centers or Internet cafes that provide email and Internet access, and the resource center at the Peace Corps/Dominican Republic office has computers for Volunteer use. If you do plan on bringing a laptop or other devices, consider purchasing property insurance.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training, you will live with two Dominican host families. One will be located in the northern barrios of Santo Domingo, close to the training center. During the community-based technical training, you will live with another family in the interior of the country where your technical training program takes place. The families are selected by training staff. Your host family will provide you with a private room, and you will eat your meals with the family. You will also live with a host family during the first four months of your Volunteer service. These host families are identified by the community and/or the host country agency and are approved by Peace Corps staff prior to your arrival. Living with a Dominican family allows faster integration into the community and provides a safe environment. Volunteers typically live in houses with 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. 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 river or other source for household water.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and Diet

The Dominican diet consists primarily of rice, beans, yuca (cassava), plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables, along with eggs, chicken, pork, beef, and some fish. The national dish is sancocho, a rich vegetable-and-meat stew served on special occasions. A typical Dominican meal, called la bandera, is a mix of rice, red beans, and meat. Yuca may be boiled, prepared as fritters, or baked into rounds of crisp cracker bread called casabe. Most dishes are not spicy. Seasonal fruits include bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas, and avocados. Dominicans generally eat small quantities of meat. Bacalau (dried cod) can be found in several areas, but fresh fish is typically available only along the coast. Habichuelas con dulce, a sweet dessert made from beans, is popular at Easter. Vegetarians will be able to maintain their diet at home, but they will be offered—and most likely expected to accept—traditional foods, including meat, when visiting Dominican families. You will have to be open and flexible about sharing the Dominican diet when necessary. During training, your host family will provide your meals. Once you are at your site, you can choose to eat with Dominicans or cook on your own.

Transportation

Transportation is relatively easy in the Dominican Republic. Most urban travel is by bus and van, although carro públicos(a sort of shared taxi) are available as well. Intercity travel is by bus, while rural travel runs the gamut—from air-conditioned minibuses to crowded carro públicos, to lots of walking. Although inexpensive, carro públicos are where most Volunteers experience pick-pocketing and robberies. For security purposes, Peace Corps/Dominican Republic does not allow Volunteers or trainees to use public transportation between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Private taxis must be used at night. Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to drive vehicles or motorcycles in the Dominican Republic. Most Volunteers rely on public transportation to get around, but Volunteers can request assistance from the Peace Corps in arranging alternative means of local transportation. Volunteers can apply for and receive limited funds from their Volunteer readjustment allowance to purchase a bicycle to use during their service in the Dominican Republic. The Peace Corps will also provide you with a helmet, which you must wear at all times while riding a bicycle. Failure to abide by these polices will result in termination of your Peace Corps service.

Social Activities

Social activities in the Dominican Republic vary depending on where you are located. They include taking part in festivities such as Carnival, parties, and dances. Most regional capitals have cafes and restaurants, movie theaters, and other forms of entertainment. Social life in the Dominican Republic often revolves around the family porch, where people talk while playing dominoes, a national pastime. Outdoor tables in front of homes, bars, and neighborhood markets are surrounded by men 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. Cockfighting is another national pastime, and the gambling stakes can be high. Dominicans also love music and dancing. Merengue, bachata, and salsa are some of the most popular. What has kept merengue alive over the years is its place in the Dominican Republic’s Carnival celebrations. In Santo Domingo, Carnival occurs twice a year. The first occurs during the traditional pre-Lenten holiday. The second one celebrates the anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s declaration of war against Spain in 1863.

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. During “down time” at home, you may wear casual clothes. In government buildings, women with bare shoulders will be prohibited entrance. Also, some Dominican men view revealing clothing as an invitation. 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. You are expected to adhere to these norms as well:

  • Daily bathing: Most people bathe at least twice a day 
  • Use of deodorant 
  • Clean shaven or neatly kept beard/mustache for men 
  • Clean and cut finger and toenails for both men and women. 
  • Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and tattoos for both men and women are not generally accepted in professional settings. Please be prepared to cover tattoos whenever possible.