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
Apartado Postal 1412
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.
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.
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 is relatively easy in the Dominican Republic. Most urban travel is by bus, van, and carro públicos (a sort of shared taxi). Intercity travel is by bus, while rural travel runs the gamut—from crowded minibuses, motorcycles, pickup trucks, to lots of walking. 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 or Ubers must be used at night and at all times in large cities where available (i.e. Santo Domingo, Santiago). Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to drive motor vehicles of any type. Being a passenger on a motorcycle is also forbidden except in specific pre-approved cases. Volunteers rely on public transportation to get from their communities to the capital. 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. Transportation guidelines are subject to change as necessary in protecting the safety and security of Volunteers.
Social activities in the Dominican Republic vary depending on where you are located. They likely include taking part in festivities such as Carnival, parties, and dances. Most regional capitals have cafes, bars, restaurants, discotecas, and other forms of entertainment. 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. Cockfighting is another national pastime, and the gambling stakes can be high. Dominicans also love music and dancing. Merengue, bachata, salsa, reggaeton, and dembow are some of the most popular.
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.