Luxury is a global commodity these days, and nowhere does that apply more than in the exclusive world of villa rentals. Traveling to a foreign country involves more than just finding the right accommodation, since you`ll need to deal with currency exchange, transportation, entry visas ( if required ), food, drinks, tours, and other interesting aspects of local culture. Visiting The Dominican Republic is no exception, and in the eyes of rental agents like Golden Treasures, there`s a list taken from the scratchpad that will serve a good purpose to most travelers renting villas within the geographic area of the North coast that spans Sosua, Cabarete and Puerto Plata ( includes Cofresi and Cabrera ).
IATA has a useful page on Dominican Republic Customs, Currency & Airport Tax regulations details, showing the entry, import and export regulations, along with other useful information:
Major Airports: When flying to Puerto Plata, the closest airport is Gregorio Luperon ( POP ) which is just 15 minutes away from Puerto Plata, 10 minutes away from Cabarete, and 7 minutes away from Sosua. followed by Santiago ( STI ) which is 1 hour away. There`s a page with full details and all the airport contact numbers at the Sosua villas travel guide. Contacting POP is just a phone call away: The web for the POP airport is http://puerto-plata-airport.com ; Telephone Numbers: 809-291-0000 ext. 221 and 809-586-0175 The airport`s VIP lounge is 809-586-0107 ext. 247 and 302.
Pets: Cats and dogs: A Health Certificate is required issued within 15 days prior to arrival by a competent veterinarian in country of origin, stating that animals are in good health and coming from an area free from serious diseases during the last 3 months. They must be vaccinated against rabies and parvovirus within a period of more than one month and less than one year prior to arrival. No birds are allowed into the country as pets via the airport.
Departure Tax of USD 20.- is normally included in the ticket. However, if not included, this must be paid on departure. The tax also increases depending on the length of stay.
Airport Transfer: getting from the airport to town is fairly easy and cost-effective, since there are many drivers available at every major airport at all times. As of October 2012 the cost for a transfer from POP to Sosua costs $25-30.00 (1-6 ppl ). Add $10.00 for Cabarete or Puerto Plata, though some drivers offer deals like $5 or $10 discount depending on the traveler. Beware if someone asks for an unusually higher rate, and report to base at the airport ( located next to the passenger exit ).
Normally the rental agency works with a certain number of taxi drivers that are experienced in bringing guests to private villas so they need to be given no directions as they are prepared with information given to them by the agency. Those drivers are designated to pick you up ahead of time, and are very trusted by the rental agency and hence chosen to do the transfer.
Among the vans used for transporting tourists, there`s the Toyota HiAce, Hyundai Starex and Toyota Sienna.
Golden Treasures Luxury Rentals selects the driver based on number of passengers and availability, also based on their customer service skills and bilingual prowess. Some offer coolers with free beer and water to passengers, even Wifi inside the van. In the course of transfer and even during the rental process, some groups hire the services of the drivers for the lenght of their stay as a private driver to go anywhere they want in the North Coast ( costs $100-150.00 per day to get such services ).
The Sosua-Cabarete Taxi Association has 150 drivers, from which we often call the ones with the highest rating in terms of customer service, based on direct feedback from clients. Among the ones we use, here`s a quick list and photos, we are well known among most taxi drivers of the association and can only say these guys do a superb job, every day.
Rafael Garcia Tel. 809-986-2387 | Victor Sanchez Tel. 809-228-8689 | Taxi Rosario Tel. 809-399-0427
Domingo Ortiz Tel. 829-270-6768 | Jose Martinez Tel. 829-901-8211 | Taxi Javier Tel. 809-781-6005
Jesus Garcia Tel. 809-885-5521 | Taxi Peniche Tel. 829-939-6355 | Alfredo Taxi Tel. 809-819-9095
Taxi Castaño Tel. 809-357-8708 | Papo Polanco Tel. 829-820-0435 | Lilo Reyes Tel. 809-977-4995
1- Rafael Garcia and his Dodge Grand Caravan 2- Victor Sanchez and his Toyota Sienna
3- Domingo Ortiz and his Hyundai Starex 4- Jose Martinez and his blue Hyundai Starex
5- Javier and his white Toyota Sienna 6- Don Papo Polanco and his black Starex
Rafael Garcia is bilingual, his contact # is 809-986-2387 Taxi Service in Sosua and Cabarete, also other areas.
Some of the villas that are often rented with driver and van can be seen in the photo below:
Car Rental: The other side of transportation in the island is having a car rental, which can prove convenient to some travelers. Local airports have a wide selection of car rental agencies, and POP includes international providers. Savings Car Rental is recommended, based in the Puerto Plata airport, and Ok Motors which is based between Sosua and Cabarete. Prices range from US$20.00 per day to even $80.00 based on model, type and luxury of the vehicle. Local and more informal agencies in town also provide good deals but beware of costs if the car is dented or crashed in any way.
Chef Service: Travel and food go hand in hand and luxury villa rentals are always associated with private chefs and gourmet foods. Local restaurants provide excellent menus from International cuisine, and topping the charts in Sosua are the Morua Mai ( delicious Primavera pasta and Paellas ), Bologna ( wood oven pizzas and fabulous churrasco ) and The Waterfront ( best fish dishes in a beach front setting ). Casa 21 is a very chic restaurant set in a deluxe B&B run by a Belgian couple, a sort of Bon Vivant atmosphere where cuisine is taken to a higher level.
Other cafés and bar restaurants recommended in Sosua are Britannia Pub, Oh La Vache, Cubanos Café, Bella Italia, Baileys, Sirloin `n Steak, Merengue Bar, Rumba`s, Piergiorgio`s, Hosteria 24 and Schnitzel`s Paradise. Having a private chef in Sosua or Cabarete means having full service from 8:00am to 8:00pm, and once you meet the chef she will have a schedule where a list of foods will be agreed to go grocery shopping, and a full menu is published online. The cost of a private chef ranges from $75-100.00 but can go lower for luxury villa renters based on lenght of rental period.
The Morua Mai restaurant is a landmark in Sosua, also the recently remodeled La Roca.
Grocery Shopping: El playero supermarket is the natural choice for most shoppers, as there`s a big one in the main highway and a smaller second one near the beach entrance. It features a big selection of local and international products, from France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Greece and the United States. Fine steaks, turkey, fish and other gourmet food and ingredients can be purchased there. Another choice is Sosua Supermarket, located in the main Sosua-Cabarete highway. For late night grocery shopping of more simple ingredients, the Los Tipicos supermarket is the option as it closes around midnight.
Telecommunications: The Dominican Republic has a modern network of providers that include Claro/Codetel ( ex Verizon ), Orange, Tricom and Viva, all major players offering state of the art telecom services in the island. The cost for calling back home is fairly cheap, especially to the USA ( about US$20 cents per minute ). Buying a GSM simcard costs around $5 dollars, and if it includes a low cost phone about $12.00; Luxury Rental clients from Golden Treasures in Sosua and Cabarete can request complimentary mobile phones, that come preloaded with minutes and useful numbers to local resources ( taxi drivers, restaurants, tours, etc ). In the event of a maintenance issue in a rental, clients can directly call the concierge using the mobiles.
Complimentary phones for villa rental guests save time and effort, keeping guests connected with providers.
Currency Exchange: The first important piece of advice regarding money, is to never exchange at airports overseas or local, because the rates offered are very low. Foreign currencies such as the US Dollar and Euro are widely accepted, but it is better to use pesos when paying certain vendors ( restaurants, bars, cafes ). As of October 12, 20112, the exchange rates were as such:
1 US Dollar = RD$40.35 pesos
1 British Pound = RD$62.00 pesos
1 Canadian Dollar = RD$39.15
1 Euro = RD$50.00
Taken from http://bsc.com.do the official website for Banco Santa Cruz. Visit the bank website for up to date rates.
The best places to exchange money in Sosua are Banco Santa Cruz, Vimenca, Playero Supermarket and Casa De Cambio Ortega. There`s guys on the street for afterhour exchange, most are known in the community but it`s always safer to ask before dealing with any of them ( some offer really bad rates ). Among the ones that stay open late and are very trusted are Domingo Ortiz at Pedro Clisante Street, and Winston ( across Domingo`s ). Dominican money is best carried in $100`s and $500`s bills, because the larger $2,000 bills are harder to circulate in some cases. Here`s a photo of local peso currency:
Tours: The North Coast of the Dominican Republic offers some of the best tours in the island, that can be booked through tour operators and other providers. A full list can be found at http://www.sosua-villas.com/tours-in-sosua and among the best ones there`s horseback riding, golfing, fishing, surfing, dirt bikes, buggies, damajagua waterfalls, paradise island snorkeling, diving, trekking, El Choco national park, paddle surfing in the Cabarete lagoon, kite surfing, zip lining, Monkey jungle, Ocean World and whale watching in Samana. Mel Tours and Iguana Mama are preferred providers of tours in Sosua and Cabarete.
Golfing: Playa Dorada in Puerto Plata is the natural choice, since it is located just 20 minutes away from Sosua and Cabarete. 18 holes of challenging, 72 par golf among ocean and mountain view landscaping. Rates start at $50.00 for 9 holes and $75.00 for 18 holes in winter, and $35 / $60 in summer time. Visit the Playa Dorada Golf Course online for full details.
Language: Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic, and many of its inhabitants also speak English, French or German. Learning some words can be fun, and shows a deeper respect to local people in any country. Dominican Spanish is not 100% pure, as it has evolved over decades -if not hundred of years- since the first Spanish settlement discovered the island on October 12, 1492 on the voyage led by Christopher Columbus. There`s an online list of Dominican Slang with very curious words at http://dominicanspanish.com/dominican-expressions.htm
Security: Tourists are generally safe in most Dominican destinations ( East or North ) but normal precautions should always be followed as in any other country. Local Tourist Police ( Politur ) are always close by in Sosua and Cabarete, and most crime is associated with pickpocket chicas in certain bars and clubs ( seeking out single men ). A safety deposit box is usually provided in all luxury villa rentals, recommended to keep money, jewelry and passports safe. 24hr security is provided in every villa rental as part of the rental cost, including maid service.
Music: Merengue is the national rythm, although it`s been influenced and partially replaced by other newer rythms such as Salsa, Bachata, Regaetton and North American music. Since most guests bring their own music in their phones or ipods, we keep a stock of cables and adapters in every villa we rent. If the stereo does not include ipod/phone input jacks, we bring a replacement for the duration of the rental at no additional cost.
Electrical Power: the power grid in the DR supplies 110v and 220V, and in any case we keep a supply of power adapters so guests can use European made appliances, including voltage converters.
Villa Certification: In order for a villa or condo to make it to the listings at Golden Treasures Luxury Rentals, a visual audit and testing of facilities is carried out, such as swimming pool, air conditioners, kitchen appliances, audio/video equipment, and even electric gate motors. It is understandable that after years of use by renters, any equipment can break down at any time ( water pumps, light bulbs, swimming pool equipment ) so it is in the agency`s best interest to get things fixed as soon as possible in the event that it happens during a rental period. In order to qualify as a luxury rental, there`s a list of minimum standard requirements to be met by the property:
1- Accesible Location 2- Security in the premises 3- Good condition 4- Daily maid service 5- Wireless Internet 6- Cable TV
7- Power Back Up System 8- Swimming Pool or Jacuzzi 9- Fully equipped kitchen 10- Air Conditioning in bedrooms.
Some of the rental listings are already bearing the new certification sign that shows the WiFi, mobile phone, security icon and certified status:
REAL ESTATE: Golden Treasures also offers one of the largest catalogs of luxury villas, condos and vacation homes in the North Coast, within the five major towns of Sosua, Cabarete, Puerto Plata, Cofresi and Cabrera. With the added benefit of generating rental income, the units are managed by management agencies we closely work with, guaranteeing a trusted circle of cooperation for the benefit of all. Visit http://www.goldenkeymanagement.com for more information on listings for sale.
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