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About Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo enjoys a tropical climate. Temperature averages from 73.4°F (23°C) in the morning to 89.1°F (31.7°C) by the afternoon. Generally, January and February are the coldest months, and August is the hottest month of the year. The island is prone to hurricanes especially during June 1 to November 30, but fortunately they receive many warnings beforehand to prepare their people and tourist of any harm. Santo Domingo is a great city to visit during any season, because the city's ideal tropical weather runs all year long!
Santo Domingo is an excellent place to study Spanish off the beaten track and get immersed in the language. One recommended Spanish school that specializes in one on one lessons at discount rates is the RoofTop Spanish School.
Two of the top festivities of the year occur in Santo Domingo. The annual Merengue Festival in the summer and Carnival in the spring. Each of these is held on the city's main seaside main road, El Malecon, but tend to spill over into hotel ballrooms, beaches, patios and even parking lots. This is a great way to emerge oneself into the Dominican culture, as well as meet new interesting people from the city. The Merengue Festival takes place between July 26 to 31. The festival is a celebration of Dominican Republic’s main dance, merengue. They invite the top merengue bands to perform free concerts to the crowd. The festival begins with a parade, but later becomes a concert. There are art exhibitions, food fairs, and games that occur at the same time. The main activity that is done during the festival is dancing merengue, so be prepared to be spun uncontrollable when you decide to dance with a local. The other amazing festival is The Carnival, which takes place during the entire month of February, but reaches its peak on February 27, the Dominican Independence Day. The Carnival also takes place in El Malecon, where masks, which symbolizes spiritual spirits;elaborate costumes,and intriguing dances parade down the streets while entertaining and sometimes scaring the crowd.
Santo Domingo offers a variety of cuisines from around the world from Chinese, Italian and Mediterranean to Brazillian. You can also find the main fast food franchises like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, among others.
Be aware that mid-grade and high-end restaurants can be quite costly for third world standards, a dinner with an entrée, main course, drink and dessert can range from US $15-$75 per person, plus 10% mandatory tip plus 16% ITBIS tax. Be careful and ask around as price doesn't always equal quality, especially in tourist areas.
Note: Unless the contrary is specified menu prices don’t include the 10% service charge and 16% sales tax, so real prices are 26% higher than indicated in the menu.
If you want to spend less than US $8 on a decent meal and drink:
- Visit a “comedor” or cafeteria.
Comedores offer a “Plato del Día” or predetermined meal of the day (usually rice, beans, salad and meat or chicken, and a soda) for just US$3 – 8. Cafeterias and Comedores can be found everywhere around the city but specially around business areas and universities, this is where locals eat so is a great way of getting in touch with the culture. “Mimosa”, located on Padre Billini street in the Colonial Zone, offers a great variety of tasty local food during lunch hours. Another great option is Cafeteria "El Parque" which is in front of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Park attached to the "Clinica Abreu" one of the country's best and most prestigious clinic,close to the Colonial Zone and the Malecon, great place for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner.
- Best sandwiches, juice and shakes in the Caribbean
"Barra Payán", located on 30 de marzo street only five minutes from the Colonial Zone, is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A sandwich cafeteria, the place has been a traditional eatery for more than a half century. Buy a sandwich and a delicious squeezed-to-order fruit juice or milkshake for less than US$ 5.
- Chinese and "Pica Pollo"
At some point in history Dominicans became quite fond of fried chicken and chinese food, combining both cuisines into fast food establishments known as "pica pollos". These are usually take-out joints run by first or second generation chinese immigrants, serving up heaping portions of fried rice, plantain slices and tasty (and greasy) fried chicken, along with the usual variety of chinese comfort food. Very inexpensive. Visit Santo Domingo's China Town, near the Mercado Modelo and not far from the Colonial Zone (Duarte Avenue), a very busy zone where working class people do a lot of their shopping. If you feel adventurous enough to enter this usually chaotic but very picturesque part of the town it would an experience to remember. Keep in mind, pick-pockets love the crowded streets, watch your belongings closely.
- Fast food
A Mcdonalds combo costs around US$ 5, Taco Bell, Wendys and Pizza Hut around US$ 6. There are also several very good local franchises like Pizzarelliwhere you can have pasta, pizza or a salad for no more than US$ 10, and others like Pollos Victorina. Also, don't miss some good Dominican "empanadas" at De Nosotros Empanadas. Interesting note: you can walk into a McDonalds in Santo Domingo and order a value meal with a Presidente beer instead of a Coke. How cool is that?
- Adrian Tropical A unique, quality and "affordable" dining experience. There are three restaurants in the city, the coolest one is literally built on the water in the Malecon. Best known for its "Mofongo" dish. This plate is made out of mashed plantains.
- El Conuco Very touristy and rather affordable restaurant in Gazcue, where you can enjoy live traditional Dominican dances.
- Lincoln Road On the Abraham Lincoln avenue, this restaurant has recently been remodeled.
- Yokomo The Dominican Sushi franchise. Enjoy the most unique and inventive Dominican-fushion sushi, such as sushi with sweet plantains.
- Falafel In the colonial zone, a good and affordable Near Eastern restaurant specializing in, as the name suggests it, falafel.
- Atras and Cinnamon in Plaza Orleans, two contiguous open-air restaurants. In this plaza you can order from any restaurant while sitting in the courtyard.
- Buen Provecho Middle range restaurant serving different types of food, a good place to get the "Dominican Flag" of meat with rice and beans.
- Red Grill A very trendy grill with several locations in the city. One is located in Plaza Orleans, another one has its own bar on top. Pricier, but not a splurge.
- Chef Pepper Also very trendy, and it just opened a new branch in Bella Vista. If you're craving a hamburger or a steak and cheese sandwich, this is a good place to go.
- L'Osteria A mid-range but very high quality Italian restaurant, facing the national theater.
- Sapore d'Italia Another mid-range, very good Italian restaurant.
- La Lasagna And yet another good Italian restaurant, very good and pretty affordable.
American and international midrange franchises include:
- TGI Fridays in Acropolis Mall
- Tony Roma's in the Sarasota Avenue
- Outback Steak House in Acropolis Mall
- Aviation Sports Bar in Plaza Central Mall
- Hard Rock Cafe in the Colonial Zone, facing the Cathedral
If you have to ask how much, you can't afford these places. The following are very tourist-friendly:
- El Vesuvio The oldest and finest Italian restaurant on the island, bar none, located on the Malecon
- Pat'e Palo Colonial Spanish/Mediterranean brasserie style restaurant, situated by the "Plaza de Espana" overlooking the "Alcazar de Colon" frequented by locals
- La Briciola Fancy Italian restaurant in a Colonial Garden
- Mesón de la Cava An expensive average restaurant whose chief gimmick is being located within a natural cave underground.
The following are not very touristy, mostly being frequented by locals. However, if you want to explore how the wealthier classes dine in Santo Domingo, these are the places to go:
- Pepperoni Grille Upscale, modern Italian.
- Sofia's Mediterranean cuisine.
- Any of the restaurants around Gustavo Mejia Ricart Avenue
- David Crockett The most expensive steak house.
- Mesón de Bari One of the classiest restaurants for Dominican cuisine
- Porter House Grill Steakhouse
- Marocha Very popular cafe/restaurant, especially because of its "Churros"
- Lupe Right next to Marocha, Mexican Restaurant
- La Marrana Very trendy Spanish restaurant
- Cane, Jaleo and Tangerine Three contiguous "Dominican fusion" bar/restaurants
- Aka Possibly the most popular Japanese restaurant
- Fellini's Fancy Italian
- Don Pepe Fancy Spanish restaurant, very pricey
- Mitre Chic restaurant and wine bar
- Tabu Bambu Asian Fusion
- Scherezade Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant, with a lunch buffet on Sundays.
- Michelangelo Restaurant (Winston Churchill and Roberto Pastoriza, Plaza Las Americas). The average price is about six to fourteen dollars a plate, a international menu that includes, imported seafood, imported pasta and cheese, imported steaks and some of the most popular Dominican cuisine. The decoration is artistic, with Michaelangelo finest works on the walls but at the same time very modern and chic all in white, with a outdoor terrace to enjoy frozen cocktails and wine overlooking one of the most popular avenue in the city. The restaurant products are mostly imported and they only cook with bottle water, making it one of the most safe place to eat.
- Sixteen Cuts Restaurant & Marine Lounge. This is by far the best kept secret in Santo Domingo. Offers one of the most exclusive views of the Colonial Zone. Has an excellent international menu, being its main courses the Black Angus and US Certified Cuts, divided in: 16 Tapas & Entrees, 16 Greatest & Newest Cuts,16 Ultimates Sides. All this complemented with a delicious offer of Seafood Meals, Fresh Salads and "More Great Cuisine”, all harmonized with their Wine Selection. Avenida Miguel Barcelo #1, Marina Bartolome Colon, Tel. 809-827-0660, 809-594-9634.
Santo Domingo has an amazing variety of night life options. Unfortunately, most bars and clubs must close at midnight from Sunday to Thursday and at 2AM on Friday and Saturday. This is a regulation imposed since 2006 intended to curtail the escalating crime in the city. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to start partying at 8PM on the weekends. Happily, the regulation is suspended on holidays and the last two weeks of December for Christmas partying. Usually the clubs located inside major hotels are exempt from this rule, although they aren't usually much fun.
As of November 2007, there are a couple of bars that are open until 3AM on weekends since August 2007.
The Malecon is home to several options as well, depending on what's in style at the time.
Check out Jet Set on Monday nights for live Merengue and Bachata shows from the most popular top bands.
Head over to the upscale side of Santo Domingo (Naco, Piantini) if that is your scene. There are a ton of options there, including perennial favorites such as Trio Caffe, Praia and Montecristo. Be aware that those kind of places can have a rather strict admission policy, you usually have to look white enough and rich enough to be admitted. This discrimination hasn't go unnoticed, the Embassy of United States directed all resident official U.S. Embassy employees to refrain from patronizing Loft one of the most popular and exclusive nightclubs in the city, responding to the actions of Loft management in selectively denying entry to African-Americans embassy on July 22 2007. 
In this upscale area of Santo Domingo, consider:
- Amika Dance club and lounge
- Cinema Cafe Within Plaza de la Cultura, adjacent to Museo del Hombre Dominicano. Nice ambient, presents local rock bands on the weekends. In case of concert there is a $15-20 cover. Check the website for the activities calendar.
- Dock Very trendy Bar at the Acropolis Center. Open air, electronic music.
- El Barcito Very nice ambiance, mostly rock music. The owner is always present and very friendly.
- Fellini Fancy Italian restaurant, becomes bar later at night
- LED A nice Club with House music, where some well known DJ's are invited. Near Santo Domingo Hotel.
- Level 2 On the second flour of the Holiday Inn Hotel. Also check out the rooftop bar and pool!
- Maruja New, trendy open air bar, close to La Marrana and Margo
- Mix Right next to the Mix Restaurant, another popular bar.
- Praia The fanciest club, currently moved to the Holiday Inn Hotel.
- Rua Open air bar in front of Aka
- Shots Mostly rock music, very young crowd. Ave. Roberto Pastoriza.
If you you are more into the bohemian scene check out the Colonial Zone for great bars and cafes, as well as a vibrant gay nightlife scene. Here are some hints:
- Bio. Modern eclectic music from regueaton to latin rock, very young public. Famous for serving drinks from buckets. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Bocanegra Currently the trendiest place in the Colonial Zone
- Cacibajagua.. Great rock music, nice decor, adult crowd. Sanchez #201.
- Casa de Teatro Enjoy live jazz and rock concerts, pretty bohemian.
- Doubles Good Latin dance music.
- El Beduino New Hookah Bar on a rooftop in the Colonial Zone.
- El Sarten Latin Dance music
- Encuentro Artesanal. The decor is definitely the best in the Colonial Zone highly selected electronic music, frequented by artists and publicists.
- Misifu New bar in the Atarazana street. Very trendy at the moment.
- Museo del Ron The daytime museum turns into a very cosy bar, offering a wide range of Caribbean rums to taste, as well as some of the best rum based coctails in the city. Nice lounge music, beautiful patio. 
- O' Brien's Supposedly an Irish Pub, and although there's nothing of a pub about it, it is a very trendy place.
- Ocho Puertas Rock, alternative and electronica with live music also, very beautiful place. Jose Reyes #107
- Parada 77. Latin rock, spanish songwriters some merengue and salsa , people in their mid thirties and forties.
- S Bar. Mostly rock music can enjoy some falafels too, you would love the owner Isaac. Calle Sanchez and Padre Billini
- Segafredo. A franchise, loungue music, italian food and good coffee.
Whatever you do, don't leave Santo Domingo without visiting La Guacara Taina, the only nightclub in the world inside a huge natural cave. Descend several hundred feet into a fantasy world of lights and sound. You have to see this place to believe it. Located (under) the Mirador Sur park mentioned above. It can be empty if you go early or on weekdays.
Most transactions in the Dominican Republic can be paid in Cash and credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in most stores and restaurants.
The official currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican Peso. However most merchants will accept dollars or euros. If you do choose to purchase goods or services in dollars or euros, be wary of the exchange rate. The official exchange rate in the Dominican Republic is set by theBanco Central de la Republica Dominicana and is updated daily.
Foreign Currency exchange services are promoniently available at major ports of entry or are located nearby. Some of the most prominent foreign exchange dealers are:
Agente de Cambio Caribe Express and Agente de Cambio La Nacional Caribe Express offices and major banks which include:
Banco de Reservas, Scotia Bank, Banco Leon, Banco Popular Dominicano among others.
Some of these banks are located at
- Gruen Projects -- Art Gallery, Bella Vista (by appointment), ☎ 809 707 1967. Gruen Projects exhibits and promotes the work of Dominican Artists, such as Hector Ledesma, Miguel Pineda, Leonardo Sanz, Joaquin Rosario, and Joel Gonell.
The Colonial Zone offers plenty of shopping opportunities, especially if you are looking for Ambar and Larimar, the traditional stones of the DR. Don't forget to haggle, as all the shop owners adjust their prices for this purpose. You will also find a ton of Haitian art for sale everywhere at great prices. If that's your thing, great, just remember its not Dominican. The main boulevard in the Colonial Zone is El Conde, a pedestrian boulevard lined with all kinds of shops and eateries mostly aimed at the locales. Have fun shopping and people watching here.
If you are feeling adventurous, have a cab take you to the Mercado Modelo nearby. This indoor labyrinth of shops can be overwhelming for a new tourist but, don't worry, it is safe. Then again, you might feel safer asking the cab driver to escort you through the maze of shops and kiosks offering every imaginable kind of souvenir, jewelry, stone, artwork, etc.
If you want to experience American-style shopping there are plenty of options but here are the three most popular: Plaza Central, Acropolis Center and, for those of you willing to venture into Santo Domingo Oriental, MegaCentro. Remember: no haggling at the malls. While MegaCentro is farther away than the others, it is the second largest mall in the Caribbean (after Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico) and is a destination in and of itself. This place is HUGE!
Please remember when shopping at the malls, this is an island where practically everything being sold is imported and, worse yet, taxed at 16% (ITBIS or Value Added Tax). Don't expect to find too many bargains to brag about back home!
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Santo Domingo on Wikivoyage.