We’ve all seen “must-do” lists for a travel destination. They highlight memorable sights and attractions, inspiring the reader to experience the best of what that country has to offer. Well, on a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I learned (the hard way) what NOT to do. I am imparting my wisdom with a simple “don’t” list.
1. Don’t let the water come anywhere near your mouth
It’s well known that a traveler should not drink the water in this country. OK done. We were advised to even brush our teeth with bottled water. Done. Little did I know that something as small as briefly opening your mouth in the shower could cause horrendous intestinal issues. Consider yourself warned!
2. Don’t touch any plants you don’t recognize
During an excursion, a local guide pointed out several plants that, when touched, would cause an oozing, itchy rash to break out at the point of contact. Apparently I did not listen carefully and brushed up against something that triggered an extreme reaction on my arm. Needless to say, I regret not keeping a look out.
3. Don’t fall for the monkey/iguana/parrot on the shoulder trick
There are many types of vendors walking along the beaches in the Dominican Republic; some sell shells, some sell sunglasses, and some approach you and your kids and quickly slip a monkey on your son’s shoulder. They smile as the child squeals with delight and offer to take a picture of your whole family with the animal. After they hand back your camera, they say “that will be $25.” Uncomfortable tourists usually hand over the money and the vendor moves on. (At least the pictures turned out well)
4. Don’t assume it’s mud just because it looks like mud
Ok, this is kind of a gross one. Here’s the story- The dune buggy excursion looked like fun. You put on a helmet, cover your face with a scarf and put on your sunglasses. Once the primitive, metal-framed dune buggy is fired up, the driver can navigate over rocks, small hills and splash through the many mud puddles along the dirt road path. My husband, who was driving, spotted what looked like the giant mud puddle we had been waiting for. He floored the gas and headed directly for the puddle. I braced myself as the dune buggy slammed into it, getting drenched in the process. Nope, not mud. The rest of the ride was spent avoiding any liquid on the road. At least there was a shower at the end…refer to Don’t #1.
5. Don’t think all tours are created equal
I knew something was up when I first saw the dolphin floating on its side in the tiny, moldy pool. It seemed depressed and had very little room to swim. It shared this space with two other, equally miserable dolphins. It was hard to watch. A sea lion appeared and had a gruesome injury to its chest. We were shuttled to the next exhibit and saw hundreds of guinea pigs in various stages of life (and death) crammed together in a concrete pen. The tour ended with a walk through the horse barn and I noticed a trainer working with an unruly mare. The horse pulled back on the lead and the trainer responded by punching the horse hard on the face. Awful. The lesson to learn from this, do your research! We have friends who also visited the Dominican recently and they had a very different experience.
6. Don’t assume your child won’t get chicken pox (or any other virus)
Admittedly, this one was not the fault of the Dominican Republic. It’s just the nature of being around large groups of people (especially children) and we stayed at a resort. The kid’s club was a petri dish of germs from all over the world coming together to infect unsuspecting children. Imagine my surprise when, shortly after we returned home, my 2 year old spiked a very high fever and dozens of blisters started appearing all over his little body. I immediately took him to a doctor- yup, chicken pox. (yes he had been vaccinated) My nephew, who was also on the trip, brought home hand, foot and mouth disease (coxsackievirus). Quite the souvenir.
If you adhere to this list of 6 things not to do in the Dominican Republic, you can spend your time in this country enjoying the beautiful beaches, engaging with the friendly people and relaxing in the sun. Happy travels!