Notes to Self

So …. I went slightly over my planned budget (by $800) for my Dominican 2012 trip to learn Spanish. However, all things considered, not that bad seeing as I cancelled a flight without refund, stayed and extra week longer than planned and took two weeks more of Spanish classes than I had initially intended!

I already know that I want to do a similar trip again, so before I forget what I learned, I’m going to put it in this nice little ‘Notes to Self’ blog!

– To save money, plan ahead and get drives to the airport from a friend (save $100).

– Find a taxi at the airport in Santo Domingo (or wherever you land) and negotiate a price. If someone else books it for you (school or hotel), it is always more expensive. I could have gotten taxis to/from Santo Domingo for a regular price of $33 ($1300 RD). (save $15-30)

– Caribe tours is only slightly cheaper than Metro. Caribe = $350 RD from Sosua to Santo Domingo. Metro = $380 RD from Sosua to Santo Domingo. Always travel with Metro. Much cleaner and more comfortable. Fewer stops. For the $1-$2 extra per trip, it is well worth it!

– Moto Conchos – do not take them after dark or for long trips. Negociate price. In Cabarete they start at $250 RD for a trip to Sosua. I haggled down to $150 RD.

– A Taxi from Cabarete to Sosua at night usually starts at $500 RD. I haggled down to $400 RD. Much cheaper if you take one as a group, but I was alone at the time.

– Always have correct change for moto conchos because sometimes they don’t have (or try not to give you) change. This is there way to try and get more money from you. You can always go buy a bottle of water at a local store to get change if you need to. That’s much better than giving over $500 RD for a $150 ride!

– Don’t go to Santo Domingo – you hate it there. It is hot, dirty and uninspiring.

– Don’t go again until you have enough Aeroplan points to cover your flights. (save $1600!)

– Don’t go in July / August – it is too friggin’ hot! Also bad time of year for flights. Go when there are direct flights to Puerto Plata (likely December – April) – reduce stress and travel time by MANY hours!

– Spend more time in Jarabacoa and visit the city of Santiago. Do these at the same time because they are close to each other.

– Plan a few days to a week to travel to Rio San Juan, Las Teranas, Samana. They are all along the north coast and so many people told me how beautiful these areas are, but I didn’t get the opportunity to visit.

– Find a place to rent for 1-2 months. This will cost $200 – $500 US instead of $30-45 per night. (Savings over 8 weeks of $1200 – $2000)

– Buy groceries and cook at home. Don’t buy too many brand names, buy lots of local fruit (cheap) and don’t eat out or drink alcohol too much! Shop in the local communities instead of tourist districts if possible. $6-$10 per day for three meals instead of $15-$20 per day. (Savings over 8 weeks of $300 – $600)

– Look for a local person who teaches Spanish classes, not through a ‘branded’ school. (save $50-$100 per week of lessons)

PACKING

– Don’t take your fancy heels or a nice dress, you will not need them! Sun dresses only!

– Take two to three weeks worth of underwear. Small, easy to pack and I appreciated never running out!

– Two pairs of jeans or pants. You will wear them more often than you think!

– Pack 3-4 pairs of light weight shorts – not jean shorts.

– sneakers, hiking sandals, flip flops, dress sandals – all necessary

– two swim suits and a beach towel (or buy one when you get there)

– rain jacket or good umbrella is nice to have

– leave hair dryer, straightener, curling iron at home. Too hot / humid to use them unless you have air conditioning in your apartment and still, once you go outside, the straightening would be ruined by humidity.

– Take only enough liquid toiletries to get you through the first week. Then buy them down there. Keeps your suitcase light.

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