5 Things To Do Before Visiting The Dominican Republic’s Northern Coast.

If you’re planning on visiting the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, take a look at these 5 things to have in order before you go. Especially if you’ll be landing in Santiago.

1.  Pre-arrange airport pickup. This is especially important if you arrive at STI (Santiago) instead of POP (Puerto Plata). Santiago is a couple hours drive to the northern coast, and if you try to take a taxi, it can cost you close to $200 dollars. Even though things are cheap in the D.R., taxis are not. They sort of have a monopoly going on there. And no, there aren’t any ride share apps you can use. If you’re comfortable speaking the language and are traveling with a buddy, you could try to figure out the bus system. It’ll be cheaper, but might be time consuming. I usually try to avoid killing time on transportation when I can.

Your best bet is to hire a private ride. You can usually do a quick search online and come across a couple options. My recommendation is to go with Rosario. He’s a friendly independent ride service provider. He’ll pick you up from the airport and the price is reasonable considering that the ride includes an all you can drink bar during your ride. This means that the good times begin as soon as you exit the airport. You can find Rosario here.

Do not rent a car! Unless you’re brave enough to risk your life or know what to expect, do not rent a car. The Dominican Republic is not known for it’s safe driving.

2.  Get the right data plan for your phone. Chances are your current plan doesn’t include the Dominican Republic. If you have the usual major carriers, you’ll still be able to make calls, text and use data, but will get charged a premium. You have two options here. The first one is to contact your current carrier and ask for a temporary passport plan. Most major carriers offer some sort of temporary add on. The second option is to get a hold of an unlocked phone. You’ll be able to purchase a phone chip in the D.R. that will give you data for an affordable cost.

3.  Check out the weather. Depending on the time of year your traveling. You might encounter some rain. If so, you want to be prepared with some waterproof shoes. This is important because the D.R. is a humid place, so if you do get your shoes wet, they may not dry up for a while. Flip flops could work.

4.  Write down phone numbers and address to your destination. More often than not, your ride provider will know where you’re staying just by the name of your hotel. But, if you’re staying at an AirBnB, you’ll want to get as much information as possible in case your driver needs further instructions. Things like cross streets, nearby stores or name of the housing complex will help your driver know where you’re going. Things like google maps may not function like you’re used to.

Getting picked up from the airport and driven to your destinations is one of my favorite parts about traveling. And, so I hate not being able to enjoy that because I have to tell my driver which way to turn next.

5.  Get ready for the “Motoconcho”! The Dominican Republic has expensive taxis, but they have very inexpensive motoconchos. A motoconcho is just a dude on a motorcycle who will give you a ride to wherever you want to go for a very inexpensive amount. The locals use them a lot. I personally did not have the need or urge to ride in the back of a motorcycle helmet-less while hugging a man from behind, but if that’s your jam, more power to ya! Just be smart about it and keep in mind that drinking and driving is common practice in the D.R.

If you’re planning a trip to the Dominican Republic and have questions, feel free to contact me. Happy to pass on any knowledge.

I Made It To Iceland, But My Luggage Didn’t.

I finally did it. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland. It was always a dream of mine to set my Mexican-American ass foot on a land which once belonged to vikings. A few months ago, that dream became a reality.

Like any good traveler, I did my research before going. I made sure I was prepared for the weather, and I budgeted out my expenses. I was ready.

Iceland has seen an increase in travelers ever since budget airlines like WoW Air and Iceland Air have made it easy to get there. But, as the number of travelers increase, so does the cost of everything. Iceland was shockingly expensive.

How expensive? Well, Let’s say you want to go out and have dinner for two like I did. The average cost of two plates and some wine can easily reach $100 US. If you’re thinking, “Why don’t you just live off of fast food during your trip”, the cost of a hamburger can cost around $23 US.

Like I mentioned, I had done my research beforehand and knew prices would be high, but something happened.

As many of you know, I hate checking bags in when I travel. I am all about traveling light. So light in fact, that I’ll normally just take one backpack where I can fit my laptop, a few changes of clothes and a pair of hiking shoes. I love not having to check bags in. You’d be surprised how much time that saves.

But, this time I was going to Iceland with my partner. And, we were going to be there during the middle of winter. So we were going to be taking big, bulky clothes along. So checking in luggage was necessary. (Which by the way, was way to expensive to do on WoW Air. More on that in a different post)

We arrived in keflavik, Iceland. It was around 5AM local time. We stood by the luggage carousel. We waited as other passengers from our same flight picked up their bags. Then, we waited some more, but our bags never arrived. A voice on a speaker phone asked all passengers from San Francisco who hadn’t received their luggage to approach the help desk.

I approached the desk. I overheard the person in front of me being told her bags hadn’t made it. I stepped up to the desk already knowing the fate of our bags. I was told that our bags were still in San Francisco. I asked when they’d arrive, and I was told maybe 24 hours. (They didn’t get there till 8 days later. We were in Iceland for 9 days total).

Yup, there we were in Iceland with only the clothes we had on our backs and nothing else. Crazy, right? But, we were determined not to let this affect our attitude for this trip. I mean, we were in fucken Iceland!

We went to pick up our rental car, but realized rather quickly that if we didn’t buy some warm clothes soon, we’d probably freeze to death. We drove over to Reykjavik to find a clothing store. Of course being the newbies that we were, we went to the center of the city, which is full of boutique and expensive stores. It was still too early in the morning and the stores weren’t open, but after looking at some prices through the windows, we made the decision that we didn’t want to pay $600 US for a jacket.

I approached a local and asked him for a place where I could get cheap clothes. Luckily he spoke English (Many people in Iceland do). He mentioned the word “mall” and my American side immediately got excited. A mall, now we were talking!

We drove over to the mall, not knowing what to expect. I mean, maybe Icelanders had a different definition of a what a mall is. Luckily, it turned out to be just what you’d expect a mall to be as an American. It was surreal. They had many of the usual stores you’d find in the US, with a heavier emphasis on outdoor and gear stores. The clothes were a bit cheaper here, but not by much. For example, I was able to find a sweater on a clearance rack for about $60 US. (It had a hole in it)

After dropping some significant cash buying clothes we had already bought and packed before our trip, we tried to stay positive, because again, we were in fucken Iceland!

The entire trip turned out to be great. Iceland is as beautiful, if not more than any images you’ve seen. I wouldn’t change one thing about that trip, with the exception of one thing. We really wanted to see the northern lights, but they never showed while we were there. Oh, well. Looks like a return trip will have to happen.

More on what to do in Iceland on a different post.

P.S. If you’re considering going to Iceland and have questions about flights or accommodations, feel free to contact me. There are a lot of details when dealing with accommodations, rental cars and other things that are different in Iceland.

Want To Start Traveling, But Don’t Have Money? Read This!

Remember how you promised yourself that you were going to travel more this year? Well, this year is well on it’s way and if you haven’t booked travel by now, you are close to letting yourself down again.

A lot of the common excuses for people who don’t travel include, “Work is way too busy right now” or “It’s such a hassle to request time off” or the ever popular, “I don’t have money”.

I’m not saying these aren’t valid and legitimate reasons, I’m just saying if you really wanted to travel, you’d make it happen. For this post, we’ll focus on the popular, “I don’t have money” excuse.

Listen, I get it. To travel, you need to be able to book a flight, book accommodations, and request some time off. Not to mention the daily costs of food, drinks, excursions, and what ever else you buy during a trip. But, you might not need to save up as much money as you’re imagining.

For people who haven’t traveled much or are on a strict budget, I always advice them to start slow. Visit a Latin American country. A place like Colombia, Costa Rica or even some spots in the Caribbean are great starter destinations because they are CHEAP! Your money goes a long way and it allows you to stay longer, enjoy yourself a bit more, without breaking your bank.

Still skeptical? Let’s budget this shit out then. Let’s say you’re going to Bogota, Colombia out of California for 7 days.

  • Flight – Under $400 r/t (Yup, it’s real! Hit me up if you want help booking)
  • Accommodations –  $371 (about $53 a night. Yes it’s cheap there)
  • Total Other Expenses – $450 (average of food/drinks/Tours about $70 a day for 7 days, which is way too generous. You could get away with spending $25 per day)

That brings your total to about $1221. But, really if you’re better at spending while traveling, you could make this trip happen for $1000 easily by watching what you buy while traveling.

Now I understand that $1000 dollars is a good chunk of change to some people. But, if you consider yourself “Poor”, in my opinion, that is when it’s the best for you to travel. I’ll go into that reasoning a bit deeper in another post. Think about it this way, if you were to give up your coffee house splurges or eating out splurges for 6 months to a year, $1000 is easily attainable. Not to mention the ability to earn money while you travel, which I will also go into on another post.

The above budget is for one person, but if you’re traveling with someone else, you could cut your costs down even further by splitting accommodation and food costs.

If after reading this you still think this is unattainable, you should ask yourself if you truly do want to travel. I believe if you’re passionate enough about it, you can make it happen.

I’m happy to help anyone who reaches out to me for help with travel planning and booking, so please do reach out with any questions you may have. Get your ass out there and see the world.