Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I'll be working with Caitlin...

Using a World Class Education Where it is Needed Most:  by Caitlin Floreal at TEDx VirginiaTech -

About the Dominican Republic

History and Politics 
Expats moving to the Dominican Republic not only find themselves in one of the biggest countries of the Caribbean, but they also end up in one of the first places Christopher Columbus’ ships landed in 1492. The Spanish conquerors moving to the Dominican Republic in 1493 laid the foundations for today’s Santo Domingo. In the centuries that followed, the country was subject to annexation, premature declarations of independence, and revolutionary upheavals. 
But even after the last long-term occupation, the country did not come to a rest. The Dominican Republic’s 31 year totalitarian rule by Rafael Trujillo was followed by rulers who won by flawed elections, were overthrown by military coups, or had to go into exile. Free elections have only been held since 1996! After Leonel Fernández' several terms in office, Danilo Medina was elected president in May 2012 and took office in August of the same year. 

Geography and Climate 

Upon moving to the Dominican Republic, you should experience a semitropical climate.  The Dominican Republic enjoys a tropical climate all year round, with average temperatures ranging from 66° to 93° F (19° to 34° C). The coldest season is between November and April, and the hottest season is between May and October. August is the hottest month.  From May to November, you can expect heavy rain falls, particularly in the country’s north. If you move to the Dominican Republic in August and September, you may experience severe storms and hurricanes. 

 The Dominican Republic is the second largest country in the Caribbean and is located on the island of Hispaniola. The island, which it shares with Haiti, is situated between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Upon moving to the Dominican Republic, you recognize that the landscape is surprisingly diverse for such a small country. Obviously you shouldn’t miss out on the white sandy beaches, which are so typical for the Caribbean, but the country also boasts tropical rainforests, beautiful valleys, rivers, lakes, and even semi-desert zones. 

Time Zone

Local time is GMT -4. It is an hour ahead of Atlantic Standard Time in the United States in the winter. Unlike the United States and Europe, the Dominican Republic does NOT observe daylight saving time.

Capital City

The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the New World. Greater Santo Domingo has a population of around three million people..


The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy. There are three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Every four years the country elects its president, vice president, legislators and city government officials. President Danilo Medina and Vice President Margarita Cedeño were elected for a four-year term that began on 16 August 2012 and ends on 16 August 2016. The Constitution does not allow for consecutive re-election.


Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. However, you’ll be surprised how many hotel and tourist destination employees speak English, French, German and Italian. If you decide to venture out of the tourist areas, it is helpful to learn some basic phrases in Spanish.


The Dominican Peso (RD$) is the official currency of the Dominican Republic. You can find the peso exchange rate for several international currencies at
Major credit cards are accepted at most tourist locations, but it is best to check in advance at small hotels, restaurants and shops.
ATMs are located in almost all of the Dominican Republic’s cities, as well as at most resorts. Large supermarkets have ATMs that are open until late.

Tourism Statistics

4,064,754 non-resident foreigners flew to the Dominican Republic in 2013. A further 625,016 non-resident Dominicans also chose to visit in 2013. The Dominican Republic received 26.81% of the record number of 15,663,409 million visitors to the Caribbean region in 2013.
Most air arrivals landed at the Punta Cana airport, 63.6% of all air traffic. Santo Domingo was the second destination of arrivals with 19.7%, followed by Puerto Plata 8.7%, Santiago 4.1%, La Romana 2.3% and Samaná 1.3%.

In 2013, most tourists visiting the country by air came from:
United States39.9%
Puerto Rico2.6%
United Kingdom2.6%
The Netherlands0.6%

In 2013, seaport activity was:
Santo Domingo58,267 passengers
La Romana252,932 passengers
Samaná112,424 passengers

The National Hotel & Tourism Association (ASONAHORES) reports there are 716 hotels with a total of 67,792 hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic as of December 2013.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Visiting \ Living Or Moving to the DR


Visiting Tips
Entry Requirements :
As of May 1, 2012 citizens of all nationalities will be required to enter Dominican Republic with a VALID PASSPORT. To travel to the Dominican Republic, many people will need a Visa. Others, however, may be from countries who have signed agreements with the Dominican Republic (such as Peru etc..)so that they only need a Tourist Card. This, of course, only applies to visitors who are tourists.
A Tourist Card is a US $10 tax on incoming tourists that can be purchased at the airport when you arrive. The Dominican Law covering visas is Law No. 875.
To obtain more information about the Tourist Card or requirements for entry into Dominican territory, visit:
Most tourists will only need to pay for a tourist card that is issued upon arrival at the airport. The cost for the tourist card is US$10 and it will be valid for 30 days. The exit tax is US$20

What happens if I decide to stay in the country for more than 30 days?
You only need to pay US$22 at the airport to extend your stay for up to 90 days. Other fees will apply for longer stays

Residence Permit   
It doesn’t matter if you are moving to the Dominican Republic with a Tourist Card or a Business Visa. If your stay exceeds two months, you need to apply for a residence permit (Visa de Residencia). To do so, you need to submit the application in advance to a consulate of the Dominican Republic with the following (all foreign documents must be notarized, translated into Spanish, and both the original and the translation apostilled): 

  • Visa Form 

  • Frontal picture (2x2 inches, with a white background) 

  • Passport valid for the duration of the visa or longer. 

  • Medical Certificate. 

  • Criminal Record Certificate from your country of residence at the time of application. Not required for minors. 

  • Photocopy of National Identity Document from your country of nationality; and photocopy your Residence Card if you’re residing in a second country. 

  • Birth Certificate. 

  • Notarized Letter of Guarantee signed by a Dominican or a legal resident in the Dominican Republic specifying their relationship to you. This person must guarantee to pay any expenses involved in your move to the Dominican Republic should you be unable to do so. The letter of guarantee must be signed by a notary of the Dominican Republic and legalized by the Attorney General's Office of the Dominican Republic. 

  • Documents showing your financial solvency. All documents must be issued for you and NOT your guarantor. These documents may include:  

  1.   Letter from Bank: with details of account balances 

  2.   Copies of titles of property (must show original) 

  3.   Registration of established companies 

  4.   Copy of your last tax return 

  5.   Copy of Financial Certificates 

  6.   Letter of employment or proof of pension 

  • Visa application letter from you addressed to the Consular Section containing your name, nationality, place of residence, and occupation, as well as information on your reasons for moving to the Dominican Republic, e.g. employment, retirement, for a Dominican husband or wife, etc. 
After submitting all documents to the Dominican consulate or embassy in your country, you need to hand in all paperwork again to the foreign ministry (Cancillerìa) in Santo Domingo upon moving to the Dominican Republic. Please keep in mind that you might have to submit additional documents, e.g. a Marriage Certificate, if you are moving with your family, if your spouse is a citizen of the Dominican Republic, or if you have relatives in the Dominican Republic.

Business (Work) Visa 

Before moving to the Dominican Republic, you need to secure either a Business Visa (Visa de Negocios), which comes in two forms that allow either 1 entry for 60 days or multiple entries for 1 year, but only for a maximum of 2 consecutive months at a time; or, a Business Visa for employment purposes (Visa de Negocios con Fines Laborales), which is issued for 1 year. The latter is the relevant visa for those who are moving to the Dominican Republic to work on fixed-term contracts for private or public companies; with this visa you can apply for a driver's license, open a bank account, etc. You can renew your visa at the Department of Immigration (Dirección General de Migración) in Santo Domingo as long as you still have a valid work contract. 

In order to apply for a Business Visa for employment purposes, you need to submit the following (all foreign documents must be notarized, translated into Spanish, and both the original and the translation apostilled): 

    • Visa Form 

    • Frontal picture (2x2 inches, with a white background) 

    • Passport valid for the duration of the visa or longer. 

    • Resolution of the Ministry of Labor of the Dominican Republic. This document is issued by the Labor Department of the Ministry. It legitimizes the applicant's employment contract and, therefore, reason for moving to the Dominican Republic, and specifies the employee's position within the company, contract length and salary. 

    • Medical Certificate 

    • Criminal Record Certificate from your country of residence at the time of application. 

    • Photocopy of National Identity Document from your country of nationality; and photocopy of your Residence Card if you’re residing in a second country. 

    • Photocopy of former Dominican visas or residence card (if renewal). 

    • Visa application letter from you or from the company for which you are going to work addressed to the Consular Section containing your name, nationality, place of residence and occupation. 
    Nationals from certain countries who move to the Dominican Republic for short-term business meetings, site visits, or short training courses may enter the country with a Tourist Card, which is basically a USD 10 tax on visitors; a visa is not required in this case. 


    Friday, December 26, 2014

    A Child's Love

    Although my daughter is now an adult, this is the facial expression I envisioned during our conversation today...

    After months and months of knowing that I'll be leaving soon, my daughter called me from her job and really pleaded with me to stay. I informed her that I know she doesn't want me to go and to stop being a  "border bully" which is a character in one of our favorite books "The Dream Giver".

    I didn't know where all this emotion and doubt was coming from all of a sudden...she had been my ear and voice of reason during this entire time and now she's flipping the table on me.  She simply said, "You may not know how much I really love you, but you will be missed. I need you. Mama, you have no idea how your big smile and small kiss on the forehead gets me through most weeks."

    To my baby girl, remember the words I spoke to you in this conversation today.  Most importantly, whenever you feel like this in the future, go back and relate this journey I'm taking to the story I just told you... (the last biggest decision & change I ever had to make (wink:-). I thank GOD for YOU.

    I Love You!

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    Haiti political situation worsens, DR is affected

    Haiti political situation worsens, DR is affected

    Weekend reports on the resignation of the Prime Minister of Haiti Laurent Lamothe add to the political and social unrest in Haiti, which is bad news for the Dominican Republic. Improvements in Haiti translate into a reduction of immigration of the destitute and jobless to the Dominican Republic.

    As matters worsen in Haiti, the government-to-government talks are also affected.

    Haiti has delayed in organizing congressional elections and soon President Michel Martelly will be ruling by decree.

    The political crisis in Haiti also affects Haitian government support for the regularization of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. In many cases, the regularization needs Haiti to issue legal papers for the process to be completed. One of the major problems with the regularization process has been that most people born in Haiti do not have legal documents, which complicates matters when they emigrate.

    An editorial in El Dia urges the Dominican government to take preventive action to reduce the negative impact of the situation in Haiti.

    MY 2 CENTS:
     I don't' understand Why it's SO HARD for the Haitian government to provide the Haitians with their legal paperwork.  Is it fear that they will migrate to the Dominican Republic for a better life?  Is it payback for the ones that originally left for the DR?  Help me understand.

    Grant it, I understand that maybe some Haitian parents may not have legal documents which in-turn their kids are undocumented also.  This is a cycle that should stop. However, at some point there should be a process to verify that they are true Haitians.  A process that doesn't include  years of bureaucracy, paperwork and high fees that discourages an individual from finalizing their true citizenship in their home country. 

    As for the Haitians that were born in the Dominican Republic to DOCUMENTED Haitian parents, well that's a whole other story!  I feel that if you were born in a country, YOU ARE A NATIONAL CITIZEN of that country by birth and a Haitian by heritage right.  My  heritage linage is of African decent, but I'm not an African, neither were the 7 generations before me.  We are all Americans...born in America.  If your  parents are Italian or Irish thus born in Italy or Ireland, but you were born in America, GUESS WHAT....You're an American!  So for the Haitian babies that were born in the Dominican Republic, they should not be discriminated against and should be classified as a Dominicans by birth.

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    Missing my Passport!

    Ok, now I'm getting a bit nervous. In Exactly 4 weeks from today (29 days) I am departing for my trip(s), but I'm still waiting for my TEMPORARY VISA from the Dominican Consulate.  The temporary visa is stamped in your passport to allow you to enter the country  (w/i 60 days) to complete the 2nd part of my Visa process.  The consulate still has my passport!

    I'm patiently waiting for the Dominican consulate to return my passport to my attorney who will overnight it to me...hopefully before January 8th! I gave her all my documents 3 weeks ago and she has assured me that all will be fine although we're cutting it close. She's also requested for it to be expedited due to my timeframe. That's a bit comforting.

    I don't know what my plan "B" will be at the moment,  if I don't have my passport back in my hand before I depart. Oh Well, For now I'm just really glad that I purchased insurance on my entire trip!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    How Did You Start Planning for this?



    Well, I believe everyone's steps will be a bit different when planning and setting goals to live abroad. 
    For "ME", it was easier to plan by envisioning my future. To plan from THE FINISH LINE and work my way backwards.   In other words, I asked myself WHERE do I want to see myself in 18 months.  Primarily as it pertains to living abroad in the Dominican Republic, volunteering, earning income\starting up a business   Then,  I asked myself this same question for 12 months, in order to build a milestone on my progress.   Once I wrote down the answers to the question above, I took it one step at a time:



    STEP  ONE:   Create a Budget Plan


    Back to the "Finish Line" view point;   I was able to calculate expenses and identify my personal goals.  Some of the primary monthly expenses were covered in my previous blog (Just Do It Already) and I recap them below.  As such, I calculated the following for my overall expenses:


    • Apartment Rent (Furnished & All Bills paid apartment that includes Wi-Fi).  Since I didn't have the luxury of seeing the apartments 1st hand, I had to rely on the on-line reviews, phone calls and recommendations. If the apartment DOESN'T include utilities, then I will need to allot for this on  a separate expense line.
    • Extra Spending $$ (bus\taxis laundry, activities, dining-out etc..)

    • Tithes\Donations
    • Cell Phone plan (I decided to remain with my carrier Verizon, since they work perfectly fine in the DR). My contract has ended &  I will switch my plan to their prepaid  "no contract" plan ($45\month).

    • Calling card minutes  & extra SIM card.

    • Immigration Attorney Fees.

    • TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language certification) + School and Hotel fees.

    • Airline Tickets To Peru and Dominican Republic.

    • Round trip Airline tickets to/from Home.

    • Spanish School while in The DR.

    • Hotel and\or Homestay during weeks at Spanish School.

    • Passport Renewal.

    • Travel\Health Insurance

    • Misc. PRE Visa paperwork\shipping etc... 
    (I've had to pay for 4 documents to be Apostilled at $15 each, I Paid $30 for 2 2X2 phoots from the Post office, FedEx fees and 2 books of stamps for mailing other item and $85 for a Live FBI scan)

    • Groceries


    STEP TWO:  Research Visas


    I started with researching the immigration\visa process first.  Most countries will only allow you to "VISIT" their country for 30-90 days as a tourist. Anything past that will require you to have some type of visa.  The other option is to perform "Visa Runs" which can get old.  Visa Runs are when you simply cross the border into a bordering country (like Haiti) and come back to have your passport re-stamped for an additional 30-60 days.  This is performed a lot with expats in Thailand.  But I don't want to travel to Haiti every 60 days just to renew my visa.  That's too much work and it can be stressful if you're not "in the know" with the Haitians. Although I'm sure I'll make many Haitian friends, I still don't want to deal with the bureaucracy.   So with that said,  I initially thought to myself "Hmmm, I think I'll start off with a Student Visa" since I want to attend school and learn Spanish upon arriving in the Dominican Republic.  However, after reviewing all visa types, I soon realized that I should go for the Resident Visa based upon the fact that I plan I on making this my home for the long haul


    When I first started researching the possibility of living abroad in the DR, this website (DREscapes) was IMMENSELY HELPFUL! I reached out to the site owner and we eventually spoke on the phone. I have plans on meeting him for the 1st time in May of 2015. During that meeting, my husband will be joining me!  After we spoke over the phone he eventually got me in touch with an  Dominican Republic immigration attorney.  I'm on the fence as it pertains to how I feel about my attorney at the moment.  Primarily because the communication and lack of response at times are pretty spotty (this is typical when doing business in the Dominican Republic, I know this). Anyhow, So I can't really give a fair overview of what I think of the firm yet until I've finalize my entire process early next year.  At that time, I will be able to spill all the tea.   



    STEP THREE: Review your plan & tweak accordingly


    I printed out a 1 page calendar of Year 2015 & 2014.  As well as a monthly 2015 calendar.  I chose to keep it on paper as oppose to my cell phone because I needed to touch, feel and see my year at a view everyday.  I needed to take a pencil and jot down my dates of milestone such as:  when will I buy my airline tickets, when will I contact the attorney, when will I buy health insurance etc..  It helped me to see which dates I'll have the money to pay for my TEFL certification, purchase airline tickets and put a deposit down for the Apartment.  Seeing it printed out on paper help me to assess timelines such as when to call the attorney and when to schedule the 2nd part of the visa process.  If you're like me, it needs to be laid out in front of you in order to see the overall picture. It helped me to lay out my expenses on the table in order to assess my funds...loooong before my initial departure.  I'll admit, there were several times I had to rearrange things due to unforeseen  financial incidents, but that was okay.  I just had to tighten my budget that much more tighter as it got closer to the end of 2014.  I gave everyone in my family  a heads up that Christmas gifts this year will NOT be overly extravagant...I'm on a budget! 


    STEP FOUR: Start calling around & emailing


    At this stage, I had to add the international plan to my Verizon cell plan.  It was only $5 more a month. It allowed me to call over to the Dominican Republic and actually chat with folks ie... apartment owners, businesses & schools in order to further my research and investigation. Now is the time to start finding out where you'd like to stay. Call realtors and apartment owners, visit to get an unbiased opinion on the rentals and neighborhoods.  However, please remember that YOU CAN'T rely on everything that you READ on TripAdvisor or even blogs such as mine. Everyone's taste is not like yours, have an open mind, do your own research and PLEASE DON'T BE A FOLLOWER of the fear-mongers!!!  Also, If you'll be attending school there, have your list of questions ready and contact them.  After several months of narrowing down my school options, I decided to go with a school in Santiago. I was REALLY close to going with one in Santo Domingo in the Zona Colonial area, but opted against it due to the fact that it will be too touristy.  Being an African American, I want to blend in with the locals as much as possible and I don't think I'll have a problem with that based upon my looks. As such, I want to learn Spanish AWAY from other Americans and foreigners.   I spoke with their overseas director at the school in Santiago and opted to go with the Homestay program they offer where I'll get 3 meals a day w/ a private bedroom and Wi-Fi!!  Santiago has FAR LESS tourist than in Santo Domingo. Don't forget to Shop around for an attorney too.


    The steps above focus on an personal move to the DR at a high level overview.   If you intend on building a business, of course the steps are entirely different, but they still focuses on the same principal.  I'm sure I'm missing some things and will have to update this later, but All comments are welcomed!


    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    Seven Myths about Living in the Dominican Republic

    I found this interesting! What do you think? 


    Debunking Seven Myths about Living in the Dominican Republic 

    by Ginnie Bedggood 

    Each year more and more foreigners move to the Dominican Republic, lured by the tropical climate, inexpensive property (if you know where to look), high rates of return on investments and a very reasonable cost of living compared to Europe and the United Kingdom and, in some respects, the US also. After 13 years of living here I have noticed that some of the more recent arrivals are different in both calibre, adjustability and simpatico with the locals, from those already living here when I became an expat. A small amount of research has shown that newer arrivals probably could be described as 'followers' rather than 'pioneers' and many arrive with false assumptions and a set of myths internalised which do not assist in a happy transition. These brief thoughts are penned with the aim of easing the passage of future groups of arrivals.  

    Myth No. 1: I don't need to learn Spanish  
    Wrong! Whilst many Dominicans working in tourist areas speak English, those away from these areas do not. Your Spanish need not be fluent, but making the effort goes a huge way to engender acceptance by the indigenous population. In any event, foreigners who do not speak any Spanish get charged 'gringo' prices and could find themselves at the wrong end of the odd scam or two because they do not understand what is going on around them (scams frequently operated by other gringos, I might point out, as well as street wise Dominicans.  

    Myth No. 2: The safest place to live is in a gated community with other expats and lots of security guards  
    Again, wrong. The Dominican Republic is not like some of the more dangerous parts of the Middle East. Yes, there is crime here, but where in the world is there not? Gated communities full of other expats signify to burglars houses with good 'pickings'. Security guards are usually paid a pittance and are unlikely to risk life and limb if armed burglars appear. Some of the security guards may even be part of the problem, providing the burglars with information about residents' movements. In 13 years here we have never found it necessary to live in a gated community and we certainly would never live surrounded by expats. We take normal precautions similar to those which our Dominican neighbours take and all we have 'lost' in 13 years is one Dominican flag and the soft top to a jeep, both from outside the house, not inside.  

    Myth No. 3: Driving in the Dominican Republic is a risky business  
    True. Just how risky depends a lot on you. If you have eyes everywhere and are good at predicting others' actions and drive firmly and confidently, the risks are markedly decreased. There is no 'road rage' here, just carelessness and failure to signal. Traffic lights are a relatively new phenomenon of about four years back in Puerto Plata where I live and some inhabitants are clearly still adjusting!  

    Myth No. 4: Medical care is primitive  
    Whilst this would be true of public hospitals it is not true of private clinics and expats will be using the latter. Public hospitals are severely under-resourced. The doctors are willing and in most cases able but just do not possess the most basic of items. Operations in public hospitals have been known to be completed by the light from a surgeon's cellphone when the power goes off or the back up generator runs out of fuel. The Dominican Republic is, after all, a developing country.  

    Myth No. 5: There are power problems  
    No myth, this one is absolutely correct. However, most expats will obtain either inverters or generators or both so blackouts affect them far less than poorer sectors of the community.  

    Myth No. 6: The 'natives' are always happy  
    No, they are not, but they are an uncomplaining race of people and tend to 'get on' with life. Also they would not want to upset you by appearing miserable, so on goes the beaming smile. There is both poverty and hunger here, so of course people are unhappy at times. But you have to prove your worth by staying for the long haul and having a warm and understanding nature before they will share these concerns with you. This is because many expats prefer to 'look the other way' and not see these issues. If you are one of these, please do not move here.  

    Myth No. 7 : Nothing ever happens when it should  
    Well, yes and no. If you were expecting something to be done today and it is not, you will be told 'Manana'. From this you may mistakenly believe it will be done tomorrow. 'Manana' does not necessarily mean tomorrow. Sometimes it means 'never' but Dominicans would not want to upset you by telling you this. The only way around this one is to learn to ask the right questions  
    I could, of course, write an entire article on each one of these but perhaps it is best to stop whilst one is ahead! You can and will adjust to these differences. It helps if you view them as differences and not the 'right' way and the 'wrong' way. There is no need for a 'them' and 'us' attitude in the Dominican Republic, so if you feel you already have one, please deposit it at the airport - preferably Miami!