Santo Domingo: Best Seen at Night
Rel’s International Travel Guides (see more)
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Relampago’s City Rating:
- Nightlife: Very good
- Chance to score: Very good
- Beer prices: 100 pesos, or $2
- Food prices: Pica pollo for $3-5, pizza for $7-8
- Lodging: From $25/night
- Things to do besides chase women: Historical tours and Boca Chica beach, just to name two
If you decide to wing your way down to the Dominican Republic, there’s at least a chance you’ll end up flying into the capital city if you aren’t instead headed to overly-Americanized Punta Cana. (Puerto Plata is the other big tourist destination on the island.) Your destination, the modern Las Americas airport is just outside the main hub in Santo Domingo. Taxistas are rather expensive in this town, so word to the wise is learn to use a guagua or take a bus when possible.
Known by the locals as “El Capital” it is a 500-year old colonial city. Santo Domingo was the first European city to be founded in the Americas after Columbus landed on Hispaniola (near Puerto Plata) in 1492. The Zona Colonial is the heart of the history of this Latin American city, and is replete with colonial architecture. A taxi will take you there for the ripoff rate of $40 or so. Catch a ride on a guagua or “minibus” as it’s known by the locals to save your pesos.
Santo Domingo is a city of stark contrasts, contrasts that echo lines such as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. Indeed, in many says Santo Domingo seems to be two cities for the price of one. There’s the affluent side of town, and the struggling side of town. There are 500 year old buildings in the Zona Colonial, and soaring modern offices only miles away. There are street vendors selling clothes, food, and even electronics in the barrios and modern shopping malls. A visitor will often see these stunning contrasts side by side.
A similar contrast is how the city looks during the day versus how it looks at night. Most locals will tell you Santo Domingo is prettier by night, and this author would have to agree with that assessment.
As is the case with the rest of the island, if you find yourself in the right neighborhood, nightlife in the capital is a treat.
Without a doubt, pass by some bars and you’ll hear Bachata and/or Salsa music playing. You’re also likely to see Dominicans (and foreigners who know how to hang) actually dancing rather than standing around looking at each other while making glib, sarcastic comments like in Anglo America. This is a very social culture, which is part of the reason I have fallen in love with this small, island nation. Notice in the video above how much fun the dancers seem to be having, while gringos stand around and watch. (Yours truly gets in on the action. Especially if there’s a pretty morena like her to dance with!)
Part of the charm of El Capital is the fact you’ll see people from all walks of life here. You’re just as likely to see wealthy Dominicans out for a night on the town as you are to see streetwalkers…though few foreigners will know these working girls when they see them. After spending some time in the country, a man learns the difference. As in much of the world outside sexually repressed and shamed Anglo America, ladies of the night are not prohibited from practicing their trade here – nor should they be in a free society.
As someone who is experienced traveling in Latin America, I can have a fabulous night in El Capital on only $50-75. That price of entry includes drinks, dinner, and and other amusement I might come across. Of course, as a well-experienced traveler who is repelled by the prospect of being fleeced by American-style shoppin’ and eatin’ out, I enjoy hanging in places that would make most of my faint of heart countrymen jittery. Those types of travelers will spend more and have less fun so they can feel “safe” when they’re in a place like this. My advice: If you’re going to come here learn the culture and enjoy it. Don’t bring America here and expect everyone to adapt to you.
A word to the wise. Even though Santo Domingo is relatively safe, as is the case in any metro area my advice is don’t be an idiot. You can be robbed or have your valuables snatched if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. That said, I’ve been to El Capital many times and never had any issues.
Overall, Santo Domingo can be a blast as it offers plenty of nightlife, lovely, friendly chicas to socialize with, and affordable prices. Lodging only costs me around 1500 pesos or a little over $30 for a nice room. (Though, I have stayed in rooms for as little as $10-15 a night!) But, my Spanish and negotiating skills get me much more mileage than English-only gringos.
Don’t miss out on El Capital if you’re here!
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