Ocean, Palm Trees, tropical birds (and some pigeon looking birds and ducks as well of course) and white hot sand… From most of the stories I hear people oftentimes compare Cuba and the Dominican and the latter usually wins probably because of its better food and service quality. I have been to Cuba a couple of years ago and just came back from a resort in Punta Cana in Dominican Republic and am ready to tell you ALL you need to know (which I wish I did) before going. The resort I went to was Occidental Grand Punta Cana and we flew with Air Transat and our travel agency was Transat Vacations.
Punta Cana Weather
We went to Dominican in the hurricane season and although I checked the weather channel in advance which said the weather is perfect for that week, a day before flying in the forecast was pretty depressing. Once I asked around a couple of people pointed out that they went many times during the last week of August (which is what I did too) and the weather was good. Same thing here, on the weather channel it tells you it will rain because the humidity is very high but since the climate is tropical you may get some rain in the morning and then hot sun. It is not cold when it rains, believe me, and swimming in the ocean while it rains is also quiet a memorable experience. The waves get high though and that can be annoying especially as you are walking out of the water and it covers you as if to offer a little sip of salty water. I was satisfied my lenses stayed in tact.
The best currency to take with you is still the US dollar, so if you read somewhere that a mix of the local currency and the American dollar is the way to go, I will strongly disagree. The prices for souvenirs, spa packages and other entertainments are all in US dollars. They also take credit cards, but you better make sure you tell your bank where you are going otherwise you will have a block on your card. Pretty straightforward.
Tipping in All Inclusive Resorts
I guess this strategy works the same way anywhere you go, and this information was given to us by our Air Transat Vacation agent.
– A la Carte Restaurants – 3$ – 5$ per table (this is for dinner)
– Buffet and any other food point – 1$
– Cleaning staff – 1$ (If you want to leave a tip, place it on the pillow. This way they know it is for them)
– Bar – every 2nd or 3rd round you could leave a dollar
No more. Needless to say anything else pretty much. There was previously a charge of 10$ upon arrival and 20$ (all in US dollars) upon departure per person but now it is all included in your travel package. So spend away until that last dollar. Canadian money is also accepted.
Occidental Grand Punta Cana Food
The food is awesome! Sea food, farmers market produce, fresh juices and watermelon smoothies and so on and so forth. The point here is that if you have been to Cuba and loved everything except the food here you will like everything.
Tips and tricks for Travelling
Do not drink the tap water if you are not planning to go on a masochistic diet. You can get bottled water at any food point there.
Do not look the vendors in the eyes if you do not want to buy everything they have.
Do take a lot of spare swim suits as the humidity is insanely high and nothing dries. Taking a hair straightener would be useless so I didn’t.
The power plugs are the same as here.
WiFi was an hour per device per stay and additional Wifi was 25$ for 25 hours which you do not have to use immediately but rather spread it across the stay.
Average attractions pricing
The price for the whole day city tour is about 95$ and a spa package or swimming with dolphins tour range from 120$ – 150$ and up. Unless you are really determined to get out of the resort you can find a lot of attractions within. All types of water sports rentals and lessons, tennis courts, dance classes, movies on the beach, etc. You will not get bored, that is guaranteed.
Transat Holidays Travel Agency
We traveled with Transat Holidays and we were happy with it. All Transat Holidays clients had a private beach section with a barman, and upon arrival we had a complimentary bottle of rum on the table in the room.
To conclude, don’t forget your sunscreen and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate as it gets pretty hot past 10 a.m.