My arrival in Santo Domingo was a pleasant one. Santo Doming is the capitol of the Dominican Republic and is located on the countries southern coast. My first stop after getting off the plane was the currency exchange where I exchanged a couple hundred dollars for the Dominican Peso at around the 40:1 exchange rate. I then followed the crowd to the customs checkpoint. Customs would have been an extremely smooth process had I not managed to blindly walk past the tax counter that was clearly marked with “$10.” I was immediately kicked out of line and sent to pay my entry tax. Fortunately, the line was short and fast.
By the time I returned to the customs line there were only two people ahead of me and I had only had to wait on one person at the tax station. It took about a total of ten minutes to get through all of this even after being kicked out of line for not paying the entry tax and the process was as smooth as silk even without anyone speaking English and my inability to speak Spanish. I may, however, consider this to be an anomaly if my departing experience is to be considered. More on that later.
Navigating the Las Americas International Airport was pretty simple. I was funneled through customs and out of the terminal without any real confusion as to which way to go. Since most of our flight had been Dominicans and I had been kicked to the back of the short customs line, there was no longer a crowd to follow, but I was only slightly diverted at the corridor of vehicle rental establishments. Someone kindly directed me through the appropriate corridor and I was on my way.
I stepped out into the lower part of the terminal which seemed more like a mall food court than an airport. A taxi driver approached somewhat aggressively and enthusiastically showed me his taxi badge. I had learned from talking to some more locally experienced travelers on my flight that there had once been a big problem with taxi drivers ripping off tourists and worse, but that it was apparently under control now and these certification cards were displayed honorably by legitimate taxi drivers. I almost walked away from the man because his eagerness was annoying, but I changed my mind deciding that I would rather deal with annoying than a perceived threat which he certainly was not.
The taxi driver, of course, also spoke no English. Fortunately, I had a printed copy of my reservation for the Hotel Palacio with the address in the header. I showed the old man my reservation and off we went towards Santo Domingo. It seemed to be about a 20-30 minute trip although I was not in the mood to watch the clock and I don’t remember the price exactly, but I was certainly not ripped off by the old man in the half broken taxi. It had been a long couple of days so I was a bit irritable at this point but I was happy to have arrived safely into a comfortable hotel and to finally be on vacation!