To say that we learned some valuable lessons on this trip is an understatement.
- Traveling to Santo Domingo requires a return ticket.
We arrived at the MDE airport in Medellin 3 hours before our boarding time. After a long wait on the line to print our tickets, the Avianca clerk indicated that we needed proof of intent to leave the Dominican Republic; basically, a ticket out of the country within 30 days. Based on prior research and the Facebook group, Blacks Living Abroad, I remembered that customers can purchase tickets online and cancel within 24 hours. I used priceline.com to purchase the tickets because that website is one of the few that allows customers to purchase 8 tickets at a time. We showed the clerk the confirmation on our phone and he printed the tickets.
- You may be eligible for a “tax refund” when you leave Colombia based on the amount of time you stayed in the country.
It took 30 minutes, after the clerk printed our tickets, to complete the process. We almost left due to our American impatience but the clerk was persistent and assured us we would not miss our flight. He requested our name, passport numbers, address, phone number and email address. After we provided the requested information, he sent us over to the cashier and she handed us 700 Mill Pesos; about $240.00. That was a welcome surprise.
- You must go through customs/immigration in Bogota if you are traveling internationally.
I don’t know why this was a surprise for me. I assumed since we didn’t go through customs in Medellin, that we didn’t need to go through at all. That was an ignorant and seriously rookie mistake. Obviously, this point is required if you are leaving the country and since the first leg of our trip was within Colombia, well, Duh!! The line moved quickly and the process was simple. After they stamped our passport, we went through a security checkpoint very much like America except they were not alarmed by the names Mustafa or Shabazz. No cavity searches for the non-Muslims with the Muslim names in our group. First time for everything!
- Bogota airport is a cluster-fuck.
There was no place to sit inside the terminal. It was packed. Even the floors were taken. When we landed there, we had to take a bus to the terminal from the plane. Upon leaving, we had to take a bus from the terminal to the plane. That was annoying mainly because the bus went back 4 times to pick up people that were late or stuck on the immigration line.
- Avianca airplanes are dope. Free wine, tasty food and free movies.
The best part is the attire of the flight attendants and of course the huge leg room in coach seating. I was very happy about that.
- Apparently, you cannot exchange Colombian Pesos for Dominican Pesos.
After we landed in Santo Domingo, we immediately exchanged currency. We wanted to exchange our new-found tax dollar riches and our leftover monies for Dominican Pesos but quickly learned that COP does not exchange to DOP. I have no idea why. In addition, the currency rate of 47.00 for every $1.00 is not the same at the hotels, in the cabs or in the stores. That rate fluctuates between 46.23 and 49.00 DOP for every $1.00 USD. Again, not sure why. Maybe a gringo tax. (BY THE WAY THE EXCHANGE PLACE AT THE SANTO DOMINGO AIRPORT RIPPED US OFF. DON’T DO IT)
- Can or must pay for a tourist card for each passenger.
This I knew before we left but what I didn’t know is that the fee must be paid in USD. We landed in Dominican Republic so I’m not sure why they don’t accept DOP.
- Taxis cost more than the plane ticket.
This issue is serious. I don’t like Dominican Republic for this reason alone. To drive 15 minutes from the airport, it cost 40.00 USD per car (8 of us=2 cars). We paid 80.00 to travel 15 minutes within Santo Domingo. The next day, we had to get to Samana/El Limon area. That is a 2 ½ hour drive. That cost us $225.00. Correction, it actually cost $170.00 USD but the “arranger” charged us an extra $55.00. We didn’t find that out until we signed the receipt for 170.00. (that reminds me. I need to leave a negative review for Tropicana Apart-Hotel on Expedia.com)
- You get what you pay for.
We did not want to make the 2 ½ hour trek to Samana the night we arrived, so we booked a cheap hotel with excellent ratings. That was a bad idea. The hotel stated WIFI but the owner insisted that the WIFI didn’t work. The TV didn’t work. The bed in my mother’s room had blood stains on the sheets so she moved to our room. He charged us 10.00 USD for an air conditioner but it didn’t work. All we had was a powerful ceiling fan. We asked the lady at the front desk to order pizza for us and she assumed we didn’t understand any Spanish so she proceeded to add a box of pepperoni pizza to our order. When she gave us the total price, I knew for sure that my instincts were correct. I’m assuming her plan was to place our order, add her pizza, and then when the delivery man came, she would take her pizza box and send our pizza up to our room. Unfortunately for her, we don’t eat swine so we knew all the many ways to say pork in Spanish. We cancelled the order and her crooked ass had to order her own pizza.
- Finally, #10! Black people in Samana/El Limon are beautiful and seem to live an uninterrupted life. I love it here!!