December 18, 2009

Santo Domingo: A Lovely City

Santo Domingo is a lovely city. It runs along the Caribbean Sea, and has two large parks with views of the Sea. The Colonial City is replete with Old World charm – ancient stone buildings, a bubbling pedestrian walkway, huge stone plazas, churches, and all sorts of interesting sights. All over the city, you can find cafés, pastry shops, and places to hang out.

The city has an upbeat vibe to it, almost anywhere you go. In the afternoons, friends and couples enjoy the breeze sitting outside or inside a colmado, sipping on beers or drinks. In the Colonial City, people hang out at parks, in outdoor cafés, or walk up and down the pedestrian walkway. In any of the many parks in the city, you can see people walking, children running around, and older men playing dominoes. One of the things I have found more surprising is the fact that liquor stores are not just for buying bottles of whisky. Many of them are spruced up and you can sit inside and enjoy a Cuba Libre or a Screwdriver right in the liquor store. Notably, they are called by the English name – “Liquor Stores.”

People in Santo Domingo are remarkably friendly. Strangers greet you as you walk by. And, when you get in a collective taxi, other passengers will often bid you good morning or good afternoon. The other day, my husband, Nando, and I were sitting in a café in Parque Colon. A woman at the table nearby us began to recommend all sorts of beaches for us to see. At the end of the conversation, she gave us her phone number and invited the family over for dinner. Just today, we asked a busdriver on a bus passing how to get to the Colonial City. He said he didn’t go there, but told us where to get the bus. Five or six other passengers chipped in with their advice on how to get there, and no one seemed to mind the bus stopping to give some lost travelers directions. When the bus took off, one of the passengers instructed two women standing outside to make sure that we went the right way.

It might be that we just spent three months in Guatemala City and three months in Kingston, but Santo Domingo also strikes me as a very safe city. It is not unusual to see people walking around the Colonial City or even neighborhoods like San Carlos with large designer purses. The other day, I saw a woman with a huge Gucci bag get on a bus. You would never see that in Guatemala City or Lima. On the pedestrian walkway in the Colonial City, I have seen women with diamonds and gold, tourists with expensive cameras, and children with Blackberries or other expensive cell phones. The fact that people carry around expensive electronic devices signals to me that being robbed is not a major concern in the city.

There is some traffic here, but pollution is under control, and the traffic is not nearly as bad as I have seen in cities such as Guatemala City and Lima, Peru. Overall, Santo Domingo is a lovely city with warm weather and lots of sunshine.


  1. Please revise your article if you are describing the Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic..."a lovely city"??? We were robbed in the Colonial Zone in the middle of the day(Dec 26/09).The garbage in the ocean and the beach...We could not believe our eyes.The holes in the sidewalks,broken vehicles left on the street.Graffiti.You make it sound like "a walk in the park".I think your article is totally misleading.We are seasoned travelers and never felt so unsafe as in the southern D/R.

  2. I have now been in Santo Domingo for two months, and I still think it is a lovely city.

    I should, however, add the caveat that it is an urban area and has the same problems that most urban areas have, including the occasional street mugging, although it has fewer robberies than most cities. According to a recent report - - Santo Domingo has the highest ranking for personal safety in the region. Notably, it is higher than Monterrey, Mexico, which I also find to be a safe and agreeable city.

    I also should add the caveat that the Dominican Republic is a relatively poor country, and the city suffers from a low budget for waste management and street maintenance. So, yes there is trash in the street. Most of it, however, is in bags waiting for waste management to pick it up. And, yes, there are potholes and broken sidewalks. And, as I learned recently, you do have to be careful for open sewer holes when you walk the streets.

    Nevertheless, when you compare Santo Domingo to Lima, Peru; Guatemala City; Mexico City; Rio de Janeiro; Sao Paulo; and Kingston, Jamaica; it seems to me to be a safer and more liveable city. I find it to be on par with, for example, Santiago, Chile or Monterrey, Mexico.