Frequently Asked Questions. . .
Q: How do we get there?
A: 1# choice: Puerto, Plata (POP)
Santa Domingo (SDQ)
*First choice: Most guests fly to Puerto Plata airport (airport code POP). Villa Manager arranges taxi pick-up at the airport.
Second choice: Fly to the capital (Santo Domingo /airport code SDQ) and spend a few days there first. Explore the first city in the new world then drive across the island to the villa. There’s a new highway connecting the South with the North reducing the driving time. If interested, check the link section of the website for hotels (Hilton, Intercontinental) and for city tours. Villa manager arranges a Cabrera taxi to pick you up from your hotel and bring you to the villa. We strongly do not recommend renting a car in the capital.
Q: What do I need for paperwork to travel to foreign country?
A: Every member of your family will need a passport (including children). You will at (DR Customs) have to buy (in cash, USD) a $10 tourist card for each member of your family. We have never had a problem entering or leaving the DR. Dominican Republic is very open to tourist travel. Every year (including this one) travel visitor numbers have increased.
Q: Do I need to speak Spanish?
A: No, you don’t. Key villa staff members speak English. Casa Bella Hint (CBH): It’s more fun to dive right in and try to learn some Spanish. We recommend spanish travel books www.dominicanbookshop.com and this website www.learnspanishtoday.com. Dominicans love it when you make the effort to speak their language. They would love to help you learn.
Q: Do I rent a car?
A: We do not recommend renting a car for the following reasons. Car rental is expensive on the island. Very easy with the bad roads to damage your rental car, resulting in an unwanted bill when you return the rental car. Further, if you were to get in an accident, you would have to explain what happened to the authorities (in Spanish).
Q: How about flying a private airplane/charter jet to the Dominican Republic?
A: The villa owners have flown to the DR by private plane several times. They stopped half-way in Exumma, Bahamas and then continued to Puerto Plata Airport. Very easy way of traveling without the long lines on both ends of customs and the long wait before take-offs. Recently the government changed the rules and lowered private landing fees. Private planes are welcomed. Please call ahead the airport before traveling.
Q: Is it hot in the summer?
A: Casa Bella Villa is on the North Coast of the island. The North Coast is cooler and a little more lush than any other section of the island. The trade winds keep the temperature down. Casa Bella is located on the ocean. The ocean reaches a depth of over 4,000 feet deep within a short distance of the beach. This sea depth of water is like a natural air condition keeping the humidity down to more comfortable level. Cruise ships and freighters travel by daily (bring binoculars). This ocean water keeps the air cooler than you would think. Trade wind breeze can fool you and you forget to protect your skin from the sun. We have had guest sun burned before they even knew it from the Caribbean sun. Take precautions.
Q: Does the villa have a computer or smartphone connections?
A: We suggest guest bring a laptop computer. The villa has very good DSL-wireless service. Villa has connections to speakers for iPods or a smartphone. If you do not want to carry your laptop you can check your e-mail at the local internet cafe.
CBH: We enjoy bringing our smartphone (our complete musical library) and play it while we swim or play around the outside pool table. Our smartphone works for e-mail here and every other feature but phone service. Be very careful with the roaming international phone charges. (Turn off the roaming feature on your phone)
Q: Will I need to change my money into pesos?
A: Yes, buying souvenirs and trinkets for those you love is a wonderful way to bring some the of the island and culture back with you. We suggest you come to the villa get settled in. Our villa manager will be happy to get your money exchanged for you. We have always received a better exchange rate here in Cabrera than near the airport. You may like to check the exchange rate before you leave on the web. In 2012 and 2013 the peso to the dollar has been running steady at 40 peso’s to 1 USD. The staff would be able to exchange your money for you; leaving you time to enjoy your vacation.
Q: Why book a villa in the DR and not a hotel room for your vacation?
A: DR is known the world over for a cheap all inclusive vacation. This statement has changed in the last five years but many hotels still basically are offering the same thing. You come to the DR and stay at a hotel you will most likely never see the real DR. Most resorts and hotels on the island will keep you behind their walls your entire vacation. Americano behind concrete walls is all they have to offer. Even the tours are operated and run by foreigners and not Dominicans. You go home telling your friends you went to the Dominican Republic but did you really? Come to Casa Bella and have a real travel adventure while staying in luxury comfort.
Q: What do I bring to wear?
A: First, bring at least two bathing suits. I also highly recommend linen clothing, because it breaths for all. Sunglasses are a must for everyone. Water shoes are not necessary, but a good idea if you plan on going on any excursions.
* For Men - Hats are a good idea. Light clothing.
*For women- Bring shorts and thin spaghetti strap shirts. I like the shirts with bras already inside. The fewer layers the better. :)
* Kids - UV shirts for kids are great. My son also likes the sleeveless shirt as well. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
Depending on the time of your visit I would bring at least one thin jacket. The evenings can be cool especially if you go down to the beach for a bonfire. It’s best just to bring one just in case.
**Just remember your clothes get washed every day... So, you don’t need to over pack.
*Also, don’t bring clothing that is too expensive; due to the water sediments. It is best to leave expensive clothing at home. We can’t guarantee any clothing.
Best tips for summer from DR1.com
Summer is here and it looks to be a hot one. The following tips could be useful as you try to stay cool and save some money:
1) Keep yourself hydrated and drink as much water or sport juice as you can.
2) Stay in the shade as too much sun can be dangerous
3) Try to stay indoors between 11am and 3pm as these are the hottest hours
4) Eat lighter foods and stay away from hot foods and soups. Fruits, vegetables and salads are preferred.
5) Limit the use of AC and fans.
6) Use light clothing. Use fabrics that breathe as well as light-colored clothing. Stay away from black or brown clothing.
7) Use your sun-block if you are going out. Tomato face isn't the best summer fashion.
8) Consider buying an umbrella if you must go out.
9) Get a nice hat and make sure you take it where ever you go.
10) Take a small towel or handkerchief with you as you walk around the city.
Q: What can I expect at customs?
As soon as the plane lands in The Dominican Republic and open the doors you will know you are in the Caribbean. You will usually disembark the airplane on the tarmac and walk to the terminal guided by an airport employee..just follow the crowd. When you reach the terminal there will likely be a photographer, who will take your picture with two pretty Dominican girls. These photos will be available to purchase when you leave the DR. A small music band may also greet you with a cup out for money.
Then on to Immigration where you show your passport (ID), and tourist visa. (Americans: buy your $10 travel visa before going to immigration.) Have these ready, it'll save a lot of time. Immigration is fast and efficient. Then you walk into the terminal and wait for your luggage to come down the luggage carousel/conveyer belt. Once you have all your luggage you go through customs. Surprise here! Our experience as Americans is we just get waved through. As soon as you exit customs and the airport you will see a person holding a sign that has your name on it. Go to them and they will tell you what taxi to get on for our villa.
You may have heard or read horror stories about the baggage handlers at the airport. These are mostly exaggerated. As soon as you start to exit the airport you will have people coming up to you trying to take your baggage for you. A very firm no, two or three times will dissuade them. If you do decide to let them carry them, always keep an eye on your luggage and make sure you know what bus your bags have to go on. As disorganized as it all seems the baggage handlers are competent and know what they are doing. Keep your carry-on! If they carry your luggage it is only fair and proper you give them a tip. We usually give $3 to 5$ US. depending on the amount of luggage and how far they carry it. Some will demand $5 U.S. or more per bag - don't be intimidated into paying that much! They can't use coin so paper money only please. Another way is to have one person find your bus while the other waits with the bags and then just carry the bags yourself. This baggage handler problem is really not as terrible as its reputation .
When the baggage is on the taxi, get in the taxi-- and yes it is usually air conditioned. When everyone is on the taxi you will go to your villa. As you go to the villa you will see how the Dominicans live. One of the first things we noticed is that unlike North Americans, Dominicans seem to enjoy each other's company. People actually talk to their neighbours and there is always a group of people outside homes. You will have noticed at this time that driving is an experience you will not forget :)
As a matter of interest, we personally find the Dominican Airports more efficient, interesting, and generally a favorable experience compared to the US airports.