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Dominican Republic - Cost of Living

On the whole the cost of living in the Dominican Republic is lower than North America or Europe. However there is a large disparity depending on where you choose to live, the food you eat and the lifestyle you follow. The most expensive part of the country, like many countries, is the capital Santo Domingo, which, according to is currently ranked 534 overall out of 950 places in 2012. In the same report, London was ranked 22nd and Manhattan, New York was 8th.

Looking firstly at housing. There is a massive difference depending on if you live in the capital, a tourist resort, or a purely Dominican town. To buy a three bedroom house in a tourist area near the ocean will cost from US$250,000 upwards, and in a Dominican town will cost around US$100,000 or a little less. A two bedroom condo or flat with ocean view would be around US$150,000. With rental there is also a large variation depending on location, with prices for a flat/condo in the capital around US$1500 per month, tourist areas around US$ 800 a month and Dominican towns around US$250 a month. However, although purchase and rental prices are lower than the UK and USA, electricity is substantially more. The average house or large flat will pay at least US$300 a month and those that use air conditioning will pay more. Half of the country does not have 24 hour electricity so those areas will have to purchase alternative sources such as a generator or inverter. Gas is only available in bottles, there is no piped gas and you fill up the bottles from a local filling station. US$20 will last from 2-3 months.

As far as food is concerned it depends very much as to whether you eat local produce or imported. If you eat local foodstuffs it is substantially cheaper than either the UK or the USA, however it can be limited. There are now several international supermarkets in the major cities and tourist areas and there it is easy to find imported food and meat. However it is significantly more expensive due to the very fact that it is imported. Using a combination of the two, an average family would probably spend around US$600 a month on food, but if they stuck to local food then the bill would be halved. The local alcohol such as beer and rum is again cheaper, but imported brands more expensive Cigarettes are around a third of the price.

Clothing costs tend to be lower but then so does the quality and they tend to fall apart after a few washes. The main cities have name brand stores and there the prices are more expensive. The same applies to household appliances where fridges, washing machines, cookers, televisions can all be purchased for two to three hundred dollars, but again will tend to break down within a few years. The reason they do not last as long is that often they are manufacturing rejects, and if you look at the guarantee page in the instruction manual, it will often be over stamped saying guarantee null and void. Secondly the climate is not kind to metal appliances, with high humidity, and if you live near the coast the high level of salt in the air will rust things very fast. Finally the electricity is not well controlled and is subject to severe surges which blow up any electrical appliance which happen to be plugged in at the time.

Communication costs tend to be lower. Internet connection starts at around 10 pounds (US$15 a month), cellular phones can be acquired free with a basic contract of 5 pounds (US$8) a month and cable television is around 8 pounds (US$12) a month. Healthcare is more expensive than the UK in that there is no National Health service, but cheaper than the USA. Medical insurance will cost around 600 pounds a year for a family of four. Most medicines are available over the counter and the price is per tablet. Depending on the medicine this will range from a few pence up to around one pound a tablet. Dentistry charges are significantly cheaper than either the US or the UK.

Education will be more expensive for expats, as although the local schools are free they are not suitable for expat children. There are several international private schools but the fees vary dramatically from around 100 pounds a month up to 400 pounds a month. Leisure activities are significantly cheaper in that there is so much one can do for free, with beautiful beaches and hiking. There are very few cinemas, museum entrance is usually cheaper. The variety of restaurants is immense and one can eat out for as little as 4 or 5 pounds. There are of course international restaurants where the price is significantly more, but usually 20 pounds (US$35) is what one would spend on a meal out for two.

Transport is cheaper on the whole, with bus travel being significantly cheaper. A journey from the south of the island to the north, around 5 hours, in an air conditioned coach, will cost around 5 pounds or US$8. Local buses (guaguas) are also very cheap. Taxi fares are also reasonable but often need negotiating as they do not have meters. The one thing that is significantly more expensive is gasoline and diesel, which is currently around 4 pounds an American gallon (just under 6US$).

Useful Resources

A great book with excellent information on cost of living by area, accompanied by a website which keeps the key prices updated.

Expat FAQs: Moving to and Living in the Dominican Republic. By Ginnie Bedggood and Ilana Benady

This guide was compiled with the help of Lindsay de Feliz, a British expat blogger living in the Dominican Republic. Visit her blog at

Read more about this country

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