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Dominican Republic - Expats

It is impossible to ascertain exactly how many expats live in the DR. This is for two reasons. Firstly if one analyses how many non-Dominicans live there, this does not mean you will know the number of expats in the standard use of the word. It is thought that there are over a million illegal Haitians in the country, and these are included in any statistics relating to foreigners. In addition, many expats enter the country on a tourist card and just overstay the 30 day limit, without applying for residency and so even if you look at residency statistics these do not give you an idea of the number of expats living here. Expats come from all over the world with the largest numbers being American, Canadian, German and Italian. There are also British and French, the latter especially in the North Eastern peninsula. In recent years the numbers of Russians and Eastern Europeans has increased.

There are several reasons expats come to the Dominican Republic to live. There are those who come for a short while, often associated with work. Of the 500 or so Free Zone factories, the vast majority are managed by expats. There are also those who come to work for NGOs, embassies etc. However the vast majority come to retire, as the cost of living is substantially less than in North America and Europe, and hence a pension will stretch a lot further. Many expats, especially North Americans are snowbirds coming for the winter, spending around 4 months in the country during the winter. The attractions of the island are its climate, wonderful beaches and mountains, and proximity to America and Canada, with direct flights. Although significantly further from Europe, there are direct flights from many European countries as well. For those who wish to live in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic provides an affordable choice. Over recent years there has been a growth in good quality hospitals and healthcare, and in international standard supermarkets, so it is easier to have home comforts as well. There are also those expats who come on holiday and meet and fall in love with a Dominican man or woman. Given the difficulty of obtaining a visa for a Dominican, many of these inter racial couples at least start their married life here.

Expats on the whole tend to live where others live, especially those that come for retirement. Those who are retired tend to congregate in the north of the country, Puerto Plata, Sosua, and Cabarete. This area was the first major tourism centre, is on the Atlantic coast and has international supermarkets, gated communities and several international restaurants. The East coast is now developing quickly amongst expats – Punta Cana and Bavaro. This area has boomed recently with several all inclusive hotels and has overtaken the north coast as the main tourist centre. The local amenities are slowly catching up with the number of residents, and recently supermarkets, a cinema, shopping malls and restaurants have opened. There are also major improvements being made to the road to the capital, which will make the east coast even more attractive. There are also expats in the capital, Santo Domingo and the second biggest city, Santiago, who are more likely to be here for work rather than retired. Las Terrenas and Samana in the north east peninsula are also home to several expats, especially French. Throughout the rest of the country there are fewer than in the three main areas, but expats can also be found in La Romana, Juan Dolio, Boca Chica, and Jarabacoa – the mountainous area. Most of the rest of the country, in the less touristy areas, are home to very few.

Expats are well treated, and are welcomed by the indigenous population with no evidence of discrimination. They are seen as providers of work, not just as employers in business, but also employing gardeners and domestic help. Even expats with a small income will usually still have significantly more money than the average Dominican. This can result in a dual pricing system with expats paying more for the same service than a Dominican especially when they first arrive or do not speak good Spanish. It can also mean that expat homes are more likely to be targeted for burglaries; hence many will live in secure gated communities.

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

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