Life in the Bateyes

Travel to the Dominican Republic, where you'll experience local Caribbean culture and lend a hand

Work and Play

Your trip to the Dominican Republic will take you to both ends of the spectrum: the idyllic tourist experience on the beach and the lesser-seen daily life of the bateyes, traditionally, impoverished communities of predominantly Haitian immigrants who work in the nearby sugar cane fields. Witness firsthand the socioeconomic disparities present in the Dominican Republic and learn how we work directly with communities to help address these inequalities. This unique opportunity will allow you to examine your role as a traveler and citizen of the world. The last few days of your program will be spent in beautiful Punta Cana, a popular vacation spot for many travelers. Go snorkeling in the crystalline sea and explore the underwater world that makes the Dominican Republic famous.

Life in the Bateyes

Working in the batey communities is like finding a home away from home. While these impoverished areas lack some of life’s basic necessities, the welcoming faces of the families and children highlight the simple joys of life, which you will come to appreciate as well. You will hear stories from farmers, mothers, community leaders, grandparents, and youth, as well as take part in carefully designed service projects that aim to improve the daily lives of these communities. You’ll also have plenty of time to build relationships with the batey families. Soon enough you’ll learn from the community children that “caballito” means “piggyback ride” and that “amigo” means “friend!”

Learning about the Issues

You will speak to some of the leaders most involved in the improvement of batey communities and learn about the challenges of collaborating with disadvantaged communities to design impactful development projects that help the intended recipients – not an easy task! Rustic Pathways works to support sustainable initiatives and increase living standards through local infrastructure projects, agriculture projects and education initiatives at schools and community centers. Whether it’s through organized group discussions, a casual conversation while playing baseball, or learning where your sugar comes from, you’ll leave this trip with a wealth of understanding and a broadened worldview.

Beautiful Beaches

After giving your energy to service, you’ll be more than ready for a beach day. Snorkel in turquoise waters and dig your feet deep into the white sand as you relax from your hard days at work! Swim in the warm Caribbean waters and enjoy this paradise that first caught the eye of the indigenous Taino people, and later the Europeans.

To extend your service in the Dominican Republic to an environmental cause, consider combining this program with our Marine Life and Dolphin Conservation program for an unforgettable summer.

This program also connects seamlessly with all our fantastic trips in the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Costa Rica.


Day 1 (Tuesday): Off to the Dominican Republic

Depart the United States for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Upon arrival at the airport you will be greeted by your Rustic Pathways staff. From here you will head over to your hotel for the night where you will meet the other students on your trip!

Day 2 (Wednesday): Welcome to the Bateyes

After breakfast at the hotel, head to your new home just outside of San Pedro de Macorís. Get familiarized with your surroundings and the history of the bateyes. These communities are home to sugarcane workers and their families, who have some of the lowest standards of living in the region. Sugar is one of the Dominican Republic’s main exports, and the country depends on its production to keep its economy healthy. Many of the field workers come from neighboring Haiti, and conditions can range from poor to dismal. Workers may be in the fields for up to 14 hours daily in the tropical heat. Some migrate for work; others stay in the Dominican Republic year-round or were even born here. They lack citizenship and quality education for their children.

For years now, however, these small communities have opened their arms to Rustic Pathways students like you to come work and help out where you can. We have nurtured a strong relationship of mutual respect with these special people. Jump into life in the bateyes and feel like you are at a home away from home.

Day 3 (Thursday): Work Hard. Play Hard.

Wake up to your first full day in the bateyes – the area itself is completely surrounded by sugar cane fields, and home to the communities you will be working with. Receive an introduction to the project and people you will be serving. After a delicious Dominican lunch head over to start your service projects in one of the batey communities. Service initiatives vary based on local needs, but you may help with construction or agricultural projects, English lessons, educational workshops, or designing activities for local children. Be sure to take a break from your work and start a game of pato, pato, ganzo (duck, duck, goose) with the neighborhood kids!

Day 4 - Day 5 (Friday - Saturday): Service in the Bateyes

The next two days will be spent continuing work on service projects in the bateyes. You will eat breakfast with your fellow travelers at The Base, which is also home to a local NGO that serves the surrounding bateyes. Next, it’s another morning of service work. Head back to The Base for lunch and a siesta before returning to the bateyes for an afternoon of service. After service, enjoy a game of pick-up baseball with the local kids before returning to The Base for dinner. On Saturday, visit a sugar cane field. Learn how the cane is planted and cut, and taste some raw sugar cane! The evenings will be spent playing games, planning service activities, and discussing the day’s work.

Day 6 (Sunday): Beach Time!

After two days of invigorating service work, look forward to enjoying unwinding with a well-deserved afternoon of fun!

Today, head out to the beach to spend the morning swimming in the serene Caribbean waters and soaking in the sun on the beach. After a lunch at the beach, enjoy kayaking and ziplining (optional) outside the beach town of Bayahibe. Have a relaxing dinner back at The Base after your fun-filled day.

Day 7 - Day 8 (Monday - Tuesday)

Continue on with your service work in the morning and afternoon, returning to The Base for meals.

Your days here will be spent implementing an educational summer camp for local children from some of the bateyes we work in. Your evenings will be spent playing games, planning for your service work, and discussing the day’s work. Enjoy activities like sampling raw sugar cane, taking a field trip into town for ice cream and games along the boardwalk, and playing sports and games with local kids.

Day 9 (Wednesday): Wednesday Fun-day!

Today, head south for an afternoon of relaxing and playing on the Caribbean beaches. Have a picnic on the beach and even enjoy a fresh coconut. In the afternoon, take a tour around the historic town of San Pedro de Macorís. In the evening, head back to The Base for dinner with the group.

Day 10 - Day 11 (Thursday - Friday)

Thursday and Friday are service-filled days. Start to see all the progress you’ve made! Unwind after service by playing a game of baseball with the locals. Spend the evenings having more in-depth group discussions.

Day 12 (Saturday): ¡Adios, bateyes!

This morning, start finishing up the last work you will contribute to your service project. After lunch at The Base, get ready to say goodbye to the communities you've called home for the last 11 days! In the afternoon, put your final touches on your service project, and say your final farewells to all of your new friends. Return to The Base for dinner and start packing your bags. Tomorrow morning you are headed to the beach!

Day 13 - Day 14 (Sunday - Monday): Reflection and Relaxation

Say farewell to the bateyes, as Sunday will be your last morning there. Head out to the Punta Cana coast bright and early for some time of reflection on the experiences you had in the communities. Relax on the beach, snorkel through the blue waters, and explore the freshwater lagoons of the area. Experience the contrast between the Dominican Republic’s stunning attractions and the lesser seen bateyes where you have been working for the past two weeks.

Day 15 (Tuesday): Last Dominican Sunrise, then Off to Santo Domingo

Head back to the capital for a tour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the first university, cathedral and hospital in the Americas. Take a tour of the walled city and learn about the deep history of the first European settlement in the Americas. After touring the Colonial Zone, head over to a special dinner and dance show at a typical Dominican restaurant.

Day 16 (Wednesday): Homeward Bound or Off to New Adventures

If you are heading home, you must say your last goodbyes to your new friends and head off to the airport bright and early in the morning. If you are heading off to another Rustic Pathways program in Latin America, get ready for more adventure!

An Important Note about Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

Packing List

 Please do not over pack!

Carry on Luggage:

  • Passport and wallet *travel wallet that can be hidden under clothing is a good idea. 
  • Photo copy of your passport (2 additional photocopies should be carried in checked luggage
  • Sunglasses 
  • Journal and pens
  • Good book (trade with buddies)
  • Water bottle (Nalgene)
  • Medications (must alert staff)
  • 35mm camera, digital camera, and/or disposable camera ‚Äì the Dominican Republic is a wet environment so please have a good case that keeps your camera safe from elements like rain and dirt. Be aware that cameras can easily get broken, lost, or stolen in the Dominican Republic so only bring a camera which you are prepared to part with.
  • Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the new carry-on regulations of the TSA.

Checked Luggage:

A medium sized duffel bag or large backpack work best. Wheeled bags are OK as long as they are medium sized and can easily be carried like a duffle over rough terrain.

Clothing items- Please bring at least a few outfits that can get dirty or destroyed for service work or adventure activities.

  • 3 long pants (1 pair of lightweight pants, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair old jeans for service)
  • Underwear (14 to 16) 
  • Socks (8 to 10) - lightweight quick dry athletic socks like Smartwool are the best. 
  • T-shirts and tank tops and sports shirts (6-8 cotton t-shirts and 4-6 quick dry shirts like capilene or polypropylene) approximately 14 t-shirts total
  • 1 light sweater/sweatshirt
  • Rainproof Jacket (1) 
  • Shorts (3-5 pairs of shorts) – IMPORTANT: be sure your shorts reach knee-length.  Basketball shorts work great.
  • Swim Suit (1 or 2) 
  • Athletic shoes - shoes that dry quickly, you can hike short distances in and protect your feet are best. Shoes will get muddy and dirty so don't get too attached to your footwear. 
  • Sandals and/or flip-flops ‚Äì a pair of strap on sandals that will not fall off in water like Tevas or Chaco brand sandals work great. Flip-flops are also very useful. 
  • Hat for sun 
  • 2 towels (not white) - large travel towels are great!
  • One nice casual outfit for final dinner (not too fancy or bulky)
  • 1 pair of pajamas


Please pack all items that could leak in a plastic or Ziploc bag!

  • Shampoo and Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush 
  • Sunscreen (2 bottles of strong sunscreen) 
  • Insect repellant (35% DEET) 
  • Hand sanitizer (1 or 2 small bottles per week) 
  • Contact lenses and accompanying paraphernalia

Additional Items:

  • Flashlight or headlamp w/ extra batteries (to read at night or in the case of power outages)
  • Watch or Clock with an Alarm
  • Heavy Duty Garbage Bags (2) *for packing wet and dirty clothes/shoes
  • Large (one gallon) Ziploc bags for storage and easy packing
  • Small personal first aid kit (our guides will have comprehensive first aid kits on hand, but having a small personal kit is always helpful)
  • Band aids
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Medical tape
  • Moleskin or preferred blister care
  • Preferred mild pain reliever
  • Antihistamine (Benadryl or preferred anti-itch creme)
  • 2 Non-adherent, sterile dressing
  • 2 Gauze dressing
  • 5-8 After Cuts and Scrapes Wipes

Optional Items:

  • Spanish/English dictionary
  • Deck of cards 
  • Picture of mom, dad, boyfriend/girlfriend, dog, pet fish, etc. 
  • Frisbee, baseball, football, soccer ball or volleyball
  • Spanish/English dictionary
  • Deck of cards 
  • Picture of mom, dad, boyfriend/girlfriend, dog, pet fish, etc. 
  • Frisbee, baseball, football, soccer ball or volleyball

Optional Donation Items:

Batey communities lack many resources and appreciate any help they can receive.  If you are thinking about bringing donations think along the lines of school supplies, craft materials, sports gear (deflate your soccer balls before packing them!), and clothes. 

Please Note:

Rustic Pathways will not be responsible for any lost or stolen items. During travel it is common for items to be lost or stolen so please only bring items you are prepared to part with.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does this program connect to other programs?

Students will depart from Punta Cana for Santo Domingo on Tuesday afternoon. They will spend that night in Santo Domingo at a hotel near the airport. Students transferring to other program in Latin America can catch a flight to Costa Rica or Peru on Tuesday evening. Students connecting to other programs in the Dominican Republic will join their new trip on Wednesday morning.

Do we need to get visas for this program?

Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 30-day tourist visa upon entry into the Dominican Republic, for the cost of $10. STUDENTS MUST HAVE $10 UPON ENTRY TO PAY FOR THE TOURIST CARD.

Will there be a flight leader to this country?

Yes. All flights between the USA and the Dominican Republic will have a flight leader starting in New York. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as New York. Flights from the Dominican Republic to Costa Rica and Peru will not be escorted.

How long is the flight to this country?

The direct flight from New York to Santo Domingo takes approximately 3-4 hours.

Does the advertised trip length include international travel time?


Which areas does this program operate in?

During this trip, students will visit the provinces of Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris La Romana, and La Altagracia.

Is your staff certified in First Aid?

Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also 
certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, and/or Life Guards.

What is the ratio of Program Leaders to students?

Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.

What water will we be drinking?

Rustic Pathways uses purified bottled water on all Dominican Republic Programs. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.

Can I bring a cell phone?

Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.

What sort of electrical voltage adapters do I need to bring?


What is the weather like?

This program takes place in a few locations in Santo Domingo and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day with occasional rain showers.

What will the accommodation on this trip be like?

During their time in the Dominican Republic, students will stay in a few different places. In Santo Domingo, we will stay at a hotel near the airport. In San Pedro de Macoris we will be using a facility used to house volunteers. It has dorm-style rooms with bunk beds, bathrooms, a communal kitchen/dining area that we will use for meals and a balcony space used for evening activities. In Punta Cana, students will stay in a hotel.

What kind of food will we be eating?

Students will be eating traditional Dominican food prepared by a local chef in San Pedro. Breakfast may include plantains or toast with eggs, fruits and cereal. Lunch and dinner will be typical Dominican dishes, which consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat/seafood dish or veggie dishes.

What are the bathroom facilities?

The bathrooms located at the volunteer facilities are shared with other Rustic Pathways students of the same gender, and have running water and American style toilets. Showers are rustic and hot water is not always available. Bathrooms shared with one or two other students in the hotels do have hot water.

How often will I have access to email and phones?

Students will have limited to no access to internet during the program. We will facilitate at least one call a week to parents.

How often will I have the chance to do laundry?

Students should pack enough clothes and personal items to last through the program. Laundry may be available at some of the hotels, at an extra cost.

How many girls and boys are usually on this trip?

There are typically more girls than boys, however the exact numbers vary from week to week.

Is there anything that parents and students are occasionally surprised by?

No flushing toilet paper down the toilet. Students cannot drink tap water.

How much travel occurs on the program?

There is minimal travel on this program. The longest bus ride students will experience is between 2 and 3 hours.

How will the group be transported around within the country?

Students travel between sites and locations via small private buses.

What should I know about safety on this program?

While there is an inherent risk in travel, we control that risk very well. All of our programs are run in locations that we feel comfortable traveling to with students. Students will be supervised by our staff from the moment of the arrival in the Dominican Republic Airport. Kids are never left alone in any place and the communities we are working with are very responsible.

All staff have at least first aid and CPR certifications, and some are also Wilderness First Responders. We also employ local staff that know the areas that we visit well.

We also have risk management plans in place for all of our programs, and close relations with local communities. We hire local staff that know the lay of the land, and can spot risky situations. We monitor weather, crime, and government notices, and also have a partnership with International SOS. We keep our hand on the pulse of what's going in the country.

Parents should consult the CDC website and International SOS for information on Malaria and Dengue, which are both present in the Dominican Republic.

What immunizations do we need to get for this trip?

Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the International SOS and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.

What is my membership with International SOS?

International SOS is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to International SOS benefits through Rustic Pathways' membership.

As a member you will have access to SOS's extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our International SOS webpage.

Where is the nearest healthcare?

From our facilities in the bateyes, the nearest clinic is about 20 minutes away, and the nearest hospital about 40 minutes away. In Punta Cana, the nearest clinic is 10 minutes away, and the nearest hospital is about 20 minutes away.

Can Rustic Pathways cater to specific diets on this program?

Rustic Pathways can cater to most dietary needs on this program. There will be ample access to fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and grains for those who are vegetarian. Vegan diets can be accommodated, but with a little more foresight and planning, as this is not a diet commonly encountered in the Dominican Republic. Please know that while we are happy to accommodate alternative diets, many of the special diets common in the United States are not common in other parts of the world and travelers must be patient and understanding in having these needs be met. Please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with any questions regarding special diets or allergies.

Will mosquitoes and/or other insects be a problem on this trip?

Students should expect to encounter moderate mosquitoes, as the DR can be buggy at times, particularly in the evening and at night. Students should bring repellent with DEET and may wish to wear light long sleeved shirts and pants.

What costs are not included on this trip?

Personal gifts, Internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

What are the optional activities available at an additional cost on this program?

Sea Kayaking will be offered as an optional activity for USD $50. Zip lining will also be offered for USD $90.

The following activities are INCLUDED in the program cost:

Tour of Colonial Zone.
Visits to local beaches.

Occasionally, Rustic Pathways staff identify new opportunities throughout the summer that we feel will enhance the students’ overall experience and we will offer students the opportunity to participate at an additional cost. Optional or included activities may also be canceled at the staff’s discretion. Some optional activities offered on this trip may include kayaking, surfing, or zip lining.

How much spending money do you recommend I bring?

The majority of costs associated with the program are included with the exception of optional activities which students should bring cash for. Students should also have extra allowance money if they wish to buy souvenirs or purchase additional snacks from the local grocery store.


Does this program have a community service component?


Will I receive community service hours on this program?

Please refer to our Community Service Hour Awards webpage for more information on how service hours are awarded.

What service projects will I work on and how are the projects identified?

Rustic Pathways works with local community leaders and organizations to identify and prioritize the needs of each community. We are partnering with batey communities on the improvement of homes, construction of latrines, and improvement of community gardens and facilities.

Does this program have any required gear?

Rain Jacket.

Do students need to have any prior experience?


Is this a good program for students interested in practicing their Chinese/Spanish?

This program does not include formal Spanish language instruction; however students will have multiple opportunities to practice Spanish with people from the communities as well as with our local staff. Local children in the Bateyes are especially eager to help Rustic Pathways students with their conversational Spanish.

What is a Batey, and what topics will be explored?

A batey (pronounced buh-tay) is a community that is located in the sugar cane fields where migrant sugar cane workers live. Traditionally these migrant workers are Haitians, and many bateyes have become permanent residences for sugar cane workers.

On this program, students will explore themes of immigration, poverty, human rights, and socioeconomic disparities within the country.

Is there a language barrier, and will this be a problem for me?

In the bateyes, Spanish and Haitian Creole are spoken. Most people speak little, if any English. Students typically do not have a problem with the language barrier, as locals are happy to practice English and teach students Spanish. Our program leaders are also bilingual and help translate for students.

  • Feel among friends as you work with batey communities looking to improve the living conditions and access to resources of the area.
  • Improve your Spanish skills as you immerse yourself in the local culture and laid-back island life in the Dominican Republic.
  • Marvel at the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean while snorkeling through the marine life hidden below the sea’s surface.
  • Experience Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage city that boasts the first colonial city, university, cathedral, and hospital in the Americas.

Ages: 15 to 18 years old

Length: 16 days from the USA

Hours: Up to 50 hours awarded

Cost: $2,995

International airfare is not included in the above cost. Check our Travel Desk for airfare pricing.

Departs Tue Returns Wed Availability
17 Jun 2 Jul Unavailable
1 Jul 16 Jul Unavailable
15 Jul 30 Jul Unavailable
29 Jul 13 Aug Unavailable

Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States. Most Rustic Pathways trips interconnect, allowing you to design your own perfect summer program.

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