Educators Programs in Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic’s white sand beaches, majestic mountain ranges and historical treasures attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the country each year. Their appeal has made the DR the most visited country in the Caribbean.
Many travelers spend time on the country’s coastline that is nearly 1,000 miles long. Further inland are communities nestled in the mountains where Rustic Pathways students have helped create aqueducts to provide drinking water.
Throughout the country, there are plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion. The DR is the most diverse nation in the Caribbean and home to many Spanish landmarks. It’s also a perfect place for new student travelers since it’s only about two hours from Miami.
This combination gives students many opportunities to experience aspects of life they won’t see elsewhere. As you prepare for the journey, here are some country details to keep in mind.
The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. The island was once called Ayiti, which was the indigenous Taino name before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The DR has a population of 11.2 million people and is about the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The nation is between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and includes about 100 small islands.
Spanish is the official language that’s spoken by about 85% of the population. English is not widely spoken outside the tourist areas. Therefore, it’s helpful to have some Spanish phrases ready to go. Here are a few that help:
- Hello: Hola
- How are you?: ¿Cómo estás?; Good: Bien
- Good morning: Buenos días; Good afternoon: Buenos tardes; Good night: Buenos noches
- Welcome: Bienvenido
- Goodbye: Adios
- Please: Por favor
- Thank you: Gracias
- Excuse me: Perdón
- What is your name? ¿Cómo te llamas?; My name is ___. Me llamo ___.
- Where are you from? ¿De dónde eres?; I am from ___. Tengo ___ años.
- Do you speak English? ¿Hablas inglés?
- I don’t understand. No entiendo
- Where is the bathroom? ¿Dónde está el baño?
- How much is it? ¿Cuanto vale ___?
A few words and phrases you may encounter in the DR but not as much elsewhere include:
- Bacano – something cool or someone who is really good at something difficult
- Nítido – another word for great/cool
- Chercha – a party or good time
- Colmado – small corner store
- Hevi nais – very nice
- ¿Dime a ver? – what’s up
While in your accommodations, keep in mind that a “c” on a faucet may stand for “caliente,” which is hot not cold. You don’t want to burn yourself!
If you speak some Spanish, keep in mind Dominicans have their own dialect that changes some sounds. For example, they often drop the letter “s” and change the letter “r” to “l”. They also use some old Spanish words borrowed from the Arawak language that are no longer used in other countries.
Aside from Spanish, about two-percent of the population speaks Haitian Creole that is a combination of French and African languages. Both French and English are considered mandatory foreign languages in Dominican schools, but that does not mean residents have a useful command of these languages.
While in the Dominican Republic, you can expect people to be very friendly and often hug or kiss you on the cheek when they first meet you. Dominicans are expressive and speak loudly and quickly while often using body language. They also tend to stand close to one another when speaking and use a lot of eye contact.
Here are a few social expectations to keep in mind:
- Showing your joy is welcome, but avoid expressing anger in public.
- Wear shorts that are knee length like basketball shorts to respect local culture.
- Wait until the host says “buen provecho” (“enjoy” or “have a good meal”) to start eating.
- Throw toilet paper in the wastebasket rather than flushing.
- Show respect for elders. The family unit is strong in the DR, and teens generally are expected to get permission from older adults before embarking on various activities.
The Dominican Republic is known for its food, so it’s one of the best parts of traveling to the country. Some of the many delectable dishes you may try include:
- Sancocho – a typical stew containing multiple types of meat, plantains, tubers, and squash
- Empanadas – a flour shell with a meat or vegetable filling
- Mangu – boiled plantains mashed with butter often served for breakfast with eggs or cheese
- Tostones – fried plantains
- Flan – milk custard dessert
- Los tres golpes – fried cheese, fried salami, and fried eggs often served with plantains and an onion sauce.
- La bandera – a rice, beans, and chicken dish. Its name refers to the Dominican flag and its red, white and blue colors. The red is represented by the beans. The white is the rice, and meat or poultry is the third color even if it isn’t really blue.
- Coffee – DR coffee is frequently offered to visitors, and that can certainly be a highlight for coffee lovers!
About 95% of the people in the Dominican Republic are Roman Catholic, and it’s the official religion for the country. The Catholic church receives some support from the government and Catholicism is taught in public schools.
The DR currency is the Dominican Peso, which was introduced when the nation became independent from Haiti in the 1800s. Some places also accept U.S. dollars. 55 RD$ is equal to about one U.S. dollar, though it may be easier to think of 100 pesos as being almost equal to two dollars.
Like the U.S. dollar, one Dominican peso includes 100 centavos. The peso comes in bills of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000. There also are coins worth 1, 5, 10, and 25 pesos. This is one currency that you generally need to get while in the country rather than beforehand if you want to use it.
With many purchases in the Dominican Republic, haggling is common. Exceptions include supermarkets. To haggle it’s best to have pesos and to be friendly while negotiating a price that is a happy medium between what the vendor wants and what you will pay.
It’s generally sunny and warm in the Dominican Republic from June – August. You’ll want to bring lightweight clothes to stay comfortable. Here is an overview of expected average conditions in the country:
|High Temperature||87 F||87 F||87 F|
|Low Temperature||75 F||76 F||77 F|
|Monthly Rainfall||4 inches||3.1 inches||4.1 inches|
|Monthly Rainy Days||9 days||9 days||10 days|
The Dominican Republic has struggled with environmental issues caused by pollution, overfishing, deforestation and natural disasters. This has affected the country in many ways. Among the challenges are reduced access to clean water and large declines in various animal species.
In the water, marine life ranging from large manatees to tiny coral have been impacted. West Indian manatees were abundant in the region for centuries until hunting and pollution took a major toll. By 2008 the Dominican Republic estimated there were less than 70 manatees left in its waters.
On the tiny size, several species of coral that form crucial coral reefs have faced major threats. In the Caribbean it’s estimated that half of the coral reefs have died off in the last 30 years.
In addition, the country is home to a number of endangered species, including the tundra peregrine falcon and three species of sea turtles – the green sea, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles.
In response the nation has launched marine conservation efforts and created more than 29 national parks to protect the land.
The Dominican Republic provides free public education for children up to the age of 14. However, many families struggle to pay for school supplies. Plus, problems such as school overcrowding, dilapidated facilities, and poorly trained teachers make learning difficult in the country. As a result, the DR has low test scores and a high dropout rate.
Most Dominicans are mixed race. Their culture has been influenced by former Spanish colonists, enslaved Africans and the indigenous Taíno people.
Locals of Haitian descent have faced much discrimination in the country. Even those born in the DR have been denied certain rights guaranteed to Dominican citizens.
Other Facts About The Dominican Republic
- Christopher Columbus landed in the present-day Dominican Republic during his first voyage. He came to the island after visiting what is now the Bahamas.
- The capital Santo Domingo once was home to the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. Its Colonial Zone area includes the oldest cathedral, university, and hospital in the Americas. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Armed forces personnel and members of the national police aren’t allowed to vote.
- The country is a large producer of bananas, mangos, sugar, coffee, cocoa, and tobacco.
- The Dominican Republic is the only country in the world with a Bible on the flag.
- Eighty percent of the North Atlantic humpback whale population returns to the Dominican Republic to give birth every year.
- The rhythmic, fast-paced merengue and the slower bachata dance both began in the Dominican Republic.
- An opening scene of the 1993 Jurassic Park movie was filmed at the Amber Museum in Puerta Plata. It shows a mosquito frozen in amber.
- Baseball is the most popular sport, and many local kids dream of following in the footsteps of other major league players, like Albert Pujols, Pedro Martínez and dozens of other Dominican athletes.
Rustic Pathways in the Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways’ programs introduce students to diverse ecosystems, cultural dances, and delicious local cuisine. Students also engage in community projects that create lasting memories.
Students in the Dominican Republic are experiencing the country beyond the typical tourist destinations. Along with memorable adventures at the beach, meaningful service projects take place in areas like Jaraboacoa and Juan Dolio.
The Caribbean’s delicate marine ecosystem faces twin challenges: dwindling populations of West Indian manatees and the rapid decline of coral reefs. Conservation efforts are working to protect these vital species.
A-Z Everything you need to know about traveling to the Dominican Republic
Coral reefs, white sand beaches, resilient Bateye communities, rich dance culture, and infinite delicious foods. There’s a lot to learn and love about the Dominican Republic– dive in here.
Travel Q&A: Dominican Republic
The most frequently asked questions regarding travel in the Dominican Republic, food, accommodations, and more answered by our Dominican Republic Program Manager.
Trouble in the Bateyes
Read about the hardships faced in these Bateyes communities.
Divided island: How Haiti and the DR Became Two Worlds
Two countries that share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Find out how their paths diverged.
La Sangre, Baseball in San Pedro
Béisbol is the heart, soul, and sangre of many communities in the Dominican. Learn about the longstanding traditions of baseball in the small town of San Pedro de Macoris and the dream of making it to the big leagues.
Liv embarked on a journey to the Dominican Republic where she learned the profound impact of small gestures and how actions can connect people across the world.
Jessica traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2018 and got the chance to go back in 2021. These experiences opened her eyes to the importance of community, cultural immersion, and global responsibility.
Lola’s stepped out of her comfort zone during the Summer Camp Leadership program in the Dominican Republic in 2016. Her transformative experience has guided her educational and career goals all these years later.
Inspired by her experiences in the Dominican Republic and connections with the local community, Calista initiated a fundraising project to provide safe and dignified housing for Dominican workers and their families.
Create this delicious Dominican shredded beef stew in your own kitchen!
Representando la cultural con orgullo! From Merengue and Bachata to modern Hip Hop and Reggaeton, listen to a wide variety of musical genius from the Dominican Republic.
Try it Out
Learn Spanish with a Rustic Teacher
Join us for an immersive language learning experience and one-on-one conversational practice with native Spanish speakers.
How to Dance Bachata
Vamos a bailar! Grab a partner, blast some Romeo Santos over a bluetooth speaker, and try your hands (and feet!) at traditional Dominican-style bachata dancing.