Cost of living in Dominican Republic

People often ask, what is the true cost of living in the Dominican Republic? This is an important question but it’s also a difficult question to answer, even when you have been living here for quite some time. The fact is that the cost will be different for different people. Not everyone spends the same amount of money and not everyone has the same lifestyle. Also, long-time residents will pay less because they know where to find the best deals. With that being said, I will attempt to break down a rough estimate for what you can expect to pay on a monthly basis.

Housing

This is the expense that will probably vary the most. Assuming you are looking to get a one-bedroom apartment in a nice area, then you are looking at $450 a month minimum. And to get this price you will have to sign at least a 6 month lease, but probably a 12 month lease. A really nice one-bedroom can be had for as low as $700 a month with a 12 month lease. If you plan on paying on a month to month basis then the prices will increase by at least 50%.

Cost: $600

Malecon Center

Food

If you cook most of your own meals then you will be disappointed to learn that the supermarkets are not cheap. They cost about as much as the ones in the United States. There are some deals to be had, but in general you won’t save much money by shopping at the supermarkets.

The restaurants here are reasonably priced. A breakfast costs about $6, tip included. A burger and fries will cost about the same. The cheapest food comes from the chinese restaurants. Their restaurants are known as ‘pica pollo’ joints where they serve fried chicken, fried plantains, and french fries. You can get a reasonably large meal for $5. It’s worth noting that you can also eat ‘clean’ at most of these places. You can get white rice, baked chicken, and steamed vegetables which makes for a great meal, for a great value. High-end restaurants will cost about the same as in the United States.

I would highly recommend avoiding the street-food here. It’s cheap and often tempting, but these street vendors don’t have the same health regulations as the restaurants do. If you eat street food then you are putting yourself at risk for food poisoning and parasites.

Cost: $350

Transportation

Although I don’t recommend driving here, if you have your own car then you will save some money. But here you can expect to pay more for gas than in the United States. Gas here is over $5 a gallon and is not likely to come down any time soon. Even if you don’t drive that much, you can still expect to pay about $100 per month. Also, it costs 1-2 dollars to park your car at the malls.

If you don’t have a car, then you will probably be using a taxi in most cases. This will usually be a major monthly expense. Taxis are a minimum $3.50 per ride, and are usually around $5 depending on where you want to go.

Public transportation is another option. At first, it might seem intimidating to take one of the public forms of transportation. This can be especially true if you don’t speak much Spanish. However once you figure it out it’s pretty easy and can save you a lot of money. If you don’t have a car then I recommend taking a mix of taxis and public transportation.

For about 50 cents you can take a public taxi (caro publico) which drives straight on its own route. For about a dollar, you can take a mini-bus (guagua) to a different town or area of the city. And for about $6 you can take a large comfortable bus to a different city through the Caribe Tours bus company. Also, there is now a metro in Santo Domingo that is supposedly affordable.

Cost with car: $115

Cost without car: $225

Entertainment

This depends largely on the individual, but most people want to enjoy the nightlife and have a good time. Drinks at bars and clubs are around US prices, but cheaper than US cities. On average you can expect to pay about $4 for a beer and about $6.50 for a mixed drink. If you do bottle service at clubs then it varies but usually you won’t spend over $100 for a bottle with mixers.

If you go on a lot of dates then it can certainly add up. In this culture the man always pays for the girl. If you are going out with upper-class rich girls then sometimes they will offer to split the bill, sometimes.

Other forms of entertainment are not particularly expensive. For instance, movies are cheap- you can see a movie at a theater for only $5 a ticket.

Cost: $150

Miscellaneous

There are other expenses that either don’t fit into one of the above categories or occur unexpectedly. These could include medical expenses, clothing, gym membership, etc. Medicine is typically cheaper here than in the States and is more easily accessible. Clothing costs about the same, but usually the same brands that are sold in the US are a little more expensive here because of the import tax. Gym memberships are relatively inexpensive. A mid-level gym costs about $22 a month. A high-end health club like the Body Shop in Santo Domingo costs about $50 a month plus a $200 initial sign-up fee.

Cost: $100 per month

Body Shop Gym

Total Cost

Conservatively, your total monthly cost is going to be around $1500. If you have a car then it’s going to be a little less. As mentioned, everyone is different but the average person is going to pay around $1500. This number can certainly be higher if you go out a lot, and it could be less if you are really frugal- although I don’t think anyone would be comfortable living on less than $1000 a month.

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