Just a quick note in case you are doing some traveling and plan on bringing your Smart phone. The Department of Transportation has banned the Samsung Galaxy 7 phone from all flights to and from the United States.

This ban means that you can not take you phone on the plane either as carry on or in the checked in luggage. NOr can these phone be shipped as air cargo. That pretty much mans that if you are now traveling and have the phone you are going to have to leave it if you want to board a plane to the US.

This ban went into effect on Saturday Oct 15, 2016. Samsung has suspended the manufacture and sale of the Galaxy 7 phone and has a voluntary recall in effect.

Why did the Galaxy 7 get banned?

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Altamira gas station Petronan

Altamira gas station Petronan

Once you get to Altamira you are going to want to know how to get around. In Altamira you will find two bus stops for the local public transportation or Guaguas. Both of them are right next to Altamira’s only gasoline station, Petronan (la Bomba). While these are main bus stops where they always stop, you can catch a gugua anywhere along the highway by flagging it down when it goes past.

The main Guagua that services the carretera Navarete (the highway) between Navarete and Puerto Plata is Javilla Tours. You will also find public cars along the route but most people end up using the Guagua. Starting from Altamira you should end up paying 65 pesos to get to Puerto Plato or to Santiago, 40 pesos to get to Navarete and 50 pesos to get to the assembly hall in Via Gonzalas.

You can also use this same Guagua to head down the street to the Kingdom Hall in La Piedra for 20 pesos, but casually it is easier to use one of the Moto Conchos (motorcycle public transportation) for about 25 pesos. Javilla Tours runs from about 6 in the morning to about 8pm. Most days you can expect to see a guagua every 20 minutes or so. If you see a Javilla Tours bus pass you with out stopping don’t panic! There is also an express from Puerto Plata to Santiago that does not stop. The buses look about the same but if they don’t honk (asking you if you need a ride), they are likely the express bus.

Parada de Santiago

Altamira bus stop to santiago

Altamira bus stop to santiago

Directly across the street from the Petroman gasoline station  is the bus stop for Santiago. Sometimes there will be a moto concho there to take you into town but more likely you will have to walk down the street towards town about a block to the other bus stop where most of the Motoconchos hang out.

The motoconchos will take you almost any where in Altamira for 25 pesos. If you put two passengers on the bike they will charge for two people or 50 pesos.

There are a couple places to sit while you wait, under the overhang are some bench seats, and under the tree are some plastic stadium seats. The buses do get crowded at times to it is a good idea to stand and get in line when the bus comes. They will never turn you down from getting in but, if there are no more seats left you will end up standing in the isle.  Depending on the driver the ride can get a little crazy so it is best to be able to sit if you can.

When riding the bus you the cobrador (person that takes the money) will help you with any luggage you may have. Often they put bags under the seats up in front so you don’t have to carry them down the isle. Be prepared for teh bus to take off while you are still trying to get to a seat.

The cobrador will seldom take money when you first get into the bus. (more…)

The trucker’s union Fenatrado plans on having a “show of force” tomorrow Tuesday the 23 of September which is very likely to cause traffic jambs and problems with transportation through out the Dominican Republic. One of the largest unions Fenatrado is planning to park their trucks long main roads as a “show of Force”. While they claim this isn’t a protest or that they are trying to cause any change in the government this is very likely to increase the danger of traveling on the main highways tomorrow.

So, if you are planning any longer trips this week, you might want to consider avoiding  Tuesday.  We have spent hours sitting in buses in the past during truckers demonstrations as they block roads, or make the paths on the main highways so small that only motorcycles can get through.

These demonstrations also quite often spark violent conflicts, gunfire, heavy traffic congestion and overall irritation, so if you can avoid it  I would recommend not doing any traveling in the Dominican Republic tomorrow.

Cows heading Home in Fantino

Cows heading Home in Fantino

Something you have to get used to while driving the rural streets of the Dominican Republic and sometimes even the streets of the larger towns, is sharing the streets with livestock. The term “when the cows come home” refers to the way a cow (usually) just ambles along at a slow pace, and really takes meaning when you find yourself coming up to a herd in the street that is completely unaffected by your desire to pass.
In most cases the owner of the herd is nearby and will try to get the animals to move to one side of the road so you can pass, this has various degrees of success depending on what is distracting the cows at the time. So, this often means weaving through the cows if you’re on a motorcycle or waiting till they pass if you’re in a car.

Weaving through a herd of cattle can be a little nerve wracking at first. Some of the bulls are very large and as you sit on your bike, you find yourself looking up to the head of the Bull or at best eye to eye with a set of horns. Considering that he might take offence to you getting between him and his harem this isn’t exactly the most comfortable place to be.

Really though, the animals are quite used to people and motorcycles and if you don’t do anything to startle them, you are usually pretty safe. I just try to take it slow and anticipate which direction the individual cows might decide to take.

Accident Laws

Accidents are frequently caused by animals in the streets, especially at night. With few street lights in the rural areas you often don’t see the animal until you are very close. While the speeds people travel here are relatively slow compared to the States (usually 20 – 40 mph), this can mean a lot of damage and at times death when there is a motorcycle accident.

One typical case that recently happened in my area was a motorcyclist traveling at night who hit a horse in the street. This accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. (more…)

If you plan on spending much time in the Dominican Republic you will no doubt at some point take a shot at driving here. Driving in the DR definitely poses additional problems then driving in other countries like the US. Poor roads, drivers that don’t obey safety or other traffic laws and just poor driving conditions make many decide not to own their own car here. Whether you own a car or just rent on occasion when you get behind the wheel you know you are taking a chance.

One thing people don’t often expect is to have to deal with police shaking down drivers for money. Unfortunately here that problem is pretty common. A report was written today in the Dominican online newspaper (more…)

One of the major drawbacks to living in or traveling to a “developing country” is the crime and the inconsistency of law enforcement. If you have been here for a while or have read the news about the Dominican Republic you likely know what I am talking about. As foreigners, we stand out as targets. The majority of the local population don’t have a lot of money, and in the opinion of most residents of the DR, all foreigners or extranjeros are rich.

Dangers traveling from the Airport

Recently there have been alerts from the US Embassy in Santo Domingo about persons in taxis, public cars and guagua being stopped and robbed by people dressed as Police while traveling from the Las Americas International Airport near Santo Domingo to nearby hotels and even when traveling to private homes. This is one report which involved Airline Employees traveling to a hotel (more…)

The Dominican Republic presidential results will be announced later today. The early results put Danilo Medina ahead of Hipolito Mejia by 51% to 47%. As a reminder, most businesses will be closed today which also means that it will probably be difficult to get a public car if you are planning on going anywhere.

While there is a prohibition on selling alcohol today you can expect things to be getting pretty loud and a lot of drinking going on when the final presidential results come in so it might be a good idea to stay off the road. Even with Medina as the early winner there are still people (a lot of kids) walking up and down the streets screaming LLego Papa.

Election Result Day Safety

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A point of interest if you plan on driving in the Dominican Republic. If you are a foreigner, you will often get pulled over and asked for money by the Dominican Police. This has happened to me a few times now, the most recent while my family was heading into Le Vega last Monday. As you head off the freeway, you turn down a road that heads into La Vega and in this case there were 4 Dominican Police stopping traffic, most people they just let go pass, apparently they are looking for something or someone.

In these cases, when they see someone that they think can pay, they pull you to the side and ask for money. While you could probably argue your way out of this, or play dumb and act like you don’t know what they are asking for, it is usually easier to just give them 50-100 pesos. Yep, that’s right, you bribe them into letting you go for $1.50-$3.00. I’m guessing that this wouldn’t work if you were actually speeding or doing something wrong, (more…)

Motorcycle Insurance

Motorcycle Insurance Card

If you drive a vehicle in the Dominican Republic, by law the vehicle should be insured. Whether this insurance really does any good or not remains to be seen. When you rent a car from an agency the car is usually insured, the policy is a minimum policy that only covers the other person and the car, not your injuries.

Another car insurance policy you might consider is a policy to protect you from being killed by the family if someone dies in an accident (No Kidding!).

If you are on a “staycation” of a “holistay” in the DR and plan on buying a vehicle for your time here, you will want to purchase insurance in order to stay legal. This is pretty important because you car or motorcycle could be impounded if you don’t have the proper papers. More likely though if you are pulled over you will need to give the police officer a hundred pesos or so whether your papers (drivers license, vehicle license, and insurance) are completely in order or not.
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If you’re planning of staying in the Dominican Republic for an extended “staycation” you will probably in time want to get some sort of Motorcycle or car. After a while it does get a bit tiring walking or getting stuck in a public car with 6 other people. There are a number of different brands of motorcycle in the DR. Many of them you probably haven’t heard of. Of the major brands that are available Yamaha is one of the most popular.

While you can buy larger bikes in the DR, most of the bikes that are sold here fall I the commuter class. Usually between a 70 and a 125 cc. You will also find a lot of smaller 50cc bikes like the Honda Cub. Larger bikes are usually found in the larger cities and are harder to find parts for than the smaller more common motorcycles or “motors”.

Dirt bikes or endures are also sold here but the most common types of bikes are scooters (pasolas) and the commuter street bikes (motors).

Yamaha Scooters
There are two styles of scooter found here, the less expensive small tired scooters and the more expensive scooters that use wheel closer to the size of a standard motor cycle. These scooters come in anything from 90cc to about 150cc, with the 90cc to 125cc scooters being the most common.
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