Posted by: Alex MacGregor | July 10, 2012

Santo Domingo Revisited

Our onward journey required us to make another stop in Santo Domingo. This was no bother, considering we really needed to get some things that are difficult to come by outside the capital.

Topping the list was sunscreen. We just didn’t bring enough.

Also, I stupidly left my computer charger in Haiti. For an Apple laptop. An expensive and annoying problem under the best circumstances. A real pain to acquire in a developing country.

Our guagua from Las Terrenas arrived in the gritty commercial area north of the Zona Colonial. The taxis in Santo Domingo are a complete pain to use. Usually taxis are either expensive or dangerous–normally it’s a tradeoff. Here, they’re both expensive and dangerous. The guidebooks say “Just have your restaurant/hotel/whatever call a cab.” Ah yes, so simple! I wonder if my minibus arriving in a sketchy market area will call us cab, as they usher us out onto the street?

After getting wildly inflated prices to ride the 6 blocks to our hotel (US$8? Really?) we just decided to walk it.

Now is probably not the right time to ignite the eternal pan-American debate about what constitutes a lime and what constitues a limon.

Ahh, back in Zona Colonial.

Our first objective was also the hardest: obtain a new computer charger.

First, we tried checking out the big tech shops north if Barrio Chino (Chinatown) we had seen walking back from the guagua earlier, thinking we might get lucky. It was our second visit to the area that day.

Nada. Not an Apple product in sight. Time for Plan B.

The internet is full of hints about an Apple Store in Santo Domingo (I use “Apple Store” loosely–I’m not talking about an actual Apple Store, but rather a local dealer of sorts). Do you count on a random forum thread from 2010 describing an Apple Store? Or a more recent Foursquare check-in at another place called “Apple Store”, with no description or information?

We opted for the Foursquare option, and set off across town on foot looking for it, walking for about half on hour on streets that look like this. It was extremely hot and sunny.

I only wish this were actually true.

As we were turning onto the street it was supposedly located on (Bonito Moncion at Santiago, for those who found this using Google Search), we joked about the odds that we would actually get a working charger out of this (that the store would exist, be open, and have the charger).

Miraculously, it does exist! The store was even open and had the charger. The trying journey caused us to cave in and buy some wildly overpriced Baskin Robbins, but all in all it was a success.

With that ordeal behind us, our next task came into view: obtaining sunscreen.

Getting sunscreen in a developing country is a real racket for a number of reasons. Suffice it to say it’s almost always imported, and it’s something mainly used by tourists with money to burn. Remember the $40 bottle of sunscreen in Malawi?

Another problem: being in Zona Colonial, it’s not exactly like we’ve got Wal-Mart sorts of shopping opportunities around. We saw a Carrefour (the French Wal-Mart equivalent) way out in the suburbs from the bus–surely they’d have an appropriate sunscreen–but I can’t even imagine how much time and money it would take to get there.

First, we checked a pharmacy. The choices were comical: the most suitable option was a small $10 bottle of SPF 4. We were going to need a bigger store.

So where do we turn but our trusted Barrio Chino and surrounding commercial megadistrict?

On our third visit of the day to the neighborhood, we got the local shopping experience down. There are a whole lot of really, really big stores, selling stuff almost exclusively to Dominicans. The further north you get, the more it becomes a market rather than formal shops.

This one looked promising–it seemed to specialize in personal products.

Success! As long as “Factor 50” is more than just a cool-sounding tagline, I think we’re in business. At $4 a bottle, it’s definitely a way better bargain than I was expecting.

Throughout accomplishing these tasks, we came cross some tourist sites. This is the Independence Monument.

The old gate in the city walls, separating the Zona Colonial from the other zones.

Also, the first time I posted about Santo Domingo, I feel I didn’t give the main square enough credit. It’s beautiful and leafy green.

It also happens to be the epicenter of Santo Domingo’s main nightlife scene, which appears to be anchored by the Hard Rock Cafe. During the day, it serves gringo families hamburguesas; at night, it turns full-on nightclub. Don’t laugh–there was everything a flashy nightclub ought to have. Lines, papparazi, cover charges, the works. Someone at Hard Rock definitely deserves points for successful marketing.

Hasta luego, Hispanola!


  1. […] just a couple blocks away, I checked out DF’s Chinatown. Recalling Havana and Santo Domingo, I knew Latin American Chinatowns have a tendency to underwhelm, and are mainly just notable for […]

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