If you wish to get around the Dominican Republic by car, the information below will keep you prepared as driving conditions may vary greatly from those in your home country.
International car hire companies such as Hertz and Prestige Car Rentals operate in the Dominican Republic and have offices in Santo Domingo and many other major cities.
Expect to find major four lane highways between towns and cities in good condition and comparable to those you would find in the USA or Western Europe. Some rural roads, however, are very poor and you will need to pay extra attention when driving, especially when there are no road divisions and people pay little respect to on-coming traffic. Scooter and motorbike riders are hazards, weaving in and out of traffic, oblivious of cars and generally ignoring road safety laws. For these reasons, some less hardened drivers prefer to hire a professional Dominican driver when exploring the country - they may be hired through local car hire companies.
These are often disregarded, but the law states that drivers must circulate on the right hand side of the road at speed limits varying from 25 mph in the city to 50 mph on rural roads. Insurance is obligatory and driving and injuring while under the influence of drink meets with severe penalties.
Seatbelts, as well as hands-free mobile phone devices if you use a phone, are compulsory in the Dominican Republic and you will be fined if caught not using these; however, there are no rules concerning car seats for children.
Defensive driving is highly recommended as nobody pays much attention to the rules of the road, not using indicators, overtaking on either side and often using erratic and/or aggressive driving techniques. Turning right at a red light is also quite common practice. Police traffic controls are often inadequate, making the situation still worse. Poorly lit roads and missing lights on some vehicles make driving at night potentially hazardous, with people, animals and light vehicles often to be found in places you might least suspect.
Despite the facts above, most visitors maintain that if you have several years’ driving experience behind you, and are not put off by some potentially unexpected road experiences, driving in the Dominican Republic poses very few problems.
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