Shopping in the Dominican Republic
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The typical shopping visitors do during their visit is to buy souvenirs, either to keep for yourself, or to bring back to loved ones. Souvenir-wise, the Dominican Republic offers locally made handicrafts of all types, which are available in some variety at every tourism destination in the country. Souvenirs range from colorful Dominican and Haitian paintings; to wood and soapstone carvings; to ceramics and mahogany furniture; to fine Amber and Larimar jewelry; to beachwear and sarongs. The most popular though, are the Dominican-made cigars, rum and coffee.
Non-souvenir type items, such as food & beverages, suntan lotion, film, etc., should also be available in the larger hotel/resort gift shops or shops in the local area. If not, there is sure to be a small town or city a short distance away where these types of items can be purchased.
Please use the alphabetical list below as a guide to what you will find available in most tourism destinations of the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic offers a wide selection of artwork, with Spain, Africa and Haiti having the strongest influences on the work. Most of the artwork found in tourism areas consist of simplistic, colorful paintings and wood or ceramic sculptures. Most oil paintings are the reproduction of Haitian originals and are likely to be one of thousands of the same piece. Even still, the colorful simplicity of the work reflecting everyday life, along with an inexpensive price tag, makes them a very nice souvenir of your visit. Many of the wood sculptures are done in mahogany and terracotta is used for making pots, decorative dolls, etc.
Alcohol - Liquor/Beer/Wine
You can find both local and imported brands of a variety of liquors, beer and wine, at most corner stores and supermarkets in tourism destinations.
The most popular and inexpensive liquor to purchase as a souvenir, or to enjoy while you are here, is Dominican-made rum produced by one of the three B's - Brugal, Barceló, or Bermudez. Each of these offer at least five different types of rum - 151, Blanco, dorado, anejo, extra Viejo, etc. - with the fancier labeled bottles generally containing the highest quality product (aged), at an accordingly higher price.
The most popular brand of beer is the locally produced Presidente . It is beloved by Dominicans and visitors alike and is more economical to purchase than imported brands like Heineken or Budweiser, which can also be found in most of the larger tourism areas. Other popular Dominican beers are Quisqueya, Soberana and Bohemia .
Wine options are not exceptionally large, with very fine wines being fewer and far between, unless you are in one of the larger tourism destinations, or cities such as Santiago or Santo Domingo. In most destinations you can find more than a few varieties of wines of all types, imported predominantly from Argentina, Chile, Spain and France. While wine is not made in the Dominican Republic, at least in the traditional sense (from vineyards), there are a few inexpensive brands bottled in the country that are available for purchase.
Hand made candles are popular gift/souvenir items, as they are generally less expensive than can be found elsewhere. Decorative and scented candles - using locally grown coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. - can usually be found at most shops in Dominican Republic tourism destinations.
Different brands of cigarettes are available by the package, or in cartons, almost everywhere. Supermarkets generally have the largest brand selection at the least expensive cost. They are a popular item to purchase because they are far less expensive than in most other parts of the world. Marlboro , produced in the Dominican Republic on behalf of the American company, Philip Morris , is the most popular and widely available brand. Imported cigarettes can be difficult to find due to the price they command compared to Dominican Republic-produced cigarettes. If you are particular about the brand of cigarettes you smoke, you may want to bring a sufficient supply of your brand from home.
The Dominican Republic is the biggest cigar-producing country in the world and most of that is done in the Cibao Valley region of the country (near Moca/Santiago). Cigar aficionados believe many of the Dominican Republic-made cigars are superior in quality to the much more famous Cuban cigars. You will find a variety of cigar types, in different brands and price ranges, in almost all of the supermarkets and tourist gift/souvenir shops in most tourism destinations. Cigar specialty shops tend to offer higher-end, brand name cigars.
Most of the clothing available in tourism destinations is tropical weather wear/beachwear - such as surf shorts, bathing suits, shorts, tank tops, etc.; or tourist-type items, such as T-shirts emblazoned with 'Dominican Republic' (or some other resort area name), tropical short-sleeve dress shirts, beach sarongs, etc. In the larger tourism destinations, and in the cities, you will also find clothing shops with regular clothing items as well, such as pants, dresses, shirts, etc., but the Dominican Republic is not a brand name/designer cloth shopping Mecca. This type of clothing can generally only be found in the larger cities and are priced similarly, or more expensively than can be found elsewhere.
Coffee is grown in the Bani and Cibao Altura area of the Dominican Republic, and is known for its full body, low acidity and rich flavor. The economical price of coffee makes it an ideal gift/souvenir to bring home. The most popular brand is the white bagged Santo Domingo brand.
If you've forgotten your Walkman or portable CD player at home, you can sometimes find these types of small electronic devices for sale in shops in some of the larger tourism destinations. But in most cases you may need to go to one the larger towns or cities to find a good selection. Generally electronics are not inexpensive in the Dominican Republic because they are all imported.
Faceless Dolls (Limé Dolls or Nativity Figures)
One of the most popular souvenirs of the Dominican Republic is the faceless doll made of clay or ceramic and dressed in the traditional clothes. The dolls depict Dominican country life with some dolls balancing baskets or pots on their heads, some milling coffee, and some holding bouquets.
These dolls were originally created in 1981 by the Dominican artist Liliana Mera Limé. She crafted her Nativity figures without any defined facial features. She believes that though the people of the Dominican Republic have a distinct personality, they are a mixture of many races, ethnicities and cultures, and she wanted the figures to reflect this reality.
Food & Beverages
If you look hard enough amongst the different corner stores and supermarkets you can find a good variety of all types of foods and beverages. Items that are produced in the Dominican Republic, and used in typical Dominican Cuisine (link 1.4.9) , are definitely the most abundant and usually the most economical to purchase. Many North American and European made products are available, but because they are generally imported, their variety tends to be more limited and prices of these items significantly higher. Health foods, diet foods, pre-packaged foods, etc., tend to be a little more difficult to locate but they can certainly be found in supermarkets in the larger resort areas, towns and cities in the country.
Jewelry is found in abundance in the Dominican Republic, with the most prevalent jewelry items being inexpensive and casual, beaded necklaces, bracelets, earrings and anklets. These are usually sold on the beach or in jewelry/gift shops in larger hotels/resort gift shops, or in stores in the shopping areas of most tourism destinations. The higher-end jewelry/gift shops also carry gemstone/semiprecious jewelry made with either sterling silver or gold.
The most popular pieces are the ones that incorporate either Larimar or Amber , both of which are mined in the Dominican Republic. Larimar, unique to the Dominican Republic, is mined in a volcanic mountain range in the south of the country and is polished to bring out its varied shades of turquoise blue and green, beautifully matching the colours of the sea. Amber is the bronzy, orange-hued resin that has hardened after millions of years. Amber is quite prevalent in the Dominican Republic. The most prized, and therefore costly pieces, incorporate fossils of small plants or insects that collected in the resin before it hardened, called 'inclusions'. Pricing of jewelry items incorporating Larimar or Amber varies depending on the type/quality/size of the piece, the type of metal used, and the design. Items sold on the beach tend to be lower in terms of quality and price and can sometimes be fakes (not real larimar, amber, sterling silver or gold). The specialty jewelry and gift shops offer more high quality products, incorporating the real gems/stones, silver or gold, at accordingly higher prices.
Rumored and treasured as an elixir to increase sexual vitality, Mamajuana is a homemade blend of rum, wine, honey, herbs, bark, and even at times, although not normally, animal parts. The locals attest to its healing properties and cherish it as a digestive, which is why you may find it being served to you after eating at some restaurants in the country. Everyone has their own recipe, which tends to be 'the best recipe'. When it is done right, the taste is sweet and mellow. When it is done wrong, the taste is somewhat like bad cough medicine. You can usually find Mamajuana , already prepared in bottles, at tourist/gift shops throughout the country. Packages of the herbs and bark are also available for purchase. These are easier to transport because they can be mixed with the other necessary ingredients when you've returned home.
Medical/First Aid Supplies
Pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil can usually be found in hotel/resort gift shops, corner stores and supermarkets in the Dominican Republic. Sometimes these items are under a different brand name so you may have to inquire. If you can't find more specific medical/first aid supplies - like stomach or cough medicines, Band-aids or hydrogen peroxide - you will find these at one of the local pharmacies (farmacia in Spanish). Some pharmacies also sell vitamin supplements and more herbal-type remedies. It is highly recommended that you bring enough of your prescription medicine from home in the event it is unavailable here. As a precaution, you can also bring a note from your Physician indicating your prescription type, which can then be provided to a local Physician. Only a local Physician's prescription will be filled at local (Dominican Republic) pharmacies.
Dominican and Latin music can be found in CD or tape format in most tourist gift/souvenir shops in the Dominican Republic. The most popular Music & Dance (link 1.4.7) is Merengue and Bachata, which were created in the Dominican Republic. Popular local artists include Antony Santos et Teodoro Reyes, Juan Luis Guerra, Fulanito, La Banda Gorda and La Banda Chula with Que Olla. Mainstream music is somewhat more difficult to find and when available, tends to be only universally popular music, such as Bob Marley . Recently some Dominicans have started to walk around tourism destinations selling a variety of CD's, person-to-person. These CD's are predominantly of Dominican/Latin singers and bands, but they can also have CD's of more universally-know/mainstream singers and bands as well. Please note that these CD's are generally copies of the original and can be of poor quality.
Phone cards for making local and long distance calls at pay phones or on pay-as-you-go cellular/mobile phones, can be found in many corner stores, supermarkets, pharmacies and Internet cafes in most tourism destinations. Verizon and Tricom (Dominican Republic telecommunications companies) offer both types of phone cards in various denominations. Orange (a cellular communications company) offers pay-as-you-go cellular/mobile phone cards only. For more information on phoning in the Dominican Republic, please see our Communications (link 2.7.2) section.
Disposable cameras and film can be found at many hotel/resort gift shops, corner stores and supermarkets in most tourism destinations. Some tourism destinations also have specialty photo shops offering these, as well as real cameras, camera equipment, frames, photo albums, etc. You can usually have photo finishing done at these shops as well, including 1-hour processing, duplicate productions, enlargement services, etc.
A variety of beautiful postcards can be found at almost all tourism destination hotels, gift shops, supermarkets, etc., in the Dominican Republic. Stamps and postboxes are a little more difficult to find, and when you do, don't plan on the addressee receiving your postcard soon, as it can take quite a while, if it gets there at all (from some tourism destinations). To find out where you can buy stamps, check with the attendant where you are purchasing the postcards.
If you would like to send a unique E-postcard (virtual postcard) of the Dominican Republic, to let people know where you are going before you leave, during your visit, or even after you've returned home, please see our unique E-postcards (link 6.5) to do so.
Newspapers, magazines and pocket books, in English, German, French, and some other languages, can be found in some of the corner stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, tourist shops, and hotel/resort gift shops of many tourism destinations. These items tend to be priced a little higher than they may be in their country of origin because they are imported specifically for tourists.
Running shoes and formal shoes may be a little difficult to find but most tourism destinations in the Dominican Republic have shops that carry an incredibly large selection of sandals/flip-flops, in all ranges of style, quality and price. The surf specialty stores also carry a higher-end/brand name selection of these. Other types of shoes - dress shoes, runners/sneakers, etc., can be found at shoe stores in the larger resort destinations, or shops in the larger towns and cities of the country.
The variety of souvenirs in the Dominican Republic is certainly not lacking. Every shop in a tourism destination will have some type of selection to offer. Items include T-shirts, sarongs, towels, Haitian art/paintings, ceramic and carved wood ornaments, rum, cigars, coffee, pottery, photo albums, beadwork, novelty items, jewelry, beach mats, etc. The higher-end shops usually mark their prices on each item and are not prepared to bargain with these prices. Smaller shops, displaying more typical, less costly tourist/souvenir items, do not usually put price tags on their items and are generally expecting you to bargain with them over price. If you want to get the best price for an item, take the time to shop around and get a sense of what each shop is wanting for the item you are considering. Once you have a sense of this, have fun bargaining for it!
A variety of different brands of suns screens and lotions, brand names such as Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic, can be found in the larger hotel/resort gift shops, corner stores, and supermarkets in tourism destinations in the Dominican Republic. These tend to be slightly higher priced than can be found in other countries because they are imported.
Shampoo, conditioner, shaving foam, toothpaste, body lotion, etc. - in a variety of brand names and prices - can generally be found at most larger hotel/resort gift shops, corner stores, supermarkets and pharmacies in all tourism destinations in the Dominican Republic.
Water sports equipment of a smaller, less expensive nature - things like boogie boards, snorkel gear, etc. - can be found at some supermarkets and tourist gift/souvenir shops in many of the tourism destinations. To purchase a higher quality of these types of items, or other types of watersports gear (surfboards, windsurf equipment, kiteboarding equipment, etc.), you generally have to be in a destination where these watersports are practiced.
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