What about airline reservations?
You are responsible for making your own flight arrangements. There are several airlines that fly to Santo Domingo (SDQ) including American, Jet Blue, and Delta. You need to arrive by mid-afternoon or earlier if possible. It takes awhile to clear customs and immigration and get the car arrangements squared away and then it is still a 3-hour drive to the hotel. Do not schedule a return flight before 11:00 AM on Saturday. Feel free to come on an earlier date or stay longer but everyone needs run travel plans by the team leader so that transportation to the hotel can be coordinated.
What about car rentals?
The car rentals are generally the biggest logistical problem we have. The cars will be reserved before you arrive and a driver from the team assigned to each. This is usually a team veteran. As soon as we have a car available, you will be on your way. The car will be in the driver’s name and the cost of the transportation is shared equally by everyone. You MUST bring a blank check or cash to pay for transportation. You should anticipate $150 – 200 to cover the car and fuel. Cars are very expensive in the Dominican Republic!
What kind of clothing should I bring?
Pack light and efficiently. In reality, everything you need should fit in a decent size backpack, although several team members have admittedly taken issue with that! However, we will only have room to transport no more than one carry-on bag per person and one checked bag. Duffels are preferred. Trunk space in cars is small and leaders will be transporting supplies. Day temperatures will be in the 80’s or more, and humid, 50-60 F at night. Rain is usually a quick, passing shower. Scrubs and shorts for surgery will be comfortable. Shorts, light shirts are appropriate and the norm for all meals at the hotel, but some people do dress a little more formally for dinner. Work shoes and walking shoes are sufficient. Do not forget your bathing suit.
What documents do I need?
Have your passport. On the plane, you will fill out a form for entrance into the Dominican Republic. (Check “tourist” as a reason for visit). There is a $10 entrance fee that you pay before you go through the immigration line at the airport.
What about Customs?
In most cases you pass right through in the D.R. or U.S. On a recent trip they were suspicious of supplies packed in boxes and went through them. It is probably best to pack veterinary supplies in duffels as well. DO NOT BRING HERBS!
Do I need immunizations for the trip?
We require team members to be vaccinated for rabies, or to get a waiver of the requirement from the trip leader. If you are bitten and not vaccinated against rabies, it will present a logistical problem for you and the team. We did have a rabid dog show up at the clinic a few years ago, and rabies is endemic to the island. While not required, but some have chosen to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and/or B. Consulting your own doctor is always recommended.
What is the hotel like, and is the water and food safe?
The hotel is very nice and very comfortable. The hotel has potable water and we will have bottled water at the clinics. The hotel restaurant serves three good meals a day, buffet style, and all drinks are included in the price. If you want to eat out locally be sure it is well cooked and drink bottled water. The nature of our works makes it inevitable that you will come in contact with organisms which are new to you; particularly if you have had little exposure to the third world. “Tourista” is not too unusual for newcomers, usually around the fourth or fifth day. Early and aggressive use of Pepto caplets is generally all that is needed but bring your own favorite remedies.
What about shopping?
Samana is remote by geography, and only recently touched by tourism, therefore there is not a great deal of shopping. Essentials you need, or any gifts for those back home, postcards, money exchange…or the famous “El Presidente” beer is available along Main Street and the hotel has a small gift shop.
How much money should I bring?
The hotel costs include all of your meals and most drinks. There are ongoing activities and nightly entertainment. There isn’t much to spend money on! Money can be conveniently exchanged at the airport, hotel or in Samana. The exchange rate is about the same. So bring what you like, but realize you can convert it as you need it. The hotel accepts Visa and MasterCard.
What is the work schedule?
It may vary but usually, we arrive on Sunday and will try to have a short meet and greet before dinner in the lounge of the hotel. There are clinics Monday and Tuesday and they will be long days. We will have a short meeting before dinner each day and identify issues and hand out assignments for the following day. There should be some time for you to do a bit of exploring on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are also work days.. Most of the team leaves early Saturday for the drive to the airport.
We are all there to work, but there will be some time to relax as well, so bring a good book, brush up on your Spanish and get ready for a rewarding, challenging trip!