Awesome Beaches…Plus A Whole Lot More
The Dominican Republic is the best option for a new life in the Caribbean right now…our favorite Caribbean island haven…and a place you should know about.
That’s why we dispatched Roving Editor Rebecca Tyre to this island nation last week. This was Rebecca’s first visit to the DR. Her initial report?
“I’m blown away by what this place has to offer…”
“Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the place.
“I knew that the Dominican Republic has great beaches and that, as a result, it attracts big volumes of tourists every year. I knew many people who had traveled to Punta Cana or La Romana to spend a week at an all-inclusive resort, but I’d never met anyone who had chosen to become a DR expat.
“Based on that limited experience, I came to the misguided conclusion that the Dominican Republic is a great vacation spot…but not a place to consider for the longer term.
“I’ve returned today from a 10-day trip to the island, and, I have to tell you, my initial assumptions were all wrong.
“Yes, there were thousands of tourists and incredibly beautiful beaches, but the Dominican Republic has so much more to offer.
“The island is small, about twice the size of the state of New Hampshire, yet it offers an estimated 1,000 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches, most of them completely empty of people. Sure, in the resort areas, the beaches are filled with tourists, but walk just a few short miles away in either direction and you can find yourself completely alone on some of the most picturesque stretches of sand you will ever lay eyes on.
“Dominicans are extremely friendly and hospitable people. I know that sounds like a cliché, but they truly are warm and welcoming. I have been living in Panama for more than three years. I’m single. Young. I’ve gotten used to being whistled at and called out to by local men as they pass me on the street. I was expecting the same thing in the Dominican Republic. But I was wrong. I didn’t hear one catcall.
“Dominicans realize that the island’s tourism industry lives or dies on the experience of every visitor. If you have an enjoyable vacation experience, you want to come back and you tell your friends about it when you get home.
“I felt safe walking the streets of Las Terrenas, a town on the Samana Peninsula, at night, by myself. I believe it is increasingly difficult to get this feeling in many places around the globe. The Dominican Republic is still one place where you are not targeted because you are obviously a foreigner.
“I spent a lot of time driving around the country, which is one of the best ways to get to know a country. The landscape is breathtaking. From the big, tree-covered mountains in Los Haitises National Park to the green Caribbean Sea splashing on to the white sand along the miles of coastline, every turn in the road brings you an ever-more-awesome view.
“The cost of living is much less than in the United States or Europe. To rent a comfortable one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of the beach will set you back about US$400 a month. The cost of groceries is comparable to that in Panama. Expect to pay about US$2.50 for a tube of toothpaste. Gasoline is more expensive than in many countries; it’s selling for the equivalent of about US$4.25 a gallon.
“Like many places around the world right now, the Dominican Republic’s real estate market is down…way, way down. Construction companies are laying off workers, and real estate agencies are closing their doors.
“Which is to say, there is a serious window of opportunity on this island right now. If you are a buyer with cash, name your price. What could you buy? How about a brand-new, one-bedroom apartment about a five-minute walk from a pristine Caribbean beach for US$100,000…or even less.
“Interested in something bigger? I saw one top-of-the-line condo, about 250 square meters, sitting with the beach on its doorstep. Finished and furnished to an impressive standard. In a full-amenities development. Even the asking price is a good deal, given what you’re buying…but I’d bet that, if you made a cash offer, you might buy this for 50 cents on the asking-price dollar. The seller needs cash.
“More on this later in the week.
“The Dominican Republic isn’t your typical Caribbean getaway. It’s more international than you might expect…certainly more cosmopolitan, in some ways, than I expected.
“Have a craving for blue cheese, authentic French baguettes, or fresh gnocchi? In the DR, you can find all of these things. French and Italians settled on the island about 30 years ago. They’ve since developed an extensive and diverse culinary, business, and service infrastructure…geared toward other expats.
“Getting to the Dominican Republic can be difficult. If you live in the States, most flights to the island connect via Miami.
“One travel option I recommend is to purchase an airfare-only ticket from a charter vacation company. These kinds of tickets can be more expensive than a conventional commercial ticket, but they typically allow you to fly direct from major U.S. and Canadian cities to your DR destination.
“The Dominican Republic was such an unexpected and pleasant surprise that I am already thinking about when I might be able to return for another vacation.
“And, if the opportunity were to present itself, I wouldn’t think twice about living there for a while…”
P.S. Rebecca has a whole lot more to share regarding her recent experiences in the Dominican Republic. I’ve asked her to prepare a series of reports on the current (crisis) real estate market…her favorite beach…residency, visa, banking, and tax issues… real-life stories from expats who’ve chosen the island for their new lives in paradise…
Plus off-the-record tips, stories, and recommendations.
“Hold nothing back,” I’ve urged Rebecca. “We want the real deal.”
Rebecca has delighted us here in the office all morning with her tales. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure you benefit from her adventures, too. Watch this space.
Meantime, Rebecca will be sharing her stories live and in person during our How To Retire Overseas Conference in Panama City next month. This two-day program will introduce you to the world’s top 12 overseas havens right now. Yes, the DR is on that list. Rebecca will fill you in.
“Kathleen, I read the letter from Jenny W. on South Africa with interest.
“Yes, South Africa is a lovely country. Like most of the African continent, it is blessed with exceptional scenery. And, yes, there are fine restaurants, good food, and an abundance of good local wines.
“But there is also an abundance of violent crime, in a country where your life comes cheap.
“Jenny W. wrote: ‘Safety and security is not an issue at all. We go out at night regularly, live with our doors and windows open, and, like virtually everyone else we know, have never had a problem or felt threatened in any way.’
“Clearly, Jenny W. does not live in the same Cape Town where I live. I live in a country where thousands of innocent citizens are murdered every year, often after having suffered gruesome torture. The South Africa I live in has been described as ‘the violent crime capital of the world.’
“‘Safety and security are not an issue,’ Jenny W. writes.
“To say this, unfortunately, is a dangerous denial of the South African reality. Personal and family safety and security are the issues.
“In the Cape Times this morning (Easter weekend, April 11, 2009), this article says it all:
“‘Cape criminals on the rampage…Armed gangs have been on the rampage across Cape Town, killing several people in their homes and carrying out brazen raids on at least two businesses over the past week…’
“Your writer maintains, “If you are looking for a fabulous lifestyle at a fantastic price, this country, in our view, offers the best option.’
“She omits to say that the ‘fantastic price’ you may pay for this ‘fabulous lifestyle’ in South Africa may well be your own life or that of a close friend or relative.
“Dear Overseas Opportunity Letter readers, don’t take my word for it. Google some of the millions of sites on ‘crime in South Africa.’ Or visit www.news24.com.
— Michael E., Cape Town
South Africa Correspondent Susan Vial responds:
“Well, my immediate response, dear reader, is…Why on earth are you still living here if life is so awful? If you’ve suffered some kind of personal tragedy, I am truly sorry for your troubles, but my question still applies.
“If you’re so unhappy in Cape Town, maybe you should try living somewhere else.
“Yes, as I’ve written, South Africa has problems. Crime is high; AIDS is rife. I, like you, know people who’ve been victims of violent crime. I’ve held a 2-year-old dying of AIDS in my arms, knowing that in a month’s time she would no longer be with us.
“Corruption is all around, from the traffic cop asking for a bribe to our new president, Jacob Zuma, exonerated of corruption charges a few short weeks before the election. Was he, in fact, guilty? Only he knows…
“I don’t mean to gloss over what are serious problems, but, by the same token, I choose not to live in fear.
“The point is, life goes on. It comes down to point of view, attitude, and awareness.
“Most expats I know are optimists. They are pioneers, adventurers, and explorers. They break through boundaries to build new lives in new places.
“Today, more than ever, you have choices. Thanks to improved communications–independent TV, radio, and, especially, the Internet–people are waking up to the fact that they don’t have to live up with the hands they were dealt. They can decide what they want to do, and, just as important, where they want to do it!
“Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in South Africa for a reason. The quality of life in South Africa is fantastic. We have excellent infrastructure. We have beautiful homes and are able to afford staff to help take care of them. We have world-class amenities, such as shopping malls, theaters, sporting facilities (SA is host to the World Cup in 2010), restaurants…
“In addition, we have something you won’t find on any other continent: Africa’s unique wildlife. The many game parks, with their diversity of accommodation, from basic, rustic, up-close, and personal tented bush camps to super-refined five-star lodges, offer something available nowhere else in the world.
“I’m writing now from my veranda, the early morning sun warming my skin before I take my coffee with me into the Jacuzzi. I’m starting my day gazing through the rising mist into the Valley of 1000 Hills, with Inanda Dam below me stretching out to the Great Rift Valley. Utter bliss! And this is just another day in Africa.
“Here are some photos to give you an idea what I’m talking about– the view from my veranda. I live close to Tribal Trust Land and love exchanging calls of ‘hello’ and waving to my neighbors down in the valley as they tend their goats and their mealies fields (sweet corn).
“Incidentally, I live on my own, and, no, I do not own a gun.”