Blog By Keira Moore, Visiting Instructor For Flying Trapeze And Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis
When you first arrive in Cabarete, public transport can seem a bit intimidating and even dangerous. The World Health Organization ranks the Dominican Republic as the #2 most dangerous country to drive in in the entire world. In addition to the dangerous driving conditions, it can also be difficult to find your way around if you don’t speak Spanish. As a tourist you have to be alert and knowledgeable to avoid getting overcharged. As a first time visitor to Cabarete, who only knows a few basic Spanish words, I was lucky to have some friends teach me how to use public transportation when I arrived. In this blog I share the info with you on ‘How to get around in Cabarete’ so you can get a around like a local too!
Walk! If you need to get somewhere and aren’t in a rush, why not enjoy the beautiful weather and take a stroll along the beach? For reference from the west side of Cabarete to Janet’s supermarket on the east side it’s about a 45 min walk if you go at a leisurely pace. Be cautious if you are walking along the road (avoid it and walk on the beach if you can). Motos often drive on the shoulder of the road and usually will not move over for pedestrians. Also avoid walking along the beach at night, especially if you are alone. If you are a female walking alone on the road, expect plenty of cat calling and motos stopping to try to get you to ride with them. Be super careful when crossing the street as cars and motos go very fast and do not yield to pedestrians. Watch out at night even more, as many cars and motos do not have working headlights and can be hard to see.
Moto: You can hop on a motorbike pretty much anywhere in Cabarete. While motos are generally the quickest and most efficient way of getting from point A to point B, they are probably the most dangerous. Motos often drive quite fast and zoom in and out of traffic, and barely anyone wears helmets here. Any time you are walking on the street or even standing around you are likely to get approached by a moto offering you a ride. Motos will be happy to cram as many people as they can on a small bike (I’ve seen 4 fully grown men on one tiny bike). Generally, if you are going a short distance in town, the moto will cost 50 pesos per person (they charge double at night) and will take you anywhere you ask. They are more than happy to carry things too if you have bags, groceries, water, or even a cake (I saw a guy balancing a huge cake with no cover on one hand while driving a moto with the other yesterday). There are a few things to beware of if you take a moto. First, look out for the exhaust pipe- it is VERY hot and will instantly cause severe burns if you touch it with your leg/foot. Be very careful getting on and off and where you place your feet when you are on the bike. Second, do not ask how much; rather just give them 50 pesos per person when you get off. If you ask how much, they know you are a tourist who doesn’t know better and will likely over charge you. Also, if you find that your moto driver is being reckless or driving faster than you’d like feel free to tell them to slow down (remember the song, DESPACITO). Locals have advised us to ride with older moto drivers rather than young men, as the older guys are more likely to drive slower and more cautiously.
Guagua: Guaguas are usually 12 passenger vans which can be easily recognized if you are waiting on the side of the road as they will flash their lights, beep, and likely have someone hanging out the window or door. They are very eager to pile people in and will almost never turn away more passengers (today we rode in a guagua that had 27 people in a 12 passenger van!). Simply wait on the side of the road and wave a hand as they approach. Typically, the guy who opens the door, called the Cobrador, will direct you where to sit. You will be squeezed in wherever there is space, which sometimes means sitting on a stranger’s lap! Make sure you know exactly where you want to stop and let the Cobrador know when you get in. Sometimes be difficult to see where you are when you are packed in the van and they often drive very fast. If you don’t tell them, or they don’t understand where you are going be sure to keep a close eye on the road and when you want them to stop you can simply yell “aqui” which means here. Alternatively, if you are sitting near a window you can bang on the window, or reach out and bang on the top of the van to signal to the driver to stop. If you are taking a guagua within town, the cost is 25 pesos per person (double at night). If you are going farther to Sosua or Puerto Plata they may charge you 50-75 pesos. Again, do not ask how much, just give the Cobrador the correct amount and get off. Also, be aware that there is no set schedule of guaguas, so you may be able to catch one quickly, or you may find yourself waiting on the side of the road for 10-15 min for one to pass. They also tend to make a lot of stops, so they are not the most efficient means of transportation if you are in a hurry.
Caro Publica: These are public taxis, which can be recognized by a small yellow sign on top of their car. Be sure not to confuse the caro publica with private taxis, which have the yellow taxi sign on the inside of the dashboard and tend to be nicer cars. They are typically small sedan-type vehicles which are often in poor condition. Like the guaguas, they will pack as many people in as they can and you may have to sit on someone’s lap. It is not uncommon to put 8 people in a small car. You can flag these down anywhere along the main road. If they are full the will just pass you by. Let the driver know when you get in where you are going, or be prepared to tell him when you need to stop. Typically, the cost is 25 pesos per person in town, 50 to go to Sosua or Puerto Plata, double at night. As with the other modes of transportation, just give them the correct amount of money and be on your way. Never get in a car that does not have a taxi sign, especially at night!
Private Taxi: If you prefer a more comfortable, safer ride you can always hire a private taxi. You can flag these down on the street, looking for nicer vehicles with a yellow taxi sign on the dashboard. You can also contact private taxi drivers on facebook (go to the Everything Cabarete group and ask to be connected with a taxi driver) and make arrangements for longer trips ahead of time. These taxis tend to be clean, comfortable, air conditioned, and sometimes even have wifi. Unlike the other modes of transportation, private taxi drivers often speak at least some English. Private taxis will usually take US dollars or pesos, but they can be very pricey. You should always negotiate your price before you get in. For reference, trips that are far outside the city (e.g., Santiago, 27 waterfalls, Blue Lagoon) will often cost you about $100US. Shorter trips like to Puerto Plata will cost you around $30. These drivers are very reliable though, and are often much safer drivers. It can also be helpful to hire a private taxi if you have to go anywhere off of the main road.
Renting a car/moto: One final option is to rent a car or moto, which is fairly cheap to do. However, keep in mind that driving in the DR is incredibly dangerous, and unless you are a skilled driver with experience driving in a place like this, it is not advised by the locals that you drive yourself.
Generally speaking, once you figure out the transportation systems here it isn’t too hard to get around. It’s a great opportunity to get in touch with locals who are in general cordial and helpful. Knowing a bit of Spanish can be super helpful and much appreciated by the locals.