Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic and a cultural melting pot. It's a vibrant and chaotic city but has a beautiful inner core with its historic colonial zone. This modern city is one of the cheapest places to live in the Caribbean, even though it often resembles a bustling Latin American metropolis more than a typical Caribbean paradise. However, this Caribbean paradise is not too far as Santo Domingo features an excellent location to reach nearly every place in the Dominican Republic within a maximum of 3-4 hours.
- <skip to budget details>. Monthly budget in Santo Domingo= ~$1,015
- Furnished one-bedroom with rooftop terrace (w/ utilities) $485 per month
- Plenty of cheap entertainment options
- Perfect homebase for weekend adventures around the country.
I lived in the city for four years. Sometimes I hated the city for its traffic jams, the chaos, and the rubbish. But mostly, I loved it because of its super cute historic center, the excellent strategic location to explore the Dominican Republic, the open-minded people, and the very affordable cost of living. I traveled to over 70 countries and lived a couple of years on the Caribbean island of Grenada before, where life is much more expensive. Right now, I am still living in the Dominican Republic but in the bustling resort town of Punta Cana.
My decision to live in Santo Domingo for a couple of years was more of a coincidence, as I found a very attractive job offer in the tourism industry online. That's what I have studied in Germany and worked for in Grenada, so it was a perfect chance to continue my career, but learn a new language and get to know a new culture at the same time.
From my years of experience living as an expat in the city, I am happy to share information about my cost of living in the Dominican Republic's largest city with you. The current exchange rate is 1 USD gets you 58 Dominican Pesos (DOP). Usually, the Peso devalues around 3-6% per year versus the US-Dollar, making prices even cheaper.
What is the cost of living in The Dominican Republic?
|Total Monthly Expense||$1,015|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- Furnished Large 1 Bed, 1 Bath, Expat District||485|
|Maid Service 1 day per week/4 hours per day||-|
|Water/Sewer/Garbage-INCLUDED Electric Only||35|
|High Speed Internet||INCLUDED|
|Cell Phone- 5 GB Internet Per Month||15|
|Total Housing Expense||535|
|Home Cooked Meals 14 times per Week||210|
|Local Eatery Food 6 times per Week||12|
|Casual Local Restaurant once per Week|
|Fine Dining Restaurant once per Month|
|Total Food Expense||250|
|Budget Night Out-Beers with friends at a Colmado 4 times per Month||20|
|Dance Classes 1 Hour per Week||20|
|Big Box Gym (Weights and Group Classes)||20|
|Weekend Trips Once per Monh (Accomodation+Food)||88|
|Total Entertainment and Sports||148|
|Public Transportation 3 Roundtrips a Week||-|
|Taxi 1X per Week||-|
|Weekend Trips Roundtrip Bus Fare Once per Month||12|
|Total Transportation Expense||12|
|Health Care Expense||15|
|Haircut 10 times per Year||5|
|Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.||20|
|Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.||20|
|Full Service Laundry 2 Loads Per Month||10|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||55|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to DOP (Dominican Pesos)||58|
In general, Santo Domingo is a very affordable city to live in. You shouldn't have a problem maintaining an affordable lifestyle for roughly $1000 USD, including domestic trips, a social life, and nightly entertainment.
The biggest variable in your living costs will be housing rents. You can get a pleasant one-bedroom apartment for $200 a month but will likely spend a considerable amount of time each day in the omnipresent traffic jam. Alternatively, you can spend more on housing to live in one of the more upscale city center areas, like Piantini, Arroyo Hondo, or – to a lesser extent – the Colonial Zone. Less time in traffic and a nicer centrally located one-bedroom apartment will cost you at least $500 a month.
How do costs in Dominican Republic compare to the United States?
Depending on your lifestyle, you can spend between $1000 to $1,400 living in Santo Domingo. If you are a geoarbitrage fan, you will love the consumer prices here.
$3,060 per month in US vs $996 in the Dominican Republic
Living in the Dominican Republic can cut your expenses by 67%
Expense Estimates: The Earth Awaits
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN HCMC COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
What kind of lifestyle can I afford on $1000 per month?
Enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the Colonial Zone's many cafes
Let's add some context to the $1000. Here are the average prices for a single person in a US city (Portland) compared to an "expensive" city in the Dominican Republic(Santo Domingo).
The Top 4 major costs in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in larger cities.
Key Living Costs
Total Average Per Month
Save 67% on Monthly Expenses
Living in the Dominican Republic could save you almost $24,700+ per year. Now look closer at the standard of living a $1000 budget buys you.
How much is rent in Santo Domingo?
As mentioned earlier, rents vary significantly depending on where you are looking for a place to live.
My most important recommendation is to get accommodation close to the place where you plan to work and/or spend most of your day. Location saves you a considerable amount of time commuting in the city due to the traffic jams and overcrowded public buses. If you are a digital nomad and are planning to work from home, that's even better as it gives you more flexibility on where to live.
As my office was right in the Colonial Zone, that's the area where I chose to live. My small and furnished one-bedroom with a shared rooftop terrace cost me $485 per month, including gas, water, and internet. The building was pretty old but very well maintained. Electricity is extra in nearly all apartments in Santo Domingo. While I usually paid only around 6 USD a month as I never used the TV or AC, you can easily spend $100 per month on moderate electricity use if you keep your air-conditioner running 24/7.
I loved living in the Colonial Zone as I had everything I needed very close. A big supermarket, several eateries, local restaurants and bars, a vibrant nightlife, shopping malls, and the aforementioned office. Furthermore, the Colonial Zone is a perfect area for Santo Domingo newbies; It is an easy place to live and a little (quieter) oasis within the hectic and chaotic city.
If you plan to buy a car, I recommend living outside of the Colonial Zone as parking in the area is a mess. Among expats, the other popular areas to live in include Gazcue, Piantini, Naco, and Arroyo Hondo. In expat areas, you need to budget at least $350 for a small one-bedroom/studio apartment or $450 if you are looking for one with furniture.
For each additional bedroom, you just pay around 150 USD more, so bigger apartments in Santo Domingo are much more affordable (in relation to the size) than studios or small apartments.
If you don't mind living in a Dominican middle-class neighborhood, you can get (unfurnished) apartments for as low as $200; two-bedroom apartments start from $300. For security reasons, you shouldn't live in a lower-class neighborhood.
INSIDER TIP : To save money where looking for local housing, skip Airbnb. Here are a local list of sites for cheap housing.
How Much Is Your Monthly Food Budget?
Eating Pescado a la parillada con tostones (Grilled fish with fried plantains) with beers on the beach
There are two advantages when it comes to low food prices:
- Compared to other (and smaller) Caribbean islands, the Dominican Republic can produce most groceries on their own, so they don't have to import expensive stuff
- There is an oversupply of eateries, food stalls, and restaurants driving prices low.
Both conditions keep food costs low. I spent an average of $250 a month on food, including all groceries for two home-cooked meals per day and one meal daily at a local restaurant. This budget doesn't include expensive restaurants, as I never went to these places.
In general, groceries can be divided into two categories.
- Local products, including most vegetables and fruits are super cheap.
- Imported food is much more expensive.
Let's look at some examples from a local supermarket:
What are the average restaurant prices?
When eating out, there are three different ways of spending your budget.
- Budget- For a filling local meal in a "Comedor" (a typical Dominican eatery), you can pay between 150 – 200 DOP (approx. 3 USD).
- Casual- A meal in a very casual restaurant, usually with a hand-written menu and/or where you can only pay cash, costs around 6-7 USD.
- Sit-Down- If you are visiting an ordinary restaurant with proper service, a full menu and a bar, you can expect prices of 10 USD and up for a meal (without drinks, just the main course).
How Much Should I Budget For Entertainment?
Cheap entertainment can mean catching some waves just 55 minutes west of Santo Domingo
Entertainment and Sports
The (cheap) story continues when you want to head to a bar or a club. There are enough places that don't charge a cover. Even if drinks are more expensive (roughly $3-$4 for a small beer), you usually don't have to worry to spend hundreds of dollars if you go out with Dominicans. Beers with Friends $5- When it comes to entertainment, $50 USD a month goes a long way if you avoid fancy bars or any activities not typical for the country. Probably the best part of entertainment here is that "life" usually happens on the street. For example, when meeting friends, you usually head to a Colmado (a mom-and-pop store converting to a bar at night), buy a Jumbo bottle of beer (1 liter) and share it with your friends. Such a bottle usually costs 150 DOP (approx. $2.50), so a night might be over well before you have spent five dollars.
- Dance Lessons $5- For dancing lessons or shared language classes, $5 per hour is a fair rate. For private lessons, expect at least triple that rate.
- Outdoor Activities FREE- Another budget-friendly feature of the city is the lack of entrance fees. You can find free museums and concerts, along with waterfalls, national parks, beaches, and other natural attractions in the country for free or for a small entrance fee of $2. The low cost of entertainment makes life in Santo Domingo extremely affordable.
What Does Transportation Cost?
Weekend adventures exploring the country
As mentioned, I lived in the same area where I went to work and never left this area for supermarkets, nightlife, meeting friends, etc., as everything was within walking distance. Therefore, my transportation costs were very close to $0. I even could walk to the major bus stations, so the only transportation costs I paid were the busses leaving the city, which are usually around $6-$8 for a 3- to 4-hour ride.
But commuting or take public or private transport won't cost you a fortune. Some examples are:
- cost for a public transport ticket: 25 DOP (approx. 0.40 USD)
- cost for the Metro or the cable car: 25 DOP (approx. 0.40 USD)
- cost for an Uber or a local taxi for a 30-minute ride: 250-350 DOP (approx. 4-6 USD)
INSIDER TIP : If you are planning to buy a car or a scooter, think twice. The city is well-known for traffic jams and chaotic drivers. If you only need a car for a couple of days to leave the city, rentals are around $50 per day, including insurance.
Other Miscellaneous Costs
- Barbershop $6- Going to the barbershop (men) or the salon (women) is a real pleasure here. Being a barber here is not a profession, but a passion. I have never had better haircuts than in the Dominican Republic. Haircuts cost around 250 DOP (approx. 4 USD); if done together with your beard, around 350 DOP (approx. 6 USD).
It's much easier to buy so-called "paqueticos," kind of a prepaid internet. Right now, as I am still living in the Dominican Republic, but in Punta Cana; I always buy them in 5 GB intervals for 139 DOP (2.30 USD). Cell Phone Plan $3- Mobile data might be one of the most important things when living abroad, especially as an expat. When not having WiFi in your building or not using an office or co-working space, the best is to get a contract with unlimited bandwidth for around 40-50 USD per month. But be careful, those might be only available as 12- or 24-month contracts.
- Laundry Service $5- If you don't have a washing machine in your apartment, you can use one of the omnipresent laundry shops ("Lavanderia"). Usually, a load costs around 250-350 DOP (approx. 4-6 USD). After washing, you get it back dried and folded – full-service laundry.
INSIDER TIP : In case you need to buy any electronics, you can get pretty cheap second-hand products in Santo Domingo, as there is a large market for used products. However, please take care as a lot of items are stolen goods. New electronics are likely to cost 30% more in the United States than in Europe or the US, so it might be cheaper to fly to the US for a quick shopping spree
How Much Is Health Care?
For health care, it's easiest to take out international health insurance such as SafetyWing or WorldNomads to start. If you are planning to stay in the country for a longer time, you can take out health insurance with a local company, but healthcare is easier with an employer contract. Local health insurance prices start at $15 per month.
INSIDER TIP : The Dominican health care system is ranked 51st globally, just behind more well-known medical tourism countries like Malaysia and Thailand. There is even free public health care in the Dominican Republic, but the quality of care drops significantly at the free public hospitals.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In The Dominican Republic?
If you stay over 183 days in the country, you become a tax resident. As a tax resident, you are liable for income earned in country, but any foreign income is excluded for the first three years of residency.
Personal Income Tax Bracket (DOP)
1 - 416,220
416,220 - 624,329
624,329 - 867,123
867,123 - OVER
Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return
What is Not Included In The $1,000 Budget? Taxes!
The US does NOT have a double-taxation treaty with the Dominican Republic. Double taxation makes it even more important to use the options the IRS makes available for minimizing double taxation, including the exclusion on foreign income, and the tax credit. Speak with a tax accountant to details. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists offering a FREE 30-minute consultation.
Full Disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you use the link, I earn a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. You get the benefit of $25 off your return and a FREE 30-minute consultation with a Tax Advisor.
What Are The Visa Requirements For The Dominican Republic?
Step back in time and experience Santo Domingo's has a rich colonial past
INSIDER TIP : Americans only need a Tourist Card to enter the country. The cost is US $10 and is valid for 30 days. Note that some of the airlines and tour operators include the Tourist Card costs with a ticket purchase.
The Dominican Republic has a pretty easy visa and immigration policy, especially for short-term visitors. Citizens of around 97 countries can enter visa-free for up to 30 days. You can extend online for a fee (2500-4000 DOP, approx. $45-$70) up to 120 days.
If you want to stay longer than 120 days in the country, you officially need a residency, which is quite time-consuming and expensive. Count with at least 700 USD to obtain one, including governmental taxes, lawyer costs, and additional expenses to translate all documents.
If you plan to stay longer in the country and don't have an employer paying for the residency, it might be cheaper to do a visa run after 120 days and come back shortly after. You can also stay illegally in the country as checks and penalties hardly exist, but obviously, this is not recommended.
In case you need to leave the country, it doesn't matter if for visa reasons, for leisure travel, or visiting your family, remember that the Dominican Republic is an island nation. Unless you are visiting Haiti, you need to fly, and there are no low-cost carriers in the Caribbean.
The cheapest option to leave the country (except Haiti) is to fly to the United States (mainly Miami and New York) or Colombia (Bogotá) for around $200-$250 round-trip (without luggage) if booked well in advance.
Key Takeaway: Is Santo Domingo a good place to live
As you can see, the cost of living in Santo Domingo is pretty affordable. Even if the value cannot compete with the low-cost hotspots of digital nomads (like Turkey, Vietnam or Colombia), you can easily live on close to $1000 per month.
When you decide to move be prepared to meet a lot of friendly Dominicans. Smiling locals will want to know exactly why you choose to live in their country. Sociable residents make it easy to meet people. I made friends with a dozen people within just a week of moving here. Some I'm still in touch with.
I had a great time living in Santo Domingo and recommend it to anyone looking for a bustling and vibrant Latin American city with very friendly locals. The cost of living is very affordable, and thanks to the low costs, I saved a significant amount of money while living in Santo Domingo. Furthermore, the city served me as a perfect base to explore the absolutely underrated Dominican Republic, where you can have so many adventures, that even after living in the country for four years and exploring the country at least every second weekend, there are still fascinating spots I don't know yet.
INSIDER TIP :
Is it safe to live in Santo Domingo? This is always a question when talking about the Dominican Republic. Indeed, the capital is a hotspot for crime, but criminals tend to avoid a tourist area or established expat community. If you don't present an opportunity (leave your valuables at home, don't flash jewelry, don't tell people if you have cash at home, etc.), you are fine. Take extra care of your phone. There is a flourishing second-hand market for phones in the Dominican Republic – you don't want yours to be part of it.
Most crime, especially robberies, is happening during the wee hours of the day. Avoid walking around before sunrise, especially not alone and outside of the Colonial Zone. If you follow these basic principles, which apply to most developing countries, you will be absolutely fine. I lived more than four years in Santo Domingo and only once – when I made the mistake of walking outside of the Colonial Zone very late at night – nothing ever has happened to me.
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
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EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Chris Jannasch
If you'd like to know more about Chris and his second home country, the Dominican Republic, check out his website Punta Cana Travel Blog. After traveling through all parts of the world, he is living in this beautiful and underrated country since 2015 - mostly in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Chris knows all the pristine beaches and secluded waterfalls you can explore in Punta Cana and the entire country and loves it if visitors leave their all-inclusive resort to discover the beauty, diversity, Caribbean smiles and Latin vibes the Dominican Republic has to offer.