Cost of Living in the Dominican Republic- Expat life in Santo Domingo on $1000 a Month

07/04

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QUICK SUMMARY- Cost of Living In Santo Domingo

  • Monthly budget in Santo Domingo= ~$1,015 <skip to budget details>.
  • Furnished one-bedroom with rooftop terrace  (w/ utilities) $485 per month
  • Plenty of cheap entertainment options
  • Perfect homebase for weekend adventures around the country.

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.

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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?

$1,015 - Cost of Living in HCMC Details [Click to Expand]

Total Monthly Expense1015
COST PER MONTH
Rent- Furnished Large 1 Bed, 1 Bath, Expat District485
Water/Sewer/Garbage-INCLUDED Electric Only35
High Speed InternetINCLUDED
Cell Phone- 5 GB Internet Per Month15
Total Housing Expense535
Home Cooked Meals 14 times per Week210
Local Eatery Food 6 times per Week12
Casual Local Restaurant once per Week
Total Food Expense250
Budget Night Out-Beers with friends at a Colmado 4 times per Month20
Dance Classes 1 Hour per Week20
Big Box Gym (Weights and Group Classes)20
Weekend Trips Once per Monh (Accomodation+Food)88
Total Entertainment148
Weekend Trips Roundtrip Bus Fare Once per Month12
Total Transportation Expense12
Local Insurance15
Health Care Expense15
Haircut 10 times per Year5
Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.20
Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.20
Full Service Laundry 2 Loads Per Month10
Total Personal Care and Misc Expense55
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.

Apartments in the city's historic Colonial Zone will cost a little more, but it's worth it.

Museo de las Casas Reales (Museum of Royal Houses )- Another attraction of living in the Colonial Zone

How do costs in Dominican Republic compare to the United States?

Let's look at the cost of living comparison chart below.  This chart compares the average prices for a single person in a medium-cost US city (Portland) vs. an "expensive" city in the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo).

The Top 4 essential costs in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in a major city.

Key Living Costs

US-

Portland

DR-

Santo Domingo

HOUSING

$962

$503

FOOD

$313

$250

TRANSPORTATION

$862

$12

HEALTHCARE

$353

$65

Total Average Per Month

$2,490

$830

Save 67% on Monthly Expenses

If you are a geoarbitrage fan, you will love the consumer prices here. 

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.

What kind of lifestyle can I afford on $1000 per month?

Enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the Colonial Zone's many cafes

How much is rent in Santo Domingo?

Housing Costs

$503

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. 

The vibrant colored streets of my Colonial Zone neighborhood

An urban oasis within the city

The views from my apartment in morning

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

Food Costs

$250

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:

Header

Local Brand

Imported Brand

PASTA

$0.50

$1.60

RICE

$0.50

$1.80

CHEESE

$3+

$4+

MILK

$1

$1.80

BEER

$1.30

$1.80

"Expat life is remarkably cheap. Imported life is costly. "

Budget- Moro con aguacate and bacalao (Rice with beans, avocado and codfish)

Casual- Mofongo con queso à la criolla (Mashed plantains with cheese and Kreol sauce)

Sit-Down- Camarones a la criolla con tostones (Shrimps with Kreol sauce and fried plantains)

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

$138

  • 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.  
    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.
  • 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.
  • Fitness Club $20- When it comes to activities, you can also save considerably by focusing on free activities. There are several running clubs and outdoor gyms, where you don't have to pay. Outdoor events, such as Zumba or Aerobics, on the oceanfront promenade, the so-called Malecón, are free as well. Otherwise, you can expect to pay $20-$30 per month for an ordinary gym, depending on the quality.
  • Weekend Trips $88- Besides housing, travel was always my biggest expense. Especially during the weekend, I always preferred to explore the country with all its hidden gems: secluded waterfalls, majestic mountains, pristine beaches, cute fishing villages, various outdoor activities, and stunning nature. But that's also what makes living here so special. You have bus connections (air-conditioned busses usually not over-crowded) to all parts of the country.
    It doesn't matter where you want to go, within three to four hours you can reach nearly all parts of the country: famous Punta Cana with its countless all-inclusive resorts, the beautiful Samaná peninsula with its pristine beaches, Puerto Plata and the north coast with its several outdoor activities, the mountains in Jarabacoa and Constanza with its roaring waterfalls or the Southwest around Barahona with its stunning natural attractions.
    A weekend trip, including a return bus ticket, budget accommodation, local restaurant food, and DIY activities often cost less than $100. 

What Does Transportation Cost?

Weekend adventures exploring the country

Transportation

$57

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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    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).
  • Housekeeper $5-  If you need someone to clean your apartment, you can get a cleaning service for as cheap as 5 USD per hour.

 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?

Healthcare

$15

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.

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:

  • Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
  • Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than the US. 

 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)

Tax Rate

1 - 416,220

0%

416,220 - 624,329

15%

624,329 - 867,123

20%

867,123 - OVER

25%

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 advisor for details. 

What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget?

Expat Taxes

If you stay longer than 183 days, many countries will consider you a tax resident. Being an expat may help you save money on your taxes. Talk to a tax professional to see how tax residency applies to you. I partnered with a firm specializing in expat taxes to secure a special deal for Nomadic FIRE readers.


Use the promotion code "Nomadic25Consultation" for $25 off a tax consultation to get you started. 


Even better, use their experts prepare your tax return, the entire consultation is FREE.

Moving Costs

Between customs, freight, packing costs, and ground transportation, figuring out how to move your stuff overseas can become complicated.  Partner with a certified international moving expert to ensure competitive rates and no hidden fees. 

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.

Dominicans are always ready to flash a friendly smile

 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.

Resources for Working and Living Abroad

Start Speaking A New Language In 30 days

Pimsleur is the best method I have found to get to "Survival-Level" quickly when learning a new language. With Pimsleur, I can ease the stress of arriving in a new country and start speaking with people in my neighborhood. Ordering food, getting directions, haggling prices, and making friends is 10X easier when you can communicate in the local language.

Achieve better results using Pimsleur's short classes and organic learning methodology vs. the mindless repetition, endless verb conjugations, and tedious memorization of other language courses. 

Transfer Money Internationally

For expats and nomads, Wise offers an International Bank account for your money transfers. It's an easier and cheaper alternative for paying your bills while overseas.

Looking to buy property abroad, Wise has a Large Transfer Rate for even bigger savings. 

An International Mover You Can Trust

Suddath® simplifies overseas moving as a one-stop-shop for all your international moving needs. You will be supported by a professional, dedicated move counselor every step of the way. With an easier international relocation, you’re free to focus more on your new destination, while worrying less about the move.

Request a FREE international moving quote below.

Get Your US Expat Tax Questions Answered

US Expat taxes are the most complex in the world. However, living abroad comes with potential tax advantages, but mistakes are very easy to make. It is no wonder many expats are frustrated. 

Avoid complications, penalties, and fines, Taxes For Expats is here to help.

Protect Your Health While Abroad

Your home health insurance is unlikely to provide coverage for you while overseas. Get premium health insurance designed for expats and digital nomads that protects you anywhere you are in the world, even during a pandemic.

Use A Virtual Mailbox To Keep A Permanent US Address And Receive Important Documents and Packages

Get a US street address you can use while you are overseas. Use a digital mailbox with a REAL physical location to receive mail from USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

A virtual mailbox can receive and forward all your important documents and packages, replace credit cards, maintain state residency, get checks deposited, or file business and tax applications. Prices start at $6. 

Travel Tools and Resources

Skyscanner- My favorite airline search tool to find all the cheapest flights in one place.
Airport Pick-Up Service- Arrive at your destination stress-free with a private car cheaper than most taxis. 

Loctote- My favorite day pack. Secure your belongings while walking around town.

Want more insights on Living Abroad? Sign up below.

Compare Cost Of Living In Ho Chi Minh City

Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy. 

EXPAT INSIGHTS

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.

You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.

Are you a travel blogger with information you can share on living in another country? Contact me and let's talk about collaborating on a guest post

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.


About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

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