My All You Can Jet pass prohibited travel on Fridays and Sundays, forcing me to stay in the Dominican Republic for three full days. Without going to the beach, I wasn’t sure how I would spend my time. A determined traveler could see most historic sights in one long day, with a second day for museums. Due to poor planning on my part, I missed two of the best museums because they weren’t open on weekends.
There was one museum I was excited to visit, which also happened to be open Sundays—the folk art museum. It seemed easy enough to get to on the map but I turned circles around town trying to find it. Sweaty from trudging up and down hills for an hour I finally found what appeared to be an abandoned building. On closer inspection I could make out the festival masks and costumes I was so desperate to see through a window but no one was there to unlock the metal gate.
I had better luck walking 45 minutes to the Plaza Cultural, where I visited Museo de Arte Moderno and the bleak Museo del Hombre Dominicano. I was in luck—tucked away on the top floor, above the prehistoric remains and pottery was a large exhibit of carnival masks and costumes that proved perfect material for sketching. Outside the gallery I was cornered by a very short Haitian man who wanted to practice his English. Both his English and Spanish were poor at best, but we managed enough conversation to last through my improvised granola bar and chocolate milk packed lunch.
One of my favorite activities when I find myself in a new country, besides walking around and getting lost, photographing signs and examining local packaging in grocery stores, is to take public transportation. My first three days in the Dominican Republic were spent in an expensive taxi from the airport or walking but I had heard that Santo Doming had a metro.
I admit, I walked an hour outside of the tourist zone to ride a metro. Modern turnstiles guarded the entranceway but single ride tickets were hand written on paper and taken by an attendant, leaving the microchip touch pads to monthly pass users. Despite being three years old the metro looked brand new. Having just missed a train I asked one of the guards patrolling the pristine platform when I might expect another train. He replied in Spanish “It is a weekend so it may be 5-7 minutes. I’m sorry it will take so long.” In Chicago I’m lucky to get a train every 7 minutes during weekday rush hour!
Immediately after buying the All You Can Jet pass I sat down in front of jetBlue’s route map and tried to find the most interesting cities to visit. Naturally, first on that list was Colombia, but I also wanted to visit one of the Caribbean destinations available. I’m not much of an island-lover since the beach isn’t too interesting for me and all-inclusive resorts even less so. Of all of my Caribbean options, the Dominican Republic appeared to be the most interesting international destination available.
As soon as I started looking for a place to stay I realized I was going to have trouble finding something affordable, even in Santo Domingo itself. Couchsurfing offered few options and the only hostel on the island appeared to be full. I held out hope until the last minute but ended up booking the cheapest hotel that looked descent the night before my flight since I arrived in the evening.
My first night in the capital I found the hostel at an unmarked door in a courtyard off a side street. When I asked how to enter a man nearby told me that it was closed and to try back the following morning. When I came back during the day the door was closed but a small art gallery next door had opened and, after some confusion, the woman offered to show me the room. As I followed her upstairs I realized the hostel wasn’t full, in fact it was totally empty and possibly even closed for the season.
I made arrangements to come back the following day—I would save $50 a night—and went about my day, sightseeing around the zona colonial. Santo Domingo was hot and I enjoyed coming back to my air conditioned hotel room with wifi and cable. When I thought about coming back to the hostel, alone and in the dark, I finally gave in and decided that the hotel was worth the money.
The old town is dotted with colorful houses and ancient churches. However, it seemed that whichever sight I planned to visit happened to be closed when I arrived. I spent a lot of time walking back and forth amongst the plazas filled with Domincans playing chess and drinking beer, trying to see the inside of the museums or restores colonial buildings.
Along one street a woman scolded me for taking a picture of a sign and warned me to look after my bag and camera. I didn’t get an unsafe feeling from the city at all, only a slight discomfort from the men making kissing noises toward me and talking about me, assuming I didn’t understand Spanish. After traveling in Egypt, where I experienced the worst sexual harassment in the world, the comments were easy to ignore.
Visit the gallery to see more photos form the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic was one of two international destinations I touched down in during my All You Can Jet adventure. While I did visit most of the Christopher Columbus attractions in Santo Domino, I quickly became bored with walking up and down the main pedestrian street trying to ignore men staring and making kissy noises.
With three full days in the city I had more time than I needed, but still managed to miss most of the museums when they were open. I did make it to the Museo de Arte Moderno, about an hour walk from the tourist center, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The museum focused on local artists as well as artists from the Caribbean, Central and South America. My travels have taken me to art museums all over the world but these areas of the world are so rarely represented in major museums that I was genuinely curious what I would find.
I enjoyed a lot of the art in this museum, including the two installation pieces in the videos below. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, those are live birds! Much of the art was political or anti-tourism so standing there next to a group of local children I felt a bit like an intruder, despite never stepping foot on a resort beach.
View more photos from my trip to The Dominican Republic in the gallery.
After more than 39 hours in the air and nearly 19,000 miles flown across 15 flights I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of Jet Blue’s All You Can Jet promotion. With that much flying I had the in-flight commercials memorized and had no problem deciding what snacks to choose (plantain chips are interesting but you can’t go wrong with the Munchies Mix).
I touched down in eight states and three countries over the course of 29 days this fall. Although it could be argued that this promotion is environmentally irresponsible, I’ve been consoling my guilt by remembering that these flights would have left even without the additional AYCJ passengers. You can see my route below—highlights were definitely Washington D.C. and Colombia but I enjoyed seeing family, friends and sights in all of my destinations.
I’ve been on a lot of flights lately but this view over the Caribbean coming back from The Dominican Republic was the most beautiful.