Eligibility to drive
You must be 18 years or over in order to obtain a driving licence in the Dominican Republic. It is highly recommended that you carry your valid driver’s licence, registration and insurance documents in the car with you at all times.
Rules and regulations
Cars in Dominican Republic drive on the right-hand side.
Despite a certain disregard for some of the driving laws in the Dominican Republic, seat belt legislation is taken very seriously. Wearing a seatbelt while driving in the Dominican Republic is mandatory for every passenger, however, there are no separate child seat belt laws. Using your mobile phone to make phone calls or to text is also prohibited, unless you are using a hands-free system.
The alcohol limit while driving is 0.10. If you fail a blood test you risk imprisonment. Right turns after a red light are permitted but only if have stopped before. There are, however, many unwritten rules, including priority given to trucks and cars which can pass you while you make a left turn.
The speed limit signs are marked in kilometres, not miles. The standard speed limit for private vehicles on highways is 120 kph (74 mph), on other main roads, the limit is 80 kph (49 mph) and in small towns and villages the speed limit reduces to 40 kph (24 mph).
Most areas offer free parking service but be careful in larger towns where you may have to pay. Additionally many hotels provide free parking with your stay.
If there is an accident, all emergency services can be contacted by dialling 911. But be mindful that if you decide to involve the police, you may not be able to leave the country or end up in jail until the situation is resolved.
While you are driving on the highways, it is important to pay close attention to large commercial buses and cargo trucks which often do not hesitate to pass slower moving vehicles. It is very likely that will run into various different obstacles such as turtle-paced ice-cream trucks, running children or motoconchos carrying piled chicken coops.
In the towns, there are often a large number of speed bumps in place. Originally they were created to slow traffic and prevent accidents, but now the local police take advantage of the slow speed to stop cars and demand bribes. Bribe-taking is a growing problem particularly on Dominican roads. If you are stopped, the best thing to do is pretend that you cannot speak Spanish and repeat the word “tourist” numerous times, and they will usually let you go.
Gas stations are rare in the country and they usually close at 6:00 PM during the week, while only opening for few hours on Sundays, if at all. Very few gas stations are open for 24 hours, so it is advisable to fill up your tank before you are leaving the city or if you are planning on going out at night.
In fact, driving at the night is generally not such a good idea as most roads are poorly lit. Adding to the low visibility are the lack of headlights used by drivers since many do not have any on their cars.
The accident rate is very high in Dominican Republic and traffic accidents are among the leading causes of death to citizens.