The city’s bus system is simple to use and very cheap – the cost of a bus ride from one end of the city to the other is around US$0.25. Official public buses started using fixed bus stops in 1998, when a fleet of Brazilian-made buses was inaugurated and the president himself took the bus to work. Most stops are marked with a sign and the word parada (stop), but it took several years and a major public service campaign to get locals to actually use them. The routes tend to follow major thoroughfares – in the Zona Colonial, Parque Independencia is where Av Bolivar (the main westbound avenue) begins and Av Independencia (the main eastbound avenue) ends. If you’re trying to get across town, just look at a map and note the major intersections along the way and plan your transfers accordingly.
Even more numerous than buses are the públicos – mostly beaten-up minivans and private cars that follow the same main routes but stop wherever someone flags them down. They are supposed to have público on their license plates, but drivers will beep and wave at you long before you can make out the writing. Any sort of hand waving will get the driver to stop, though the preferred gesture is to hold out your arm and point down at the curb in front of you. The fare is US$0.35 – pay when you get in. Speaking of getting in, be prepared for a tight squeeze – drivers will cram seven or even eight passengers into an ordinary two-door car.
Driving can be difficult in Santo Domingo due to heavy traffic and aggressive drivers, especially taxis and buses. Drive with caution and whenever possible have a passenger help you navigate the streets. Finding parking is not typically a problem, though if you are leaving your car out overnight, ask around for a parking lot. Many midrange and top-end hotels have parking with 24-hour guards. In any case, be sure not to leave any valuables inside your car.
Taxis in Santo Domingo don’t have meters, so you should always agree on the price before climbing in. The standard fare is a low US$3.50, even to the other side of the city. Within the Zona Colonial it should be even cheaper. Taxi drivers don’t typically cruise the streets looking for rides; they park at various major points and wait for customers to come to them. In the Zona Colonial, Parque Colón and Parque Duarte are the best spots.
You can also call for a taxi or ask the receptionist at your hotel to do so. Service is usually quick, the fare is the same, and you don’t have to lug your bags anywhere. Many of the top hotels have taxis waiting at the ready outside, but expect to pay more for those. Reputable taxi agencies with 24-hour dispatches include Aero-Taxi (809-685-1212), Apolo Taxi (809-537-7771), Super Taxi (809-536-7014) and Taxi Cacique (809-532-3132).