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Bus

The DR has a great bus system, utilizing buses similar to Greyhound in the US, with frequent service throughout the country. Virtually all 1st class buses have toilets in the back and TVs in the aisles showing movies (loudly) en route. Air-conditioning is sometimes turned up to uncomfortable levels. Fares are low – the most expensive 1st class ticket is less than US$10 – and you must buy your ticket before boarding. Unfortunately, there are no central bus terminals in the majority of cities and each company has its own station location. They almost never stop along the road to pick up passengers but drivers are often willing to drop passengers off at various points along the way; they will not, however, open the luggage compartment at any point other than the actual terminal.

Reservations aren’t usually necessary and rarely even taken. The exceptions are the international buses to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, operated by Caribe Tours and Capital Coach Lines. During Dominican holidays you can sometimes buy your ticket a day or two in advance, which assures you a spot and saves you the time and hassle of waiting in line at a busy terminal with all your bags.

First-class carriers include:

Capital Coach Lines Offers daily bus services to and from Port-au-Prince on comfortable, air-con buses.

Caribe Tours One of the country’s two main bus companies; has most departures and covers more destinations.

Metro Metro serves nine cities, mostly along the Santo Domingo–Puerto Plata corridor. Fares tend to be slightly more expensive than Caribe Tours.

Guaguas

Wherever long-distance buses don’t go, you can be sure a guagua (pronounced 'gwa-gwa') does. Guaguas are typically midsize buses holding around 25 to 30 passengers. They rarely have signs, but the driver’s assistant (known as the cobrador, or ‘charger’, since one of his jobs is to collect fares from passengers) will yell out the destination to potential fares on the side of the road. Don’t hesitate to ask a local if you’re unsure which one to take. Guaguas pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along the route – to flag one down simply hold out your hand – the common gesture is to point at the curb in front of you but just about any gesture will do. Most guaguas pass every 15 to 30 minutes and cost RD$35 to RD$70, but unless you have the exact amount some cobradors may pocket the change of unwary foreigners. It’s a good idea to carry change or small bills and to find out the exact cost in advance. When you want to get off, tap the roof or bang on the side of the van.

Guaguas are divided into two types – the majority are caliente (literally ‘hot’), which don’t have air-conditioning, naturally. For every four or five caliente buses there is usually an expreso, which typically has air-conditioning, makes fewer stops and costs slightly more. Within these two categories there’s a virtual rainbow of diversity in terms of vehicle quality and reliability.