The vast majority of tourists entering the Dominican Republic arrive by air. Independent travelers typically arrive at the main international airport outside of Santo Domingo, Aeropuerto Internacional Las Américas. Passing through immigration is a relatively simple process. Once disembarked, you are guided to the immigration area where you must buy a tourist card (US$10). You’re expected to pay in US dollars (Euros and GBP are accepted, but you lose out substantially on the rate); then join the queue in front of one of the immigration officers. You’re allowed up to 30 days on a tourist card. The procedure is the same if you arrive at one of the other airports such as Puerto Plata or Punta Cana; the latter is easily the busiest airport in the country in terms of tourist arrivals.
Other than the obvious, like weapons, drugs and live animals, there are only a few specific import restrictions for foreigners arriving in the Dominican Republic. Visitors can bring up to 200 cigarettes, 2L of alcohol and 1 box of cigars. It’s best to carry a prescription for any medication, especially psychotropic drugs.
It is illegal to take anything out of the DR that is over 100 years old – paintings, household items, prehistoric artifacts etc – without special export certificates. Mahogany trees are endangered and products made from mahogany wood may be confiscated upon departure. Black coral is widely available but although Dominican law does not forbid its sale, international environment agreements do – avoid purchasing it. The same goes for products made from turtle shells and butterfly wings – these animals are facing extinction. It is illegal to export raw unpolished amber from the DR, though amber jewelry is common and highly prized.
Most travelers run into problems with the export of cigars, and it’s not with Dominican customs as much as their own. Canada, European countries and the US allow its citizens to bring in up to 50 cigars duty-free.
The majority of would-be foreign travelers in the Dominican Republic do not need to obtain visas prior to arrival.
Tourist cards (you don’t need to retain this for your return flight) are issued for US$10 upon arrival to visitors from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US, among many others. Whatever your country of origin, a valid passport is necessary.
A tourist card is good for up to 30 days from the date of issue. If you wish to stay longer, it’s unnecessary to formally extend – instead you’ll be charged RD$1000 when you depart the country for any stay up to 90 days. Another way to extend your time is to leave the DR briefly – most likely to Haiti – and then return, at which point you’ll be issued a brand-new tourist card. (You may have to pay entrance and departure fees in both countries, of course.)
To extend your tourist card longer than three months, you must apply in Santo Domingo at the Dirección General de Migración at least two weeks before your original card expires (up to nine months will cost RD$1000).