Cost of Living in Dominican Republic - Expat Comparison

Published: 18 Feb at 11 AM
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Filed: Cost of Living,Dominican Republic

Local Expert Series: Cost of living Dominican Republic by Lindsay de Feliz

Many people think that living in the Dominican Republic will be significantly cheaper than living in the UK, Europe or North America, given the fact that it is a third world country. However, although on the whole it is cheaper, there is a large variation in the cost of living depending on where you choose to live, the food you eat and the lifestyle you follow.

Housing costs will depend on where you want to live, with the tourist resorts and the major cities costing significantly more than the smaller Dominican towns. Within the tourist areas, the closer to the sea you are, the more expensive it becomes. Rents can vary for around US$250 a month for a one bedroom apartment, all the way up to US$3,000 or US$4,000 for a house in a gated community. On the other hand, in a Dominican town in the interior of the country, for US$250 you can rent a three bedroomed two bathroom villa.

Banks of batteries needed to power house when no electricity – linked to an inverter
Banks of batteries needed to power house when no electricity – linked to an inverter
If you want to buy a property, the same logic applies with homes in the capital and the tourist areas being more expensive than the countryside.
Once in your home, electricity is significantly more than most of the rest of the world, and given it is very unreliable, it is necessary to have a back up system such as a generator or and inverter or both. The set up costs of these can be expensive. Given the unreliablity of the electricity system, almost everyone uses gas for cooking, and that is available in bottles which are filled up from a local filling station. US$20 will last from 2-3 months.
The cost of food can vary from very cheap, if you eat local food, to very expensive if you eat imported food. In the countryside there are no large supermarkets so you really do not have a choice, whereas the major cities and the tourist areas have large supermarkets stocking imported products. There is an 18% sales tax on most items, and some supermarkets add this at the till, so it is worth checking.
Household appliances and furniture tend to be cheaper on the whole, but many are poor quality and several are actually rejects from other countries. Due to that, plus the high humidity and salt if you live near the ocean, plus spikes in the electricity, they do not tend to last for very long.

Internet, cell phone and television are all reasonably priced as there are many companies operating in the market place which tends to keep costs down.

There is no public health system, at least not one worth using, and hence it is vital to have health insurance which is around US$800 a year for a family of four. Having said that, medical and dental procedures, whilst private, are significantly cheaper than the US or UK, and the Dominican Republic is a favoured destination for medical tourism, especially plastic surgery and dental implants. Medicines are also fairly cheap, although an estimated 35% are counterfeit so it is worth being careful. As most can be purchased over the counter, you do not need a prescription which also keeps the costs down.

Education, whilst free at the local Dominican schools is more expensive for expats, as there are several international private schools with fees varying up to US$600 a month.

A Dominican corner shop – colmado
A Dominican corner shop – colmado
Eating out and leisure activities are on the whole reasonably cheap, especially if you eat at Dominican restaurants where the daily lunch meal is around US$3. There is also an abundance of street food for sale, little pastries, or fried salami, sandwiches and freshly squeezed juices.

Travelling around varies from expensive, if you use your own transport as gasoline and diesel are very expensive, around US$6 a gallon for gas, to very cheap if you use public transport. You can choose from motorbike taxis, dangerous but less than a dollar for most journeys, to shared public taxis where they squash as many people in as possible and drive very fast, to small buses and large airconditioned coaches which travel across the island.

In conclusion, the Dominican Republic can have a significantly lower cost of living than Europe and the USA, but only if you are prepared to live like the Dominicans. If you want to have the same standard of living as you had back home, it will cost much more, and maybe even more than where you came from.

A great book with excellent information on cost of living by area, accompanied by a website which keeps the key prices updated.

Expat FAQs: Moving to and Living in the Dominican Republic. By Ginnie Bedggood and Ilana Benady

About the author

Local ExpertLindsay de Feliz was born, raised and educated in the UK, where she worked as a marketing lecturer and was Marketing Director for various financial service companies. She then decided to follow her dreams and travel the world as a scuba diving instructor, ending up in the Dominican Republic. She fell in love with the country and its people, eventually met and married a Dominican and has been living there for the last 11 years working as a writer, translator and marketing consultant. Lindsay currently lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her family, four dogs and seven cats and writes a blog about the Dominican Republic and daily life. Her book about her adventures in the DR, “What about your saucepans?” is available from Amazon now (see link below).

If you have anything to add about your own experience relating to this article, or perhaps have a question for Lindsay please leave her a comment below!
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