The Dominican Republic is part of the second largest Caribbean island, Hispaniola. The DR takes up roughly two thirds of the island, with the other third being Haiti.
The Dominican Republic is an attractive place to retire, as the cost of living is much less than in North America and Europe, while many people also come just for the winter months, enjoying the year-round tropical climate. In addition, there are direct flights to North America and Europe, and with six international airports, it’s easy to get to any part of the country. There is good internet, cable and satellite television in English, and good healthcare, along with international supermarkets and a thriving expat population.
Due to its size, the Dominican Republic consists of much more than purely beaches, even though there’s over 1,000 miles of coastline. The interior of the country is very diverse, with mountain ranges, fertile plains, deserts, and rainforests. The highest mountain range in the Dominican Republic—indeed, in the whole of the Caribbean—is in the Cordillera Central, with Pico Duarte being the highest peak at 10,164 feet.
Expats on the whole tend to live where other expats live, which is in the north of the country, Puerto Plata, Sosúa, and Cabarete. These towns offer international supermarkets, gated communities, and several international restaurants, along with excellent healthcare. However, the new boom area is the east coast, Punta Cana and Bavaro, which has overtaken the north coast as the main tourist center and has a major international airport with more flights than the north. Over the past few years the number of amenities has increased dramatically in the east. There are also expats in the capital, Santo Domingo, and the second largest city, Santiago; however, they are more likely to be here for work rather than retirees. Las Terrenas and Samaná in the northeast peninsula are also home to several expats, especially French and other Europeans, although the number of Americans has been growing over recent years. There are also a growing number of expats who prefer the mountains to the beaches, and they can be found in the town of Jarabacoa in the center of the country.
In order to retire to the Dominican Republic, you are required to have Dominican residence. The process begins in the DR embassy in your home country where you provide a range of documents, including proof of retirement benefits of no less than $1,500 a month. The embassy then stamps your passport with a residence visa and you have 90 days to come to the country and upgrade it at the Migration Department to temporary residence. That is then renewed annually, and after four years it becomes permanent. When you obtain temporary residence you will also be issued with a Dominican identity card known as a cedula.
However, there are also issues that you need to be aware of. The Dominican Republic is in the developing world, and electricity can be sporadic, therefore many people invest in a back-up system of inverters or generators. While the healthcare is excellent and significantly cheaper than the U.S. it is advisable to take out health insurance. Finally, the language of the country is Spanish, and apart from the tourist areas, few people speak English. For those who live in the country it is important to at least be able to speak some Spanish, although Dominicans are a very friendly people and you are sure to find some who can help you with day to day tasks where speaking Spanish is necessary.