Dominican Republic: Caribbean Island Life on $66 a Day

With some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, friendly locals, and a buzzing international expat community, the lifestyle we have in the Dominican Republic is incredible at the price. Our monthly budget is $2,000 (that’s $66 a day). It includes renting a luxury apartment, a maid, heath care…everything. And you could live here for even less.

My husband Ed and I hadn’t planned on retiring in this tropical paradise. We came to see what business opportunities were available. But when we first arrived in 2009, we saw how easily it could be done. Expats from Europe, Canada, and the U.S. were already here, enjoying an affordable retirement with a first-class quality of life.

We couldn’t wait to join them, and in 2010 we packed our bags and moved to Las Terrenas on the northern coast of the island.

In Las Terrenas and other resort towns across the island, the day begins for many expats with a cup of strong coffee in one of the local cafés. The influx of French expats has brought with it flaky croissants, pain au chocolat and crusty, fresh baguettes.

Locals gather at the cafés to share the latest gossip and news. They’ll be happy to discuss whether the whales have arrived in Samaná Bay or how the new road from Samaná airport to the beach is progressing. You can compare notes on the weather—usually sunny and 80 F with a light breeze.

In addition, many cafés have WiFi so you can catch up on news from around the world. After your light breakfast for less than $3, there are a variety of ways to get your blood going. I like running on the beachfront road between Las Terrenas and La Barbacoa. You can run more than six miles along the coast under the protective shade of hundreds of palm trees. To cool off, take a dip in the turquoise-blue ocean.

If walking sounds better, there are plenty of sun-drenched stretches of beach to stroll alone or with a friend. You may be joined by one or two of the local “cocodogs” that hang out looking for company. The cocodogs are sweet and friendly and more than one Las Terrenas resident has been “adopted” by a loyal pup that becomes the family pet.

Many of my friends meet in town for yoga each day. In addition to being a great way to stay fit, the classes are full of expats from different backgrounds. They arrange ladies’ luncheons, men’s poker nights and “co-ed” BBQs and are quick to include new arrivals in the fun. Groups often form based on shared language and you have plenty of variety. English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German are all spoken here.

Once breakfast and your daily exercise are complete, it’s the perfect time to run errands. Finding what you need is easy. A quick walk through downtown is all it takes to stock up on the essentials. Market stalls offer fresh fruit and vegetables—pineapple, papaya, and all types of citrus fruit. along with fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, and rosemary.

You find fresh seafood at the Fisherman’s Village on the beach east of town. Select an enormous mahi-mahi for about $20 or stock up on single-serving red snapper for around $3. For a few extra pesos, the vendors are happy to fillet and portion your fish.

Walking throughout town, you will also find hardware stores, clothing boutiques, and various home furnishing shops along the way. If you don’t have a shopping list, just enjoy the sights as you take a stroll.

The nights in Las Terrenas can be as low-key or high-energy as you like. With all the fresh food and flavors, you may opt to spend an evening at home, eating like a king with friends and family. If you’d rather go out, cafés, restaurants, and beachside food stalls offer great dinner choices.

Given how friendly Dominicans and the expat community are, I’ve had no trouble meeting people and finding social events. Best of all, I have the time to enjoy it.

Editor’s note: Yana’s full report from the Dominican Republic…including business opportunities for expats and rental options with ocean views…is in the October issue of International Living magazine—out now. If you’re not a subscriber, you can become one here and get instant access to the October issue.

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