Riding the GuaGua: Domincan Republic Transportation

July 8, 2015 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ TRANSPORTATION

Dominican Republic Transportation: Part 7

Riding the Guagua Dominican Republic. One of the first things you need to know when traveling to the Dominican Republic is how to get around. As an overview, the Dominican Republic offers seven modes of transportation (each mode will be covered by a separate article):

  1. Limited local airlines (TBA)
  2. Private Auto and Auto Rentals
  3. Bus: Metroline and Caribe Tours
  4. Motorcycle Rentals and Motorconcho
  5. Private Taxi Cabs and Limo Services
  6. Pubic Taxi Cabs called “carros” or ‘carritos”
  7. Public Taxi Vans called “guaguas” (in this article)

This article is written to cover the public taxi vans called “guaguas” — the least expensive way to get around the Dominican Republic. Unless you own or rent a car or motorbike, you may hop on a guagua to get around locally, and supplement your travel with big bus lines for longer trips. You may opt to use private taxis for airport runs and situations where you need to be taken directly to a location.

Guaguas run up and down the main highway about every 5 to 10 minutes in most Dominican Republic towns, and are organized by routes. Twenty pesos will take you within an area (usually a couple of towns). When you reach the next town or end of the route, you may have to disembark and catch another guagua that covers the next area. If going across a large area, then a bus might be a better solution. Usually we use guaguas to go to town for groceries or to a restaurant but not for long distances. I once rode several guaguas that covered about a 100 mile distance, because a bus was not running at the time I needed to go.

typical guagua dominican republic

Typical Guagua Dominican Republic with a Cracked Windshield

10 Tips for Riding a Guagua-Dominican Republic

Guaguas are not for everyone. You either love them or hate them. Here are a few tips to make your guagua riding work best.

1.Tight Fit. The majority of guaguas are large white or silver Toyota vans and carry up to approximately 25 persons. Just when you think no one else could possibly fit, they will cram everyone to make room for one more. Be prepared to feel like a sardine, and if you don’t want to hang off the side of it, stand back; and wait for the next one.

2. Passing Lane. If you can see the road from your micro-seat inside the guagua,do not panic when you see what looks like a 2-lane road being driven as 4 lanes. This is normal in the DR.

3. Higher Power. If you believe in a higher power it is a good idea to pray before you get into a guagua and then let go and relax and enjoy the ride. Think if it as a fun carnival ride.

4. guagua3Real Guagua. Be sure you are getting into an official guagua. Look for letters of the route covered painted on the windshield and ID tags hanging from the review mirror. Looks for lots of people inside. Do not get into a random or empty van.

5. Cost of Guagua: Guaguas are 20  pesos (about .45 US). If you give them 100 pesos expect to get 80 pesos change. If you are an obvious tourist and do not know the language you’ll have to ask for “cambio, por favor.” They just might keep your change if you do not ask. It is best to have the right change to avoid involuntary tipping.

6. Payment Strategy: We all have different styes, but I suggest you not pay until close to your stop. If you pay too soon, they may forget your stop! By the way, there are no official stops; and you’ll need to tell them where you want to get off anywhere along the highway. If you don’t know where your stop is until you get there, ask the driver or the handler (the guy who opens and closes the door, arranges seating, and monitors stops) to stop the van. Then pay as you leave the van.

8. Dinero (Money). Do not carry much cash when on foot or in a guagua-Dominican Republic. I have heard of only one theft on a guagua in 6 years, but its a good idea to keep your cash on hand to a small amount. After I go to the bank, I typically call a private cab to take me directly home instead of using the guagua. Check other transportation options on this website.

9. Share your Seat. If you are lucky enough to get an actual seat, be prepared to share “your seat” with chickens, children, workers, dogs, packages, vendors, and other tourists from all over the world, who are also riding the guagua Dominican Republic.

10. I’ll Never Do That Again: I took a girlfriend for her first time on an overstuffed guagua. They put her on the edge with the door open, while they crammed me into the front seat with 3 others. She thought she was going to die. When taking someone else on the guagua for the first time, be sure they will get a seat completely inside the vehicle; or wait for the next one. This was too much for her all at once and I am sure that she’ll never ride a guagua again. We’ll take the more expensive private cabs next time she comes to visit!

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    Sabine Bloomquist said on July 12, 2015 6:24 pm:

    What an outstanding article to let people know how to get around safely in this beautiful country.