When sailing from the Turks and Caicos to the Dominican Republic, there are two main options of where to stop first to clear into the country:
- Ocean World in Cofresi which is a world class resort and marina with security gates, electricity at the docks, a theme park, lots of pricy restaurants and bars.
- Or Luperon, a very protected harbor and a fishing village with a small expat community, inexpensive mooring balls, very few English speakers, and the chance to experience the real Dominican Republic.
Two guesses which we chose!
After a very smooth 24-hour passage from Provo to the DR, we had to actually slow down, to ensure we didn’t arrive before daybreak. We could see the outline of mountains and could even smell land from about eight miles away. We were nervous about finding our way through the shoals into the harbor, but the channel was extremely well marked – a piece of cake! We hailed Papo on VHF channel 68 and soon were safely attached to a mooring ball at a fee of $2/day. We raised the yellow quarantine flag and tried to figure out how to clear customs. We’d heard all kinds of rumors about the nightmare of clearing in at Luperon: “An army of people will board your boat, and they’ll all demand a tip!!!” “You never know what it will cost – you have to keep saying no to all the extra fees!!!” “You need a ‘zarpe’ paper proving that you cleared out of the Bahamas or they won’t let you into the DR!!!!” I think most cruisers skip Luperon just because of these horror stories.
But in our experience, clearing in was quite smooth, although time consuming and requiring some patience. After tying up to the dinghy dock, we walked up to a row of construction trailers and proceeded to work our way down the row: $80 to clear the boat into the country, $10 per person for a tourist card, $10 for Luperon harbor use fee. Now it’s true that not every official spoke English, and my brain wasn’t working very well on no sleep and no coffee so my Spanish was nonexistent. But we figured it out. After a final trip up a dirt path at the top of the hill past the cows to see the Navy commandant, we were checked in and officially in the DR!
The next order of business was to get some pesos. Cruisers previously had to take a bus to another town to find an ATM, but now there are several right in Luperon. Life hack: walk right past the bank ATM and use the one at the grocery store next door. It lets you withdraw 10,000 pesos for the same fee that the bank charges for 5,000. Score! (See the kind of tips cruisers give to help each other out?) Next, a stop at the Altice store to buy a sim card for internet access. Only $15 for 15 days of high speed unlimited data is not bad! Now Mike can have access to social media and funny cat videos as often as I can, and we can even stream Netflix from the boat.
Now that all the chores were done, it was time to celebrate with a cold beverage at Wendy’s. No frostys here! Wendy’s Bar is the expat hub of Luperon. You can’t miss it – literally. It sits on the Y of two streets as you walk into town from the dock, with both sides open to the sights sounds and smells of the town. The beers are cheap and cold. And big! They’ll give you a bamboo mug to keep your $2 liter of Presidente cold while you pour a small glass at a time. Since we’re allergic to beer, Capt. Mike and I ordered rum and club soda with glorious ice, also for $2, or 100 pesos. On a different visit to Wendy’s, we channeled our inner rock stars and ordered bottle service. For $10 you get a bottle of Columbus rum, a cute little ice bucket filled with ice, and you can mix your own drinks. How fun is that?!
And if you’re wondering why I keep telling you the price of everything, it’s because it is such a refreshing change from the crazy high prices of food and drink in the Bahamas. I understand why American expats visit a beautiful, friendly place like this and decide to never leave. Our cruising budget stretches a lot father in Luperon!
We had the best intentions to return to Wendy’s that evening for kareoke but after being awake for 30+hours, we just couldn’t do it. Luperon would still be there the next day.