Since its discovery and colonization by Columbus in the late 15th Century, the island of Hispaniola has been both economically and culturally diverse. Now comprised of two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the latter has risen as an increasingly developed, opportune place to live and work abroad. Jobs in the Dominican Republic provide an immersive experience to say the least. Even in urban areas, foreign workers will experience a mixture of both Caribbean and Dominican culture. From the informal, yet committed, work culture to the late-night merengue clubs and delicious restaurants, expats in the Dominican Republic will definitely be happy campers.
The Dominican Republic is bordered on three sides by water, making the coastal regions vastly more appealing to both cultural and industrial development in the past century. While the interior of the country is still mostly rural, there are several major cities along the coast that are both urban and modern.
Santo Domingo. As the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo is also one of the oldest in the “New World,” established in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, younger brother of the famous explorer. The city is now a patchwork of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality. Wandering the cobbled streets, the influence of European design and architecture is strong enough to make you forget you’re in the Caribbean at all; you’ll be brought back to reality by the proliferation of nightclubs and restaurants that are infused with local colors, flavors, and sounds though. As the capital city, Santo Domingo is the heart of the nation’s job market, and jobs are available in nearly all major industries here.
Puerto Plata. On the northern coast, Puerto Plata has become one of the top tourist destinations in the country, leading to a variety of tourism job opportunities. Nestled between Mount Isabel de Torres and picturesque white sand beaches, this town is currently experiencing a small, but noticeable, revitalization. There are plenty of good restaurants opening, and there are several museums worth exploring.
Punta Cana. On the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is home to all the major resorts and tourism services in the country. Crystalline waters and soft beaches are prolific, and the all-inclusive resort providers have snapped up the best real estate. This has diluted the influence of local, Caribbean culture, but the job market is one of the most active in the country.
On the whole, the Dominican Republic has not shown strong growth in the employment market, particularly with regard to high-pay, highly-skilled jobs. However, several industries have begun to gain momentum in both providing jobs to both locals and foreigners, and in improving the national job market; these include, tourism, education, information technology, and finance.
The leading industry for jobs in the Dominican Republic is far and away tourism. Taking advantage of geographical bounties, such as beaches and a pleasant climate, resorts and other tourist-based services are a great opportunity for foreigners to work in the Dominican Republic, especially for those who are bilingual in Spanish and another language. If you speak English fluently, there are also an increasing number of education jobs in the Dominican Republic, specifically in teaching English as a foreign language. Due to the growth in tourism, the need for locals to speak English is on the rise too. Additional opportunities for work in the Dominican Republic in the realms of IT and finance are limited, but growing over the past several years.
No matter what, a proficiency in Spanish is necessary to successfully work in the Dominican Republic. Even those who are fluent in Spanish will be subjected to a slight learning curve, however, as they’ll need to adjust to speaking “Dominican Spanish,” a derivate of Spanish spoken in mainland Europe and the continental Americas.
The work culture in the Dominican Republic is informal, though some jobs in the tourism and service industries may necessitate formalities, including uniforms. Most companies adhere to a 40 hour work week, either operating on a standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday schedule or closing for siesta each weekday and making up for those hours on Saturday. Be sure to understand these nuances with any job in the Dominican Republic you consider.
Living in the Dominican Republic is very affordable when compared to most major metropolitan cities, such as New York City. For example, the cost of living in Santo Domingo is roughly half of that in New York.
Salaries for most jobs in the Dominican Republic are between $400 and $800, which is usually sufficient to cover accommodation and expenses. Many expat-friendly jobs, especially in the tourism sector, provide accommodation in benefit packages, increasing the relative income you’ll be taking home. Other expenses, such as eating out at restaurants and buying groceries, are roughly half the cost of the same in a city like NYC.
If you plan to work in the Dominican Republic for several years, be aware that taxes must be paid if you earn more than roughly $8,200 annually. This is in addition to any taxes you may have to pay in your home country and applies to you only after three years of residency in the Dominican Republic. However, within each calendar year that you spend more than 182 days in the DR, that year counts as a year of residency.
If accommodation is not included, there is one main option for long-term accommodation for foreigners who work in the Dominican Republic: renting in one of the urban areas near your work. A three-bedroom house often rents for around $500 per month in larger urban centers, but costs go down as you look at renting on the outskirts of cities or in smaller, rural communities. Initially, it may be best to do a short-term vacation rental while you become familiar with the nearby neighborhoods (and before committing to a long-term rental contract). Most rental contracts are for a full year, but many landlords are open to month-to-month rentals based on negotiations. You will also often have to pay an additional month’s rent as fees to the landlord to ensure it is reviewed by a lawyer. The only other important consideration in renting is to ensure that your lease includes both electricity and water supply, because if it isn’t explicitly stated, it may not be included!
To work in the Dominican Republic, foreign employees are required to obtain a Tourist Card (about $10), which is available at the airport when you arrive or it can be obtained at a an embassy in advance, to enter the country. Tourist Cards are valid for 30 days, which will give you time to finalize work and accommodation arrangements, while applying for a year-long business visa. The business visa application process is quite complex and time-consuming, and all documents must be provided in Spanish. It is advisable to start collecting the documents before even arriving in the Dominican Republic, no matter if you have a job yet or not.
Affordable Cost of Living. While your raw salary for working in the Dominican Republic may not be as large as in other places, the cost of living is so affordable that you will potentially be able to enjoy quite a high quality of life, not to mention beautiful surroundings.
Language Barriers. Even native Spanish speakers may encounter a learning curve when adapting to Dominican Spanish, which often switches or drops common letters from words.
Immersive Culture. Dominican Republic locals are welcoming and the culture is effusive. Each town has its own fiestas and celebrations, along with national ones, such as Carnival. Merengue can be heard all day and night in the major cities, and opportunities to experience local culture are abundant.
Working abroad in the Dominican Republic can be an exciting opportunity to learn new skills, or develop ones you already have in the job-rich industries, such as tourism and education. The cost of living, captivating culture, and diverse scenery provide the perfect foundation for a career working in the Dominican Republic.