Examining common cruiser complaints about Luperon, Dominican Republic

He was sitting on a white plastic garden chair, along the sidewalk, and leaned forward slightly as I passed. He introduced himself as Joseph. “What do you think of my country?” he asked. His eyes glinted, and as he spoke, his fingers spread out as though to embrace the things he held dear in the Dominican Republic (DR).

His English was well spoken. As I stopped to form an answer, a stray dog ran up to me and licked my shins. It’s fur was yellow and looked short and tufted. Awkwardly, I struggled to meet Joseph’s gaze. He seemed oblivious to the stray dog beneath me and flashed a warm smile.

“The people are very friendly here ,” I said. And, they are. But, while my response was genuine, it didn’t capture the ambiguity I feel immersed in a foreign culture.

In case someone stumbles on this blog post looking for nuggets of information about Luperon, I will give you the scoop.

Please bear in mind, however, that we’ve been in Luperon for only a week, and I tend to notice subtleties. When it comes to embracing change, my disposition lies somewhere between hero and flat-out whiner. Inwardly, I tend to despair when restaurants run out of half and half.

As I have written previously, there are blogs, and cruiser message boards that are full of negative comments about Luperon. Admittedly, there is some truth to their complaints.

Luperon has plenty of stray dogs, the dinghy dock is in need of repair, the water is dirty, and the government officials ask for fees that are a little suspect.

Below l examine some common complaints about Luperon.

Stray dogs and cats

There are ample stray dogs and cats in Luperon. An animal care worker estimates that there are about 60 stray animals in town, though it doesn’t feel that way when we are walking around.

The strays tend to keep to their world-weary selves. The cats run off when approached. I ask my kids not to touch the dogs. But, my daughter Betty enjoys spending time with a very social stray dog called Buttercup.

There is a non-profit organization that is addressing the health of the cats and dogs in Luperon. The organization is called Dogs and Cats of the Dominican Republic – Luperon. They spay and neuter animals, and provide treatment as needed, such as tick removal. They also give the animals vaccinations.

Stray dog in Luperon. DR.

Dilapidated dinghy dock

The state of the government dinghy dock doesn’t bother me. It is tilted and sometimes partially obscured by the rising tide. If mobility is an issue then the dock would present a problem. I’d worry that a wheelchair user would not be able to use the dock safely.

Government dinghy dock in Luperon, DR.
Government dinghy dock in Luperon, DR.

Dirty Harbour: forget about using a watermaker

The water in the Luperon harbour looks like any pond in Ontario, Canada. But, we are not in Canada. So to be safe, we would not swim or use our watermaker in the anchorage.

Originally, we thought we might leave the anchorage to make water occasionally. But, that was before we realized that space is a premium in the anchorage. The anchorage is smaller than I had imagined and it is quite crowded.

Here is a picture that shows our proximity to our neighbours.

The view from the port stern of SV Aphrodite. Our two closest neighbours are from Quebec and Texas.

Some of the boats are anchored but uninhabited. Some boats are occupied by long-term residents. Fran, on SV Rebel Razor, has lived on her boat in the Luperon harbour for the past four years.

Incidentally, it costs about 45 pesos ($1 US) to buy a 5 gallon container of water. Recently, we bought reverse-osmosis water from an enterprising man named “Handy Andy”. We paid Andy $40 to deliver 200 gallons of water.

With help from his employees, Andy delivered the water to our boat, poured the bottles, and took them away for recycling. Here is a picture of the water bottles in the “Handy Andy” service boat.

Water delivery in Luperon harbour, DR.

The water bottles looked dusty and well-recycled. But, the water quality was excellent. We used a water tester and measured 20 parts per million (ppm). Other cruisers have measured as low as 5 ppm.

Unauthorized government fees

It’s true the government buildings are not fancy. I’m not sure why this is sometimes raised as an issue by cruisers. Here is a picture of the customs buildings in Luperon.

DR Customs buildings in Luperon.
DR Customs buildings in Luperon.

It cost our family of six $224 US to check into the DR. As well, we are expected to pay $20/month during our stay, plus departure fees. To check-in my husband met with six different people, all representing different departments. These departments included: Immigration, Interior Ministry, Luperon Port Authority, Customs, Agriculture, and the Navy. Check-in took about an hour to complete.

We were not asked to make donations or pay bribes. But, some of the fees – such as the tourist cards, which cost $10 per person – seem to apply to people coming from Canada or the USA only. Europeans, and other nationalities, are not asked to buy tourist cards.

I have had some culture shock in the DR. I will elaborate on some of the challenges in a separate post. I’ll write this post soon before the shock wears off.

The short story is that we don’t speak Spanish, and I was not prepared to see poverty amongst the children who play baseball with sticks, or who wear oversized sandals.

As well, there have been cultural surprises such as organized cockfighting. Tonight there were organized cockfights in Luperon. Our kids ask lots of questions.

We opted out of the cockfighting event, and played trivia with some other cruisers at a restaurant called, “The Lazy Ass,” instead. Tomorrow night, we’ll be paying baseball with Handy Andy’s children.

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