Guaguas, motoconchos and “Dominican Tattoos”…

by isvolunteers on Friday, 5 April 2013

While common in the DR, for your safety, the use of “motoconchos” is prohibited © all images, google images

A snapshot on local transport in the Dominican Republic

As you prepare to travel overseas it’s important to familiarize yourself with information about that country so that you can travel safely and maximize your appreciation of the experience. Below you will find some information on the Dominican Republic’s (DR) local transport.

In the DR, ISV uses private buses to transport our volunteers to/from their Volunteer Projects and during the Adventure Tour. During your free time or between activities on the Adventure Tour you will be able to get around by walking or on public transport.  It’s always great to explore a new place on foot, taking in the sights and smells (inquire about safety issues in an area first, and consider traveling in pairs of more).

Apart from this, public transportation is everywhere in the Dominican Republic. Taxis are readily available and are either legal or illegal. You can usually tell by looking at the taxi as to whether it’s an official one.  The use of legal taxis and traveling with at least one other ISV participant or in a small group is the safest way to travel in the DR over short distances. We also recommend that you ask the front desk at your hotel to arrange taxi transportation for you, as they know which companies are safe and reliable.

There are a variety of high quality long-distance buses should you be arriving early or staying on later in the DR.

Local Dominicans tend to use a “carrito publico,” or “guagua” which pass by at their location along a main road. These are small cars or small buses that will taxi a group at a lower cost than a standard taxi. Usually, these vehicles are overflowing with people, far exceeding their recommended (safe) capacity.  For your own safety, we do not recommend travelling in these vehicles if you cannot get a seat to yourself, with a functional seatbelt.  You’ll also need to use some Spanish to get to where you need to go.

Locals use “carrito publico” or “guagua” which are usually overflowing with people. ISV prefers and strongly recommends legal taxis, traveling with at least one other ISV participant over short distances.

There are lots of motorcycles in the DR. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see 4, 5, or more people on a single bike!  You’ll also see lots of “motoconchos” (motorcycles that pick up passengers).  There’s a bit of a running joke in the DR about getting a ‘Dominican tattoo’ which is a burn on your leg from the exhaust pipe of a motoconcho. However, on a serious note, motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of death of tourists in many countries worldwide and should be avoided. For this reason, ISV prohibits the use of “motoconchos” (motorcycle taxis) on our programs as they are unsafe and dangerous.  Thank you for respecting this policy.

If you are arriving early or staying later in the DR, for long distance transportation, there are a wide variety of long-distance high quality buses. The biggest companies are Caribe Tours and Metro Tours.  A passage from Santo Domingo (the capital in the South) to Sosua (on the North Coast) costs about 350 RD ($8.75 USD) for a five hour trip. Notice: Spanish is a MUST as these companies lack of English speaking staff.

Overall, travelling independently using public transport in the DR is easiest if you can speak a little Spanish. Always consider your safety first and foremost.

To learn more about ISV’s program in the Dominican Republic visit our website:

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