Larimar, Haitian artwork and more to be found in the Dominican Republic…

by isvolunteers on Saturday, 20 April 2013

Larimar jewellery is unique to the DR © used with permission by ISV Alumni, Jessica Rose Edwards

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

The DR has some great local handicrafts, markets and some wonderful souvenir opportunities.  Your best deals for souvenirs will be at the Modelo Market at the end of your Colonial Zone Tour in Santo Domingo and in the markets of Sosua or Samana. There you will find a vast amount and variety of Dominican made products and artifacts including jewellery (particularly silver) and artwork.

While there are multiple shopping choices, we have highlighted two things that many ISV participants choose to bring home with them.

Larimar:  This semi-precious and ornamental stone comes from the south west region of Barahona, endemic to the Dominican Republic.  It is most often expressed as a milky blue color, set strikingly in silver.  Geologists know it as a pectolite of volcanic origin.  You’ll find larimar jewellery for sale almost everywhere, but on the adventure tour participants have the special opportunity to select their own piece and design something with it.

Dominican artwork and Haitian oil paintings can be purchased for very affordable prices © google images

Haitian Artwork:  Neighbouring Haiti has influenced the DR in many ways, one of which is their fabulous artwork. There are up to one million people of Haitian heritage living in the Dominican Republic. These people brought with them their artistic expressions of their African, French, Catholic, and tribal and Vodou roots. Haitian paintings, particularly oil paintings are stand outs, and can be purchased in markets at very affordable prices.

Ready to go shopping? Consider the following:

  • Safety:  it’s important to be very careful with your wallets, purses, and belongings in markets as theft is always a concern particularly in crowded marketplaces
  • Bargaining: Remember it is customary to try and bargain down a price. Bargaining can be fun but it’s important to do it respectfully too. Click here for more info about bargaining etiquette.
  • Some Spanish phrases that might be helpful:
    • How much does it cost? ¿Cuanto Cuesta?
    • No thank you. No gracias. 
    • I don’t need a bag. No necesito una bolsa.
    • I’d like two, please. Quisiera dos, por favor.
    • Do you have anything cheaper? ¿Tienes algo más barato?
    • I need a bigger (smaller) size. Necesito un tamaño más grande (más pequeño)
    • (Get out your Spanish Phrase book for more useful phrases).

On the ISV Adventure Tour you can make your own larimar jewellery while supporting local vendors © used with permission by Amy Van de Vord

Responsible Travel Tips: Shopping

  • Always ask yourself – do I really need this?
  • Am I supporting the local economy and local artisans?
  • Am I paying a fair price (for me and the vendor)?
  • Is this made from an endangered plant or animal?
  • Can I bring this through customs in my home country?
  • Do I need a plastic bag (feel free to say “no gracias”)
  • Can you avoid unnecessary extra packaging?

What Currency Should I Use?

Most of gift shops accept US$ and even credit/debit cards, but the exchange rate is usually adjusted to benefit the shop owner. Smaller shops will likely only accept the local currency (Dominican pesos) so, as a general rule it’s always better to shop in the local currency.


As a side note, most restaurants and hotels add a 10% service charge to your check. Most people usually add 5% to 10% more, especially if the service has been good.


In the Dominican Republic all taxes are normally already included in purchase prices. The 16% Itbis (sales tax) is usually included. The price you see is normally the price you pay. In some localities (in particular in tourist zones) the Itbis and 10% service tax is added at the end of the check. This is a total of 26% taxes added to the end of your bill. Make sure and have the establishment specify and explain the bill to avoid any confusion.

Best of luck as you shop wisely and respectfully in the DR.  Don’t forget to have fun!

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

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:



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